Saturday, January 06, 2007

The "Taking Up Space" Museum: Thunderball--The Game


One overlooked early Silver-Age comics gem from DC's science fiction line was "Space Museum," an every-third-issue series of stories that ran in Strange Adventures from the late 1950's until the early-mid 60's. Gardner Fox's concept for the series was brilliant in its simplicity: in every tale, a father took his son to the Space Museum, where the son zeroed in on some artifact on display; the father then told the fascinating story behind the object, demonstrating that there's always a story behind the most seemingly innocuous items...

Inspired by Gar Fox, I now kick off my irregular line of tales: The "Taking Up Space" Museum. In each entry, I'll pick some item around my house, and explain why it's here. (Since I'm a pack-rat with 53 years of experience, this could be a looong series...)

Today's item: The Milton Bradley Thunderball game, released in 1965. Thunderball is the James Bond film for me, because it's the first Bond film that I saw in theaters in its initial release. I was familiar with James Bond and the premise of the films, of course, but I had missed Dr. No and From Russia With Love in their initial release, and my parents were a little unsure about Goldfinger, what with a naked gold woman and a character named Pussy Galore. By the time Thunderball was released, though, I was an avid James Bond fan who had never seen a single film, although I knew the storylines and had seen all the crucial moments via trading cards and magazines.

I went to see Thunderball at the DeSoto Theater on Broad Street in Rome, a well-maintained classic-architecture theater complete with a balcony, velvet-covered seats, a full stage for live performances (I saw Bob Brandy and Officer Don there--and while that own't mean anything to anyone who didn't watch Chattanooga and Atlanta television in the early 1960s, it was a big deal for me!), and a sense of opulence that benefited from the low luminescence of theater lighting. I was entranced; the film had excitement, humor, gadgetry, adventure, drama--everything an eleven-almost-twelve-year-old could ask for in a film.

And then, less than a week after seeing the film, I was in Murphy's 5 & 10 Cent Store (where very few things were either five or ten cents by that time) when I saw the Thunderball game. I knew that I had to have it; all the money I had set aside for comic books was rebudgeted for the game, and within two weeks it was mine.

And for months after that, it became almost a ritual for Gary Steele, Phil Patterson, John Ball, and me (rarely as a group, usually in pairs) to play the game almost every day, while the Thunderball soundtrack played in the background. We memorized every possible permutation of gameplay, virtually wearing the game out in the process.

To this day, when I hear a bit of music from Thunderball, I am taken back to my room on 3 Marchmont Drive, where we would spend hours huddled over the gameboard spread out on my floor. And when I see the game, I remember the melodrama of John Barry's score, the excitement of the film, and the many hours of pleasure we derived from this simple boxed game. I suspect that we probably played the game for many more hours than Milton Bradley staffers spent designing it, in fact...

1 comment:

Charles said...

I could almost see those Carmine Infantino hands pointing as you explained. Gardner Fox would be proud.