Bloat came early to the James Bond series; by the fourth film. Not so much in passing a two-hour running time, but in selling size for its own sake, slowing things down as much as this outing’s misguided underwater battle scenes. (Who is that man behind the scuba mask? Do karate chops work in the ocean?) No longer merely a film series, or even a franchise, BOND was now an institution. And so it has remained. Bondsman come & go, some better than others: playful Roger Moore; dour Tim Dalton; suffering Daniel Craig. But note how key supporting players hang around to show the ropes to the new hires. They know the lay-out. THUNDERBALL had a huge anticipation factor, but it’s quality was slightly below average. It’s the one with Tom Jones on the title track; a breakaway yacht; two purloined atomic bombs; Adolfo Celi making like Aristotle Onassis as the villain; heavy foreign accents on the luscious femmes fatales; and a jet-pack for one. So what if the sadism & sexism have the slight moldy smell of a stack of PLAYBOY Magazines left in the basement, Sean Connery’s hair-piece is keeping up appearances.
DOUBLE-BILL: DR. NO/’62; FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE/’63; and GOLDFINGER/’64 are (respectively) 20, 15 & 20 minutes tighter. Better in other ways, too. OR: the unofficial, unhappy remake NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN/’83. With a witless title that tells all.