This relatively disappointing fourth entry in the James Bond series centers on the hijacking of a NATO bomber carrying a nuclear payload. After sweating out the effects of his louche lifestyle at a health spa, James Bond (Sean Connery) is dispatched to the sunny Bahamas, where the aircraft

is hidden underwater. SPECTRE's No. 2 man, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), is behind the scheme, and Bond, well-equipped with state-of-the art spy gadgetry, catches up with the villain and his equally well-equipped mistress, Domino (Auger), who eventually embraces both Bond and his cause. Bond locates

the downed plane and calls in American aqua-paratroops, who do underwater battle with SPECTRE scuba divers while 007 chases Largo, who flees in his yacht-turned-hydrofoil.

With THUNDERBALL, the wildly popular Bond series started to slip, substituting gadgets and gimmicks for story and character development. The action is reasonably well-staged, but the film is overlong and occasionally draggy. THUNDERBALL was meant to be the first in the series, but Bond creator Ian

Fleming engaged in a long legal battle over the rights to his novel, eventually losing in court to Kevin McClory. However, McClory was unable to put together a workable package to turn the novel into a movie, largely because Sean Connery was by now under contract to regular Bond producers Cubby

Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Eventually, Saltzman, Broccoli, and McClory struck a deal that gave McClory the producer credit and a percentage of the profits (McClory also retained the right to produce a remake after a 10 years had elapsed; the result was 1983's NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). Despite its

shortcomings, the film was the top moneymaker of 1966, grossing more than any other picture in the series. Julie Christie, Raquel Welch, and Faye Dunaway--then relatively unknown players--were all considered for the role of Domino before Claudine Auger was chosen. Welch was actually signed to play

the part, but Broccoli reluctantly released her as a favor to 20th Century-Fox production head Richard Zanuck, who wanted her for FANTASTIC VOYAGE. Tom Jones sings the title song, written by John Barry and Don Black.