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007 Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965)

Bad guy steals atom bombs and hides them close to a seaside resort. James Bond saves the day and every woman from virginity.

This shot was used a couple of times.
After not having watched this in a long time I was amazed at how strange the 60's Bond comes across. For my taste, the Bonnery character is just a bit too plump verbally in his predatory attacks on just any woman he encounters. Many of the quips that must have been hilarious during the day come across as quite dumb now - even when looking at it as a period piece.... but who knows what the socially accepted standards were 1965 for the mating dance in England? Still it is an enjoyable movie - the villain is straightforward evil, the girls are beautiful, smart and opportunistic and the men are sex- and power-hungry (and quite stupid). The world of James Bond.

The final battle scene under-water is still jaw-dropping to watch. Just to set up the scene the director had to solve a load of problems: Orientation and lighting issues, anonymous participants wearing facemasks and hand-to-hand as opposed to group fights. And no dialogue, no quips, just... bubbles.

The battle scene including setup lasts well over ten minutes, which is an eternity in terms of film time. I was wondering how this could have been structured. I couldn't find the screenplay, albeit some rather amusing notes about it here: Notes about violence in the Bond script from 1965 -
So, dissecting the battle into various sequences helped to understand the dramatic structure.

  • Approach (30s): The boat arrives and soldiers parachute into the sea trying to prevent the atom bomb to be delivered by the bad guys. There are some spectacular scenery shots showing the environment.
  • Army Setup (30s): Now we dive into the water with the camera. For this sequence a sense of left-right is established and the good guys wear orange, while the baddies wear black diving suits. 
  • Artillery (15s): First the harpoons are fired from a distance. Some men are immediately killed. This is a classical field war fought by two armies marching towards each other.
  • One on one (30s): The parties engage in man-to-man combat. Spectular group scenes here. The harpoons are used as rifles.
  • Bond enters (30s): After about a third of the battle scene, Bond plunges into the water from a helicopter and disappears into the water. He is easily discernible by a long orange plume coming out of his propelling unit. 
  • Battle scenes (45s): As Bond approaches the battlefield, various on-to-one combats are shown. These are usually two or three edits for a single struggle between combatants.
    Same colors for ongoing "skirmishes"
  • Bond vs. Baddies (30s): Bond fights various baddies, using some creative means of killing them. Realism is lost now, as the baddies die more or less at random (hit by a door etc)
    The higher the clip is on the timeline, the closer the shot is. Lowest lines are wide shots.
  • Trap inside boat (60s): A very long sequence of Bond luring three bad guys into an old ship and trapping them there, while he drops a grenade inbetween them. This is a humorous sequence and has no bearing on the battle whatsoever. It appears in the middle of the scene.
  • Bond vs. Baddies (30s): He kills two or three others.
  • 1vs1 Fights (15s): We focus back on the overall battlefield, showing rather gruesome one-on-one fights with knifes
  • Battle Scenes (45s): More general battle scenes. To be honest, I lost the orientation here a bit. It's a pure killing feast now. 
  • Shark Attack (30s): Another small substory - a shark is attracted by the blood. Good and bad have to cooperate to shoot the creature and divert it. The wounded shark swims away. 
  • Pursue Largo (20s): Largo feels that the battle is lost and tries to get away with two guys. Bond sees him and follows him.
  • Bond vs. Largo (30s): Finally the two get to fight each other directly. By pulling of Bond's goggles, Largo gets the advance he needs to get away.
  • Largo gets away (45s): Largo manages to transport the bomb into the boat. The doors are already shut, when Bond arrives there. Largo seems to have won the race, but Bond holds onto a rudder underwater as the boat drives off.
Viewed as a whole, the Battle scenes that don't fit into the story make up about 5 minutes of the ten. The story is intermittently weaved into the rest of the battle. As a remark I was surprised about how often the same reaction shot of Bond is used again and again. They must have been quite plagued in the editing room the extend the sequence.


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