Wednesday, April 29, 2020

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

In a time when fan reactions have become a corrosive influence on pop culture, it's worth remembering fan responses have always influenced creators, Sherlock Holmes being an example. Fans were aghast at the demise of Holmes in "The Final Problem" so Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected the detective. For Your Eyes Only marked a return to the basics, an attempt to recapture the tone of the early Connery films, and in that regard it was successful. 

John Glen made his directing debut and would go to direct three more - moving the series away from its more fantastical tendencies. The restrained tone of For Your Eyes Only is film's greatest strength and weakness. The classic approach compensates for the sometimes workmanlike plot which involves a McGuffin, a missile guidance system the British lose during a submarine accident. Bond's assignment is to track down the system and prevent the Soviets from obtaining it, leading him into the European underworld.

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum drew upon some Ian Fleming short stories and even used some scenes from the novels, for example the scene when Bond and Melina (Carole Bouquet) are dragged through a coral reef was directly taken from Live and Let Die. So we get a film from the world of Ian Fleming, one often filled with smugglers and gangsters with the Cold War as a backdrop.

Most remember the cold open which featured the return of "Blofeld," who once again gets dispatched by Bond. I like how it acknowledges the continuity of the series. It was also there to take a jab at Kevin McClory who tied up the producers in litigation over the creative rights to the SPECTRE concept. 

The theme performed by Sheena Easton remains memorable, staying faithful to the style of the film.

The film also ends with a "cameo" by Margaret Thatcher which was oddly out of tune with the rest of the movie. But everything in between is mostly engaging, a lo-fi entry that dispensed with gadgets and a garish last act, instead we get a realistic confrontation on a mountain with one of Roger Moore's best lines as 007, "That's detente comrade, you don't have it, I don't have it."


Monday, April 27, 2020

Moonraker (1979)

While the teaser at the conclusion of The Spy Who Loved Me stated For Your Eyes Only would be the next Bond film, the project was put on hold in favor of Moonraker. With Star Wars igniting a renaissance in Sci-Fi, the Bond series decided it was time to send 007 off to outer space, at least for the last act of the film.

For the first 2/3 of Moonraker remains fairly conventional outing with Bond on the trail of a Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), a private entrepreneur who wants to send human to space (Elon Musk prototype). Of course not! Drax is a maniacal eugenicist who wants to create a super race of humans in space. Maybe the most droll villain in any Bond film. He's creating his own space force as well, and apparently NASA also had one of their own in 1979!

The prologue is a knockout featuring sky diving and an aerial battle over a parachute. Bond's investigation of Drax sends him all over the world from California to Venice to Rio de Janeiro. A highlight includes Bond escaping from a speeding centrifuge and there's an impressive cable car sequence. He teams up with CIA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) in their quest to stop Drax. Jaws also returns, but the character's already becoming tiresome by this point. 

It's fair to say Moonraker is when the series jumped the shark. Not only is Bond a masterful astronaut with no training, he can also pilot a space shuttle. Moonraker is actually a lot of fun if you're in the right mood. Not unsurprisingly the franchise would reboot themselves for the 1980s, staying with Moore for three more films, but keeping the adventures tactile and earthbound. Bernard Lee made his final appearance as M who unfortunately never got a proper farewell in the film.


Friday, April 24, 2020

The Hunt For Red October (1990)

One of the best Cold War films ever made, The Hunt For Red October is about a renegade Soviet sub commander heading towards the American coast. Neither side knows of his intentions: Has he gone mad and decided to launch an attack? Or, as CIA analyst Jack Ryan believes, does he intend to defect?

Based on the Tom Clancy bestseller, which was more of a technical manual on modern submarine warfare, the film managed to create an incisive character study about two kindred souls on opposite sides of the Cold War. Sean Connery plays Captain Marko Ramius, a highly respected Soviet officer in command of the new submarine Red October, which has the ability to go stealth and elude U.S. radar systems, making it a possible first strike weapon. To further alarm U.S. intelligence, he's heading directly for the East Coast. 

Alec Baldwin plays Jack Ryan, a naval historian turned CIA analyst who believes Ramius intends to defect. Ryan had compiled a dossier on Ramius and believes he has valuable insight about his intentions. Ryan's main task is to convince his superiors in the CIA and the military Ramius isn't trying to start a war. It's the classic scenario of the man of books trying to persuade the men of action. Although we learn later Ryan was a former marine who opted for the academic life.

Red October is full of great supporting roles. James Earl Jones as Admiral Greer, Ryan's mentor at the CIA. Fred Dalton Thompson as an admiral, Sam Neill as Ramius's executive officer, Joss Ackland as the cagey Soviet ambassador, Richard Jordan as the shrewd National Security Advisor, Courtney B. Vance as a brilliant sonar operator, Tim Curry as a Soviet doctor, and Scott Glenn as an American sub commander who decides to trust Ryan.

John McTiernan's direction is masterful here as well, taking a complex plot and making it engaging and suspenseful. There's a realistic look to the film, never a nationalistic "look what our toys can do" type approach, but a sober minded look at the role of submarines in international relations. The film avoids all the bad Cold War cliches for the most part, except for the driven Soviet commander Tupolev (Stellan Skarsgard) pursuing Ramius. Soviet officers are humanized, while the Americans are portrayed as wise professionals doing their best to avoid a war. 

Dare I say it's a movie liberals and conservatives can both appreciate. Those on the right will admire the heroic portrayal of the U.S. Navy and its respect for tradition, while those on the left will respect a movie not glorifying militarism (like many of the era), but championing decent characters employing rationality and courage to navigate themselves through a crisis.

Released in 1990 at the height of glasnost perestroika and the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, it was a hopeful time in international politics. With liberal democracy spreading throughout Europe, the film manages to channel the euphoria that a more peaceful era could be on the way, as Ryan says to Ramius at the end, "Welcome to the New World, Sir." Such sentiments sound beyond naive in 2020, but at the very least Red October does a superb job of portraying characters putting their lives and reputations on the line for peace - and a better world.


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

In the biggest Bond film up to that point, The Spy Who Loved Me riveted audiences with the impressive stunts, high production value, steel toothed villains, and even channeling the political zeitgeist with a detente themed plot. 

The year 1977 was dominated by Star Wars which marked a sea change in movie history, launching the age of the blockbuster (with many precursors including Jaws). George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would even create their own brand of Bond films with the Indiana Jones films. 

The Spy Who Loved Me marked a return to the large scale spectacles of the 1960s. In many ways the plot would resemble You Only Live Twice which was about orchestrating a war between the superpowers. Karl Stromberg (Curt Jergens) is the super-villain this time, a sort of Blofeld light.

The prologue remains one of the most memorable with its ski chase and parachute dive off a mountain, which apparently made audiences gasp at its premiere in London. When a submarine goes missing 007 teams with KGB agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) to unlock the mystery of the subs. 

They are pursued by Jaws, memorably played by Richard Kiel. He's a giant with steel teeth and apparently a mute. I remember he scared me as a kid - and he's still rather intimidating in the fight scenes. He's also used to great effect for a set piece shot at the pyramids.

Big battles and dramatic chases populate the film, including a dramatic climax. While I enjoy The Spy Who Loved Me, it never knocks me out like some of the others. Moore is so nonplussed and remote throughout, the stakes never feel that high despite the machinations of the plot.

The theme song is one of the best, written by Marvin Hamlisch and performed by Carly Simon is a highlight. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die would set a new course for the Bond series with Roger Moore taking over the role. Inspired by the popular blaxploitation films of the era, Live and Let Die was one of the first to be influenced popular genres of its era - a trend for the franchise throughout the 70s.

Based on the second Ian Fleming James Bond novel of the same title, which dealt with smuggling in the Caribbean and Western anxiety about communism gaining a foothold in Latin America. The film omitted the international politics element and focus on the drug smuggling aspect of the story.

Filming on location in Harlem placed Bond in an unfamiliar atmosphere, while the sequences in Louisiana and Florida are like Dukes of Hazard meets Crocodile Hunter. Jamaica stood in for the fictional place of San Monique where Voodoo and magic play a role in the plot.

The prologue does not feature Bond, but sets up the story. Three British officials are killed in New York, New Orleans, and San Monique. All are connected to Prime Minister Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). M makes a pre-dawn visit to Bond's house and sends him off to New York to investigate. 

Kotto as Mr. Big/Kananga was a great casting choice, combining sophistication with menace. Jane Seymour made her film debut as Solitaire, a Priestess who uses Tarot Cards to guide Kananga. Julius Harris as Tee Hee Johnson wears a bionic arm, possibly a precursor to Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me. Geoffery Holder as Baron Semedi brought a supernatural element to the film, more trickster than a villain. 

Other peripheral characters include Felix Leiter, this time played by TV star David Hedison. Clifton James provides comic relief as Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Major set pieces included a double decker bus chase, a boat chase, and the final showdown between Bond and Kananga. 

The racial politics of the film have not aged well. Cultural appropriation cannot be denied since blaxploitation movies were made outside of the Hollywood system (which offered few too many roles for minorities) with African-American casts and crew. James Bond as a white character symbolizes British imperialism, so combining these two sensibilities was smart marketing and a bold creative choice, but poorly executed. 

Black characters in the film for the most part are either deceitful or cruel, the exception being Quarrel Jr (Roy Stewart). Caribbean politics are portrayed as corrupt and irresponsible. Kotto has spoken in interviews on how the producers did not want him at the premier and Moore's cool attitude towards him, in particular Moore writing unfavorably of him in his memoir as having "a chip on his shoulder."

Like much of 1970s pop culture, the James Bond films made awkward attempts to stay current. It's still an entertaining film and offers everything one would expect from the series. Paul McCartney's theme is arguably the best of the series, along with the soundtrack of George Martin.


Getting Straight (1970)

Part of the cycle of campus unrest films of the early 1970s, Getting Straight stars Elliot Gould as a seasoned and idealistic graduate student clashing with the Establishment every waking moment of his life. Despite some dated elements, a compelling portrait is presented of an American campus during a time when institutions were under the microscope. 

Gould is an icon of American film during the 1970s. Always irreverent but with a growing sense of malaise as the decade progressed, his filmography is a narrative in itself. Here Gould's in full rebel mode, playing a character not toofar from Trapper John he made famous in 1970 in MASH. Harry's at heart a reformer and wants to be a teacher, but not one who's going to go through the motions each year, preparing young people for a staid middle class existence. 

As a graduate student he's assigned to teach remedial classes on grammar, and he manages to connect with his students. More teaching scenes would've humanized him even more. The film is filled with so much manic activity outside the classroom. First of all, Harry's no saint, a bit of a blowhard himself. Sometimes he's the entitled white guy explaining to an African-American man where he's wrong on civil rights, or the emotional abuse he dishes on his girlfriend Jan (Candice Bergen) for not being as hip as him, and insulting her desire to marry and have a family as, you guessed it, so middle class.

In a way it's refreshing to have a teacher protagonist who's more of an anti-hero. So many films build up dedicated teachers as saints doing a thankless job. Or the opposite approach, a teacher is a horrible person and resents not being more successful so they like to destroy any student they see as having promise, thinking Whiplash. Educators are flawed human beings like everyone else and that's the portrait we have in Getting Straight.

Harry's clashes with the establishment are the most compelling scenes. University administrators and academic department view students as statistics they are mandated by the state to educate. Classrooms and the grading systems are more alienating than inspiring, and that is what Harry is fighting against. Academics don't come off well in the film, even over the top at times. During his Masters oral exam, one professor tries to humiliate Harry over a provocative interpretation of The Great Gatsby. I'm sure some of this still goes one, I once had a prof rake me over the coals because he was having a bad day.

His interactions with undergraduates also shed light on the era. Most of them are there to party and take advantage of their freedom. Some want to avoid being sent to Vietnam, while others want to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a state school. In the backdrop are protests against the war, almost foreshadowing the massacre at Kent. St that same year. There are petitions to legalize marijuana and for a less culturally biased curriculum - young people pushing the institutions for change. 

While Getting Straight has some dated qualities, many of the issues raised are still being fought over. We're still having a discussion on the value of going to college: an enriching experience that produce mindful citizens or a factory to churn out corporate professionals? The cost of college and role of the state are also issues in the background. Who should pay? How should teachers be compensated? 

Everything was more heightened during this era, every issue is a battleground between the forces of change and reaction. That's not unlike today either. There's no existential threat young people face on the level of the Vietnam War. I don't want to speak for what young people of the moment are anxious about, but it's not being sent to foreign land to kill people. But Getting Straight does capture the disconnect going on at the current moment, older people will always grumble when young people start to get outspoken, when old ways of doing things are questioned - the film nails that sentiment. 

Richard Rush directed the film, a veteran of AIP films Hell's Angels on Wheels and Psyche-Out, he would go on to make one of my favorites The Stuntman. There's a lot camera movement, creating a sense of everything always being in motion and moving forward. Getting Straight is a minor classic in its direct engagement with the era from which it was made. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

The seventh James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever featured the return of Sean Connery and a sense of the absurd that would characterize the franchise as the 1970s evolved. The tonal shift from On Her Majesty's Secret Service from serious action and romance to a camp approach. The plot involves diamond smuggling and Bond once again on the trail of Blofeld. 

The tonal shifts within Diamonds Are Forever are quite jarring. The cold open has Bond on a revenge quest after the events of the last film, when he apparently dispatches Blofeld without much fanfare. Played Charles Gray, an upper class Englishman, Blofeld gets reduced to a sitcom villain. 

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz created a variety of characters to populate the film. Jill St. John as Tiffany Case starts out the movie as an interesting character, but by the end is a damsel in distress spouting off one liners. There's the mobsters out of central casting and the male couple who happen to be deadly assassins. Connery as Bond borders on glacial as he walks around Las Vegas casinos and rides a moon buggy.

Still, it is cool to see Las Vegas in the early 70s. It seems the producers just wanted fans to have fun, and the movie serves as just that - pure escapism. 


Friday, April 17, 2020

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is my favorite Bond movie. Mostly known for being George Lazenby's one and only appearance as 007, it also combines all the elements of a great Bond film. There's everything from compelling characters, thrilling action, and memorable set pieces. Many will also recall the unorthodox ending with Bond suffering a tragic loss, but apparently audiences were not keen on Bond showing emotion. Unlike other Bond films, various entries go in and out of fashion, OHMSS has aged well. Everything from John Barry's stunning score to impressive European locales to Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas giving memorable` performances as the leading lady and villain. 

The cold open joyfully breaks the fourth wall with 007 in a car chase with a beautiful woman, only to be rebuffed at the last minute, allowing Lazenby to address the camera, "this never happened to the other fella." Then the credit sequence featuring the Moog synthesizer theme, the futuristic sound as if setting the series on a new course. 

The film begins with Bond meeting with European gangster Ange Draco who offers him a million dollars to marry his daughter Trac (Diana Rigg(. Bond refuses, but agrees to give the relationship a chance if he learn the whereabouts of his nemesis Blofeld. Bond and Tracy end up falling in love, while Bond pursues a lead in Switzerland. Undercover as a Professor, he discovers a mountain retreat with 12 young ladies there to have their allergies cured. The film makes light of the preposterous situation with Bond alone with 12 girls. He learns they are being brainwashed to implant bacteria that will endanger the world's agriculture if they do not meet Blofeld's ransom.

The action scenes are some of the best in the series. Setting the action sequences in the snow allowed for chases on skis and bobsled, influencing Christopher Nolan's Inception. The wedding of Bond and Tracy remains one of the unique sequences in the series, especially the bittersweet farewell between Bond and Miss Moneypenny. 

It's interesting to think of an alternate series of Bond films with Lazenbee, who at 29 could've easily carried on with the role into the 1980s. There's multiple reasons why he did not return, mostly due clashes with the Producers and a belief the character was an anachronism. The follow up entry Diamonds Are Forever with Connery would lack the emotional and dramatic energy of OHMSS


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Return of the Jedi (1983)

The highly anticipated grand finale to the original Star Wars trilogy ruled the summer of 1983 and while it disappointed some, it delivered the answers audiences were seeking after three years of speculation.

So many questions at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Will the rebellion survive? What will be the fate of Han Solo? What new characters will be introduced, including the often mentioned Jabba the Hut? Most importantly, is Darth Vader the father of Luke Skywalker?

While the film faithfully answered all those questions, there's a strange blend of weariness and euphoria to the film. George Lucas was exhausted from the amount of time and work it took to make these movies, leading to a divorce and long hiatus from directing. Although he hired Richard MarQuand to direct, a British director who had impressed Lucas with his 1981 film Eye of the Needle, Lucas was present for much of the filming. The special effects and array of creatures gave audiences a lot to feast their eyes on - almost to the point of excess. The minimal feel of the original Star Wars and sense of desperation in Empire gave way to dwarfing sense of extravaganza in Jedi.

The cast were starting to tire of the saga. Harrison Ford as Han Solo returned, but the movie gives him little to do except run around with his blaster. Granted, he's now a respected leader in the alliance, but his unpredictability has mellowed. The same for Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia who deserved more of a role here as well, mostly relegated to comic relief and not to mention Jabba's servant girl for a time - not aged well! Mark Hamill gave by far the best performance, the script giving him a real arc and a satisfying conclusion. Even the villains appear a little long in the tooth, but we do get to meet the Emperor memorably played by Ian MacDiarmid. Despite all this, there's a cheery "let's get the band together one last time" prevailing over the shortcomings. 

The first act returns to Tatooine. Mostly set at Jabba's palace. Han is still frozen in carbonite, but his friends have gathered to rescue him. The opening with R2-D2 and C-3PO also calls back the original. Jabba is introduced as a giant slug mobster surrounded by sycophants. What would David Lynch have done? Lucas originally wanted Lynch to direct, Lynch went off and made Dune instead. It's actually quite a dark world, even more so in the original version, before Lucas added a cheesy music sequence. But it does bring all the characters together and is very within the tradition of serials which inspired the films.

Once the business of rescuing Han is completed, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his training with Yoda. In maybe the best scene in the movie, Yoda passes away and implores Luke to trust in the force. Then in a notorious scene, Obi-Wan appears and provides an overload of exposition, including the infamous sibling reveal. Meanwhile the Rebellion learns of another Death Star and is preparing for one last battle with the Empire.

Then the action shifts to the forest planet of Endor where we meet the friendly Ewoks, little Teddy Bears who will take down an Empire. Ewoks served Lucas's purpose depict a low technological society defeating a high tech one, an obvious parallel to the Vietnam War. While much of the last act would focus on the antics of the Ewoks, they also serve as a reminder these movies are made for children. Irvin Kershner brought such a mature tone to Empire, the whiplash back into more kiddie entertainment proved unbearable for some.

The heart of the film hinged upon the confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader, this time as father and son. What plays out is mostly tragedy with a hint redemption added into the story. The powerful mythological motif of the father/son confrontation is brought to dramatic conclusion. The tone of these scenes is so striking it feels like a different movie.

At the same time Lucas cut the last act with three major narratives going, taking the American Graffiti approach even further. The rush of story has a certain narrative appeal and did anticipate the future of American cinema, also setting the template for the way Lucas would structure the prequel films.

There are so many ways to look at Jedi, in a way it's a movie more fun to talk about than actually watch. The original script was far more ambitious and was similar in tone to Empire with a more subdued ending and a better character arc for Leia. A full synopsis appears in Star Wars: FAQ by Mark Clark. Kids will always love Jedi because it's episodic and pleasing to the eye. The high amount of creatures and makeup is also a remarkable feat.

As for myself, it's hard not to feel some letdown with Jedi as an adult. But nostalgia is powerful, and the merits of the film overcome the flaws. The special effects and set pieces are spectacular. Lucas and his team took film technology as far as it could go at the time, raising a high bar for the future - creating a mystique persisting to this day. 


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice is a middling Bond film, part travelogue and part spectacle. Sean Connery is still in his prime and there are many memorable moments. Set in Japan, the film is the first of a quasi trilogy of Bond squaring off with Blofeld, although Blofeld is played by a different actor in each film. With a comic book plot and a sometimes uncomfortable racial politics, the film has not aged as well the other Connery entries in the franchise, but still packs in the thrills.

The script by Roald Dahl made major changes from the source novel which followed Bond's descent into darkness after the murder of his wife. Of course that would not happen until the film to follow On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But the film did take the Japan setting and used some of the characters from the novel, but the similarities end there. The film centers on SPECTRE attempting to start a world war by disrupting the American and Soviet space programs.

The impressive first act has MI-6 faking Bond's death, an idea taken from the novel. Sent to Tokyo on a lead where he works with the Japanese Secret Service led by Tiger Tanaka. In another twist, Bond must disguise himself as a Japanese fisherman (also trains to be a ninja and gets married) in order to infiltrate the SPECTRE base inside a volcano - all in the midst of an international crisis!

The volcano lair was designed by Ken Adams and the final battle impressive is impressive, but also borders on overkill, dwarfing Bond and the movie. The plot borders on incoherent so not everything appears to make sense. Pleasence as Blofeld plays him as conniving and even a little cowardly.

Connery was tiring of the role and was ready to move on, but would return to the role in Diamonds Are Forever. The theme arranged by John Barry and performed by Nancy Sinatra remains one of the most iconic in the series. 


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Never Say Never Again (1983)

The year 1983 is remembered as the "battle of the Bonds" since two films were released by different production companies. Octopussy starred an aging Roger Moore, while Never Say Never Again would feature Sean Connery's return to the role he had made iconic. A remake of Thunderball, NSNA stemmed from a lawsuit dating back to the 1960s. Writer Kevin McClory had written a screenplay with Ian Fleming which never got made, but Fleming used the script as a source for his novel Thunderball. McClory sued and won the rights to make his own version.

While it's great to see Connery back in the role after a 12 year hiatus, everything in the film feels gimmicky. In his early 50s, Connery plays the character as older, but still pretty much the same. There's no sense of time passing, except with a few references to being out of shape. He's still cracking jokes, flirting with the ladies, and outwitting his adversaries with ease. The later Moore films were not all that different in terms of lack of character development - thus pointing to the way to the more complex interpretations of Timothy Dalton, Daniel Craig, and to a lesser extent Pierce Brosnan.

So what's left in NSNA is a dusty story line from the 1960s they tried to update for the 1980s. Different actors playing the regular characters gives the film a bizarro feel. Max Von Sydow appears all too briefly as Blofeld, while Klaus Maria Brandauer is a more fey version of Largo, first name Maximillian this time. Kim Basinger isn't given much to do as Domino (she did not get along with the director Irvin Kershner). The one inspired casting choice was Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter. 

Neither does the production value match the Broccoli/Saltzman films. Attempts to update the story included a ludicrous video game sequence. The generic climax of the film was obviously shot on a soundstage, standing in contrast to the memorable underwater battle in Thunderball. The film's also flabbier with unnecessary additional scenes slowing the movie down. The Lorenzo Semple script leans more towards camp at times, but the final result is a dull experience, a lackadaisical reunion you might say.

Criticisms aside, NSNA works best as a curio. Connery appears to be having fun. His career was stalling in the early 80s and a return to playing Bond was probably a smart choice. He would go on to a number of memorable roles and earn an Oscar for The Untouchables. One last thing, this was not Connery's final appearance as Bond, he would voice the character in a 2005 video game based on From Russia With Love.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Thunderball (1965)

The fourth James Bond film Thunderball had a budget equal to three previous films put together. And it shows. A significant portion of the movie was filmed underwater, including the climatic battle at the end. Connery appears most at ease in the role this time around, as if he could play the character in his sleep. An extravaganza making a move away from the espionage intrigue of the previous three in favor what could be considered an early blockbuster.

The cold open is fierce and violent with 007 getting into a fight with a SPECTRE operative and escaping by way of a jet pack. The main plot involves the sinister SPECTRE organization stealing two nuclear weapons to extort the British government. Bond and all the 007 agents are called into action to retrieve the bombs. Bond has a lead in the Bahamas, where most of the film's action takes place. 

Thunderball reveals a little more about SPECTRE. We see one of their meeting at the beginning, a sort of corporation dedicated to disrupting the world. Their leader Blofeld is brutal and will execute anyone on the spot who displeases him - famously parodied in the Austin Powers movies. But the main villain here is Emilio Largo played by Italian actor Adolfo Celi, an eye patch wearing goon who hatches the extortion ploy. Largo managed to set up a double to impersonate a NATO officer to deliver the nukes (in villain fashion Largo immediately dispatches him once the mission is accomplished.)

But Bond learns the pilot's sister Domino (Claudine Auger) happens to be Largo's mistress. Once in the Bahamas Bond romances Domino and manages to infiltrate Largo's plot. While Bond seems to have an easier time than usual this time, even spouting off one liners at will, there's also a nice pace to the film. The rituals of a Bond movie are all here: a meeting M, flirting with Miss Moneypenny, Q supplies gadgets, and some help from Bond's CIA friend Felix Leiter. 

Thunderball is doubt an entertaining film and one that improves with multiple viewings. It was also the most violent one up to this point, with an array of sphere guns and sharks. Water sports also play a key role with lots of scuba diving and boating sequences. Part of the appeal of every Bond film, even a saving grace for the lesser ones, is how they always serve as travelogues. The theme song sung by Tom Jones and score from John Barry are both memorable as well, kicking the franchise going at high gear.