Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Bond Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette - Inside Thunderball
Featurette - The Thunderball Phenomenon
Featurette - The Making Of Thunderball
Audio Commentary - Terence Young (Director), et al
Audio Commentary - Peter Hunt, John Hopkins, et al
Trailers (3, in single featurette)
TV Spots (5)
Radio Spots (10)
Thunderball Gallery
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes)
Year Released 1965
Running Time 124:56 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (88:14)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Terence Young
UnitedArtists.gif (10720 bytes)
Fox Home Video
Starring Sean Connery
Claudine Auger
Adolfo Celi
Luciana Paluzzi
Rik Van Nutter
Bernard Lee
Desmond Llewelyn
Lois Maxwell
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music John Barry
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 1 (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary #2 (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Thunderball is considered by the majority of Bond enthusiasts to be the greatest episode the franchise has ever had. Speaking as someone for whom the film marks only the fifth film in the franchise that can be considered good, I believe Thunderball to almost be the least of the five Bond episodes that I enjoy. One criticism of the film that is repeated often by fans is that this episode drags, and it does that quite noticeably in comparison to GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, and Licence To Kill. My personal criticism of the film is that, in comparison to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the story and characters are just too forgettable. This is not to say that the film is not a good one in its own right, as the stunts and action sequences are quite entertaining when they take place, it's just that there is too much idle time between them. Obviously, others agree with the inflated ideas that Bond fans have of this film's artistic merits, as this is the only film in the franchise that has received an attempt at a remake, in the form of Never Say Never Again.

    The plot is extremely simple in design, as has been the case with eighteen of the last nineteen Bond episodes. After an amusing introduction in which James Bond (Sean Connery) disposes of Jacques Boitier (Bob Simmons), who was responsible for the deaths of two colleagues, we are introduced to the main nemesis for this instalment. Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) and his men hijack a plane carrying two nuclear warheads, which they uses to hold England to a hundred million pound ransom. Obviously, the British government would rather dispose of Largo than pay him a dime, or so they tell M (Bernard Lee). To this end, MI6 sends its most famous agent after Largo, with his usual instructions: destroy the bad guy, get as many women in the sack as is possible, and avoid wrinkling that tailor-made suit. Along the way, he is ably assisted in these tasks by Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter), Domino Derval (Claudine Auger), and Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). As I have mentioned, these are hardly the most memorable characters the Bond franchise has ever seen.

    Since this is the fifth Bond film that I've sat through from beginning to end, I have come to the conclusion that the best kind of Bond film is the one with a certain reputation or novelty value. Still, many consider Thunderball to be the quintessential Bond film, which makes it worth checking out for curiosity's sake.

Transfer Quality


    Thunderball is thirty-five years old, and I have very serious doubts that this is a full restoration effort, so what we have here on this special edition DVD is rather good when those factors are accounted for.

    The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is very sharp throughout, with only the occasional lapse in clarity that seems to be more the fault of the original photography. The shadow detail is average, although it is certainly good enough for the film's purposes, and there is no low-level noise. Grain is a small problem in a few sequences, but not to the same extent that I was expecting.

    The colour saturation can be described as being muted in most sequences, with that usual look which signifies the age of the film present and accounted for. The underwater photography is also somewhat dull, but neither of these problems are specifically a fault of the transfer. The photography and special effects techniques available when this film was made simply didn't allow smooth sailing or refreshing clarity.

    MPEG artefacts were not a specific problem in this transfer, although the condition of the source material must have been pushing the encoding to its very limits. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing in various metallic objects, but this was a well-controlled artefact in the grand scheme of things. The same cannot be said for film artefacts, with nicks, scratches, lines, and the usual black and white flecks on the source material all combining to thoroughly date the film. A little effort to properly clean up the source material would have done wonders here, because there were times when the film truly looked its age.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 88:14. This is during a scene transition with a wipe effect, and thus presents no interruption to the flow of the film.


    It is even more surprising, considering that later episodes in the Bond series were rendered in mono, that we get a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix here. If this was so easy to do with Thunderball, then why on Earth hasn't On Her Majesty's Secret Service received the same treatment? In any case, the audio transfer consists of three soundtracks: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, and two audio commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Since there were no alternate languages or mixes, I stuck with the English soundtrack.

    The soundtrack is in much better shape than the visuals, with the dialogue being clear and easy to understand at all times. There were no clicks and pops in the soundtrack, and I failed to detect any dropouts. The audio sync is generally very good, although there was some marginal ADR at times.

    The score music on this film is credited to John Barry, who is considered to be the one and only Bond score composer. I personally found very little that makes one Bond score different from another, and this is certainly the case with Thunderball. Sure, it has all of the dramatic progressions for the action sequences and all of the slow, reflective progressions for the moments when Bond is about to hop into bed with yet another stupidly-named woman, but this is a description that could apply to many, many other scores as well. This is another point that Bond fans ramble endlessly about while I scratch my head and wonder what makes the executor of the given facet so supreme.

    The surround channels are used lightly to support the score music and the directional sound effects, but I got the distinct impression that a Dolby Pro-Logic mix could have done the job just as well. The sound effects and music coming out of the surrounds were often thin and weak, and there were a number of sequences when the surround field collapsed altogether. Given the age of the film, this is hardly a surprise, but it is still a little disappointing considering that someone obviously thought that the film was worthy of a 5.1 remix (the film was originally mono like all other Bond episodes of this vintage). The subwoofer was used frequently to support the action sequences and some of the music, and it did so without calling any special attention to itself.



    The main menu features a moderate amount of animation and audio, and is 16x9 Enhanced. As is the case with the other Bond special editions, the menu begins with the display of an animated button marked "activate". I really fail to see the point of this cosmetic touch, although I am sure that others will disagree.

Audio Commentary - Terence Young (Director), et al

    Once again, this is the usual pastiche of snippets from interviews, and it is of little interest to me.

Audio Commentary - Peter Hunt, John Hopkins, et al

   Again, this is a commentary spliced from interviews and other such audio sources. It is very difficult to listen to a commentary where you can easily lose track of whom is speaking, and I find commentaries on Bond films to be quite uninteresting to say the least.

Featurette - Inside Thunderball

    Clocking in at three minutes and twenty seconds, this featurette describes the number of alternate edits to some sequences in the film. It is presented in variable aspect ratios, alternating between Full Frame, 1.66:1, and 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - The Thunderball Phenomenon

    Presented in Full Frame, and sometimes in the aspect ratios of 1.85:1 and 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this featurette clocks in at twenty-nine minutes and forty-four seconds. The footage is taken from various sources, and varies from good to poor in quality. The manner in which Tom Jones came to be hired to perform the theme song is of some interest, but the rest of the featurette is a little boring.

Featurette - The Making Of Thunderball

    Again, this featurette is presented in variable aspect ratios, with footage in Full Frame, 1.85:1, and 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The featurette is not 16x9 Enhanced. The video quality is also somewhat variable, but it is certainly watchable.


    Presented as a singular featurette, we have three trailers that appear to be from various parts of the ad campaign. The aspect ratios vary between 1.85:1, 1.66:1, and 1.85:1 again, with none of the trailers being 16x9 Enhanced. The second trailer is of dreadful quality, looking as if it had been stored in a dishwasher, while the other two are watchable.

TV Spots

    Presented in Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, these TV Spots aren't exactly in the best quality, and two of them are in monochrome. Most determined completists will enjoy this extra, but others will find it a waste of disc space.

Radio Spots

    Presented with a 16x9 Enhanced still background and in Dolby Digital 2.0, this is a five-minute collection of the radio advertisements used to publicize the film's theatrical release. The sound quality is okay, considering the age of the source material, but fidelity obviously wasn't the biggest concern when they were produced.

Thunderball Gallery

    An enormous photo gallery with some annotation about the source of the still images. Beautifully presented, if a little confusing to navigate.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     There really is no compelling difference between the two versions, making the local disc a winner by virtue of the PAL formatting.


    Thunderball may have once been the best Bond film that ever was, but after another seventeen episodes in this style, it just appears somewhat dated. It is presented on a very good DVD.

    The video quality is good, but looks very aged, even in comparison to some films of similar vintage.

    The audio quality is good, but spoiled by a lack of surround channel usage.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

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 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
November 6, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer
people have checked out my opinion of this November 6, 2000.