Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's Talk About Thunderball

You Only Live Twice is set to record on my DVR on Sunday night, and the library's copy of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is sitting on my coffee table patiently waiting its turn (taunting this viewer who is impatiently waiting for the chance to see a Bond other than Connery).  In the meantime, let's talk about Thunderball.
I like to watch each movie, form my own opinion about it, and then educate myself about them with whatever is available in the DVD's special features section (which makes watching on DVD preferable to cable, if not always timely).  Upon finishing Thunderball, my impression was that it was not as good as Goldfinger but better than Dr. No.  Because, no matter how angry certain scenes in Goldfinger made me, as 1960s Bond action flicks go (so far as I know), it was pretty good, and let's face it, pretty much anything is better than Dr. No (at least at this point).  As far as story goes, Thunderball was about on par with From Russia, with Love, but oh my goodness, when it comes to pacing that story, Thunderball was boring.

It starts off exciting enough--Bond escaping from some goon with a jet pack and all (and I really enjoy the Thunderball theme song sung by Tom Jones), but the opening scene has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, which consists almost completely of villainous diabolical planning and build up for an extended underwater fight scene and boat chase at the end.  Bond manages to get himself out of some tricky situations in between, but after the opening scene the only real exciting action came with the big boat chase at the very end--I especially liked it when Domino got to kill the bad guy.  The underwater aspects were an interesting change of pace, but honestly, underwater fighting is incredibly slow and not at all exciting.  It just goes on forever.  And the idea of drowning is uncomfortable for me to watch since I was pretty terrified of it as a kid.
I was really tired of Thunderball by the time it was over, but I kept watching and educated myself--and was totally surprised by what I learned.  Apparently, Thunderball was the biggest Bond of the 1960s, in terms of scale, budget, and revenue.  It not only grossed incredible amounts at the box office; if the special documentaries on the bonus disc are to be believed, it was a huge global phenomenon, and not just at its initial release.  It was re-released at least two times as a double feature with From Russia, with Love and You Only Live Twice.  Meaning, people didn’t just go see it because they were curious/excited about a new Bond movie; they went to see it more than once because they enjoyed it.  And it was supposedly Thunderball that spawned a market for all kinds of Bond merchandise.  

It being the only film, so far, to come in a double-DVD set should have been some sort of tip-off, but I never would have guessed it had that kind of success.  I had never even heard of Thunderball before this project.  And if the hold lists at the library are any indication, it hasn’t retained its former popularity.  Unlike Goldfinger, which still has 15 requests on two copies (they got a new copy since I left the line), Thunderball always has at least one of its 5 copies available and I’ve never seen any holds on it.  Even You Only Live Twice has four holds on it.  I suppose in terms of special effects and general scale of production, Thunderball was innovative for the time, especially the underwater footage, which they talk about in the documentaries.  But those sequences were in great need of some editing, as far as I’m concerned.

Have you seen Thunderball?  What are your thoughts on the "biggest Bond of the 1960s"?  Am I missing something that makes it really special?