Longitude 78 West (1965)

Arriving at that infamously difficult fourth instalment, BlogalongaBond joins Sean Connery as he comes ever closer to facing off with the as yet faceless Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Better than expected, Thunderball thankfully isn’t all wet boxer shorts and malfunctioning orthopaedic machines.

Blofeld (Anthony Dawson), fresh from another pussy pampering session, has decided to get real – radiating the world’s gold was soo last Thursday – and steal a nuke. Acquiring the identity of a NATO pilot and gassing the rest of his crew, a sergically altered Angelo Palazzi (Paul Stassino) steals an armed aircraft and drops it into the sea, only to be killed off by SPECTRE agent Number 2 (Adolfo Celi). James Bond (Sean Connery), at a health spa after sufferring an injury on his last assignment, witnesses the dead pilot’s body being moved in between assassination attempts. Later recruited to find the missing bomb, Bond recognises the pilot, who was seen boarding the jet, as the corpse from the spa and sets off to the Bahamas in pursuit.

However much I’ve enjoyed the Bond series to date, witnessing the character grow from his humble beginnings into a shameless cheesefest that values invisible cars over logic and character, since the start of this blogalongafranchise I have nevertheless experienced somewhat of a detachment with the material encountered to date. Maybe it’s the fact that I leaving the exercise until the last night of every month, or perhaps I have simply reached THAT age where you are supposed to fall asleep during films, but the ridiculous plotting and character overload of these early instalments has consistently left me playing catch up. Boasting a room full of look-a-like evil-doers (though one of them is handily wearing a patch), a veritable smorgasbord of sexual conquests (willing or otherwise), and using identity theft as one of its primary plot points, Thunderball almost proved too much for my sleep-deprived and caffeine ridden attention span. Thank God I watched it again.

While Goldfinger showed that the series had found its cheesy bone, and while Thunderball suggests that there might still be some fine tuning to be done, I can’t but help feel that Thunderball has earnt itself an unfairly bad rap – often considered as it is to be the first true dud in a frachchise positively riddled with them. While it undoubtedly takes the character’s dubious relationship with reality to the next level – boasting cross-dessing assassins and jetpacks before even the opening song has been sung – hey, at least Sean Connery’s not wearing a plastic duck on his head.

From Tom Jones’ dizzying title song – the final note of which allegedly left the singer navigating a spinning room – to the numerous underwater action sequences that finish the film, Thunderball is easily the most shamelessly entertaining Bond film to date. With a a script-full of one liners and a swimming pool full of sharks, I found myself feeling nostalgic for the days when nuclear fighter-jets could safely land in the ocean and Q performed house visits wearing his favourite Hawaiian shirt. You’d never see a compactable jet-pack in the most contemporary incarnation of the character, and more’s the pity.

That said, Bond doesn’t jump the proverbial (and not-so proverbial) shark without losing his balance on a few occasions. The harmless fun practically propagated by Thunderball does get a little ahead of itself at times. Whether it’s the uncomfortable misogyny of physiotherapist Patricia Fearing’s (Molly Peters) mouth-rape or the unintentional hilarity of Count Lippe’s (Guy Doleman) attempted assassination by spinal traction, Thunderball often lacks the iconic familiarity of its preceding instalments. As Bond stumbles over his cover story in an endearingly half-hearted attempt at keeping his secret identity from Fearing, however, such infamy ceases to matter. This, incredibly, is Bond unadulterated.

All in all then, I couldn’t help but love Thunderball‘s simplicity; set as it is in a world where evil-doers wear eye patches and keep sharks, and in which nuclear threat is still used to attain diamond wealth. If this is the direction the series is taking then count me in. As long as Blofeld has a pussy to stroke, I’ll be there with my best crackers and the biggest cheese knife I can find.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Longitude 78 West (1965)

  1. Pingback: April 2011 – Pickled for posterity. « popcornaddict

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