Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part V: Peter Hunt fights with the film

Peter Hunt, lead film editor on the first five 007 movies, said in the documentary Inside From Russia With Love that the film “wasn’t beautifully storyboarded” and that sometimes “you have to fight with the film” to make the story work. If From Russia With Love was a fight between editor and film, Thunderball must have been all-out war.

From urinating dogs to wounds shifting from one leg to the other to disappearing pants, Thunderball didn’t enjoy tight continuity.

The fourth 007 film was the most sprawling to date. It had a $9 million budget, according to the Numbers.com Web site, a huge amount for 1965 and nine times as expensive as the series’ first entry, Dr. No. There was extensive location shooting in the Bahamas and underwater sequences done on an enormous scale — and all being done on tight deadlines to ensure a release for Christmas 1965.

It was up to Peter Hunt to make it work. Hunt had a new spiffy title, supervising editor, and he had help from editor Ernest Hosler and assembly editor Ben Rayner. But Hunt ultimately had to battle with the film shot by director Terence Young. Hunt, at an appearance in at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles, told attendees the editor knows the flaws of a film better than anyone. The way Hunt described it, the editor’s job was to speed the audience through those flaws so they wouldn’t notice (at least on the first viewing).

Hunt & Co. had a number of flaws to deal with. Here’s a YouTube video that looks at some of just one major sequence, where we meet the aforementioned dog (Hunt in one telling, had actually spotted and removed it but it got reinserted because producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman thought it was funny), locals wearing 007 hats (and here we thought he was a secret agent) and a bullet wound that changes location on Bond’s body:

Meanwhile, at the Thunderball Obessional Web site, there’s a page that includes even more of the continuity issues with Thunderball, including how CIA agent Felix Leiter’s pants disappear and reappear in the same sequence.

Despite trimming by Hunt and his editors (also detailed on the Thunderball Obsessional page with the continuity errors), Thunderball also was the longest of the first four 007 film adventures at 2 hours and 10 minutes. In the end, despite the challenges, Hunt did speed the audience through the mammoth adventure and once again showed he was a valuable 007 contributor to the series’ early years.

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