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Feature


In the process of pointing to one’s favourite Bond movie, it’s popular to name Goldfinger, traditionalist to name From Russia with Love, maverick to name On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, clever to name License to Kill, insane to name Die Another Day, and revolutionist (or short-term memory-ist) to name Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig one). I, rather boringly, usually pick the second or third safest pick in Thunderball (still the number one grossing Bond film by a reasonably wide margin when adjusted for inflation). To me, the passing fan, Thunderball represents the Bond brand teetering on the edge of the kind of daft behaviour that would follow this ‘golden age’ of the four original films.

Thunderball
The scope and scale of the film is epic from a sense of both visuals and story. Every set and action scene is immense, and often director Terence Young slows his editing and steadies his camera to further convey the ‘weight’ of the visuals (though there are still plenty of literally sped up action bits). This slightly slowed and steadied gigantism is supported by a script filled with iconic bits of Bondian mythology, which keeps the film in mind while watching the following Connery films. Thunderball also features a sizable military presence, which creates the feeling of Bond’s world growing, and puts the character in a more tangible context, yet unlike some of the later larger than life Bond films, which I often don’t like all that much, Thunderball has a charm in its little touches, such as Bond grabbing a single grape on his way out of a hot hotel room.

Arguments against Thunderball are easy to come up with, including the occasionally creeping pace, long periods of time without Bond on screen, and a generally much weaker villain than Red Grant, Rosa Klebb, Odd Job, or Goldfinger. The film’s grand, cinemascope aspirations eventually lead to the ‘more is more’ mentality of the Bond series, which ended up critically injuring the films several times throughout the decades. Though I think it mostly works in this case, the whole thing can be a bit exhausting, especially the seemingly endless underwater scenes. And let’s not forget that Thunderball did lead to the dismal, out of canon remake Never Say Never Again, which should count as a few points against it.

Thunderball

Video


In a continuing attempt at scale Thunderball was the first Bond film shot anamorphically, and the first Blu-ray in this six disc initial set that I’m watching in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The final effect of this particular high definition transfer is slightly less dynamic than Dr. No or From Russia with Love, but still very impressive overall.

Outdoor daylight scenes are basically perfectly balanced, glowing with Technicolor glory, especially the resort scenes. The underwater footage is a bit murky and inconsistent, likely due to the quality of underwater filmmaking at the time, but when it works the blues are really gorgeous. Indoor and night-time sequences are a little rougher, still glowing with bright hues throughout, but details are obviously obscured comparatively, and the black bits of the frame are a bit overpowering. In fact, overall the print is pretty dark, and some of the deeper edges are a perhaps too hard. Concerning artefacts and print damage there are some minor film skips in transition shots and wipes, but the overall print is well cleaned, and features nary a single obvious compression artefact.

Thunderball

Audio


Originally I was planning on reviewing all six Bond Blu-rays as one big write-up, mostly because I’m having trouble thinking up new ways to describe the same audio revamp over and over. Basically Thunderball is exactly the same as the other Blu-ray releases in its quality of DTS-HD revamping. Once again, the soundscape is surprisingly large for a revamped Mono mix. The surround sound enhancements, especially John Barry’s score, are almost unnaturally natural and rounded. There’s warmth to the entire track that equates the sound of brand new, digitally mastered motion pictures, and the vocals are clean, rather than tinny, as is usually associated with older tracks. The additional LFE elements help increase the clarity of the track by offering sharp and crisp bass to everything from gunshots to underwater ambiance.

Thunderball

Extras


The extras once again begin with two solid group commentary tracks, one with director Terrance Young and various cast and crew members, and the other with editor Peter Hunt, writer John Hopkins, and other crew members. Both tracks run out of steam a bit quicker than the previous tracks, and feature generally more empty space, but our moderator has a few tricks up his sleeve that ensure a generally informative and fun experience. The second track, which is the better track, switches to French for a bit around the forty minute mark. I suppose I could just switch to French track if I wanted to watch Thunderball dubbed, but the gimmick is a pretty clever way of filling commentary space.

This time around the MI6 Vault features no fewer than six items of antique interest, including a fifty minute made for TV featurette called ‘The Wonderful World of James Bond’ from 1965 (which includes footage that found its way into the more meaty docs about Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball), a cute bit of Ford promotional work from 1965 called ‘A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car’, ‘On Location with Ken Adam’, ‘Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies’ (concerning the real life rocket pack that was used in the film), and two extended advertisements, ‘ Thunderball[i] Boat Show Reel’, and ‘Selling Bonds’.

Thunderball
These Bond Blu-ray discs are pretty fickle when played on my Profile 1.0 player, and [i]Thunderball
proved to be one of the worst offenders. Besides the hell of a time I had getting the movie to play in the first place (I had to go to the scene selection screen and hit enter on chapter one, rather than simply hitting play), I couldn’t get the ‘The Making of [hunderball’, ‘The Thunderball Phenomenon’, or ‘The Secret History of Thunderball’ to play for me at all. It’s been a long time since I sat down with the original special edition DVDs (I never owned them), but I recall from memory that ‘The Making of Thunderball’ was a worthy edition to all the hour long docs that adorn each of those original discs (and so far all the Blu-ray discs). I have no memory of the other two featurettes.

The disc is finished up with a collection of trailers and TV spots, an interactive guide to the film, and image galleries.

Thunderball

Overall


So what’s your favourite Bond film, fans and non-fans alike. Have I failed choosing Thunderball as the ne plus ultra? I’m sure you’d let me know even if I didn’t ask. The Profile 1.0 issues I had with Thunderball were frustrating, but I was able to get the film to play, just in case any other 1.0 owners had heard otherwise. The hi-def video quality is not quite as earth-shatteringly incredible as some of the other Bond Blu-ray releases, but still very obviously the best the film has looked since its original release.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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