About that Thunderball jet pack

Sean Connery in an insert shot during the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball

For first-generation fans of the James Bond films, the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball is an enduring memory. A major reason was how Bond (Sean Connery) got away from thugs with a jet pack.

Bond fans who weren’t around then may not understand the excitement that the sequence generated. That’s understandable. You had to be there.

Still, here’s the broader context: By 1965, the Bond films had created a market for all sorts of spy entertainment. On television, the best of these entries had interesting characters and concepts: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (a series where Ian Fleming had been involved for a time), The Wild Wild West, I Spy and others.

In terms of movies, the Matt Helm and Derek Flint films were in production.

By the fall of 1965, spies were *everywhere*. How could Bond stay ahead?

That was the challenge for Thunderball, which began filming in early 1965.

Eon Productions decided to go bigger, giving the audience what they couldn’t get on TV or on other more modestly budgeted films.

With Thunderball, the jet pack was the perfect example. It was real. No special effects (example for the insert shots of Sean Connery supposedly piloting the jet pack).

Over the years, Eon Productions flirted with bringing the jet pack back. The first draft of Moonraker had Bond using a jet pack during the Venice sequence. The first draft of The World Is Not Enough had Bond using a jet pack instead of the “Q boat.”

The closest Eon got was a jet pack cameo for Die Another Day. We haven’t seen it since.

That’s probably how it should be. Thunderball was catching lightning in a bottle (there was a lot of that, circa 1965). It should remain there. But for those of us who witnessed it first run, we won’t forget it.

Meanwhile, this tweet embeds a video of a Lego version of the Thunderball jet pack sequence. Amazing work.


6 Responses

  1. Interestingly the TB jetpack surfaced in the Electronic Arts 2005 video game adaptation of From Russia With Love . It has even been enhanced , firing mini rockets and equiped with dual machine guns …

  2. I think there is a scene in Never Say Never, Bond and Q in the storage basement and there is the jetpack Bond flips the switch and it starts. Q immediately shuts it off. Or…do I have the wrong movie?

  3. The “little” things like this Lego video are what makes life worth living. Thx for sharing!

  4. While hardly non, the FRWL video game featured a Sean Connery-voiced Bond utilizing the Jet Pack.

    Exhibit 1:

    (This is a repost as my first attempt included the wrong link)

  5. Michal Poplawski, you’re thinking of DAD.

  6. I vividly remember seeing that scene on US opening day. I even went to Thunderball at an early morning showing, since they started at about 8:00 AM, IIRC. The fight with Jacques Bouvier was also terrific, the best in the franchise after the fight with Red Grant in FRWL. Even AT THE TIME, I was curious as to how 007 had managed to schlep that huge piece of equipment to Bouvier’s chateau without getting busted, but that didn’t erase the thrill of seeing him use it – even though my preferred jet pack style has always been the Comando Cody, Adam Strange, and (later) Rocketeer close together jets, rather than the real thing (which was also used in an ep of NCIS).

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