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Special Edition

Of all the 1960’s James Bond adventures, THUNDERBALL ($35) has to be the biggest, most opulent production. Following on the heels of the enormous success of GOLDFINGER, the producers pulled out all the stops to create THUNDERBALL- a completely unforgettable Bond outing. The first thing one will notice about THUNDERBALL is the fact that this movie was filmed in Panavision, unlike the previous films, which were shot in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Having the full scope ratio of 2.35:1 gave THUNDERBALL a visual splendor not found in the earlier exploits of 007. THUNDERBALL had no trouble filling the wide screen with an amazing production designs, incredible action and some of the best underwater sequences ever to be filmed.

With THUNDERBALL, Sean Connery makes his forth appearance as British secret agent James Bond, yet he shows no sign of becoming stale in the role. In fact, this film only goes to show that Connery was actually getting better and better in each successive Bond adventure. The plot of THUNDERBALL concerns stolen nuclear weapons being used by the criminal organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. to hold the world hostage. Unless their ransom demands are met, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. threatens to unleash the nuclear weapons on a major city. Of course, Her Majesty’s government deploys all of their top agents, including James Bond, to recover the weapons before S.P.E.C.T.R.E. can carry out their deadly threat. Bond immediately finds himself on the inside track, jetting off to the Bahamas to find the missing nukes. The trail leads Bond to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. operative Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), who is keeping the weapons under wraps and underwater. THUNDERBALL climaxes with a spectacular all out underwater battle that has yet to be topped by any other film. The cast of THUNDERBALL features Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn and Lois Maxwell.

MGM Home Entertainment has done a wonderful job with their Special Edition DVD release of THUNDERBALL. The wide screen transfer restores the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical framing and the DVD includes the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. THUNDERBALL shows relatively few signs of age, aside from occasional marking on the film element and a bit less shadow detail than one would find on a film shot with newer film stocks. Overall, MGM’s transfer delivers a crisp, well-defined image and very well reproduced colors. Flesh tones appear very healthy, while the rest of the well-saturated hues are recreated without a trace of chroma noise or bleeding. Film grain is noticeable in a handful of shots and is easily ignored. Blacks are pure and the image offers very smooth contrast. Thanks to the use of dual layer technology, there are no problems with digital compression artifacts on this well authored DVD.

THUNDERBALL has been released with a re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is actually quite good. The mix certainly enhances the film’s visuals, however since THUNDERBALL was released in 1965, the sonic quality doesn’t match that of newer films. Most of the sound effects move across the forward soundstage, although the rear channels do see some action. John Barry’s musical score derives most of the benefit from the Dolby Digital encoding, plus this re-mix includes music missing from previous video releases of THUNDERBALL. Dialogue reproduction is consistently clean and intelligible. There is a relatively strong bass channel for this re-mix, although one won’t find the deep sonic booms of new Bond films like GOLDENEYE and TOMORROW NEVER DIES. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

THUNDERBALL features the same high caliber interactive menus found on the other Special Edition Bond DVDs. The menu system utilizes animation, sound and full motion video to enhance navigation. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD’s nice complement of supplements. THUNDERBALL includes two audio commentaries, the first with director Terrence Young and the second with cast and crewmembers. Both commentaries are worthwhile, but are comprised of audio interviews that are not specific to the on-screen action.

Supplements also feature two documentaries and a featurette. Patrick Macnee host The Making Of Thunderball, which runs approximately 30 minute and takes viewers behind the scenes on the production. The Thunderball Phenomenon is also hosted by Macnee, also runs nearly 30 minutes, but looks at the success of James Bond and the character’s impact during the sixties. Macnee again hosts Inside Thunderball, however this featurette looks at various versions of THUNDERBALL that contain subtle differences from the version released on DVD. Filling out the supplements are 13 trailers, 5 TV spots, 10 radio spots and a still gallery containing over 150 images.

THUNDERBALL is another fantastic Bond outing that fans will want to own. MGM Home Entertainment’s Special Edition is everything a fan could possibly hope for. Absolutely recommended to them, as well as anyone else who enjoys a solid action film.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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