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October 31, 2021
Hot on the heels of the record breaking UK success of No Time To Die starring Daniel Craig, comes another cinema release featuring the most successful James Bond film of all -Thunderball! The fourth 007 adventure starring Sean Connery, which premiered in December 1965, features prominently in the time-travelling psychological horror film Last Night In Soho (2021), directed by Edgar Wright, and released in cinemas this weekend. Last Night In Soho stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, former Doctor Who Matt Smith, and Sixties’ icons Terence Stamp and Rita Tushingham.

Last Night In Soho/Empire Cinema Haymarket

Last Night In Soho also marks the final film appearances of Diana Rigg (1938-2020) [Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)] and Margaret Nolan (1943-2020) [Dink in Goldfinger (1964), golden girl on the film posters and in the credit titles]. Last Night In Soho opens with the dedication “For Diana”. Director Edgar Wright had previously cast ex-Bonds Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz (2007) and Pierce Brosnan in The World's End (2013).

Thunderball unused concept artwork by Frank C. McCarthy

Filmed extensively on the streets of Soho in the heart of London's West End, the production wanted to focus on a few huge scenes to establish the glamour and excitement of Eloise’s 1960s experience. For logistical reasons the production couldn’t shoot the entrance of the real Café De Paris, so it was recreated at the Empire cinema on Haymarket (formerly the Carlton cinema). A huge poster for the James Bond film Thunderball was erected over the cinema canopy and other contemporary posters inserted in the light-boxes outside. Unfortunately, the poster chosen was not the one originally used to promote Thunderball in 1965, and was actually concept artwork by Frank C. McCarthy, first published in 007 MAGAZINE Issue #23 in 1990. The credits were added by 007 MAGAZINE Editor & Publisher Graham Rye and formed the colour centrespread of the special Thunderball 25th Anniversary issue.

007 MAGAZINE Issue #23/US Deluxe Collector's Edition Thunderball laserdisc

The 007 MAGAZINE artwork was later loaned out, and used on a 1995 Limited Edition reproduction poster from US collectables company Spyguise (although they incorrectly spelled Jack Whittingham's name!), and also on the cover of the 1996 MGM US Deluxe Collector's Edition laserdisc of Thunderball issued in 1996.

Thunderball Rialto cinema Coventry Street as seen in Last Night In Soho (2021)

Although the exterior of the Empire Haymarket was filmed with the inaccurate Thunderball poster artwork on July 28, 2019, director Edgar Wright had toyed with the idea digitally altering the marquee so it would show a poster for Fantastic Voyage, directed by Richard Fleischer, as this tied in with the thematic implications of Thomasin McKenzie’s character, Ellie - who was herself embarking on a fantastic voyage. However, Fantastic Voyage was not released until late 1966, and the director wanted to keep the setting of Last Night In Soho firmly in the middle of the 1960s. The teaser trailer gave us the first glimpse of the actual Thunderball quad poster artwork, now digitally inserted on the marquee of the Rialto Cinema on Coventry Street, just off Leicester Square.

London Pavilion/Rialto cinema

Thunderball cinema marquee reference stills

In reality, although Thunderball did have its London premiere at the Rialto simultaneously with the London Pavilion on December 29, 1965, it was only the Piccadilly Circus venue that had the large colourful marquee featuring the alternate Robert McGinnis full body artwork of Sean Connery in flippers holding a speargun across his chest. Original reference stills held in the 007 MAGAZINE ARCHIVE clearly show that the quad poster artwork enlargement was planned and created for the Rialto engagement, but not used. Photographs of the Rialto on premiere night show the exterior marquee with text only on the neon display hoarding of the cinema.

Thunderball premiere at the London Pavilion December 29, 1965

The Café de Paris features prominently in Last Night In Soho (2021), and its entrance was situated under the Rialto Cinema canopy on Coventry Street. The nightclub originally opened in 1924, and quickly became one of the leading theatre clubs in London until its closure in December 2020. During World War II the club became less socially exclusive and attracted a more mixed clientele, including many members of the armed forces on leave. On March 8, 1941, the café was bombed soon after the start of a performance and at least 34 people were killed and around 80 injured. The nightclub did not open again until 1948 when it attracted major stars such as Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. In the 1950s Noël Coward and Marlene Dietrich often performed cabaret seasons at the Café de Paris.

007 Christmas Lunch at the Cafe de Paris 1999

On November 22, 1999, Graham Rye produced the 7th 007 Christmas Lunch held at the Café de Paris, London. 200 ticket holders celebrated the opening of the new James Bond film The World Is Not Enough in style at a morning preview, and the re-publication of Rye’s all-new pictorial edition of his book The James Bond Girls. The event was attended by special ‘Bond Girl’ guests: Martine Beswicke (From Russia With Love & Thunderball), Molly Peters (Thunderball), Jan Williams (From Russia With Love), and powerboat champion Sarah Donohue, who doubled Maria Grazia Cucinotta in The World Is Not Enough.

Cafe de Paris exterior Last Night In Soho (2021)/Rialto advert 1966

Several other film posters are seen outside the Rialto Cinema in Last Night In Soho, although like the Thunderball marquee these are somewhat anachronistic. If Last Night In Soho, supposedly set in early 1966 when Thunderball was playing in the West End, posters for DarlingFour In The Morning, The Plague Of The Zombies and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors all advertised as ‘Coming Soon’, are also rather inaccurate as none of them actually played at the Rialto Coventry Street. However, as Last Night In Soho is a fantasy time-travelling story, one can forgive these lapses in authenticity as artistic licence, and enjoy them in the spirit they are intended. John Schlesinger's Darling had its European premiere at the Plaza cinema, Haymarket on September 16, 1965, and Four In The Morning (starring Judi Dench and featuring a score by John Barry) played at the Cameo-Royal on Charing Cross Road from December 16, 1965. The Plague Of The Zombies was originally released on a double-bill with Dracula Prince Of Darkness in early January 1966 and played exclusively in cinemas on the ABC circuit. The poster seen in Last Night In Soho was from a later standalone release. Similarly Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors had already played in cinemas on the ABC circuit from March 1965.

Thunderball premiere London Pavilion/Rialto - 007 MAGAZINE Thunderball 50th Anniversary special

Thunderball played at the Rialto for a staggering 12 weeks, and was replaced on Thursday March 24, 1966 with the American spy spoof Our Man Flint starring James Coburn, which then screened until Wednesday June 1, 1966. Our Man Flint was then replaced with another spy spoof Modesty Blaise which starred Terence Stamp, who 56 years later would appear in Last Night In Soho! The 684-seat Rialto cinema finally closed on January 9, 1982 - nine months after the London Pavilion had ceased operation.

Purchase 007 MAGAZINE Thunderball 50th Anniversary special here!


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