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BlogalongaBond: Thunderball

Thunderball and Never Say Never Again teach us How to Remake a Bond Film


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Home Blog Features BlogalongaBond: Thunderball (1965)
BlogalongaBond: Thunderball (1965) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 23 April 2011 16:00

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up in November next year.

We all know Thunderball is a bit of underwater guff. Yes, the ocean fight sequences were groundbreaking and bad girl Fiona Vulpe (Luciana Paluzzi) is a steaming hot sex crumpet, but let's be honest: Terence Young’s third Bond movie is a load of watery cackwaffle.

So it’s no surprise that a remake came along in 1983. While Roger Moore was dipping his fingers into Octopussy, Kevin McClory was following through on his lawsuit against Ian Fleming/United Artists over the origins of the Thunderball screenplay. The result? Never Say Never Again.

The new take on the Thunderball story (SPECTRE steal nuclear weapons and hold the world to ransom) turned out to be a box office success, taking $160 million - better than Thunderball’s $141m. So just in case someone else comes along wanting to make a few bob by tampering with the official Bond canon, here’s what Never Say Never Again teaches us about how to remake a Bond film.


How to Remake a Bond Film


Step One: Add Gratuitous Sex and Violence

Yes, the original Thunderball had sex (hello, Fiona Vulpe) but remember that there’s always room for more. Which is why Alex McCowen’s cheeky chappy Q (called Algernon) turns up in Never Say Never Again and says:


No matter how much underwater sex there is in Thunderball, you can’t quite beat the full-on boat intercourse Bond has with Never Say Never Again's bad girl, Fatima Blush…

Thunderball (1965)
Never Say Never Again (1983)


When Warner Bros released their up-to-date Thunderball remake, they had to stick with the times and be all progressive and pro-women and stuff (interesting note: good girl Domino kills the Bond villain in both films). The solution? Give naughty girl Fatima lots of leather. And a nurse’s outfit. And a hat. You go, sister!

 Fiona Vulpe (1965) Fatima Blush (1983)

Step Two: Remove the Bond Theme Music

The hardest thing for a Bond movie to live without is a signature John Barry score, but don't be afraid of writing your own stuff. Michel Legrand did fairly well to come up with something different to go alongside Never Say Never Again's action given that Warner Bros had no rights to the official music. But his title song was total balls:


Never Say Never Again - Lani Hall

If you're still listening to the song halfway through this sentence you're doing well. Still, at least the lyrics make more sense than Don Black's rushed replacement for Thunderball's original song, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Either way, it's clear that Legrand is no David Arnold. If Warner Bros were allowed to use the title Thunderball, they could have included the Johnny Cash song that EON rejected decades earlier. This was probably a smart decision on their part:

Thunderball - Johnny Cash




Step Three: Get Sean Connery

Forget Australians like George Lazenby and get yourself a real James Bond. Ok, Sean said he’d never do 007 again, but wave enough money in his face and he always changes his mind. In fact, why not go the whole hog and make a story about Bond at retiring age? His crinkly 35-year-old face in Thunderball is embarrassing; at least Never Say Never Again had an excuse for him looking (and sounding) like Leonard Nimoy.

If you do get Sean Connery to return, then be sure to use the film’s title to make a witty reference to his completely fickle stance towards the iconic role. Even better, get him to wink at the camera just before the end credits. How post-modern.


Step Four: Get a Star Wars Director

Perhaps the biggest name involved in Never Say Never Again – apart from James Bond himself – was its director, Irvin Kershner. Yes, that Irvin Kershner. The Irvin Kershner who made The Empire Strikes Back. He doesn’t do any better than Terence Young when it comes to the story's boring first half (he adds in a decent punch-up) but Never Say Never Again has more pace than its achingly-slow predecessor. Maybe it’s because they removed loads of underwater stuff and slotted in a dance scene with good girl Domino instead.


Domino knows when she's been Tangoed.

Unfortunately, now that Irvin Kershner is dead, your only other choice for a Star Wars director is George Lucas, so you may want to ignore this step.



Step Five: Change the Opening Credits

Of course, the trademark gun barrel sequence is out the question, but there are always other options for your opening sequence. Why not try sticking 007 logos all over the screen? It's could look really classy. Or it could look like this:


Still, bonus points to Kershner and co for not trying to pull off a full Maurice Binder number, opting instead for conventional titles displayed over the top of the introductory scene. Which, for the record, has no jet packs in it. Thank goodness.



Step Six: Make Felix Leiter Black

Never Say Never Again started it. Casino Royale proved it. Everyone knows that American CIA agents are much cooler when the C stands for chocolate.


And if in doubt, hire Rowan Atkinson as well, just to highlight how cool (and non-white) Felix is.

Step Seven: Get an Austrian Bad Guy

If Christoph Waltz proved anything in Inglourious Basterds, it's that Austrians are bad-ass mo-fos. And fellow countryman Klaus Maria Brandauer doesn't let the side down in Never Say Never Again. He's far more menacing than Thunderball's dubbed villain, whose only major contribution to the Bond legacy was an eyepatch - and everyone took that really seriously.


Thunderball's Largo Austin Power's Number Two

Throwing away the Adolfo Celi's pirate costume, Never Say Never Again's Largo has long flowing locks, a sense of vulnerability, plus he can play the piano. What more could you want from a Bond villain? It's clearly enough to win over Kim Basinger. Oh, did I mention that Kim Basinger was in this?


Note: if you can't get an Austrian actor, get a Swedish one. More specifically, get Max von Sydow. He makes a great Blofeld.


Thunderball (1965)
Never Say Never Again (1983)



Step Eight: Add in Computer Games for No Reason

Baccarat is so 1965. But the video game Domination? Everyone still talks about that like it's some kind of non-existent computer thingy made up for a Bond film. When remaking a Bond film, add in as much technology as possible. Because if there’s anything that can truly prove 007's superior skill and intelligence, it’s a computer game that looks a lot like Risk. But rubbish. And in 3D.




Step Nine: Remove the Bond Car

This sounds like a terrible idea, but it depends on which film you're remaking. Thunderball barely used its Bond car in the first place - unless you count the water cannons used before the opening credits. The Aston Martin DB5 is basically a four-wheeled carry case for 007's jet pack. And so Never Say Never Again replaced the car with a motorbike chase. And a good thing too.




Step Ten: Get Bigger Sharks

Thunderball had some solid shark action, both out in the big wide ocean and in Largo’s swimming pool. But they’re pathetic little swimmy things (that's a technical term) compared to Never Say Never Again’s big-toothed babies. No wonder Largo#2 needed a bigger boat.

Never Say Never Again

Of course, if all else fails, you can always follow Irvin Kershner's example and add in a flying horse: 



In short, get yourself a seasoned director, a great cast (preferably including Kim Basinger and Max von Sydow) and inject your screenplay with a sense of humour, and your Bond remake could actually turn out better than the original. Presuming you pick a rubbish Bond film to begin with.



BlogalongaBond will return next month in You Only Live Twice. For more BlogalongaBondness, point your PC this way.



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