Richard Maibaum's script over-complicates Ian Fleming's simple, effective story, allowing Bond to stumble fortuitously across bad guys and repeatedly get rescued from certain death by other characters. Director Terence Young lets the film get away from him, dumping a four-and-a-half hour cut into editor Peter Hunt's lap, leading him to employ two more editors to get the film to a manageable length before its already-delayed release date. Even the usually-faultless John Barry submits a score which, while effective in the quieter scenes, goes apeshit during the set-pieces, shrieking hysterically and repetitively to make up for all the tedious sploshing about and silly high-speed fights.
Is it any coincidence that "volpe" is Italian for "vixen"? NO IT IS NOT. Foxy bitch Fiona, played by 28-year-old Italian Luciana Paluzzi, is devious, deadly and incredibly sexy, and puts every other simpering Bond girl into the shadow cast by her ample bosom.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I do have a thing for redheads. So from the very first frame we see of Fiona, the deal is pretty much sealed, and in glorious Technicolor:
Less than a minute later she's displaying further attributes that I admire in a lady:
But enough about her well-manicured fingernails. In her first scene she watches coldly as her colleagues murder a man she's just been making sexytime with, then orders them about like they're imbeciles. She even calls rubbish villain Count Lippe by his surname only, contemptuously disregarding his honorific title. She may take orders from SPECTRE, but what she absolutely will not take is any shit from the likes of you.
As if it wasn't obvious from her introduction that she takes pleasure in using her sexuality for her own ends (not unlike a certain British agent), the next time we see her she's literally dealing death from between her legs, blowing up Lippe's car with missiles fired from her motorbike. Obviously being a safety-conscious henchbitch, this necessitates her being dressed entirely in leather, and let's be honest: Brando never looked this good in The Wild One.
Thunderball could have ended there and certain sections of the audience would have left happy, but Fiona's best scenes are still to come. Splashing about in Bond's bath (the best underwater scene in the film by far), she lures him into her vagina to pass the time while waiting for her hired hands to arrive and beat him up. After literally softening him up for them, the last thing she wants to do is mess her hair up any more.
And then she really hits Bond where it hurts, launching a withering verbal attack on his vanity and ego, taunting him with his failure to turn her to the side of right and virtue. It's the film's sharpest dialogue, although it appears she's got all her intel on 007 from watching the first three films. Meta.
Thankfully Fiona sticks to her guns and spends her final mortal moments trying to turn Bond permanently stiff. Her death scene, while reminiscent of Goldfinger's pre-title sequence, is one of Thunderball's rare technical successes, with the score and editing building to a violent climax: just the way she would have wanted it.
The poster campaign
Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
It comes to something when one of the best things about a film wasn't actually in it. John Barry and Leslie Bricusse wrote this sublime theme song, beautifully sung by Dionne Warwick and tragically jettisoned in favour of Tom Jones thunderbawling Don Black's inane lyrics which, by order of United Artists, had to include the film's title. Good job this wasn't On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
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