Nuclear terrorism! Although Thunderball was made in 1965, the subject matter seems rather topical.
SPOILERS AHEAD! No spoiler boxes!
In this outing, Bond is recuperating after being whacked with a poker in the pre-title sequence. At the Shrublands clinic, he meets Count Lippe (Guy Doleman), whom we know is part of an ambitious SPECTRE plot. But first, the pre-title sequence.
Bond is attending the funeral of a SPECTRE operative. Noticing the “widow” opens her own car door, Bond surmises that the veiled figure is actually a man. He and his French associate go to a mansion where Bond lies in wait for the “widow” who turns out is the man who was supposed to have been in the coffin. A fight ensues, where Bond kills him. He makes his narrow escape using a jet pack that is conveniently on the roof. (One assumes that that’s how he got into the mansion in the first place) and drives away with his lovely assistant. One item of note is the pre-pre-title shot – the trademark one looking down the rifled barrel of a pistol as Bond walks into frame. This is the first time Bond was shot in colour for this sequence.
Count Lippe has hired a man by the name of Angelo Palazzi (Paul Stassino) who has been surgically altered to look like NATO Major Francois Derval (also Stassino, obviously) in order to take the major’s place on a NATO training flight. SPECTRE wants the two nuclear bombs that will be carried on the British Vulcan bomber. They plan to blackmail the Crown for £100,000,000 in exchange for the nuclear weapons. Trouble is, Bond recognizes Palazzi/Derval at the clinic. Derval has been killed and Palazzi takes his place – but not before demanding $250,000 for his part in the plot instead of his agreed-upon $100,000.
SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe (Lucianna Paluzzi) agrees to the extortion and Palazzi is on his way. He takes off in the Vulcan and uses poison gas to kill the crew. Stretching credibility, he ditches the aircraft in the Caribbean. (The Vulcan would have broken up on impact, but the intact plane makes for a really cool shot as it lowers its landing gear while it sinks to the ocean bottom.)
Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is waiting on his yacht, the Disco Volante (“Flying Saucer”). Aware of Palazzi’s greed, he sever’s the man’s oxygen hose as the pilot sits trapped within the aircraft. (Another amusing thing is that as Palazzi is trapped, he tries to activate the ejection seat.) The bombs are removed from the bomb bay and transported to the Disco Volante with a specially-built mini-sub. To avoid detection, the Disco Volante has underwater access through large doors in the hull.
Bond attends a meeting where he is provided of details of the extortion plot. (Incidentally, the folders are stamped “O.H.M.S.S.”) He flies out to Nassau to try to retrieve the bombs before the extortion deadline.
There he meets the lovely Domino (Claudine Auger), Maj. Derval’s sister. She is the “niece” of Largo. (“It sounds better than ‘mistress’ or ‘kept woman’.”) With the help of Felix Leiter (Rick van Nutter) and Paula Kaplan (Martine Beswick) he discovers the means by which Largo plans to move the bombs. He is joined in Nassau by Q (Desmond Llewellyn) who distributes the “gadgets”.
The gadgets this time are a geiger counter disguized as a Breitling Top Time watch, an underwater camera that takes eight infrared shots in total darkness, a miniature Very pistol, a miniature underwater breathing apparatus, and an ingestible radioavtive tracking device.
Bond reveals to Domino that her brother Francois has been killed on the orders of Largo, and prooves it by giving her his identification disc and Breitling Navimiter watch. She agrees to avenge her brother by alerting authorities when the bombs are aboard the Disco Volante. In what appears to be a major continuity error, bond tells her – and she uses it later – that the camera is a geiger counter. Nothing had been said about this capability earlier, and indeed the Breitling Top Time had already been established as one.
Domino is caught in the act by Largo and is about to be tortured. But the cavalry is on its way! A Special Forces air drop results in a spectacular underwater melee with knives flashing, hoses cut, masks smashed, and spears flying everywhere! It’s a reall donnybrook!
The Disco Volante reveals its startling secret. It’s not a yacht at all, but a hydroplane! Hapless henchmen are left to fight off the authorities on the rear “cocoon” while the flying front end speeds ahead. But during the earlier fighting, Bond had managed to find one of the hydrofoils and he held on. Meanwhile, a Polish physicist, Ladislav Kutze (George Pravda) frees Domino. Bond makes it to the bridge where he fights Largo and the remaining henchman. Just as we think Bond has had it, Domino arrives unexpectedly to save the day – with a speargun! Too bad Largo’s corpse has jamed the steering. ( :rolleyes: ) The Disco Volante speeds toward a reef. There is no option but to jump. Kutze (who has secured the bomb that they got aboard so that it would not detonate) complains that he can’t swim, but he’s pushed over anyway and that’s the last we see of him. The Disco Volante explodes on a reef.
A B-17 “Dumbo” flys over and drops a raft. Once Bond and Domino are aboard, Bond inflates a miniature “barrage balloon” and sends it up. The other end is attached to a harness he is wearing. Domino holds on tight as the “Dumbo” returns to snag the cable and pull our heroes to safety.
This was not an entirely unbelievable movie. The Bond Franchise was still using plausible stories. Sure, there were stretches; but it played well. Some things chafe, however.
In the Shrublands Clinic, bond is “nearly killed” on a theraputic spine-stretching machine. Why would such a machine be designed to violently and rapidly yank a patient? The nurse thinks she’s at fault for leaving Bond unattended (actually, it was Lippe who turned the machine on “high”), and Bond lets her think so. When he makes a remark that “someone will pay”, the poor PT thinks she will lose her job. Bond basically says, “Have sex with me, and I won’t tell.” Talk about your sexual coersion!
Then there’s the bit in the shark tank. Bond and a henchman are fighting in Largo’s pool. Largo orders a grate to be closed over it, trapping bond had Largo’s loyal follower. After knifing the henchman, Largo releases sharks into the pool. It had never been established that it was a saltwater swimming pool. I guess you just have to suspend your disbelief there. Bond escapes through the shark hatch and into the shark pool. What? The baddies weren’t sticking around to watch the grisly finale? Not even a single guard? How could they not notice Bond swimming away?
And Largo seemed to be pretty lax about his security. Before the underwater showdown, Bond had infiltrated Largo’s team of divers. You think somebody would notice. I just didn’t think that was played well.
Overall though, this was a rollicking good time.