This show won't change anyone's life, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do, and holds its own against any other detective show. My wife and I only wish there were more than 39 episodes.
Worst of all, if you're going to resurrect a major villain from the books and early movies, and even name the film after his evil organization, why would you then ignore the Fleming version, and artificially, almost arbitrarily, tie him not only to Bond's childhood, but to the villains of the past three films? It's not believable, and twists all four plots into one big personal vendetta against one British agent. This feels like a major miscalculation.
Anyway, always nice to see Barry Atwater, here a few years away from playing the title role in "The Night Stalker". Harry Dean Stanton gets to sing a little and play guitar. And Linda Marsh proves that her career should have been more than TV guest shots.
By the way, the appearance here of the band Peppermint Trolley, who would go on to perform the themes for Brady Bunch and Love American Style, seems a little less historically significant than the first season appearances of Buffalo Springfield and Neil Diamond.
First, there's an intelligent script by Russell Hughes, who wrote for some good radio shows like "Nightbeat" and Alan Ladd's "Box 13", as well as such films as Anthony Mann's "Last Frontier", Delmer Daves' "Jubal", and even the best of the giant-bug movies, "Them".
Then, there's the look and feel of the film. Director Andre De Toth and his great cinematographer Bert Glennon (who had done remarkable work with the likes of Josef von Sternberg and John Ford) light and shoot for realism and emotional impact. Glennon had also shot "Man Behind the Gun" (available on the flip side of this DVD), so I suppose director Felix Feist could be blamed for that film's phony-looking stage sets. Here, in "Thunder... ", a barroom scene looks like it was shot in a real barroom (foreshadowing Clint Eastwood's "natural lighting" technique by decades) and exteriors are shot outdoors. To be fair, the Feist film may have had budget or producer issues, but given that film's potential (dealing with water rights, corrupt politicians, the possible secession of southern California, even the semi-legendary Joaquin Murrietta as a supporting character) it still seems like a typical, entertaining, 40's-style B-movie. "Thunder...", released the same year, 1953, seems more forward-looking, more compelling, more of the age of the "adult" Westerns, even though the literally flag-waving ending with its narrative paean to the great state of Texas kind of pulls us back to B-movie-land.