Lighting Bolt is one of those Eurospy movies that starts off looking really, really low budget (the spy headquarters is designated by nothing more than a sign on a door and a room with a conference table), then surprises viewers halfway through by revealing itself to be a much more lavish production than first imagined. This happens a lot in the genre, I suspect because the filmmakers felt pressure from the Bond movies they were copying to deliver a spectacular finale. No Eurospy finale I’ve seen comes close to the spectacle of Thunderball or You Only Live Twice, but they do often manage to provide some surprisingly big explosions and an opulent villain’s lair. Furthermore, by holding back so much on the first half of the film, it’s all the more surprising when this happens, and it makes the conclusion look even more expensive than it actually is. Lightning Bolt pulls this trick, and in a way that’s too bad, because the second half is so much more enjoyable than the first. If they’d had a little more money, perhaps they could have stretched the budget across the entire picture instead of packing it all in at the end. Oh well. Few directors had Mario Bava’s gift for making ten dollars’ worth of action look like a million, so despite its unimpressive start, Lightning Bolt turns out to be pretty enjoyable.
ADDENDUM: Since this review was written, Lightning Bolt has actually (amazingly) materialized on several DVD releases of dubious legality, but unquestionably the one to get is the most official and best-looking version, a pretty beautiful widescreen transfer included in Code Red's Rareflix Triple Feature Volume 4 box set. And even though it's a box set, it's still cheaper than most single-disc DVD releases. And best of all, the three movies included are each in their own individual cases, so you can easily discard the other two if you don't like them and just hang onto your Eurospy treasure!
SECOND ADDENDUM: And even more surprisingly, Code Red later released it on Blu-ray as well! At quite a reasonable price through DiabolikDVD. It's amazing how the Eurospy availability landscape has changed in the decade plus since I wrote this review!