Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part III: Luciana Paluzzi’s femme fatale

Luciana Paluzzi was only the fourth billed member of Thunderball’s cast (after Sean Connery, Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celi), but her Fiona Volpe character lived on (only figuratively, of course) in ways that would affect the 007 film series.

Dr. No, the first film in the series, had a femme fatale in Miss Taro, a secretary at Government House who really worked for the film’s title character. Fiona Volpe, apparently one of SPECTRE’s top executioners and operatives, had a much larger impact on Thunderball’s story. Fiona plays a key role in SPECTRE’s theft of two atomic bombs (seducing and helping to set up the murder of the pilot of the NATO aircraft); kills SPECTRE operative Count Lippe, whose performance has displeased the organization’s chief, Ernst Stavro Blofeld; and not only goes to bed with Bond but refuses to go over “to the side of right and virtue.”

Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi has been on record as saying she was up for the female lead role of Domino, but didn’t get it and got the Fiona part instead. In a way, that’s understandable. Thunderball wasn’t the first time she had been a femme fatle. Here she is in the trailer for To Trap A Spy, the theatrical movie version of the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The footage seen here wasn’t in the TV version of the pilot. Instead, it showed up in another U.N.C.L.E. first-season episode, The Four-Steps Affair, that had an entirely different plot. Anyway, she made an impression in both versions:

When it was time to begin promoting Thunderball, several of Paluzzi’s were included in the trailer. Here’s the U.K. version:

When Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman produced their next 007 film, the Fiona character may have been on their minds. You Only Live Twice featured another SPECTRE woman assassin, Helga Brandt. Actress Karin Dor colored her hair and Helga looks like she could have been a relative of Fiona.

The series couldn’t help but revisit the notion of the sexy women killer, including Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me and Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye. But Fiona, and the actress who brought the character to life, holds a special place in the series.

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