BOND 50 THUNDERBALL

Week 4 of our marathon James Bond retrospective

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond on the big screen. To celebrate, SFX's Nick Setchfield revisits each and every 007 adventure in a week by week countdown to Skyfall ...

MISSION 4: THUNDERBALL (1965)

SPECTRAL ACTIVITY Blofeld remains faceless in Thunderball , a dapper, cat-stroking presence whose voice purrs with a stateless, unlocatable sense of evil. But amid a strikingly modernist Ken Adam set we finally glimpse the heart of his organisation. Amusingly, for all its world-threatening stratagems and casual disdain for human life, SPECTRE is clearly mired in file-shuffling bureaucracy – there are financial briefings, departmental reports about consultation fees and casual mention of an execution branch. It is, frankly, local council hell. The electrified chairs only add to the satirical bite. Of course there’s a camp joy in an ultra-secret cabal whose members are easily identified by a distinctive octopus ring, but perhaps there’s something darker, more interesting here. The octopus avatar has a Lovecraftian shiver, after all. Watch as Largo kisses the ring after throwing a luckless underling into a shark-filled pool. It’s a moment that carries the subliminal echo of blood sacrifice, as if an offering to an ancient, soul-hungering god…

SEA FEVER Knowing that an entire quarter of Thunderball ’s screentime demanded to take place underwater, Broccoli summoned Ivan Tors Films, specialists in such sub-aquatic screen fare as Flipper . The film is enhanced no end by their expertise – a throwaway scene where Domino rides a turtle through forests of coral and fleet, darting fish is captured with impeccable clarity, conjuring a rare moment of genuine beauty for a Bond flick. The climactic saltwater skirmish between SPECTRE and the forces of the West provided the biggest challenge, requiring weeks of rehearsal and the precise choreography of some sixty divers who could only communicate via hand signals. Many argue that Thunderball ’s final reel combat sequence is a slog, an interminable tussle between faceless, voiceless opponents, but there’s an eerie grandeur to this underwaterloo, punctuated with truly arresting imagery: storms of blood fill the water as the sharks move in, a random crab scuttles monstrously in the middle of the fight and Largo’s one, glaring eye fills his visor with Cyclopean hate…

TRIV AND LET DIE

Broccoli and Saltzman originally eyed Thunderball as their first Bond film, but the legal situation over the screen rights deterred them.

More bizarrely, here's a rejected title song by Johnny Cash...

The sharks in the underwater battle were controlled by a system of wires through their fins.

Julie Christie, Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway were all in consideration for the role of Domino.

The Bell jet-pack was developed by the army. Only two men were qualified to use it.

Tom Jones fainted in the recording booth while attempting to hold the final note of Thunderball (listen closely and you might just hear a big Welsh thump…)

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN IN YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE