MI6 dives in to the deep end to find out what the reviewers thought of Connery's fourth outing "Thunderball" back in 1965...

Time Tunnel: Larger Than Life
8th October 2007

In 1965, James Bond dived into "Thunderball", his fourth big screen adventure in as many years - and this one promised to be bigger and better that the previous outings. Look up! Look out! Sean Connery is the larger than life secret agent who dabbles in the Bahamas while on the tail of SPECTRE's agent, Largo. James Bond is described as "spectacular" and "colourful" by the Time Magazine review de jour:

"Thunderball spreads a treasury of wish-fulfilling fantasy over a nickel's worth of plot. The fantasy is the familiar amalgam of wholesale sex, comic-strip heroism, bogus glamour and James Bond (Sean Connery)."

Reviews of the era identified the Bond pictures growing in scale and the development of an iconic super hero for a new age.

"Though From Russia with Love remains the liveliest Bond opera to date, Thunderball is by all odds the most spectacular. Its script hasn't a morsel of genuine wit, but Bond fans, who are preconditioned to roll in the aisles when their hero merely asks a waiter to bring some beluga caviar and Dom Pérignon '55, will probably never notice."

"My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for King and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure do you?"

Right: James Bond (Sean Connery) and Leiter (Rik Van Nutter) go diving in Thunderball.

"Thunderball" marked the bowing out from the Bond franchise of legendary director, Terence Young. While the presses have, at times, criticized his over-zealous directing style this reviewer notes Young's attempt to engage all the senses in 007's underwater extravaganza. "They are switched on by a legend that plays straight to the senses, and its colors are primary. Director Terence Young dunks his camera into a swimming pool full of sharks for the film's best single shot, a fisheye view from below, filtered through a victim's blood. Still more dazzling is a climactic, blue-green underwater battle between Largo's men, wearing black rubber wet suits, and the brave lads from Our Side, parachuting to the fray in flag red."

Above: 007's "French playmate" as played by Claudine Auger.

While the iconography and direction is noted upon, "Thunderball" disappoints the critics by sticking solidly with the tried and true James Bond formula, something much debated even today.

"Bond's dry-land conquests were somewhat zingier type in Goldfinger, but in Thunderball he manages a change of pace by joining Largo's seaworthy French playmate (Claudine Auger) for an amorous exploit down among the corals. "I hope we didn't frighten the fish," he quips afterward, wading ashore. Alas, even subaqueous sex cannot keep the formula entirely fresh. Yet, if Thunderball's gimmickry seems to overreach at times, Actor Connery gains assurance from film to film, by now delivers all his soppiest Jimcracks martini-dry."

Sean Connery's peak as Bond is by all accounts during "Thunderball". His cool, calm and collected secret agent "is hilariously astringent when he drops a limp dancing partner at a nightclubber's ringside table," and polishing off this top notch performance is the everlasting line: "D'you mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead." And indeed she is.

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