By Patrick Brennan
The novel Thunderball, released in 1961, was the subject of a long-running legal dispute between its writer Ian Fleming (and his estate after his death) and Irish screenwriter and producer Kevin McClory.
Parts of Thunderball’s manuscript were re-used ideas from a script Fleming had written with McClory and others in 1959 without giving them credit. McClory sued after the novel’s release, and the court case was the reason Dr. No instead of Thunderball became the first Bond movie.
The courts ruled in McClory’s favour, meaning the producers Broccoli and Saltzman, had to come to an arrangement with him, making him a co-producer on the film in exchange for him agreeing not to make a movie based on the novel for ten years.
The saga also meant Bond’s nemesis Blofeld and the villainous organisation SPECTRE, because of continuing controversy over whether McClory or Fleming had created them, could not be used in Bond films after 1971’s Diamonds are Forever.
The film, Sean Connery’s fourth as Bond, was the third and last Bond directed by Terence Young and stars Claudine Auger as Bond’s love interest Domino Derval; Adolfo Celi as the one-eyed villain Emilio Largo, and Luciana Paluzzi as the fiery haired villainess Fiona Volpe.
The pre-titles scene is probably the most memorable part of the movie, with Bond assassinating an enemy agent (the agent dressed in drag as his own widow) before using a jet pack to escape. The jet pack was a real gadget developed for the US Army and only had enough fuel to fly for twenty seconds. It was piloted by stuntman Bill Suitor who refused to do the stunt without a helmet as originally planned.