The early Bond films – Dr No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) – emerged in the middle of the international impact of British cinema, and the whole ‘Swinging London‘ ethos, and the formula of the Bond series was set instantly and has varied little over the years;
A stylish pre-credit sequence establishes the scene and the tone; the credits have a fancy design by Maurice Binder and a title song sung by a popular recording artist of the time.
Thereafter it’s a combination of stunts, gadgets and girls. Bond is ironical towards his boss M (this is more marked in the Connery movies), and Bond’s mettle is tested by having to oppose a master criminal who is threatening some form of world domination.
In the meantime, Bond is tempted by two females, one of whom is true, the other treacherous, and these relationships allow him to release some dubious double-entendres.
As the series blossomed in the 60s, the locations became more exotic, the hardware more elaborate, and the special effects threatened to reduce Bond to a bit player . . .
The fourth Bond film, Thunderball, is an excellent example of this. Its plot concerns the theft of two nuclear bombs which threaten the future of the world.
Connery’s Bond continues to be an elegant, unruffled ironist in a world of sensation, but, when he makes a spectacular airborne escape over the rooftops early in the film, one can see that the movie is becoming rather more interested in the gadgetry than in any nuances of character.
Sean Connery is in top form as James Bond, and Adolfo Celi is equally good as the arch-villain Emil Largo, who almost matches secret agent 007 step for step in this fourth Bond Yarn, about a SPECTER plot to destroy the city of Miami if a huge ransom isn’t paid.
Unfortunately, though, Largo lacks the impact and self-confident smugness of the previous Bond film’s Auric Goldfinger – But at least he provides us with someone to die during the film’s climax!
The plot is somewhat weak (hey, it’s a Bond film) but there are many slick gimmicks and the usual bevvy of beautiful girls, including Luciana Paluzzi as femme fatale Fiona Volpe, Martine Beswick as Paula (Bond’s assistant in the Bahamas) and Molly Peters as Patricia Fearing, the buxom health spa masseuse with whom Bond hits the showers.
After a hedonistic session with Patricia and the notorious “mink glove”, Bond abruptly leaves the room. “Where are you going?” she asks. “I thought I would take a little exercise” Connery replies.
Sean Connery died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the Bahamas on 31 October 2020 having been unwell for some time. He was 90.
Rik Van Nutter