August 06, 2004


I watched a free showing of Thunderball in Prospect Park this evening, preceded by a selection of James Bond theme songs performed by the Loser's Lounge. They were good, but it sort of made me wish they had done other people's songs in the style of James Bond songs. I think Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me" would work well under the John Barry treatment.

I had never seen Thunderball before. Lord, but it is massively campy. Of course there are all the future subjects of Austin Powers parody (the jet pack, the villain with a pet cat, the swimming pool filled with sharks, the sex between enemy agents), but there were some other unexpected pleasures. For instance, all the evil henchmen who worked on the villain's boat, who wore matching uniforms with the name of the ship: Disco Volante. This is not merely a silly sounding name (which means "flying disc" in Italian, according to Google), what with the hindsight of living in the post-disco era, but also an album by Mr. Bungle. Thus all the evil henchmen looked like they were big Mr. Bungle fans. Laffs galore.

Another highlight was the constant use of sped-up backgrounds for chase scenes. This was particularly risible in the final scene, when the Disco Volante -- a large boat, even after shedding its rear half -- is speeding out of control. The background is moving at video game speeds, and the ship apparently has such a sensitive rudder that a mere spin of the steering wheel causes an instantaneous change of direction.

Two more good bits appeared in close proximity, during the parade scene. One shot features a dog plainly urinating in the middle of the street. The other was a shot that was quite obviously flipped -- a sign carried by one of the marchers appeared in mirror image.

Finally, the ending was classic. (This ending was going to be parodied in Austin Powers, but got replaced; you can see it as an outtake on the DVD.) Bond and Bond girl (Domino) await rescue in an emergency raft. Bond inflates some giant zeppelin thingy which floats up into the air to indicate their location. A plane retrieves it and Bond and Bond girl, holding on to the end of the rope, or tied to it, or something, are hoisted up off the raft. We then see the final shot of the film: Bond and Bond girl being towed through mid-air by a plane going at full speed. This is not some hovering helicopter. This is a freakin' plane.

Am I being picky? Perhaps I just had my expectations raised by the super-realistic scene at the beginning where Bond escapes a bunch of evil people of some sort via a jet pack that appears out of nowhere.

Posted by Francis at 12:09 AM

The more you learn about the history of Thunderball, the more you wonder how they managed to even make a vaguely watchable movie out of the mess, never mind a good one. (Which it ain't.) Unfortunately the mess is too long to summarize here, which is why I really need to get on the stick and finish my Bond essay, which already has that section done. Anyway, trust me, this film, bad as it is, probably shouldn't have existed at all. And by implication, Never Say Never Again (which was REQUIRED to have almost exactly the same script, for copyright reasons) wouldn't have existed either. NSNA is two or three iotas better because it doesn't focus as much on stultifying underwater sequences (Memo to directors: No matter how mammoth your underwater battle is, if it's underwater, it will still look slow as hell), but it has flaws of its own - notably, Connery phoning it in.

By the by, Disco Volante is supposed to be interpreted here to mean "Flying Saucer."

Posted by: Columbine at August 6, 2004 12:37 PM

Aw, and I was enjoying imagining all those evil henchmen serving on the "Frisbee".

Posted by: Francis at August 6, 2004 03:27 PM