James Bond

Starring: Sean Connery
16228DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

The international crime syndicate SPECTRE holds the British government to ransom when it threatens to destroy a major city with stolen nuclear warheads...

Which is the biggest of the Connery Bond films? Well, you could argue that it was You Only Live Twice, as that one featured the largest set (for the volcano interior) but Thunderball is certainly the longest, at two hours and five minutes duration. It also includes many a memorable set piece, including the SPECTRE briefing scene, all of which lend this film a truly epic feel, which is aided by the introduction of Panavision to the Bond series.

A large proportion of the action takes place underwater - indeed, this movie set a trend that many of its successors, including The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, have sought to emulate. It is a testament to the quality of Terence Young's direction, the cinematography, and John Barry's incidental music that the lengthy aquatic sequences (and indeed the entire movie) never really seem overlong. Compare such scenes to the underwater sequences in the non-EON-produced 1983 remake, Never Say Never Again, in which the absence of dialogue is far more noticeable.

Ironically, as some fans will already be aware, a version of Thunderball made it onto video in the 1980s that erroneously lacked large sections of its incidental score. The mystery behind this omission is discussed in a short feature about the numerous alternative versions of the movie that have been released over the years. This feature also includes an alternate line of Connery dialogue to the more familiar "bon appetite" that Bond delivers to the shark from which he narrowly escapes in Largo's pool.

The second of two audio commentaries also includes the song Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was originally intended to be the main theme before it was replaced with the title track performed by Tom Jones. Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is played over Maurice Binder's title sequence as part of the commentary, thus creating an authentic reconstruction of what might have been.

Among other nuggets of fascinating information that are revealed by the commentaries is an explanation of how the scriptwriters subtly acknowledged and responded to the critics of Bond through the dialogue of the villainous Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi).

One minor imperfection in this package is the use, on one of the menu screens, of an image of Connery from (horror of horrors!) Never Say Never Again. Nor will this be the last time that the Bond DVDs make a photographic blunder... Apart from that, however, there is plenty here to ensure that 007 fans have a ball.

Richard McGinlay