Released in 1965, Thunderball was the fourth James Bond film in the 007 franchise based on the 1961 book of the same name by author Ian Fleming. It is generally regarded as having the most lavish sets, best soundtrack, classic Bond style and an outstanding performance by Sean Connery as the superspy.

Sean Connery 007

The movie follows our hero's quest to retrieve two NATO atomic bombs, which the bad guys - SPECTRE - have stolen in order to hold the world to ransom. They are demanding diamonds worth £100 million and if their demands aren't met, they will blow up a major city in England or the United States.

Bond's mission leads him to the exotic Bahamas, where he encounters SPECTRE Number Two, the sinister Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) - culminating in a spectacular underwater battle with the villain's henchmen.

Connery was 35 when Thunderball was filmed. It was his fourth outing as the spy and he was considered the ultimate Bond persona, with his brooding good looks, dark wit and ability to charm the beautiful Bond girls, Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters), Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) and Dominique "Domino" Derval (Claudine Auger).

Much of the action in Thunderball takes place underwater - this is where Bond first meets the glamorous Derval, mistress of villain Largo. While diving at Nassau in the Bahamas, Bond sees Derval in trouble after her flipper gets caught on some underwater coral. She struggles to free herself and Bond untangles her, saving her life. They arrange to meet for lunch afterwards.

Later in the film, the duo go diving together and enjoy an underwater tryst hidden from view behind coral, as bubbles erupt to the surface of the ocean.

Thunderball will be remembered for the wild stunts in the underwater scenes, with scuba diving playing a large part. In one scene, Bond uses a tiny breathing apparatus, given to him by inventor Q early on in the film. Legend has it that the British military checked to see whether the miniature oxygen tank actually worked!

A representative of the Royal Engineers reportedly rang the film's chief draftsman, Peter Lamont, to see how long the user could stay underwater wearing the apparatus. Lamont replied, as long as they could hold their breath, pointing out it was the skills of the editor and not the oxygen tank that made it appear Bond was underwater for several minutes.

Connery's life was endangered when swimming among live sharks for one scene, as the Plexiglas underwater partition that was meant to keep them apart had a small gap. One of the sharks managed to find it and swam through, leaving Connery swimming for his life ‘til he could exit the water, the shark in hot pursuit.

Tigershark - Bahamas

The site of the dives in Nassau in the Bahamas, known as the "Bond wrecks", remains a popular tourist attraction today for scuba divers, in particular the submerged mock-up of a Vulcan Bomber beneath the ocean. This is close to another Bond wreck, a 92ft former supply boat that appeared in the 1983 movie, Never Say Never Again - also starring Sean Connery - in which James was attacked by a tiger shark. It rests at a depth of 43ft.

The Vulcan wreck today is covered in gorgonians, sponges and invertebrate life, with just its metal framework remaining and hardly recognisable as the prop from Thunderball. The Vulcan's wheels are buried deep in the sand and only the tops of the tyres are visible.

Despite their age, the Bond wrecks continue to attract the same fascination today as they did when the films were first made and are hailed as Indiana Jones-style, "lost temples of Bondiana" by scuba divers.

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