Licence to travel – following James Bond around the world: Thunderball

After the fabulous ‘Skyfall’, the world is holding its breath for the 24th James Bond film, ‘Spectre’ coming out in November, perfectly timed for my birthday – as is tradition ūüôā

An essential element of the appeal of the early movies remains in place today – the use of exotic foreign locations. In this series we’ll be returning to locations used in each of the 23 films so far released (we’re purists and are not including the first ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Never say never again’).

We’ll show you how to find them, where to stay nearby and let you know of any 007 experiences you really shouldn’t miss – such as performing the actual bungee jump from the opening sequence of ‘Goldeneye’. We’ll add a short summary of the plot, some video clips and throw in some fun trivia and goofs for each movie too, because we’re nice like that. Lights, camera, action!


Thunderball, 1965

The poster

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Image (c)

The trailer

The plot

Those naughty SPECTRE folk have nicked two atomic bombs from NATO and unless their ransom demands are met will be using them to take out a city in the USA or UK. The clock is ticking and James Bond has just four days to defeat SPECTRE honcho Emilio Largo and stop a nuclear holocaust.

The countries

France, England, Bahamas, USA

The locations

The pre-credits sequence is quite something. Bond is accompanying Mademoiselle Laporte to the funeral  of a SPECTRE bad guy, Colonel Jaques Boitier.


Ch√Ęteau d’Anet – Anet – Eure-et-Loir – France – M√©rim√©e PA00096955 (42)” by BincheOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This was filmed at the beautiful Ch√Ęteau d’Anet about 80km outside of Paris and open to visitors.

The grieving widow is rather unfeminine – to put it mildly –¬†which¬†arouses Bond’s suspicions. He soon unmasks ‘her’¬†as¬†the¬†Colonel himself during the course of a bit of rough and tumble. 007 ensures that Boitier is only slightly late to his own funeral and then escapes using a jet pack¬†to land by his lovely Aston Martin – an unforgettable scene.

Image (c)
After the opening titles¬†Emilio Largo¬†is seen announcing his plan to the SPECTRE committee Villain Largo (Adolfo Celi) arrives at the ‚ÄėCentre International d‚ÄôAssistance Aux Personnes D√©plac√©es‚Äô, which is a front for the SPECTRE HQ, at¬†35 Avenue d‚ÄôEylau, in the 16th arrondissement, northwest of the Palais de Chaillot,¬†Paris.
James Bond is staying at ‚ÄėShrublands Health Farm’ for a little recuperation but it doesn’t take long before he’s discovering bad guys and pretty ladies. The location used was Chalfont Park House, Chalfont St Peter, Gerrards Cross,Buckinghamshire – conveniently located not far from Pinewood Studios.


Image (c)

This 18th century listed building itself has an interesting history Рit was turned into a military hospital during World War I, became a hotel and country club in 1921 and later turned into office space, believe it or not. Rather disappointingly is is now the HQ of Citrix, an IT company but it is easy to visit and take photographs.

After a brief interlude in London at MI6 the action moves to that class Bond location, the Bahamas – and stays there for most of the rest of the movie.

By Navin75 ( [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The decadent dance scenes took place at the Cafe Martinique which long gone Рbulldozed to make way for the enormous Atlantis development on Paradise Island not far from Nassau harbor.

Where to stay on location

It may not have been here in Connery’s day, but¬†Atlantis exudes some of the glitz of James Bond. It’s also a great base from which to explore other locations from Thunderball (as well as other Bond classics).

The best place to seek out here is¬†Largo‚Äôs ‚ÄėPalmyra‚Äô estate with shark-infested swimming pool. The sharks are long gone but the property used in the film is Rock Point, West Bay Street, east of Compass Point on¬†New Providence Island and it looks just as it did back in the day if you ignore the lack of maintenance.¬†It’s owned by a billionaire Greek property magnate called George Mosco, who doesn’t welcome Bond fans. In fact, there’s a Rottweiler running loose behind the fenced perimeter to keep tourists at bay. But a dog won’t stop you having a look, now will it 007?

The stolen Vulcan bomber crashes in the sea off Rose Island, on the northeastern coast of New Providence Island.

The aircraft is hidden next to Clifton Wall, part of Nassau Harbour. The framework of the purpose-built prop can still be seen even though it was blown up after filming was complete!

The Golden Grotto was the location for the harpoon gun scene and is now known as Thunderball Reef.

Bond experiences

Fans of Bond can’t leave Nassau without signing up for a snorkel trip – Stuart Cove is the man to ask about visiting the¬†Vulcan hide. Don’t expect to be able to recognise much these days – but you will be enjoying the same clear water as the filmmakers did 50 years ago.

The classic lines

Bond: My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for King and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure do you?
Volpe: But of course, I forgot your ego, Mister Bond. James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, then immediately returns to the side of right and virtue. But not this one. What a blow it must have been – you having a failure.
Bond: Well, you can’t win them all…

Pat: Funny looking bruise. A fall?
Bond: A poker, in the hands of a widow.
Pat: I thought you’d be just the type for a widow.
Bond: No, he didn’t like me at all.

Volpe: [from the bath] Aren’t you the wrong room, Mr Bond?
Bond: Not from where I’m standing.

Moneypenny: Ah-huh – in the conference room. Every 00 in Europe has been rushed in, and the Home Secretary too.
Bond: Somebody’s probably lost a dog.

Pat: What kind of work do you do anyway?
Bond: Oh I trave¬†…a sort¬†of ‘licenced trouble-shooter’.

Bond: I respectfully request that you change my posting to Nassau.
M: Any other reason, other than your love of water sports?

Volpe: Some men just don’t like to be driven.

Bond: No, some men just don’t like being taken for a ride.
Volpe: Do you like wild things Mr. Bond, James Bond?
Bond: Wild? You should be locked up in a cage.

The trivia

Kevin McClory, Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham worked together on a story and screenplay called ‘James Bond, Secret Agent’. This was to be the first Bond movie and McClory reportedly wanted Richard Burton to play 007. The movie was never made. Fleming was something of a master at mixing plots written for other Bond projects, a TV series and even a comic strip and rehashing them into James Bond books – and he did the same with this one to come up with ‘Thunderball’. This time there was a problem, however – copyright. When Albert R. Broccoli bought the film rights to the Bond novels from Fleming, McClory went to court. Eventually a settlement was reached whereby McClory got a credit for the source material and as producer.

According to the dictionary, “thunderball” was a military term used by US soldiers to describe the mushroom cloud seen during the testing of atomic bombs. Hence its use as a title because this would be result of SPECTRE detonating the stolen atomic bombs.

Thunderbeatle was the nickname for James Bond creator Ian Fleming given to him by his wife Ann Fleming.

Kevin McClory was a big fan of diving which goes some way to explain the protracted underwater scenes in the film.

Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton was originally offered the job of director but turned it down due to exhaustion.

Maurice Binder returned to the series to design the main title sequence for this movie after being absent from the previous two Bond movies, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. He was responsible for Dr. No and would continue on every Bond movie after Thunderball until his last on Licence to Kill (1989).

The budget for this Bond film was more than the combined budgets of the first three Bond films.

Claudine Auger was a former Miss France but her voice was dubbed.

Kevin¬†McClory also got a cameo – he’s seen smoking a cigar at the Nassau Casino when James Bond arrives.

The much-loved silver birch Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger is used again in Thunderball.

The rocket-propulsion Jet Pack seen in the film was originally designed and invented for military use. It is also known as the Small Rocket Lift Device (SRLD). The original intention as conceived during the 1950s was for soldiers to be able to improve their agility, depth of field and ability to commandeer terrain by being able to jump over impeding landmarks and waterways. The Bell Aerosystems Rocketbelt model was used for this movie. Its flight goes for twenty one seconds, and provides 1000 brake horsepower.

Four different versions of the title song were recorded, including one sung by Shirley Bassey and two different instrumental versions. Tom Jones won out.

During the recording of the title song “Thunderball”, Tom Jones asked the song’s writer what the “strikes like thunderball” line meant. His alleged reply was¬†that he didn’t know.

Another classic rumour is that Jones reportedly fainted after recording the high note at the end of recording the song.

Some progress was made with regard to Bond’s health – this is the first film in which he doesn’t smoke.

It’s also the first rime¬†Sean Connery performs the gunbarrel opening sequence. In the first three Bond films it was stuntman Bob Simmons.

Simmons was the man Bond fights in the pre-title sequence after disguising himself as his own widow.

The only Bond film where we get a glimpse of all 00 agents in one shot. They are summoned to M’s briefing and 007 is the last to join in. He sits down in the only available chair – the seventh from the left.

This was the last James Bond film directed by Terence Young.

Stuntman Bill Cumming earned a $450 bonus for jumping into Largo’s shark-infested pool.

To prevent anyone using the Vulcan bomber mock-up for future films, the production team blew up the plane with dynamite. The frame work left behind has since become a reef (see above).

In the underwater scenes where Bond encounters sharks, Sean Connery was supposed to be protected by clear plastic panels shielding him from sharks in close-ups. However, the panels only extended about three feet in height and sharks could swim over them; as a result in some scenes (notably during the pool fight at Largo’s mansion) Connery got much closer to real sharks than he wanted – director Terence Young said in a 1995 interview that scenes used in the film where Bond reacts in fright at the approach of a shark were miscues in which Connery was reacting with genuine terror as a shark approached unobstructed by plastic shielding.

The special effects explosion of the Disco Volante was so powerful it shattered and blew out windows about twenty to thirty miles away in Nassau’s Bay Street.

In the trailer for the film, Bond says the line, “The things I do for England.” The line was cut from the final version of the film, and then used in the next Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967).

Thunderball was another great success Рit was the top grossing film in both the UK and the US in 1966. After its first run it had pulled in worldwide earnings of an incredible $141.2 million.

The goofs and gaffes

The Colonel throws a vase at Bond who is about to catch it on his right shoulder. When we see Bond from behind, the vase hits his left shoulder.

In the opening scenes, as Bond fight with Jacques Bouvar (still dressed as a woman), the dresser falls down on Bouvar, and his hat and wig are knocked off. When Bond lifts the dresser off him, the wig and hat are back on his head

Bond’s watch changes wrists several times while he is talking to the receptionist in the lobby and speaks to the receptionist at the health farm.

When Bond enters the room where Count Lippe is having a sitz bath, the sign on the door says “Massage”. When he leaves the room, the sign on the same door says “Sitz Bath & Heat Treatment”.

The map on¬†Moneypenny’s wall between her and¬†M’s office changes from Central America before the conference, to the Soviet Union and Europe after the meeting.

When briefing 007, Q talks with his mouth closed.

When Bond and Leiter are in the helicopter at the Golden Grotto, Leiter has shorts on. The shot changes and he has long trousers on and then reverts back to shorts in the next shot.

When Bond is swimming through the small passageway between the regular pool and the shark pool, he stops briefly to make way for one shark swimming in the opposite direction. As he watches it swim by, Bond’s right hand is plainly leaning on a piece of glass between him and the shark swimming past.

An obvious stunt double for Bond portrayer Sean Connery, clad in a pink swimsuit, swimming in the canal, then emerging up the stairs and alongside the bridge.

When Bond hoists himself from Largo’s shark pool his hair is dry and perfectly combed.

Bonds’ swimming trunks are wet after the swim in the cove yet they’re dry as a bone when he walks from behind the wall.

Bond is suddenly wearing trainers after swimming towards the cove.

The boat captain’s hat gets knocked off three times during the fight.

Just before the rear section of the Disco Volante explodes, at least one dummy can clearly be seen “seated” on its starboard side.


We hope you enjoyed this article. James Bond will return in the next installment of the series – You Only Live Twice

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1184

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