Monday, April 13, 2015

Thunderball (1965) | Story



Plot Summary

SPECTRE steals a couple of nuclear bombs and it's up to Bond to get them back.

Influences

It's mostly a faithful adaptation of the novel Thunderball, though that of course was adapted by Ian Fleming from the movie treatment he'd created with writer/director Kevin McClory and others. That's why McClory gets a producer credit on this film.

The court battle over Thunderball had ended during the production of Goldfinger when Fleming - who was very sick by this time - more or less gave up. The novel could remain in print with Fleming's name on the cover, but future editions would have to credit McClory and writer Jack Whittingham as contributors to the film treatment the book was based on. And McClory won the complete TV and movie rights to the story.

McClory was actually working on his own version of a Thunderball movie, but the popularity of Sean Connery as Bond made McClory realize that he'd have a hard time competing. He went to Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli with the offer to make the film together. They weren't keen on it at first, but Columbia's Casino Royale spoof was also in the works and Saltzman/Broccoli realized that a third Bond film would be bad for them. And if they were ever going to be able to adapt Thunderball, this was the time. So they scrapped their plans to make On Her Majesty's Secret Service the next movie and accepted McClory's offer.

While not strictly influences, there are a couple of references to other movies in Thunderball. For instance, when Bond tells SPECTRE assassin Fiona, "I've grown accustomed to your face," he's quoting the Audrey Hepburn version of My Fair Lady that had come out the year before. And earlier in the movie, he tells Shrublands employee Patricia Fearing that he'll see her "another time, another place," which was the name of a Sean Connery movie from 1958.

How Is the Book Different?

The plot is very close to the novel, but McClory had continued tweaking the script and there are changes, mostly great ones. For example, the movie drops M's interest in fads as the reason Bond begins the story at the Shrublands health resort. The alternative reason it offers isn't super plausible, but I'm glad that M is less of a joke than he was in the book. Speaking of which, Bond and Moneypenny's relationship is also different from the book, but I'll say more about that tomorrow.

A third, positive change is Bond's reason for going to the Bahamas to search for the missing bombs. The book makes that a hunch on M's part, but in the movie it's Bond who suggests it and he has a good reason for doing so. Which brings me to...

Moment That's Most Like Fleming



Because Bond goes to Nassau on his own hunch instead of M's, he's putting his reputation on the line with the Foreign Secretary who's running the operation. That's a big change from the book, but it gives M the opportunity to stick up for Bond to the Secretary, which is totally something that the literary M would do.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming



As Sean Connery's Bond becomes increasingly solidified as a character, he moves further and further away from the literary Bond. I'll talk more about this tomorrow, but it's not entirely a bad thing. It is partly a bad thing though, because as sadistic and chauvinistic as the literary Bond is, he's not as oppressive and creepy as Sean Connery in his interaction with Patricia Fearing. Bond not only packed a weird, mink glove to take to the resort; he also blackmails Pat into having sex with him. That's in line with the way he treats Pussy Galore in the Goldfinger movie, but I can't imagine Fleming's Bond doing that. In the novel, Pat supplies the mink glove and blackmail never enters the picture.

Cold Open



The cold open for Thunderball doesn't have much to do with the main plot, but I can see what they're going for. Each cold open so far has tried to outdo the one before. From Russia With Love featured a quiet, moody death, Goldfinger had a couple of gadgets and a short fight, and Thunderball offers a prolonged fight sequence and some major gadgets, including the return of Bond's Aston Martin.

And it's not like the opening has nothing to do with the main plot. Not only does Blofeld refer to it in his SPECTRE briefing, but recovering from that fight is at least part of the reason Bond starts the movie proper at Shrublands. It's the best cold open so far, even if the opening shot of the initials JB on a coffin is a sad and poorly executed idea.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. Thunderball
2. Goldfinger
3. From Russia With Love
4. TBD
5. TBD
6. TBD
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

Movie Series Continuity



Blofeld and SPECTRE are back of course, after sitting Goldfinger out. As in From Russia With Love, we still don't see his face and he still has the white cat.

Bond's trick of throwing his hat onto Moneypenny's hatrack makes its fourth appearance in as many movies, though with a humorous twist. Bond enters her office and is about to toss his hat when he realizes that the hatrack has been moved right next to the door where he's standing. Disappointed, he just puts it on the rack like a normal person.

And finally, there are apparently a lot more Double-O agents in the movie universe than in Fleming's. The books only talk about three, but when Bond attends the conference room briefing with "every Double-O in Europe" there are nine chairs. Incidentally, the seventh one is Bond's.

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