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Steam Sparky, Sparky

Bond 4: Thunderball

I'm (re)watching the James Bond movies as research for BC:2007 and, mostly for my own benefit, am writing some notes about each one.

Bond movie no. 4: Thunderball, released 1965.


!!Spoiler Warning!!



This isn't really intended to be a proper plot summary, but they do seem to be getting more detailed with each one I watch.

Pre-credits sequence: Bond attends the funeral of a SPECTRE agent in France. The agent has faked his own death and attended the funeral wearing women's clothing, including a black veil. Bond ambushes him when he returns to his chateau, and they have a spectacular hand-to-hand fight, ending when Bond strangles the agent with a poker. The agent's minions chase Bond onto the roof, where he dons a rocket pack and flies down to the ground, then gets into his Aston Martin. Inexplicably, the engine won't start, but he manages to stall the minions using the rear bullet-proof screen and two powerful water cannons mounted on the back of the car, until the finally engine starts and he's able to drive away with a female French agent in the passenger seat.

Opening credits: trippy underwater silhouette sequence featuring a very curvy woman being chased by frogmen with harpoon guns, while Tom Jones croons, "any woman he wants he'll get, he will break any heart without regret" ... "so he strikes! like Thunderbaaaalllll."

Paris. A bloke with an eye-patch uses a transmitter hidden in a cigarette case to get into SPECTRE's conference room, where a bunch of numbered SPECTRE agents from around the world are telling Number One (who sits in a box that hides his face, stroking a white cat) how much money they've managed to obtain by devious means. Number one calls eye-patch-bloke Number Two (we later find out his name is Largo). Number One accuses one of the agents of being dishonest (!) and electrifies his chair, which then descends into the floor to dispose of the body. Largo says they have a plan to blackmail £100,000,000 from the British and Americans.

A health-spa in England. Bond is on holiday, but he has somehow managed to accidentally run into Count Lippe, the SPECTRE agent who is going to bring about the blackmail. Bond tries to seduce an attractive nurse who rejects his advances and puts him on a machine called "the rack" then leaves. Lippe sneaks into the room, says "nice to have met you, Mr Bond," and sets the machine to "rip Bond in half" mode. The nurse comes back just in time to save him. Bond again tries to seduce her and this time succeeds because she feels guilty about having left him alone on the machine. This scene made me uncomfortable as I thought Bond went too far: grabbing the nurse and kissing her when she clearly wasn't interested in him, then letting her think that if she didn't sleep with him he might tell her boss about what happened when she left him alone.

A man working for SPECTRE kills a NATO pilot and takes his place on a Vulcan bomber with two nukes on board. He has had plastic surgery so he looks exactly like the man he's replacing, and he demands a lot more money from SPECTRE at the last minute, which they reluctantly agree to pay because he's the only one who can do the job. He injects nerve gas into the plane's air supply and kills the other occupants, then somehow manages to land the plane on the sea (!) next to Largo's yacht. The bomber gently sinks to the bottom, then a diver swims down and kills the pilot while he's struggling to get out of his seat. One of the nukes has "HANDLE LIKE EGGS" stencilled on the side. They take the nukes away, and Number One gives orders to assassinate Lippe for his poor choice of pilot.

Bond gets called back to the office. Lippe follows him and it seems like he's about to try to run Bond off the road, but before he has a chance a gorgeous read-headed SPECTRE agent rides up behind Lippe's car on a motorbike and fires an RPG at it, causing it to blow up.

Bond goes looking for the sister of the assassinated pilot and finds her swimming in the sea off some kind of small tropical island. It's not clear to me how Bond knew she was involved with SPECTRE or where she would be, but she turns out to be Largo's mistress. Her name is Domino and she is very attractive. She doesn't know yet about her brother's death. Bond annoys Largo by beating him at cards and dancing with Domino, so he sends one of his minions to Bond's hotel room. Bond finds the minion hiding in the shower and kicks him out, with the message "the small fish I throw back." When the minion returns, Largo chucks him in a swimming pool filled with sharks.

Bond meets up with Felix Leiter of the CIA, another British agent called Pinder, a beautiful female British agent called Paula, and Q. He gives him a Geiger counter mounted in a watch, an underwater infra-red camera, a distress flare the size of a ballpoint pen, a pocket-sized scuba set good for about four minutes of air (though he later uses it for considerably longer than that), and a radioactive homing beacon in a pill.

Bond puts on scuba gear and tries to take photos of the underside of Largo's yacht, but Largo discovers him and he barely escapes with his life. He swims ashore and hitches a lift from the gorgeous red-head who killed Lippe earlier. She drives like a maniac while they both act cool, then she lets him go. The next day she meets Largo and tells him "when the time is right, Bond will be killed" while demonstrating that she is a crack shot at clay pigeon shooting. Bond later goes to visit Largo and also demonstrates his skill at clay pigeon shooting.

The red-head SPECTRE agent captures Paula. Bond sneaks into Largo's mansion and finds Paula dead (apparently she took a suicide pill). He winds up fighting a henchman in a swimming pool. Largo closes a motorised cover over the pool, and the two continue to fight under water. Bond stabs the henchman, releasing blood into the water. Largo opens a hatch leading to the shark pool. Bond uses the miniature scuba set and ignores the sharks, swimming out through the hatch and escaping. He gets back to his hotel room to find the red-head relaxing in his bath. She says "since you are here, would you mind giving me something to put on?" and he hands her a pair of shoes. They wind up in bed together. Later on some henchmen come to the door and the red-head produces a gun. In the course of conversation Bond tells her "my dear girl, what I did this evening was for King and country--you don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?" Bond gets shot in the leg and escapes into a street carnival. The red-head and the henchmen follow the trail of blood, catching up with him in the Kiss Kiss club. The red-head asks him to dance. One of the henchmen tries to shoot him on the dance floor, but he spins around just in time and the bullet hits the red-head in the back. Bond plonks the corpse down in a chair and says to the other occupants of the table, "mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead."

Felix takes Bond up in a helicopter exploring the coast around the island. He finds the Vulcan bomber and goes down to take a look at it in the shark-infested waters. A bit later on he meets Domino under water (both wearing scuba gear). The camera shows them hugging and sinking behind some rocks, then lots of bubbles, then it cuts to them walking out onto the beach with Bond saying "I hope we didn't frighten the fish." Afterwards he tells her about her brother's death and asks for her help finding out when the nukes are going aboard Largo's yacht. One of Largo's henchmen sneaks up behind them with a gun. Bond turns and casually kills him with a harpoon gun, then says "I think he got the point." Domino asks Bond to promise her he will kill Largo, then kisses him.

Bond sneaks on board the yacht disguised in scuba diving gear as one of Largo's minions. He starts helping them to take the nukes from an underwater sea cave and load them onto a mini-sub, but one of them recognises him and he ends up involved in another underwater fight. They leave with the nukes, shutting the door behind them and leaving Bond trapped in the cave. Domino tries find the nukes on the yacht with a Geiger counter, but Largo catches her at it. He ties her up in her cabin and says he is going to torture her, but a nuclear scientist walks in and says he's ready to activate the bombs. As Largo leaves he says, "do not live in hope, my dear. There is no-one to rescue you."

Leiter in a Coast Guard helicopter finds Bond using the radioactive homing beacon he swallowed, and rescues him from the cave. Bond tells Leiter where the yacht is going with the nukes, and the Americans drop a troop of scuba-diving marines from a plane. There is a large underwater battle between two groups of divers with knives and harpoon guns. Bond gets kitted up in another set of scuba diving gear, but this time he also has some sort of torpedo drive strapped to his back that propels him along underwater at high speed. Bond joins the battle and single-handedly kills half the minions. They wind up fighting in an old wreck and sharks get involved. Largo returns to his yacht and Bond follows him. A fleet of navy ships chases the yacht, but it splits in half and the front half turns out to be as fast as a speedboat. The navy blows up the rear half while the front half speeds away. Largo says there is still a bomb on board, but the nuclear scientist goes into Domino's cabin, unties her, and tells her the bomb is safe because he's thrown away the trigger. Bond storms the bridge and fights all the crew as well as steering the speeding boat around some rocks in the middle of the fight. Largo is just about to shoot Bond when Domino comes up behind him and shoots him in the back with a harpoon gun. The controls jam and they jump overboard just before the boat runs into some rocks and explodes.

An American plane with a metal frame attached to the nose flies overhead and drops a life raft down to them. Bond and Domino swim over to it. Bond inflates a large helium balloon with "when arrows meet" written on the side and lets it out over the raft on a long rope. The American plane comes back and catches the rope in the metal frame on its nose, yanking Bond and Domino up into the air and towing them along behind the plane.


I was amazed to discover that the skyhook thing Bond and Domino used at the end of the movie actually existed: see this Wikipedia article. That is so cool. I want to try it!

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