I wrote about Thunderball, the first James Bond film I ever watched (and still one of my favorites for that reason) for Turner Classic Movies Online this month:
Dr. No (1962) launched the James Bond cinema franchise, From Russia with Love (1963) is embraced by many fans as the best of the series, and Goldfinger (1964) is still the iconic 007 film of the 1960s. But Thunderball (1965), the biggest, most lavish, and longest Bond film at that time, was the most popular of its day. After the huge success of Goldfinger, producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman spared no expense in Sean Connery’s fourth turn as the suave super spy. The movies had transformed Ian Fleming’s debonair but ruthless British agent into a brawny cold warrior battling international supervillains and Sean Connery was the key ingredient in this new Bond. He straddled high class sophistication and working class grit, bringing a mix of charm, arrogance, elegance and rough-and-tumble toughness to the role. By Thunderball he had the character down pat from the cocky grin to the steely confidence that told men and women alike that he could handle anything.
This fourth outing sends Bond to retrieve a Vulcan Vindicator with nuclear weapons that has been hijacked by the international criminal organization SPECTRE and hidden in the waters of the Bahamas. Adolfo Celi plays his nemesis Emilio Largo, the number two man at SPECTRE (Blofeld is hidden behind a screen, with only his bulk and his hand stroking his signature white Persian cat visible). Celi’s Largo is equal parts mafia godfather, stylish pirate (the patch on his eye is a great touch) and barrel-chested society gent. The mastermind behind the hijacking and the multi-million dollar ransom, he’s a man with rarified tastes and impeccable fashion who still likes to get personally involved in his schemes and this one is no different. Largo threatens to launch an atomic bomb on a major city if the ransom is not met. To get to Largo, who is living it up in Nassau in the guise of a millionaire playboy, Bond seduces his beautiful mistress, Domino (former Miss France Claudine Auger).
Read the complete feature here.