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Thunderball (1965) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on January 8, 2015

Thunderball was directed by Terence Young and premiered on 9th December 1965. Starring Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Paul Stassino and Martine Beswick. Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins. Music by John Barry. Theme sung by Tom Jones. 130mins.

SPECTRE agents hijack a British Vulcan bomber with two atomic warheads on board, they demand $100m in uncut diamonds or they will blow up a major city.

James Bond is sent to the Bahamas where he meets the beautiful Domino Derval, mistress of SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo.

Thunderball was Ian Fleming's ninth Bond book and was first published in 1961, the novel followed For Your Eyes Only which was an anthology of 5 Bond short stories.

Thunderball was director Terence Young's (1915-1994) third and last Bond movie, he had previously directed Dr. No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963).

Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Claudine Auger
Claudine Auger
Adolfo Celi
Adolfo Celi
Luciana Paluzzi
Luciana Paluzzi
Rik Van Nutter
Rik Van Nutter
Martine Beswick with Sean Connery
Martine Beswick with Sean Connery

Domino: What sharp little eyes you have.
Bond: Wait till you get to my teeth.

Sean Connery (1930-) / James Bond

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sean Connery won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Untouchables (1987). Has also played 007 in Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never say Never Again (1983).

Claudine Auger (1941-) / Domino Derval

Born in Paris, France Gorgeous Claudine Auger plays ‘good’ Bond girl Domino, her measurements for those who must know were 36-23-37. Her voice was dubbed by Nikki Van der Zyl.

Her films include - The Seven Deadly Sins (1962), The Iron Mask (1962), Triple Cross (1966), Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) and The Bermuda Triangle (1978).

Adolfo Celi (1922-1986) / Emilio Largo

Born in Sicily, Italy, Adolfo Celi plays SPECTRE No.2 in charge of the “NATO Project”. Celi’s voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty who would go on to dub the voice of “Tiger Tanaka” in You Only Live Twice (1967) and “Blofeld’s” voice in the pre-credit teaser to For Your Eyes Only (1981).

His films include - That Man from Rio (1964), Von Ryan's Express (1965), The Agony and the Ecstacy (1965), Grand Prix (1966), Dirty Heroes (1967), Operation Kid Brother (1967), Danger Diabolik (1968), Midas Run (1969), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971), The Italian Connection (1972), Hitler - The Last Ten Days (1973), Ten Little Indians (1974) and Holocaust 2000 (1977).

Luciana Paluzzi (1937-) / Fiona Volpe

Born in Rome, Italy, sexy red-head Luciana Paluzzi is ‘bad’ Bond girl Fiona Volpe, a SPECTRE assassin who has 007 in her targets.

Her films include - Hercules (1958), Tank Force (1958), Muscle Beach Party (1964), The Ventian Affair (1967), Chuka (1967), OSS 117 - Double Agent (1968), The Green Slime (1968), Captain nemo and the Underwater City (1969), The Italian Connection (1972), Klansman (1974) and The Greek Tycoon (1978).

Guy Doleman (1923-1996) / Count Lippe

Born in Hamilton, New Zealand, Guy Doleman's films include - His Majesty O'Keefe (1954), On the Beach (1959), The Ipcress File (1965), Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967), The Deadly Bees (1967) and A Twist of Sand (1968).

Rik Van Nutter (1929-2005) / Felix Leiter

Born in California, Rik Van Nutter is the third actor to play CIA agent Felix Leiter in the Bond series. His films include - Romanoff and Juliet (1961), The Revenge of Ivanhoe (1965), Seven Hours of Gunfire (1965) and Pacific Inferno (1979).

Paul Stassino (1930-) / Francois Derval / Angelo Palazzi

Born in Limassol, Cyprus, Paul Stassino's films include - Ice Cold in Alex (1958), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), Exodus (1960), The Long Ships (1964), Where the Spes Are (1965), That Riviera Touch (1966), The Magus (1968) and Escape to Athena (1979).

Martine Beswick (1941-) / Paula Caplan

Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Martine Beswick's films include - From Russia With Love (1963), One Million Years BC (1966), A Bullet for the General (1966), Prehistoric Women (1967), Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), Seizure (1974) and The Offspring (1987).

Martine Beswick, Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi
Martine Beswick, Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi

Producer Kevin McClory held the film and TV rights to Ian Fleming’s novel “Thunderball” after earlier collaborating on an unused script with Fleming involving SPECTRE and it’s plan to hijack a jet carrying atomic bombs. He was interested in producing his own Bond film based on the novel in the 1960’s but realised he could not compete with Saltzman and Broccoli, plus they had Sean Connery who was James Bond for millions of moviegoers.

McClory eventually met with the Bond producers and proposed a merger. He would sell them the screen rights to Thunderball for a percentage of the profits and a producer credit. They agreed. “We didn’t want anyone else to make Thunderball”, said Broccoli “if anyone else came in and made their own Bond film it would have been bad for our series.”

McClory would prove to be a thorn in the Bond producers side in years to come. Included in the Thunderball contract was a promise that McClory would wait 10 years before producing another film based on Flemings novel.

After years and years of legal wranglings with the Bond producers McClory produced Never Say Never Again in 1983. it was directed by Irvin Kershner and starred Sean Connery as James Bond. Kim Basinger played Domino Petachi and Klaus Maria Brandauer played Maximilian Largo. Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his white cat made his last Bond movie appearance to date, here played by Max Von Sydow.

Never Say Never Again was successful and McClory announced yet another Thunderball remake, titled Warhead 2000, in the 1990s which failed to materialise. McClory died in 2006 aged 80.

Poster art by Robert McGinnis
Poster art by Robert McGinnis

Sean Connery appears in the opening gunbarrel shot for the first time, in the three previous films it was stuntman Bob Simmons who walks across the screen and shoots at the camera. This was the first Bond film in Panavision widescreen and a new gunbarrel sequence was shot, this time with Connery.

Bonds Aston Martin DB5 makes another appearance, this time water jets at the rear of the car help wash away some pursuing bad guys. Bond also uses a rocket powered jetpack strapped to his back to escape some thugs.

SPECTRE agents show off their gadgets too in this film, Fiona Volpe rides a motorcycle that fires missiles and Largo’s yacht the Disco Volante converts into a hydrofoil at the climax.

John Stears won an Oscar for Special Visual Effects and Ken Adams set design was nominated for a British Academy Award.

Julie Christie and Raquel Welch were both considered for the part of Domino but for various reasons it didn’t work out.

Blofeld makes his second appearance in the series but we still don’t see his face, he is addressing a villain’s convention and stroking a white cat, his voice was dubbed by Eric Pohlmann.

Thunderball suffered from many continuity problems and gaffes, for example during the undersea battle at the climax Bond loses his light blue face mask, he grabs the black mask from a dead diver and in the next shot he is still wearing his blue mask. In one shot Felix Leiter is wearing shorts, the next shot he's wearing trousers than back to shorts again, all in one scene.

James Bond is known as Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in Italy and a song was written for the film titled “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” it was to have been sung by Dionne Warwick but the producers later felt that the main song should reflect the films title.

A new song was written “Thunderball”, which was belted out by Tom Jones, who reportedly fainted after singing the final high note. The original song can be heard over the opening credits on a commentary track on the DVD.

Thunderball was released at the height of Bondmania, a worldwide success, it became the biggest hit in the series in terms of tickets sold. James Bond would return in You Only Live Twice.

The film was known by various titles around the world –

Operation Thunderball (Italy, Japan, Spain & Poland)
The Ball of Thunder (Israel)
Atomic Ball (Portugal)
Fireball (Germany and Finland)
Operation Thundersky (Norway)
007 Averted The Spectre (Japan)
Calm Down, Mr. Bond (Netherlands)

The Critics Wrote –

"It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a Super-Bond!" (Hollywood Reporter)

"Stripped of all the gimmicks, the girls and the geiger counters, Thunderball is a skilfully photographed, expertly designed, well produced underwater Wester. DIVE IN." (Daily Mirror)

"The screenplay stands on tiptoe at the outermost edge of the suggestive and gazes yearningly down into the obscene." (John Simon)

"Ravages of time and past excursions into international espionage seems to have enhanced the lure of the imperturbable undercoverman, who approaches hazardous assignments with the same aplomb he displays in hopping into the hay with a covey of peeled sex kittens. Thunderball packs a wallop in it's tongue-in-cheek treatment of agent-at-work." (Variety)

"Mr. Fleming's superhero, still performed by Sean Connery and guided through this adventure by the director of his first two, Terence Young, has not only power over women, miraculous physical reserves, skill in perilous maneuvers and knowledge of all things great and small, but he also has a much better sense of humor than he has shown in his previous films. And this is the secret ingredient that makes "Thunderball" the best of the lot." (New York Times)

Poster art by Frank McCarthy
Poster art by Frank McCarthy


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    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks TiperX34522.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice Bond lookback. I remember seeing the Connery movies as a teenager, he was the defintion of cool. Hard to believe that was almost 50 yeaers ago.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for the comment YankeesRule.

    • YankeesRule profile image


      6 years ago

      A classic movie, Connery was awesome, the effects were awesome, great underwater film.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from London, England

      Never Say Never Again benefited by having a strong cast of actors and Sean Connery back in his iconic role. I own it on DVD but it's my least favourite Bond movie, the theme song was forgettable and the music score by Michel Legrand was terrible, absolutely dire.

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Any Bond film with Sean Connery is worth watching. "Thunderball" was one of Connery's more pedestrian efforts, and Largo was not one of the more interesting villains, but Connery makes it all worth watching. And I enjoyed the big underwater finale with all the 00's fighting the Spectre agents.

      I even liked the remake "Never Say Never Again". Connery showed he still had what it takes.


    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from London, England

      I've never read that book, I should seek it out being a Bond fan.

      So anyway, 007 is at a bar and the barman passes him his vodka martini and says "that was stirred not shaken am I correct?", Bond suddenly glares at the barman. "Calm down, Mr. Bond. I'm just kidding."

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Funny comments about the movie Calm down Mr. Bond. It reminds me of my son's fantasy football team...he named them the Runner-Ups.....I told him that does not give his team much confidence. Going back to The Battle of Bond....I think the person who got the short end of the stick was the writer Jack Whittingham who came up with lots of the great ideas for the film....but had a horrible contract and loss out of mucho money.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Cogerson, the Broccoli's must have really hated McClory, court cases, lawsuits, he was always trying to make another Bond movie and he even had the film rights to the names SPECTRE and Blofeld so they couldn't use them in their films anymore.

      My favourite other title was from the Netherlands "Calm Down, Mr. Bond" it's an exciting title, makes me want to see that film. I can see Bond now throwing a hissy fit after his jet pack fails to ignite and he's surrounded by bad guys one of them pats him on the shoulder and says "Calm down, Mr. Bond." :)

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub Steve, Thunderball was the first Bond movie to win an Academy only took the Bond producers about 9 million in 1965 dollars to get that Oscar. The final battlescene is so impressive when you realize how many people are in each shot....nowadays they would just make it a computer graphic and be on their way.

      For a great ride on the messy lawsuits concerning Thunderball...I recommend checking out the book The Battle for Bond.

      Great photos as always....I think the worst other title has to be the Japan one..... 007 Averted The Spectre..thanks for another great Bond movie hub.


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