Thunderball – Bond 4
Among the many beloved Bond films, Thunderball stands out as a classic installment that’s stood the test of time. Released in 1965, it was the fourth film in the series, starring the legendary Sean Connery as the suave British spy.
Thunderball follows James Bond as he faces off against the notorious international criminal organization known as Spectre. The group has stolen two atomic bombs and is demanding a ransom £100 million from the government.
Bond is tasked with recovering the bombs and putting an end to Spectre’s nefarious plans. Along the way, he travels to France and the Bahamas, engaging in thrilling underwater battles, all while dodging Spectre’s deadly operatives.
When Bond 4 was released, it was a critical and commercial success, garnering positive reviews and breaking box office records. The film’s underwater sequences were particularly groundbreaking and were praised for their technical achievements.
Thunderball also introduced several iconic elements to the Bond franchise, including the character of Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, Domino played by Claudine Augur, many new gadgets from the Q-Branch, and the famous gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 is back after first appearing in Bond 3, Goldfinger.
Today, Thunderball remains a fan favourite and is considered one of the classic Bond films. Its influence on the series is still felt today, with many of its elements being echoed in later films.
Whether you’re a longtime Bond fan or a newcomer to the series, Thunderball is a must-watch, even though it’s almost 60 years old.
In this article, we take a look at the plot synopsis, and also look into the some of the movie’s cast, such as Bond, the main villains and the Bond girls. We also take a closer look at some of the best scenes in the movie.
Bond goes to the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, a Spectre operative with the codename ‘Number 6.’ And the killer of two of Bond’s colleagues. Bond notices the heavily veiled widow enter a car to be driven to her chateau, but Bond is suspicious so he tails the car.
At the chateu Bond confronts the veiled widow, but it turns out to be Bouvar in disguise. They then engage in a fight, with Bond killing the Spectre operative. Escaping the scene, Bond runs out onto the balcony and uses a jet-pack to fly away as the henchmen shoot at him.
Later in Paris, Emilio Largo, Spectre’s Number 2, attends a secret summit of Spectre operatives and their mysterious leader Number 1. During the meeting, one operative is falsely accused of embezzling funds, and Number 1 electrocutes a different member who had planted fake evidence.
Largo then steps forward to present the organization’s most audacious plan yet, which will begin at a clinic where James Bond has been sent by M to improve his health.
At the clinic, Bond is receiving treatment from physio Patricia Fearing, who he tries to seduce but she’s not interested. Bond then meets Count Lippe, a man with a criminal tattoo, raising Bond’s suspicions. Bond sneaks in and investigates Lippe’s room, but is spotted by the person staying in the next room.
Lippe then attempts to kill Bond with a spinal traction machine, but the physio comes to Bond’s rescue. Fearing tells Bond he’s lucky to be alive, and he uses his condition to coerce her into making love in the steam room.
Meanwhile, a French NATO pilot named François Derval is spending time with the seductive, femme fatale, Fiona Volpe before receiving an unexpected call. He’s summoned for a training flight aboard an Avro Vulcan stealth bomber.
However, when he answers the door, he’s killed instantly by Angelo, a Spectre henchman who has had extensive plastic surgery to look exactly like him. It’s revealed that Volpe is also a Spectre agent and responsible for replacing Derval with Angelo.
While discussing the mission, Angelo asks for $250,000 instead of $100,000 after all he’s gone through plastic surgery, voice lessons, and training to impersonate Derval, so he’s the only one that can do the job.
Volpe reluctantly agrees to his demands, gives him the $100,000 she has and tells him he’ll get the rest as the mission is completed.
Angelo then boards the stealth bomber Derval was supposed to fly. There are other NATO pilots onboard and 2 atomic bombs. During the flight, Angelo kills the crew with nerve gas and sinks the Vulcan near the Bahamas as directed by Spectre.
As he’s releasing himself, he’s attacked and killed by Emilio Largo for attempting to extort more money. Largo and his henchmen successfully retrieve the stolen atomic bombs from the ocean floor.
News of the theft spreads, and all British 00 agents are summoned to Whitehall. On his way, Bond is pursued by henchman Lippe, but the Spectre agent is killed by someone behind riding a motorbike. The biker turns out to be Spectre agent Fiona Volpe, who has been directed to kill Lippe for failing to anticipate Angelo’s greed.
Spectre is demanding £100 million worth of flawless diamonds from NATO in exchange for returning the atomic bombs. If their demands aren’t met they will use one of the bombs on an English or American city. Big Ben is to strike seven times at 6pm to let Spectre know the government agrees to its demands.
During the meeting, Bond identifies Derval from a photo in the file and requests to be sent to Nassau where Derval’s sister Domino resides. In Nassau, Bond discovers that Domino is Largo’s mistress, and he takes a boat with his assistant, Paula Caplan to where she is snorkelling.
Domino gets caught in a giant clam under the water, so Bond dives down and saves her. Later, at a party, Bond sees Largo and Domino at the cards table and decides to join the game.
As Bond returns to his hotel room, he realizes that someone else is inside. Bond foils the Spectre agents plot, disarms him but lets him go. He heads back to Largo’s estate, but Largo is horrified at his failure so he throws him into his tiger shark pool to meet his death.
Bond the meets with Q, who equips him with an array of gadgets, including an underwater infrared camera, a flare gun, a mini-re-breather, a distress beacon, and a Geiger counter.
Bond dives down under Largo’s boat, and he discovers an unusual keel design. However, his cover is blown, and Largo’s men throw grenades into the water to kill him, but he manages to swim away.
Meanwhile, Bond’s assistant, Paula, is abducted by Largo’s men and subjected to interrogation. Rather than reveal any information, she takes a hidden cyanide capsule and kills herself.
Bond returns to his hotel room and is surprised to find Fiona Volpe waiting for him. He’s unaware that she’s a Spectre agent, and the two spend the evening together before preparing to attend the local Junkanoo carnival.
However, as they get ready to leave, Fiona’s henchmen get Bond and force him into a waiting car. In a dramatic escape, Bond manages to flee into the Junkanoo parade and eventually makes his way into the Kiss Kiss Club.
Fiona tracks Bond down in the club and has her henchmen surround the club. Bond grabs Fiona for a dance and one of the henchmen shoots at Bond, but he spins quickly and the bullet hits and kills Volpe.
Bond manages to get away and reunites with Felix Leiter, who helps him search for the Vulcan by helicopter. They locate the wreckage underwater near the Golden Grotto, a reef notorious for its tiger sharks. As Bond investigates, he discovers Angelo’s body and takes his dog tags and watch.
Bond later encounters Domino while scuba-diving and reveals to her that Largo was responsible for her brother’s death, showing her the dog tags and watch he retrieved from Angelo’s body.
Bond asks for her assistance in locating the stolen atomic bombs. He gives Domino his Geiger counter and instructs her to use it to search for the bombs on Largo’s ship, but Largo notices her and locks her up to kill her.
Bond devises a plan to infiltrate Largo’s operation by posing as one of his henchmen. He learns of the organization’s plan to destroy Miami Beach using the stolen atomic bombs.
Bond is identified among Largo’s crew and is locked in an underwater cave where the bombs are being kept. He’s then rescued by Leiter, who contacts the United States Coast Guard sailors to parachute down and take out Largo’s army.
A large underwater battle ensues, but Bond, Leiter and the coast guards manage to overpower the henchmen. Largo manages to escape the underwater war, and gets to his yacht, the Disco Volante, which is carrying one of the stolen atomic bombs.
In a dramatic showdown, Bond boards Largo’s yacht and engages in a brutal fight with him and one of his henchmen. The fight goes on for a while, and Largo has Bond at gunpoint, but before he can pull the trigger, Domino, who’s been freed by Ladislav Kutze, shoots Largo with a harpoon.
With Largo defeated, Bond and Domino jump overboard just as the boat runs aground on a reef and explodes. As they swim to safety, a sky hook-equipped U.S. Navy airplane rescues them, completing their daring escape.
Sean Connery as 007 in Thunderball
As James Bond in Thunderball, Sean Connery was the epitome of smoothness. His suave charm and effortless charisma made him a standout in the role, and his performance in Bond 4 was no exception.
One of the most iconic scenes in Thunderball is the jetpack scene, in which Bond uses a rocket-powered jetpack to escape from a perilous situation. He sees off henchman Bouvar before heading to the balcony to escape, and does so in the jetpack. It’s an iconic scene, and sets the tone for the movie.
Another memorable aspect of Thunderball was the numerous underwater scenes, which presented a unique challenge for the cast and crew. Connery was known to be scared of the sharks, even though he had some protection against them.
Connery did come across as a bit forceful and impatient at times. The suave charmer talked his way into bed with any woman, but did usher out and act a bit impatient at times. He also had a tendency to be bossy with his colleague Felix Leiter, showing little patience and even hit him in the stomach, albeit to shut him up when he needed silence.
Overall, Sean Connery’s performance in Thunderball was a tour de force. He effortlessly embodied the suave, debonair persona of James Bond, while also demonstrating great courage and skill in the film’s more challenging sequences. While his character had his flaws, his charm and charisma were undeniable, making this movie one of his best.
Bond Villains in Thunderball
Played by Adolfo Celi, Emilio Largo is a highly intelligent, calculating and ruthless criminal mastermind who serves as the second-in-command of the criminal organization SPECTRE. He is portrayed as a sophisticated and cultured man, who has a keen interest in marine life, especially rare species of sharks that he collects for research and conservation purposes.
Largo is a skilled strategist and planner, who has designed and executed a highly ambitious scheme, Plan Omega, involving the theft of NATO warheads for the purpose of blackmailing the organization into paying Spectre a ransom of £100 million. He is utterly ruthless in his pursuit of this goal, willing to kill anyone who gets in his way or shows even the slightest sign of disloyalty.
Despite his polished exterior, Largo has a cruel and sadistic streak, as evidenced by his treatment of Domino when he discovers her betrayal. He enjoys inflicting pain and fear on his enemies, using the embers of his cigar and the hard tips of a crystal gland to torture her before he is interrupted by Dr. Ladislav Kutze.
Emilio Largo is a man who commands respect and fear from his subordinates, who obey his orders without question. He is a skilled swimmer and diver, who personally supervises the relocation of the nuclear missiles in an underwater grotto. He is also a skilled fighter and marksman, who engages in a fierce battle with Bond on the bridge of the Disco Volante.
Ultimately, Largo is a man consumed by his own ambition and greed, leading to his downfall when he attempts to flee with one of the bombs after his plan is foiled. He is killed by his girlfriend Domino’s harpoon, bringing an end to his reign of terror as a criminal mastermind.
Femme Fatale – Fiona Volpe
Fiona Volpe is a deadly agent from the execution division of the international criminal organization Spectre. Her mission is to help the organization hijack a Vulcan bomber armed with two nuclear warheads.
She is deployed to the south of England, where she seduces NATO pilot Major François Derval, becoming his mistress to keep a close eye on him. She makes out with Derval on the evening of his scheduled departure for a NATO training exercise, but it’s all to keep him in place so they know where to kill him.
Volpe isn’t only a skilled seductress and assassin but also a savvy negotiator. She agrees to Palazzi’s demands for more money to avoid further complications, knowing that he will get his comeuppance.
She also pursues Lippe on her motorcycle and kills him by firing missiles at his car. Later, she pushes her motorcycle into a pond to hide evidence.
Volpe then travels to Nassau, Bahamas, where she crosses paths with James Bond. Bond falls into her clutches after a failed attempt to spy on Largo’s yacht, and Volpe warns Largo against trying to kill Bond, as his death would confirm to the British that the nuclear warheads were hidden in Nassau.
Unaware that she is a Spectre assassin, Bond seduces Volpe in her apartment and spends the night with her. The next day, they attend the Junkanoo carnival together. However, Volpe has ulterior motives and attempts to set Bond up by having him circled on the dance floor.
In a moment of quick thinking, Bond notices an assassin who is about to shoot him and manages to turn Volpe just in time, causing the sniper to accidentally kill her instead.
Bond Girls in Thunderball
James Bond and beautiful women are as made for each other as fish and chips, and in Thunderball, he certainly enjoys his fair share.
Domino Derval was born and raised in France, and as a young woman, she was known for her striking beauty and vivacious personality. However, her life took a dark turn when she fell under the spell of the powerful and ruthless Emilio Largo, who took her as his mistress and kept her under his control.
Despite the luxurious lifestyle that Largo provides for her, Domino longs for true love and freedom, which she finds in the form of James Bond.
Domino is a talented swimmer and has a deep love for the ocean. She often finds solace in the water, and it’s there that she first meets Bond when he rescues her from a dangerous situation.
She’s initially hesitant to trust Bond at first, given her past experiences with powerful men, but she soon finds herself drawn to his charm, intelligence, and courage.
Domino is a strong and independent woman, with a sharp wit and a quick mind. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and isn’t afraid to take risks when it comes to helping Bond in his mission to stop Largo’s nuclear threat.
After finding out Largo killed her brother she agrees to help Bond and she gets her revenge by harpooning him in the back. After she and Bond have killed Largo and his henchmen they jump overboard just as the boat runs aground on a reef and explodes.
As they swim away to safety, US Navy airplane with a sky hook rescues them as they’re pulled up to safety. Domino is one of the standout Bond girls from the early Bond movies. Beautiful, brave and not afraid to take on the world’s biggest criminals.
Paula Caplan is a young and beautiful Bahamian British Secret Service assistant who works alongside James Bond during his investigation in Nassau.
Paula is a highly skilled and dedicated agent who’s determined to help Bond succeed in his mission. Together, they make contact with Domino Derval, the sister of the murdered pilot François, unaware of his recent death. Paula plays a critical role in their undercover operation, pretending to wait alone for the service boat while Bond gets a lift back to shore from Domino in her craft.
Paula is also an excellent photographer, and she develops pictures taken of Emilio Largo’s ship, which she plans to share with Bond at his hotel. However, she’s surprised when Fiona Volpe arrives claiming to have a date with Bond that evening too. Paula is ambushed by Vargas and Janni, two henchmen working for Largo and Volpe, and subsequently kidnapped and taken to Largo’s estate, Palmyra.
Paula is a brave agent who remains loyal to her mission, even under extreme duress. She refuses to divulge any information under torture and ultimately chooses to end her life rather than betray her colleagues.
Patricia Fearing is a nurse at the Shrublands health farm, and her job is to take care of James Bond while he is a guest. Though Fearing tries to remain professional, she finds herself drawn to Bond’s charm and charisma.
Fearing is a skilled nurse, and she is also adept at providing Bond with sensual massages using mink gloves. During a routine checkup, Bond forcibly kisses Fearing, leaving her shaken and flustered.
However, their relationship deepens after she saves Bond’s life by stopping Count Lippe from killing him with a traction table, and they move into the steam room, where they undressed and made love.
After that, they share a room and continue their sexual affair for the duration of Bond’s stay.
In the opening scene of Thunderball, Bond uses a Jetpack to make a daring escape from two assailants after successfully eliminating Spectre Agent No. 6, Jacques Bouvar. While the scene may not be particularly action-packed, it remains a noteworthy moment in cinematic history due to its innovative and shocking nature at the time.
The Jetpack also played a prominent role in Thunderball‘s marketing campaign, featuring prominently in the film’s posters as part of the tagline, “Look Up! Look Down! Look Out!”
Watch the scene
Interestingly, the Jetpack featured in Thunderball was not a prop but rather a fully functional device known as the Bell Rocket Belt, which had originally been designed for military use in the US Army. However, the device’s limited flying time of just 21-22 seconds, powered by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), resulted in its rejection by the military. The Bell Rocket Belt was capable of flying up to 250 meters at a maximum altitude of 18 meters and a speed of 55 km/h.
While Sean Connery is shown in close-up during takeoff and landing sequences, the flight scenes were actually piloted by Gordon Yeager and Bill Suitor.
The Jetpack also made a comeback in the 2002 movie Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan, featuring in a Q scene that showcased various classic gadgets from previous Bond films.
Thunderball – Jetpacks, Scuba and a Plethora of Bond Girls
Thunderball is a quintessential Bond movie that perfectly captures the essence of the franchise. The movie’s action-packed sequences, stunning underwater scenes, and impressive gadgets, including the iconic jetpack, make it a visual spectacle.
The movie features on e of the best Bond villains in Emilio Largo, and Bond has more than his fair share of Bond girls, each with their unique charm, adding to the film’s allure.
Overall, Thunderball is a must-watch for any Bond fan. It has everything that one could want from a Bond movie, including the trademark action, intrigue, and seduction that makes the franchise so iconic.
With its memorable characters, breathtaking scenes, and thrilling action, Bond 4 remains a standout film that has aged very well.