Friday, 26 November 2010

Wider Reading | Nineteen Reasons Why, Contrary To Public Opinion, Thunderball Is The Greatest James Bond Movie

Because Tom Jones fainted as he reached the highest note of that theme song.

Because that’s a real jetpack Bond uses in the opening, and it’s really being flown by a human pilot in at least one of the shots. The equally ridiculous scene at the end in which Bond and the heroine Domino are rescued by flying on the end of a rope attached to a plane was also, apparently, a real thing.

Because it contains Sean Connery’s favourite Bond performance.

Because Austin Powers has seen fit to spoof its iconic set-pieces more times than any other. (There’s the eyepatched villain, Blofeld disposing of his henchmen through their own chairs, Bond matching wits with a baddie over a card-game, using a villainess as a human shield, holding the world to ransom for a sum of money, and pet sharks. Yeah. Take that, You Only Live Twice.)

I think the woman on the far left is supposed to be Paula, who is actually in the film as Bond's contact in Nassau. I have absolutely no idea who the other three are supposed to be.

Because it contains more one-liners, puns, and wordplay than any film ever, including Ridicule and Commando. I counted 2,998 (so that’s around 3 witticisms per every word of dialogue). The classic harpoon-impaling “I think he got the point” is obviously the most famous, but I have a special place in my heart for the following exchange:

BOND: (Spotting a mole on DOMINO’s left thigh as she climbs out of the sea) I was right; couldn’t miss.

DOMINO: (Confused) I’m not with you.

BOND: You soon will be.

Because it contains a climactic underwater battle between the CIA and Spectre agents that goes on for far, far too long and yet remains completely awesome. After about fifteen minutes, even the local sea-life decides to join in.

Because Johnny Cash was originally going to sing the theme song, and his version was fantastic (though hilariously inappropriate). And before him, Shirley Bassey, then Dionne Warwick were going to sing the theme song. Their version, ‘Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ was equally fantastic, and slightly more appropriate.

Because the heroine is called Domino.

Because everyone spends most of the movie’s length in swimming costumes, but the pudgy villain Largo is always ingeniously kept covered up. Nice save there, movie.

Because Thunderball brazenly admits what so many other action movies try to cover up; that the basic form of the action pic is one in which the hero represents competent action and everybody else can only achieve incompetent inaction. Who is more useless – Largo, who imprisons the heroine, a highly competent swimmer, in an ordinary cabin behind an unlocked, unguarded wicker door on his yacht, a short distance out to sea from the major port of Nassau, with her hands loosely tied in front of her, or Domino, who doesn’t even make the effort to get out of this easily escapable situation? How about Felix Leiter, supposedly Bond’s opposite number, whose only role in the movie is to agree with Bond and give him slightly creepy compliments (“On you, everything looks good.” “You’re right, James.”)

Because it’s the first movie in the series to use the famous guns-and-babes artsy silhouette-montage during the opening credits.

Because it’s the first movie in the series in which the man shooting at the camera from down the gun barrel is actually the actor playing Bond (I kid you not.)

Because there’s a bit where Bond punches Leiter in the stomach for almost saying, “007”, and then says, “Sorry, Felix, but you were about to say 007” in front of the man they’re not supposed to be saying “007” in front of.

Because it contains the bizarre yet strangely epic chase music “Street Chase”, which went on to be used in many, many other Bond films.

Because it’s the only Bond film portraying every 00-agent.

Because Lazlo Katze has a marvellous character arc of redemption that goes almost completely unnoticed by the film.

Because it cannot be held responsible for Never Say Never Again.

Because it contains an entirely impossible deep-sea sex scene.

Because the Dutch version of the title translates to, “Calm Down, Mr Bond.”


  1. Brilliant, although I always thought the Tom Jones legend was that he was told to hold the final note of the song for as long as he physically could and, being a gigantic lad, did so until he fainted from a lack of oxygen. A Welshman's insane commitment to his art etc.

    The Johnny Cash version is wonderful, incidentally.

  2. Jones himself seems to have scotched the story, sadly, saying of the incident,

    "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning."

    Spoilsport. Ok, we're down to eighteen.

    What I do find really fascinating about Cash's lyrics is that while nearly all of the Bond themes go for innuendos and extremely vague mentions of sex, violence and masculinity, (Jones' 'Thunderball' included), Cash just...outlines the first half-hour of the plot. Marvellous.