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November 17, 2008
Thunderball Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
17/12/196512/11/2008FoxTerence Young
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGSean Connery

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Sean Connery as James Bond.

This is the fourth James Bond movie created, and the third from director Terence Young (the others being Dr. No and From Russia With Love - and both of which have been released on Blu-Ray at the same time as this picture). This fourth picture had the largest budget of the first nine movies - a staggering $US11 million - eleven times that of the first movie, Dr. No.

It payed off though as you could say that the James Bond franchise hit its peak with Thunderball indeed adjusted for inflation the movie is the highest earner of the twenty two films released to date with a worldwide gross of $US966 million (or $US141 million unadjusted). But enough of the stats let's talk about the movie...

In Thunderball James Bond is kept busy battling bloodthirsty sharks, both in the water and at Nassau casinos, while he tracks a hijacked NATO aircraft and its two missing atomic bombs. What he finds is an explosion of romance when he meets up with the lovely and voluptuous Domino.

Thunderball will forever be remembered as having some of the most wonderful fight sequences ever put to celluloid, particularly the underwater battles. The cinematography here is delightful although I still feel that at times it runs a little long and could have done with a few minutes trimmed off here and there. Sean Connery is brilliant and slips into the role of James Bond effortlessly in this release. Much of the excitement in this picture also comes from the sharks - often real - that the actors and stuntmen were asked to interact with. I wonder if you'd have much luck with all the rules and unions these days! Another highlight of this movie is the brilliant music composed by John Barry. The music in Thunderball is one of the most memorable aspects of the release and changes pace and set the tone perfectly according to the action taking place on screen.

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Thunderball looks fantastic on Blu-Ray.
There really are few issues with this movie. We've mentioned the length of the underwater battle as something that could have been trimmed. I would have loved a bit more building up of the villain. Perhaps the biggest/most jarring aspect of the mvoie is James Bond's forcefullness with the women (especially the nurse). It's hard seeing something like this succeeed in a movie today - but it was, perhaps, a little more acceptable in the 1960's.

Thunderball remains one of the best James Bond movies with a decent plot, but more importantly big sets, big action and gorgeous women. Few movies come up to the standards set by this one and it's well worth adding to your movie library.

While the first two James Bond movies, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, were both framed at the somewhat unusual aspect ratio of 1.66:1, Thunderball comes to Blu-Ray in the more 'normal' aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which is how it was presented theatrically. The video has again been encoded in AVC MPEG-4 at Blu-Ray's standard resolution of 1920 x 1080p. As with all the other James Bond movies Lowry's Labs has scanned in the original camera negatives using a 4K process and then cleaned up and colour timed the print. What results is an image better then we've ever seen at home.

That's not saying this release is perfect though. Some of the blacks weren't as dark as expected, and there was still some film artefacts and errors that haven't been tottally cleaned up. Have a look at ths scene in the cavern between 1:50:11 and 1:50:17 to see one of the worse examples where half the screen shifts from light to dark. Still for a movie over forty years old, and with the original negatives in such poor condition this is more then acceptable.

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There's always fine women in a Bond movie.

As with most movies in the 1960's, and indeed earlier James Bond movies, the audio on this track was originally presented with mono sound. This Blu-Ray release has seen Fox offer a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio mix which, for the most part, is quite impressive. Some voices become slightly muffled at times, particularly in the underwater battle scenes, but this Blu-Ray disc put the movie in the best possible light.

Again we have to note our disappointment that the original English Mono soundtrack isn't included. Why would I want this when there is a wonderful DTS-HD Master Audio track included you ask? Well for the sake of history and historical accuracy. I would love to hear how this disc sounded in its original theatrical release. Surely a 1 channel soundtrack could't have taken up too much space on this 50GB Dual layer disc - by our count perhaps 200MB or so.

Other languages on this disc include German and French DTS tracks encoded at 768kbps, and Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 448kbps. Naturally as you go down in bitrate the quality seems to decrease slightly, however this isn't too noticable on this disc due to the original source material.

Subtitles are provided in over 20 different languages on this disc - for the main feature as well as the commentary. Sampling the English track demonstrated accuracy to dialogue on screen.

All the extras on this disc have been seen on the Ultimate Edition DVD's, however some extras here, including the main featurettes have been upgraded to High Definition.

Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young and Cast and Crew: Another brilliant audio commentary which is structured in the same way as the previous two movies. John Cork acts as the moderator and introduces a string of people talking including director Terence Young.

Audio Commentary with Editor Peter Hunt, Screenwriter John Hopkins and Others: Not content with a single commentary on this release there is actually a second commentary which is every bit as engaging as the first and well worth a listen.

The Incredible World Of James Bond - Original 1965 NBC Television Special (50:54): While this feature is a little 'promotional' and quite antiquated by today's documentary standards there is certainly plenty of value in this brilliant documentary created by United Artists for the films release over four decades ago. Perhaps most impressively this featurette includes some on set footage which we imagine would have been pretty uncommon for the time with no video cameras available for cheap behind the scenes type production.

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James Bond uses the jetpack.
A Child's Guide To Blowing Up A Motor Car - 1965 Ford Promotional Film (17:09): Another rather lengthy featurette created for the films release which looks at well, blowing up cars. Certainly the most interesting part is the amount of on-set footage provided.

On Location With Ken Adam (13:06): Production Designer Ken Adam talks about finding the locations for this movie including location scouting, as well as some footage from the set during filming.

Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies (3:54): A brief, but very interesting look at the rocket pack and how it was never intended for movies, but became one of the most iconic scenes in any James Bond movie.

Thunderball Boat Show Promo Reel (2:51): Footage of the underwater battle was edited together for promotion of the movie at a boat show.

Selling Bonds: Original 1965 commercials (2:05): Three different promotional spots for clothing James Bond wears and stationary!

Mission Control (HD): This interesting featurette allows you to pick a topic such as the women, locations or villains, and then a key word or scene and jump directly to that part of the movie to have a look.

Mission Dossier: The Making of Thunderball (27:34/HD): Presented in High Definition this is yet another brilliant documentary on Fox's Blu-Ray releases which, this time, looks at the making of Thunderball. This documentary was made around a decade ago, but includes plenty of details about the franchise, and the production of this movie with plenty of interviews with cast and crew including a large focus on fiming with the sharks.

Mission Dossier: The Thunderball Phenomenon (31:04/HD): This great documentary produced in 1995 focuses on the appeal and craze that surrounded James Bond during the 1960 with plenty of interviews and discussion about his creation, concept ideas and marketing.

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Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.
The Secret History of Thunderball (3:56/HD): A look at some of the changes made to the movie over the years.

Ministry of Propaganda (17:00/HD): Three theatrical promotions, five TV spots and ten radio commercials for Thunderball.

Image Database: The name says it all really with dozens of still images from the production of the movie split up into eleven different categories. No audio or text to detail what you're seeing disappoints.

Thunderball remains one of the best movies in the James Bond series with some wonderful action sequences and acting throughout. Again Fox have provided a fantastic High Definition transfer and this is another title well worth adding to you collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.