The battles with Spectre continued in Thunderball, although this time the adversary air Number 2, Emilo Largo, at a meeting of the group boasts that he will increase the coffers by a couple of hundred million. This is after one of those assembled is executed because of pocketing some of the profits. All those involved at the top are men. One is missing, dead and whose funeral is attended by Bond in the opening prequel and who then gets to the chateau of the widow and confronts “her” knowing it is really him so after a fight Bonds kills and leaves the villa wearing a jet pack which led to discussions in the media if this was the future of personal travel.
Bond recuperates at a health clinic where apart from a casual sex interest(a physic played by Molly Peters) he comes across the murder of a member of NATO who was due to observe a UK plane with two nuclear weapon bombs on a training flight. A lookalike takes the place of the dead man and kills the rest of the crew with gas and the plane lands in the sea, is camouflaged in an open sea grotto below sharks with the bombs removed. NATO is asked to pay £100 million in flawless uncut Diamonds (to herald Diamond are Forever?). Failure to meet the demand will lead to the destruction of a major city in the UK or USA.
All the 00 agents attend a meeting with M and again the series appears to place the British intelligence service above those of the US and the Europeans. The agents are allocated sectors of the world to search for evidence of the location of the bombs with Bond given Canada but fortunately he recognises that he has seen the NATO man dead at the clinic and persuades M ( played in all the early films by Bernard Lee) that he should go to Nassau where he has already researched that the man’s sister is located. There he finds that she, Domino, has become the mistress of Emilio Largo who has a villa estate with two swimming pools. In one he keeps killer sharks which he subsequently tells Bond he captures for institutions. Largo also has a fast luxury yacht and his first encounter with Bond is at the Blackjack table and Bond creates an impression by winning and then dancing with Domino who is forced to leave by Largo who invites Bond to come for a meal at their home.
While Bond does not know that Largo is Spectre’s number 2 we the audience recognise him from the Prequel boast of the value of the latest extortion project.
On return to his hotel room Bond senses there is an intruder in his suite and silences Felix Lietner ( played by a different actor than previous with the name of Rip Van Nutter, I kid you not) the CIA agent and friend ( brought out of retirement to assist), before giving the Spectre man a beating and sending him back to Largo who feeds him to the sharks for incompetence.
In this film Q ( also played by Bernard Llewelyn in all the films) arrives with his latest gadgets which have become the trade mark for series and which the audience have come to expect. With amazing foresight Q creates devices which become life savers in the particular venture although his creations are for use by the service in general.
Bond investigates the yacht’s underside with the underwater camera supplied by Q and notes that it has an underneath compartment in which the nuclear weapons could be stored.
Bond has been assisted by local agent Paula who is captured by Largo’s own female assistant who specialises in using surgical knives which she threatens to use unless Paula reveals what she knows. The girl commits suicide with a cyanide capsule before Bond can rescue her. In escaping from the House (Palmyra) Bond falls into the pool fighting with a security man, which Largo covers before releasing the sharks via a connecting tunnel. Bond uses this to escape while the sharks finish off the security man and because the pool is covered Largo does not realise what has happened.
The next action involves a Junkanoo which at the time I thought I had misheard but upon further investigation transpires to be the regional name of a street carnival/parade usually at Christmas and New Year in the Bahamas but also across the water in Florida and Key West which given Fleming’s location in the West Indies may have led him to calling the chief villain Largo after the Humphrey Bogart film Key Largo. The Junkaroo in the film was especially created with the help of the locals as filming occurred in a different part of the year to the actual event and it was a mark of the success of the Bond films at a time when cinema audiences were in rapid decline with the growth of coloured television and the video player that the production company was prepared to arrange for so many extras including the those on the streets and at the Kiss Kiss Club where Bond visits in an attempt to escape from the Spectre pursuers led by Largo’s assistant who is killed by one of her men because of a quick turn around by Bond.
With time running out before the ransom has to be paid Bond and Lietner successfully locate the sunken Vulcan Bomber and he brings back items worn by the brother of Domino worn by the man who had impersonated him and who had been killed and also left in the plane when he had become greedy. although one suspects he would have been killed in any event Bond uses the personal items to tell Domino that he brother is dead and was killed the orders of Leitner after he has encountered her swimming underwater once more and they have had undersea sex (implied).
After narrowly escaping death again Bond persuades Domino to return to the yacht with a Geiger counter disguised as a camera to establish if the bombs are on board. She is discovered by Largo and imprisoned on the boat. Bond has gone to investigate the house via sea steps, advised by Domino beforehand, and waited for Largo and his men to set off underwater to retrieve the weapons and joins them disguised as one of the men who he has killed. Bond is caught as the weapons are retrieved and imprisoned within an Atoll having swallowed a capsule homing device so that when the search helicopter arrives with Leitner he is able to use the miniature flare gun, another of Q’s devices to provide his precise location and they send down a winch to rescue. He has also needed a four minute miniature breathing device.
There is then a prolonged underwater sea battle between Largo and his men and Bond, Leitner and his men with many on both sides being killed or injured by hand harpoons. Largo escapes back to his yacht pursued by Bond and Lietner but makes a further escape after creating a smoke screen in which a smaller faster craft emerges as part of the main vessel. On it is the scientist involved with the nuclear devices who rescue Domino which Bond managing to get on board and there is the final fight between the two men as they also wrestle to control the craft from hitting various rocks and bits of coast before Bond and the girl jump as Largo is blown up with the craft. In the Coda Bond and Domino are in a life raft from which he jettisons what appears to be a weather balloon but which is in fat a winch line so when the balloon is caught by an aircraft, they are winch together into the plan.
In this film there is the standard flirtation scene with Miss Moneypenny, M’s Secretary played by Lois Maxwell while the establish actor Roland Culver plays the foreign Secretary and not the Defence Minister, as one might expect, on Operation Thunderball. The film established that the villain usually employs a senior scientist to prepare and control the weapon, sometimes having convinced of a idealistic intention, sometimes blackmail, and sometimes greed.
Tom Jones sings Thunderball, added after the film was completed because the original song did not include the film title which was originally sung by Shirley Bassey, but then rerecorded and released two decades later by Dionne Warwick. The $9 million budget indicating the ability to spend on even greater productions and casts produced $150 million world wide and remains the most financially successful of the Bond films in real terms. The visual effects won an Academy award and was even voted best film in Germany. However I thought the film had long and boring sequences and predicable outcomes and demonstrated that the style together with exotic locations now had come to replace characters of substance and stories of depth akin to reality.
In the film we again only hear the voice of Ernst Stavros Blofeld who runs Spectre and who holds onto a white cat with a diamond collar, It was in this ninth book by Fleming that Blofield was in fact first introduced as the head of Spectre and he goes on to be played by different actors in You only Live twice also with Connery and On her Majesty’s Secret Service with Lazenby which I am also reviewing in this piece. The film’s prequel is an extra to the book and Bond is sent to the clinic by M because he has been drinking and smoking excessively and his condition is classed as unfit, an issue to the fore in the latest Bond Skyfall. There are only 3 00 Licenced to kill agents mentioned in the Bond books with a a large number summoned to see M.
However the basic story lines are similar with Domino using a hand harpoon gun to kill Largo although she saves Bond in the under water cave where he has been overpowered by and exhausted from his fight with Largo. There other differences with Domino’s brother stealing the plane and the bombs, Largo’s female assistant and the street parade are additions to the book. Lietner did not participate in the action sequences because he had already become disabled losing arm, hand and a leg in an earlier book, still to be made into a film.
It is also fair to comment that Fleming had progressed Bond through the use of witty one liners which became film standards and are often tongue in cheek plays on words. In the previous eight books the Russian SMERSH was the enemy.
According to Wikipedia Fleming used the Commander Crabb death incident when he disappeared in Portsmouth Harbour going to inspect the underside of a Russian vessel for the scene where Bond does the same to Largo’s yacht. (Commander Crabbe had made his name in Gibraltar in the Second World War leading a team of underwater frogmen and features in the British film, The Silent Enemy, a DVD acquired because it featured Gibraltar. Significantly the Silent Enemy film has an under sea battle between frogmen on both sides using miniature under water craft).
What I found most interesting is that Fleming originally wrote a script for a Bond film with another screen writer but the project was rejected nd then Fleming used parts of the proposed film script to write the book. This led to a civil action in which Fleming settled a time when he had a serious heart attack leading to his subsequent death,