Movie: Thunderball


There is much to love in a quality James Bond movie, particularly one which starts with Bond having an extravagant fight with a man in a black dress, totally trashing a large regency-style drawing room in the process. This is one of Sean Connery’s early Bond films – released in 1965.

Two nuclear warheads have been stolen, and must be recovered. Bond travels to Nassau in the Bahamas where he does a lot of diving – some to find the warheads, some to flirt with the ladies, and some to fight with criminals underwater. One free diving episode features a lady diver holding onto the back of a clearly distressed turtle. As soon as she releases the turtle, it ascends for air. Poor dude!

Thunderball heavily inspired the Austin Powers movies, which adds an inadvertent element of humour when viewing them in retrospect. The villain, one Emile Largo, has an eye patch and a white fluffy pet cat, and throws failures and enemies into his pool of reef sharks, who obligingly eat them alive.

The aqualung had only been around for about 15 years when this movie was made, but it has some awesome underwater fight sequences (knives cutting air hoses, masks ripped off…), and features a huge orange sled/DPV capable of transporting up to six divers at once. The divers use harnesses rather than BCDs, the exhausts on their regulators are behind their heads, and they have no octos, but other than that look as good – or perhaps better, because their gear is a uniform basic black (including their cylinders) without bits hanging off – than divers today. Of course, they are a team of crooks, so they have to dress in matching togs.

When Bond eventually locates the sunken plane – incidentally containing his lady love’s completely undecomposed brother – he instructs his pilot to shoot one of the sharks milling around the site “to keep the others busy”. Nice.

The film concludes with an EPIC underwater fight scene – goodies in orange, baddies in black – involving perhaps 30 divers. There is hand to hand combat, lots of spear guns, knife fighting, and a lot of frantic finning. Nearly a quarter of this two hour movie was filmed underwater.

There is so much goodness here… The standard Bond misogyny – women swooning over him and being used and discarded in short order, very short shorts on unashamedly hairy men, a young Sean Connery… and a boat called the Disco Volante. The underwater scenes are very well done, and plentiful. What’s not to love?

The DVD is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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