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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 9/21/99


review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection

Thunderball: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Thunderball: Special Edition
1965 (1999) - MGM/UA

Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/A+

Specs and Features:

132 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:23:59, in chapter 33), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 audio commentaries (one with director Terence Young & others, and one with writer John Hopkins, editor Peter Hunt & others), Inside Thunderball featurette, The Making of Thunderball documentary, The Thunderball Phenomenon documentary, still gallery, 3 theatrical trailers, 5 TV spots, 10 radio spots, Tomorrow Never Dies Sony Playstation game trailer, booklet, "computer interface" style animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (52 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Close Captioned

Is Sean Connery the best Bond bar none, or what? The guy is just ultra-cool, here starring in the fourth film of the Bond series, and (to that time) the biggest Bond film yet. Thunderball definitely ranks highly among my favorite films of the series (right after Goldfinger and From Russia With Love), despite the fact that it tends to bog down from time to time. The film runs a bit long - it would have benefitted from a reedit, to trim some sequences down a hair (particularly the underwater battle) and pick up the pace. Still, that's a minor complaint. All in all, this film has everything you want from a Bond flick and then some.

Here's the story in a nutshell: the world's most nefarious crime organization SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is up to its old tricks again. This time, their game is nuclear extortion. The group's deputy, Emilio Largo (played by Adolfo Celi), has managed to steal a pair of nuclear devices, and has demanded a massive ransom, or he'll use them on a major city. To counter this threat, "M" (Bernard Lee) tasks his agents with figuring out how the weapons were stolen, tracking them, and stopping SPECTRE. 007 is sent to Nassau, where (with the help of his friend Felix Leiter, played here by Rik Van Nutter) he goes head to head with Largo's henchmen, and tangles with the villain's mistress (aka Bond-girl) Domino (Claudine Auger). The underwater sequences (while long) are exceptionally well staged, and give Thunderball a look and feel all its own, as a classic entry in the 007 canon. You get sharks, jet-packs, a great John Barry score, Tom Jones singing the theme song, and even appearances by "Q" and Miss Moneypenny thrown in for good measure. Good stuff.

Thunderball is made even more enjoyable with this new special edition DVD release from MGM. The anamorphic widescreen transfer here is generally very good, considering the film's age. It's a hair soft-looking, but there's good detail. Some light grain is apparent in the print - this is not a strike against the picture, so much as a description of its overall look (note some scenes are more grainy than others). But there is some dust and dirt visible, which does count againt the picture score. But, in this respect, it's not nearly as bad as Live and Let Die. All in all, it's pretty good looking, and once again, the color and contrast are excellent.

Thunderball's soundtrack has been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1 (French 2.0 is also available), and it sounds great. The mix can be a bit front-centric at times, but there's nice use of the rear channels for atmospheric fill, and there are a few good panning effects - nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. The dialogue is audible and well placed in the mix, and John Barry's score sounds great.

MGM has really gone out of their way to load their Bond discs up with goodies, and Thunderball is no exception. Check this out - you get another pair of commentary tracks, featuring director Terence Young, writer John Hopkins, editor Peter Hunt and more. There are a pair of good documentaries: The Thunderball Phenomenon (28 minutes) and The Making of Thunderball (31 minutes). Both are narrated by The Avengers' Patrick Macnee, and although they include a mix of new and old footage (some quite poor in quality), they're quite effective as a look back into the early history of the franchise. A shorter, 4-minute featurette, Inside Thunderball, is also available. There's a still gallery with TONS of photos, posters, artwork and other materials - we're talking hundreds of images here. There's another booklet, the Tomorrow Never Dies Playstation game trailer, and a bunch of other trailers as well (3 theatrical trailers, 5 TV spots, and 10 radio spots). The radio spots are a real hoot, proclaiming, "Panavision! Technicolor!" and "Look up! Look down! Look out! Here comes the biggest Bond of all!" There's hours worth of material to go through. And once again, 1K Studios has produced a set of really terrific animated menu screens (see below), that dazzle you with sexy, stylish Bond imagery, and are very easy to navigate. I'm really blown away by their look and feel - they really help get you in the mood for some serious 007 action. I've already shown this disc off to several friends, just for the menu animations! I wish every DVD's menus looked as good as these new Bond discs.

The Thunderball: Special Edition is definitely worth a gander. As with the other discs we've reviewed, Thunderball will be available singly (SRP $34.98), or in the boxed set of 7 Bond DVDs (SRP $199.98), on 10/19. Just get your money ready now, folks... trust me on this one.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

A look at 1K Studio's animated menus for Thunderball...
Thunderball menu animation

Thunderball menu animation

Thunderball menu animation

The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection

Thunderball: Special Edition

The James Bond DVD Collection, Volume One

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