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Thunderball Print E-mail
Friday, 31 October 2008
ImageThis was the most expensive entry to date in the James Bond Series, and conclusive proof that bigger is not necessarily better. There's an oddly fussy quality to 'Thunderball;' The plot isn't intricate-two nuclear bombs are stolen by SPECTRE's Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) with the threat of detonation unless a hundred million pounds sterling is paid as ransom-but we see every single step the villains follow in the protracted opening sequence.

In Goldfinger, Bond faced his best villain; yet, in 'Thunderball,' he and Largo (not very interesting in the first place) rarely even meet. Celi's a good actor, but the script by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins can't find anything very colorful for him to do; most of the time he's snapping out boring orders like, "switch on the underwater landing lights" or "open the underwater hatch." There's nothing at all like Goldfinger's purring delight in his own genius, Dr. No's stately elegance, or Red Grant's muscular insanity. Largo might as well be a crooked banker.

Furthermore, the extensive underwater action in 'Thunderball,' while well-photographed and staged, largely under the direction of Ricou Browning (who was once The Creature From the Black Lagoon), are-as they must be-slow-moving and sometimes hard to follow. And there are a lot of underwater scenes in this movie.

On the other hand, this was the first truly wide-screen Bond movie, with excellent location photography in Nassau and elsewhere. Even more than in Dr. No., there's a strong sense of place, of being there with James Bond. True of the tropics, the colors are at once vivid and creamy, intense and pastel; this may truly be the most beautiful Bond movie. On the other hand, the utter-climax, as Largos' yacht splits in two, half remaining to fight what looks like the entire U.S. Navy, the other half converting to a hydrofoil in order to flee (as if no one would thing of sending an aircraft after him), is generally muffed, both in terms of special effects (though this film won that Oscar) and in terms of simple excitement. There's too much use of rear-screen projection, too much undercranked camera work, and the final explosion just isn't convincing.

[Written by AVRev] [START]
"Thunderball" is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p/AVC encode.  The visual quality is hindered by the age of the source material.  Film grain is apparent throughout.  Minor dust and scratches appear here and there.  The colors are accurate to the source, muted much like "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love."  To increase the color saturation the contrast has been boosted.  This causes from overblown whites.  Details are improved from the previous two films.  However, the underwater sequences are a jarring juxtaposition.  The underwater scenes appear fuzzy and blurred.  There is minor edge enhancement, but not much in the way of digital noise reduction or banding.  The black levels are decent for a 40 plus year old film.  Overall the Bond films offer a slight upgrade from the Ultimate DVD editions.

Just like the other MGM Bond films, "Thunderball" on Blu-ray contains the original mono audio track and a remixed DTS-HD 5.1 track.  And as with the previous MGM Bond Blu-rays, the original mono audio track is the way to go.  The volume level unbalance in the 5.1 mix is unbearable.  Dialogue is loud and soft in and of itself.  At the same time the music and sound effects are not balanced against the dialogue.  There is more emphasis placed on the surrounds on this 5.1 mix versus "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love," but it is not enough to make you want to listen to the audio track.  Stick with the mono track if you care to properly hear the dialogue and dynamics.

The bonus materials for "Thunderball" are more extensive than the previous two MGM Bond Blu-rays.  However, they do contain all of the same structured featurettes and scene selection abilities.  There are two audio commentaries.  The first is with director Terence Young and others.  The second is with editor Peter Hunt, Co-Screenwriter John Hopkins and others.  The former is much more interesting than the latter.  However, both have great scene specific information.  "Selling Bonds" contains the original 1965 TV commercials.  "On Location with Production Designer Ken Adam" is a featurette that examines the look of the production.  "A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car" is the 1965 Ford promotional film.  "Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies" is a featurette that covers the jet pack technology.  "The Secret History of Thunderball" contains a look at the different versions of the film that went to the theaters,  "Thunderball Boat Show" is a reel that contains promotional footage and some alternate takes of the underwater battle.  "The Making of 'Thunderball'" is a typical look at the making of the feature.  "The Thunderball Phenomenon" is really a continuation of the making-of featurette.  The Blu-ray also includes "The Incredible World of James Bond," the original 1965 NBC-TV special.  As with the other Blu-ray Bond films, there is a 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide that jumps to specific scenes.  Lastly there are a photo gallery, theatrical trailers and radio and TV spots.

"Thunderball" is the most popular of the early Bond films, but is not the best by any means.  The Blu-ray release offers only a slight upgrade over the DVD.  Still, the details are nice to marvel at.  The remixed audio track's quality once again is a let done.  But if you are the avid Bond collector, then by all means, MGM's Blu-ray release is worth the upgrade. [END]

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