James Bond
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Sean Connery
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

The international crime syndicate SPECTRE holds the governments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to ransom when it threatens to destroy a major city using hijacked nuclear warheads. James Bond travels to Nassau to track down the stolen bombs that are being controlled by SPECTRE field operative Emilio Largo...

Which is the biggest of the Sean Connery Bond films? Well, you could argue that it was You Only Live Twice, since that one featured the largest set (for Blofeld's volcano base) but Thunderball is certainly the longest, weighing in at two hours five minutes duration. It also includes many a memorable set piece, including the SPECTRE briefing room scene, all of which lend this film a truly epic feel, an effect that is aided by the introduction of Panavision to the series.

A large proportion of the action takes place underwater. Indeed, this movie set a trend that many of its successors, including The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, would seek to emulate. It is a testament to the quality of Terence Young's direction, the cinematography and John Barry's incidental music that the lengthy aquatic sequences - and indeed the entire movie - never really seem to drag. Compare such scenes with the underwater sequences in the non-EON-produced 1983 remake, Never Say Never Again, in which the absence of dialogue is far more noticeable.

Ironically, as some fans will already be aware, a version of Thunderball made it on to video in the '80s that erroneously lacked large sections of its incidental score. The mystery behind this omission is discussed in a featurette about the numerous alternative versions of the movie that have come to light over the years. This feature also includes an alternate line of 007 dialogue to the more familiar "bon appétit" that Bond utters to the shark from which he has just narrowly escaped in Largo's pool.

The second of two audio commentaries also includes the song "Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", sung by Dionne Warwick, which was originally intended to be the main theme but was replaced by the title track performed by Tom Jones. "Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is played over Maurice Binder's title sequence as part of the commentary, thus creating an authentic reconstruction of what might have been.

Among other nuggets of fascinating information revealed by the commentaries is an explanation of how the scriptwriters subtly acknowledged and responded to critics of Bond through the dialogue of the villainous Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi).

New to DVD in this Ultimate Edition 2-disc set is a veritable cornucopia of newly discovered archive material, including a 50-minute 1965 NBC television documentary, The Incredible World of James Bond; location film narrated by production designer Ken Adam; and footage of "rocket man" Bill Suitor. And if you're one of those people who appreciates the wit of Denis Norden, then you'll enjoy the tongue-in-cheek Ford Motor Company promotional film A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car.

One minor imperfection is the use, on one of the menu screens, of an image of Connery from (horror of horrors) Never Say Never Again. The same error also affected the previous DVD release of this movie.

Apart from that, though, there's plenty here to ensure that Bond fans will have a ball.

Richard McGinlay

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