The James Bond series has had its share of memorable deaths over the years, from the gold painted Jill Masterson from Goldfinger to the balloon-like inflating and exploding of Dr. Kananga from Live And Let Die. There’s even been the odd nasty one, as recent viewers of Licence To Kill will especially remember, and the final scene of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service can still bring tears to the eyes. I’ve picked this scene from Thunderball because, while the actual method of death may not be that interesting [it’s a gun], the scene itself is a mini-masterpiece of pacing and staging, and almost epitomises 007 at his best with its mixture of glamour and suspense with a brutal, yet also humorous, finish. The film itself has its detractors who dislike its leisurely pace [though I can think of four Bond films that seem slower to me, and anyway if you’re a Bond fan then isn’t it great to just spend time with the character and his world even when he’s not engaging in heroics?] and its extensive underwater footage, but to me it’s one of the very best Bond films, simply terrific escapism with its often witty script, gorgeous Bahamas locations, equally gorgeous women, thrilling action scenes [the climactic underwater battle still seems amazing], and Sean Connery at his cool, suave best.
It’s about two thirds of the way through the film, and Bond has had a dalliance with Fiona Volpe, to me quite possibly the sexiest Bond woman of them if also amongst the deadliest. He escapes from her henchmen who are taking him, I presume, to Emilio Largo the main bad guy, though as usual they could have shot him there and then. It’s the night of the Junkanoo, a huge carnival, so 007 is able to lose his pursuers in what is a great foot chase. He arrives at an outdoor club called the Kiss Kiss Club. It’s probably called this because Thunderball was actually almost called Mr.Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is what 007 was known as in Japan, and composer John Barry and singer Dionne Warwick even recorded a song called that, but it wasn’t used. Actually, that’s partly a lie, because the tune is used throughout Barry’s tremendous score, virtually becoming the main theme, and we hear it now in a Caribbean-flavored arrangement with bongos. Bond starts dancing with a girl when Fiona cuts in. “I didn’t know your wife was here” she says as she leaves. Fiona starts to dance with Bond as her henchmen circle the club. A gun pokes through where the band is playing and is getting ready to shoot Bond while the bongo playing gets more and more frantic and those old Bondian brassy chords come on in what is throughout a superb example of the way that source music can double as dramatic scoring. Suddenly Bond turns Fiona found so she gets the bullet in her back. He drags her to a chair and says to the person sitting next to it:
“Do you mind if my wife sits this one out. She’s just dead”.
Well okay, maybe it’s not that funny on its own, but Connery’s deadpan delivery makes it so. I do like Craig, but Connery remains the greatest screen 007, and he was never better than he was in Thunderball. Premium Bond indeed.