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Bond Pretitle Sequences: Thunderball

Simon Pitt | Film | Tuesday 20th August 2013

I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.

All the Bonds. All the Gun Barrels. All the action. Well, the first five seconds of it.

I’ve often wondered what the line “he strikes, like Thunderball,” means. Tom Jones apparently didn’t know either and asked the songwriter. But even he didn’t know, which makes me feel a bit better. Apparently, Tom Jones then sang a really high note and passed out. I suspect this didn’t happen immediately afterwards, but I like to think it did, and that the producers just sat there shaking their head at Jones, saying “That’ll teach him to ask silly questions.” And then puffed away on their cigars. I’m not sure I really have a very realistic view of the film industry.

“Weird Al” Yankovic parodies this bit of trivia (and Bond title sequences generally) in Spy Hard. Apparently, it’s quite a famous fact; famous enough that comedy song writers are parodying it. In the Spy Hard titles, he holds a note for a ridiculously long time. And then his head explodes.
By the way if you walked in late
Allow me to reiterate
The name of this Movie is Spy Hard
They call it Spy Hard...
Although this is Connery’s fourth outing as Bond, it’s the first time he’s done the gun barrel walk. I hate to say this, but Connery isn’t very good at it. His leg wobbles, he sticks his arm out and he nearly falls over. Jesus. All he’s doing is turning round. So much for his “cat-like grace”. Previously, stunt man Bob Simons has done the gun barrel sequence instead of Connery. I’m not sure in what way this classed as a stunt. I guess he jumped before he fired. But no one asked him to do that. Talk about making work for yourself.

Roger Moore's Bond thought this was pretty snazzy

Thunderball opens on a Coffin, with the initials JB on it. It’s a strange foreshadowing of You Only Live Twice, when Bond is “killed” in the opening sequence. Bond’s funeral, though, is a much less extravagant affair than this. If I’m honest, this looks more like the sort of coffin Roger Moore’s Bond would have.

It occurred to me, when I was watching this, that the initials JB are strangely popular among action heroes. James Bond, of course, but Jack Bauer from 24 and Jason Bourne, too, from the Bourne films. At the time, this felt like quite a significant observation, but I’m been left pondering what it could mean. Maybe Justin Bieber is secretly a spy.

We pan up from the coffin and see Bond overlooking the coffin. “Rather him than me,” Connery says. Bond is disappointed that he didn’t kill Jacques Bouvar himself. Outside, the funeral French agent smiles coyly at him. “Is there anything else we can do for you, Monsieur Bond.” Even a funeral doesn’t dampen in the mood. Does the man ever get any peace?

No weddings and a funeral

Connery looks rather embarrassed to suggest it. “Um, later perhaps,” he says. It seems like being as attractive as Bond is can be a real drag.

On the subject of drag, Bouvar’s wife returns home only to find Bond waiting for her. “I’ve come to offer my sincere condolences,” Bond says, and then punches her.

I've give you something to cry about

The punch comes out of nowhere. We know Connery’s Bond is prepared to hit women (or strangle them with their bras), but punching grieving widows is a bit much, even for a blunt instrument. “My dear Colonel Bouvar,” Bond says, revealing that it isn’t Mrs Bouvar at all. Bouvar has faked his own death and disguised himself as his wife.

The strange thing is, “Mrs” Bouvar has great legs. The reason for this is because she is played by someone with great legs: Rose Alba. She only switches to a man at the last minute.

Bob Simmons, famous for playing Bond in the gun barrel walk, becomes Colonel Bouvar. He didn’t get to do this barrel walk (for the first time), because Connery did it himself. It’s nice to see he’s still there in the pre-credit sequence though.

He's just pretending

It’s a strange fight. It has everything you’d expect: china being thrown, a clock being pushed over, a slide across the carpet and so on. Connery seems slightly confused though. He keeps acting casually as if Bouvar has been knocked out and the fight is over, only to find out it’s still going on. At one point, he reaches casually down, and Bouvar rolls out of the way and hits him with a poker.

Bond kills Bouvar just as the guards arrive. He’s about to make good his escape, but cheekily, can’t resist throwing a pot over flowers over the body. It’s a bit unnecessary this, and makes his whole escape much harder.

Quicker than Interflora

Luckily, though, Bond has a jetpack.

I just want to stress this again. It’s 1965, and Bond has a jetpack. I’m writing this in 2013, and I don’t have a jetpack. Even more amazingly, it’s a real jetpack. It was originally designed for military use, and so, of course, was given a silly technical name: SRLD (Small Rocket Lift Device). The plan was for Bond to fly without a helmet, because apparently that was cooler. But the stunt man refused to do so, and so Connery straps on a helmet. I actually think this is better; it gives a sense of real danger. Many people thought this was an effect. Partly because Connery is clearly in front of a screen just before take-off: the film grade abruptly changes. But it isn’t an effect. A stunt man really does fly a jetpack.


It’s one of the most famous moments from the early Connery films. And sets up a pattern of Bond pulling out unbelievable gadgets to escape. The closest successor is the tiny plane in Octopussy. Again, they really built that.

The landing cuts rather abruptly. Even more bizarrely, Connery then gets into his Aston Martin and it won’t start. I find this a bit weird. Does his car often break down? You wouldn’t think Aston Martin would be very happy either: “the car that breaks down when you need it most”.

Luckily it has a bullet proof screen and a water cannon in the back, and the splashing water dissolves into the titles.

It's like a student riot

You have to wonder if Bond gets the idea of a fake funeral from Bouvar, since in the next film, You Only Live Twice, he tries this trick himself. We see patterns a bit like this a few times in Bond films. One of the suggestions in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was that Bond had plastic surgery, something that Blofeld has done to his minions, and something the villains do in Thunderball. Is Bond just nicking ideas from his enemies?

Name Rank and Number I think he got the Point Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed? Listen Carefully 007 Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office SP will return…


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