In slowly but surely wrapping up my reviews of each and every Ultimate Edition James Bond title on DVD, coming to Thunderball, a sect of people say that this is the quintessential film for the man who quintessentially personified James Bond. So in his fourth outing as the man who likes martinis, cars and women, he encounters a large swath of them all over two hours.
Based on Ian Fleming’s story and directed by Terence Young (From Russia With Love), this installment in the se…ies has James hot on the heels of SPECTRE once again, and this time they have stolen some nuclear missiles from a plane and hidden everything underwater, hoping to have NATO pay them off to prevent launching of said missiles. So 007 and the other British Secret Service members have to find Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi, The Intruder). Claudine Auger (The Bermuda Triangle) plays Domino, who agrees to help James find SPECTRE after finding out that they killed her brother, who was aboard the plane they hijacked.
As I mentioned before, many people think that this film is among the best in the franchise, and even the best Connery did as Bond. In watching it again, and not having seen it in awhile, I understand the appreciation and the following, but the thing that spoils it for me is the third act. The actors all turn in decent performances, but it’s that damned underwater fight sequence that really spoils any complete enjoyment I had. It’s been improved upon over the years, and all of the components leading up to it were in proper proportion and clicking well, but what about this guy who lets Domino go on the boat? And everyone gets shot with spearguns, but bleeding only occurs when it’s dramatically convenient? I would hope that if things are going to be revisited in Bond films down the road, that some of the larger leaps of disbelief are closed.
The first Bond film to be shot in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, this transfer (which presumably was remastered by Lowry digital) looks quite good. There is a noticeable improvement from the previous Special Edition, and the overall picture looks as clear, even clearer, than expected.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtrack options, as if you didn’t know already. The DTS track sounds really good and possesses some low end fidelity to a lot of the sounds in the film, resulting in a pleasurable sonic experience for all.
The Special Edition commentaries have been brought over for the Ultimate Edition. First is a commentary with The Ian Fleming Foundation’s John Cork, who serves as the de facto moderator for the track, providing trivia and introducing participants from time to time, including director Terence Young. The second track covers more of the crew aspects and includes Peter Hunt and John Hopkins, as they talk about the making of the film. Of the two tracks, this one is more entertaining and well worth the time.
Disc Two brings in the “Declassified: MI6 Vault”, and new supplements which are fairly hefty. The first piece is a look at the rehearsals and execution of the jet pack with a guy named Bill Suitor. It lasts about four minutes and is harmless enough. Next is a piece curiously titled “A Child’s Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car.” It’s sponsored by Ford, but it actually turns into a promotional piece for one of the stunts in the film where a father and son go to the set to watch one of the car chases. The feature itself is a little bit cheesy but I’m guessing for the time wasn’t too bad. Following that are three minutes’ worth of commercials on all merchandise related to 007. Ken Adams’ production and location scout footage is next. Running about thirteen minutes and narrated by Ken, he points out the cast and crew and how they arrived at particular locations. In terms of the older footage it’s some of the better looking stuff out there, and not too bad. A promotional reel for the underwater footage in the movie follows, and the reel appeared in boat shows around the time of the theatrical release. “The Incredible World of James Bond” is a fifty minute look at the franchise up to the point of Thunderball. It’s quite interesting, and looks at the sex and violence and other Bond staples, while copiously introducing clips from Thunderball as promotion. Bond is given a fictional background as well, and Fleming’s career is given context also. The piece itself is a little too long but is fairly intellectual and worth viewing. From there, the “007 Mission Control” section is the usual interactive guide on the film before returning to the Special Edition extras on the “Mission Dossier” section. “Inside Thunderball” is a misnomer, as it examines some alternate takes of some scenes, and “The Thunderball Phenomenon” is a half hour look at the book’s realization to film. Chunks of the material came from the “World of Bond” featurette I mentioned earlier, and the alternate song by Dionne Warwick is even played. It’s short on production information and more on the legacy. For the production, you’ve gotta go to the “Making of Thunderball”, where Patrick Macnee talks about the film. Mixed with interviews of the surviving cast and crew, the part where producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli got to the franchise in the first place. Like the other pieces, there are some looks at some scenes in the film, but it’s worth the time. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section contains three trailers, five TV spots and 11 radio spots, and the “Image Database” section holds the production photos and stills.
Thunderball has been the source of a lot of praise, but for my money, it’s the third or fourth best Connery album, which is actually saying something, since you’re comparing this to Dr. No and Goldfinger, among others. The extras are well worth checking out, and the disc is well worth adding to the library. For Region 1 buyers, this title is part of Volume 2 of the James Bond sets that include Die Another Day and A View to a Kill, so…better to get this as a standalone title.
Special Features List
- Director/Cast Commentary
- Producer/Crew Commentary
- Promotional Footage
- Location Footage
- Stunt Test Footage
- Interactive Control
- Making of Featurette
- Franchise Examination
- Trailers, TV & Radio Spots
- Still Galleries