It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
^ Back to Top
The MI6 Community is unofficial and in no way associated or linked with EON Productions, MGM, Sony Pictures, Activision or Ian Fleming Publications. Any views expressed on this website are of the individual members and do not necessarily reflect those of the Community owners. Any video or images displayed in topics on MI6 Community are embedded by users from third party sites and as such MI6 Community and its owners take no responsibility for this material.
James Bond News • James Bond Articles • James Bond Magazine
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert; Produced by: Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli; Screenplay by: Roald Dahl – loosely adapted from the novel by Ian Fleming (1964); Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Tetsurō Tamba, Mie Hama, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Ronald Rich and Tsai Chin; Certificate: PG; Country: UK/ USA; Running time: 117 minutes; Colour; Released: June 12 1967; Worldwide box-office: $111.6m (inflation adjusted: $756.5m ~ 4/24*)
* denotes worldwide box-office ranking out of all 24 Bond films (inflation adjusted), according to 007james.com
Plot ~ 8/10
Plot-wise and otherwise, You Only Live Twice marks the first time the Bond films go (almost) stratospheric. A US manned space rocket has been literally swallowed by another malevolent spacecraft and the Americans blame the Soviets. The Ruskkies plead innocence and the Brits (as mediator) agree with them, claiming the new spacecraft came down near Japan. In fact, their ‘man in Hong Kong is working on it right now’. In fact, he – Bond, of course – is not; he’s faking his own death to give him more elbow room to investigate the mystery. 007 travels to Tokyo and, via a quickly offed MI6 contact, discovers industrial giant Osato Chemicals is producing rocket fuel, which (thanks to the work of Japanese SIS and its head, the cool ‘Tiger’ Tanaka) he finds out may’ve been dropped off at a volcanic island. Assuming the identity of a local fisherman, he unearths the site of the secret spacecraft launches (it’s since gobbled up a Soviet one too): a hollowed-out volcano. And who’s behind it all? Good old SPECTRE chief Blofeld, who wants to push the US and USSR to war so China can emerge as the new and only world power, for which the latter will reward the white pussycat-stroker handsomely. Overblown, but wonderful nonsense.
Bond ~ 6/10
If Connery didn’t really want to play Bond in Thunderball, two years on in Twice it’s patently obvious he doesn’t. The ’67 Connery has let it go, figuratively and literally – not only has he given in to the on-set of middle-age on his waist line, he also doesn’t work hard in the role. Sure, he’s committed still to the physicality of Bond (he’s just as impressive in the fight scenes as he always was), but he isn’t to the dialogue. And yet, even if his acting and reacting lacks impetus, this is still Connery as Bond; there’s still the confidence and cool, as well as the wryness when he enjoys a funny line. But the bottom line is Connery doesn’t want any more to play a character everybody knows so well. Indeed, in an in-joke even everyone in the Bond universe knows who is by now – his ‘death’ is reported in a newspaper and when he’s ‘shot’ lying in a bed a Hong Kong policeman (as a mid-coital gag) says: “Well, at least he died on the job – he’d have wanted it this way”.
Girls ~ 8/10
Unlike Connery, Twice's Bond Girls definitely wanted to be in the movie – one desperately so, but more of that below. The main girl is Bond’s Japanese SIS aide, Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi). She is, in a word, lovely. Sweet, petite, placid and amenable, yes, she may be rather under-written and subordinate, but who cares? As she’s the movie’s ‘sacrificial lamb’, it’s actually moving when she’s bumped off. Once Bond’s on the island, her replacement is the slightly feistier, slightly more active Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama). She’s top stuff too. There’s also the Fiona Volpe-a-like redhead villainess Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) and the pre-title sequence girl who wants to give Bond ‘best duck’ (Tsai Chin). And the one that wanted desperately to be in the film? That’d be Mie Hama after she was informed she could no longer play Aki (then named Suki) as her English wasn’t good enough; she apparently threatened suicide if a solution couldn’t be found. It was: she and Akiko (whose English was better) saw their roles switched – then, ironically, both were dubbed.
Villains ~ 9/10
If you have a main villain in the background of previous films, who’s only been an in-and-out shadowy presence, but this time you want him to be the big-time baddie, how do you go about it? The answer’s two-fold. First, you get Donald Pleasence, who does eerily evil to a tee, to play him. Second, you keep up the teasing of the audience by peppering the flick with underling villains (Teru Shimada’s Mr Osato and Karin Dor’s Helga Brandt), whose attempts to off Bond are easily rebuffed by our hero, before in the final third you unleash hell – or, in other words, you finally reveal the face of Blofeld. On both counts then (the casting of Pleasence and the late revelation of 007′s true nemesis of four previous movies as a diminutive, bald-headed scarface, whose cultured, relaxed but menacing demeanour really has been worth the wait ever since Dr No said he existed five years – and films – before), the main villain of this movie is a masterstroke.
Action ~ 9/10
Kaboom! Ironically, Lewis Gilbert – the director best known outside of Bond for his excellent tragi-comic dramas Alfie (1966) and Educating Rita (1983) – loved to end his three Bond flicks with a good ol’ giant battle and, as such 007 film finishes go, Twice is a king among princes. The hollowed-out volcano-set battle that concludes this movie is, frankly, what the entire thing works its way up to and it’s an absolute stonker. Nifty ninjas abseiling down into the lair (some boasting wonderful sword skills, others throwing ninja stars and others still operating as dead-shot snipers) up against dozens of SPECTRE minions – oh, what’s not to love? Explosions galore and more intimate hand-to-hand combat too, this is what big Bond action is all about, all right. Yet this arguably isn’t even the best slice of action in the movie, which has to be the air-bound scrap between the gadget-laden gyrocopter Little Nellie and its waspish bigger cousins, which one-by-one and oh-so coolly to the backing of the Bond Theme, the former swats out of the sky. And, let’s not forget, there’s the terrific skirmish too between Bond and the goon in Osato’s office during which they use the furniture to fight each other. It’s like the best visit to Ikea ever.
Humour ~ 8/10
Not all of writer Roald Dahl’s witty gags work (some fall flat owing to poor delivery, such as Bond making no issue of contact Henderson stirring his vodka Martini), but others certainly do – 007′s reaction to Tanaka’s positivity about Japanese SIS’s rocket fags: “It could save your life this cigarette”/ “You sound like a commercial”; Blofeld’s insistence that, with so many screens in his control room, you can watch his ‘war’ unfold “on TV”. Twice is a funny film and much of it’s down to Dahl’s trademark macabre and inventive humour – Blofeld dispatching failed employees via a foot pedal-operated breaking bridge over a piranha pool and Tiger getting rid of goons by picking up their car with a giant magnet suspended below a helicopter and then dropping the car in the sea (“How’s that for Japanese efficiency?”/ “It’s just a drop in the ocean”). The movie’s OTT and it nicely mocks itself for being so (à la 1964′s Goldfinger), like every such Bond film should.
Music ~ 10/10
Approaching the peak of his powers (at least those of his early career), composer John Barry delivers a score for Twice that knocks it out of, yes, the hollowed-out volcano. He takes the cool, urgent, brass-driven action-accompanying sounds of From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger, introduces a full-orchestral, epic sound and weaves in Oriental-inspired, plucked string- and sax-featuring, but elegant stylings to concoct an awesome score that elevates the film, at times, to true greatness (especially when the visuals are the incredible volcano set). In fact, all three of those ingredients to Twice's music blend together perfectly in the ebullient, luscious and brilliant Fight At Kobe Dock/ Helga. Oh, and let’s not forget, there’s the little matter too of the title theme sung by Nancy Sinatra, which is easily one of the best of the series and still a player in pop culture today – it was sampled in Robbie Williams’ chart-topper Millennium (1998) and memorably closed the final scene of this season’s Mad Men.
Locations ~ 10/10
Producers Broccoli and Saltzman decided in the midst of the ‘Bondmania’ phenomenon of the Goldfinger/ Thunderball period they had to go and make a film in Japan asap because the adoration for the screen 007 was perhaps more intense there than anywhere else on earth. But another reason behind their decision must have been the fact that when it comes to Bond film locations, Japan pretty much has it all. On the one hand, there’s the sleek, modern, neon urbanity of Tokyo (which ironically perhaps felt even more cosmopolitan Western in some ways than much of America and the UK at the time – or, at least, it looks that way in Twice), while on the other, there’s the vistas of the paradisiacal volcanic islands where the second half of the film takes place. In a contest measuring what single countries have offered Bond in terms of locales, Japan may be unbeatable. Additionally, the flick takes in Hong Kong in the pre-titles, which is also where Bond’s ‘funeral at sea’ takes place (and for which Gibraltar doubles for a few seconds).
Gadgets ~ 9/10
All hail Wing Commander Ken Wallis, formerly of the RAF, for it weren’t for this mechanically minded trailblazer, the Wallis-WA116 Agile autogyro (aka Little Nellie) wouldn’t exist – for the record, he also flew it in the film. The dinky yellow and white gadget tour de force features rear flame-throwers, front-mounted machine guns, aerial mines and air-to-air heat-seeking missiles. Frankly, with its arsenal, agility and, well, all-round coolness (it also, fictitiously, can be assembled from suitcases – the mind boggles as to how Q got it through customs), the SPECTRE choppers that dare go up against it simply don’t have a chance. Also on the gadgets front, Twice boasts a pocket-sized safe-cracking device, slip-on suction cups for the arms and legs (with which Bond climbs down the inside of the volcano), the aforementioned rocket cigarette and a smart breathing suit in which 007 survives his ‘funeral at sea’ (basically an underwater-like mouth-breather inside a sealed transparent bag, itself inside what seems to be a waterproof mail bag).
Style ~ 10/10
If Goldfinger is the series’ most iconic film, then Twice arguably runs it a close second. Thanks to the combination of Ken Adams’ quite extraordinary volcano set (which cost more than a tenth of the movie’s budget to construct and is unashamedly its piece de resistance) and John Barry’s outstanding score in the movie’s climax, an epic grandeur wafts over the viewer in a way never before experienced watching the series. Add into the mix too the achingly cool mid- to late ’60s look and atmos of a modernist Tokyo, the breathtaking beauty of the Japanese islands and, of course, Donald Pleasence’s Blofeld (there’s a reason why the look of Austin Powers' Dr Evil is utterly lifted from him – he’s an icon) and you’ve got a style quotient that’s almost off the chart.
Despite definitely delivering on the Bond film formula (check out all those eights-, nines- and 10s-out-of-10s above), You Only Live Twice is far from a perfect film. Connery’s performance is low-rent and it has story issues – Roald Dahl’s script is solid and well-paced, but there are plot holes that the sets, gadgets and score have to cover-up. But, boy, do those three aspects step up to the plate. If there’s one thing this film’s all about then it’s spectacle – and it deals that in spades. It surely takes a hard heart not to be entertained by Twice – and more than twice at that.
<font size=4>Overall: 84/100</font>
Best bit and best line: Blofeld’s introduction ~ “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld”
Get the full treatment of my 'Bondathon' reviews here
And the line It’s like the best visit to Ikea ever is something I wish I had thought of.
Great review SG ;-)
Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli had been trying to film On Her Majesty's Secret Service since Goldfinger; it just wasn't to be, for a variety of reasons, such as the locations did not match the novel, (Switzerland was a location for both Goldfinger and Majesty's) and they had the opportunity to film Thunderball with Kevin McClory. In 1966, they chose to film You Only Live Twice, instead.
In 1964 Ian Fleming published You Only Live Twice, full of rich characterizations and a gripping plot, that turns into revenge for 007. It was complete with Fleming's trademark pace and detail. You Only Live Twice has a travelogue feel do it; Fleming had visited Japan when researching You Only Live Twice, and so beguiled was he with the country, he chose to explore the Japanese customs in his book.
Fleming was obsessed with the afterlife and death, and that permeates throughout You Only Live Twice. No wonder; Fleming just had a heart attack. You Only Live Twice is a melancholy, macabre type of novel, and when one combines it with Fleming's prose and style, one has something quite enchanting.
It is a fascinating novel, but Harry and Cubby decided that You Only Live Twice was un-filmable as it was, what with it dealing with the repercussions of Fleming's previous novel, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Thus the producers went the unusual route of discarding Fleming's novel, and coming up with a new, original story. The only things kept from Fleming's source novel, apart from a few characters, is the location, Japan, and the showdown between Bond and Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
To herald in the philosophy, the producers turned to new faces, in the guise of director Lewis Gilbert, and noted novelist, Roald Dahl.
On a scouting trip Cubby, Gilbert, Freddie Young and Ken Adam flew over some volcanoes. So impressed were they by the volcanoes, they decided to hide the villains base inside of one, a prefect example of the story being decided on a collaborative basis. Two further examples being, when a heavies car is picked up by a helicopter, and drops it into Tokyo Bay, courtesy of Dana Broccoli. The second one comes from Adam; he was listening to the radio, when he heard an interview with Wing Commander Ken Wallis, and his amazing autogyro.
Dahl had to get all of these different ideas, and fashion them into a coherent screenplay, quite a tricky thing to do. With so many various concepts floating about, Dahl's screenplay does feel, at times, no wonder, rather bloated.
Ian Fleming once said “take Bond beyond what is probable, but never the possible”, a mantra that Dahl's plot for You Only Live Twice fails at, unfortunately. Alas it's too big, too outlandish, which is a shame, because Dahl and the film-makers almost manage to pull the whole notion off, wonderfully well.
The gadgets and spectacle overwhelm the story; it's too epic for it's own good. The film-makers saw the impacts on gadgets and spectacle on the audience; thus the producers decided to show their imitators, that no-one could be as spectacular as Bond. Perhaps they forgot “less is more”.
In Goldfinger and Thunderball the use of “gimmicks” were just right, a perfect balance, with You Only Live Twice, however, the scales are upset, producing an uneven film.
Still, there is a plethora of strengths in You Only Live Twice, such as Dahl's underrated script, full of his hallmark wryness, invention and macabre storytelling. In fact Dahl and Fleming had been good friends; they used to bounce ideas off each other.
Lewis Gilbert's direction is brisk and stylish, featuring a travelogue of Japanese customs, harking back to Fleming source novel.
Peter Hunt is 2nd unit director on You Only Live Twice, and he does a very good job on the action scenes. Hunt's involvement does not end there; he was an uncredited editor after Thelma Connell, Gilbert's usual editor, put in a film of over three hours, so the producers asked Hunt to trim the film, somewhat.
As cinematographer Freddie Young does an incredible job, his work being rich and beautiful, evoking the exotic nature of the Far East.
One artistic triumph, undoubtedly, is Ken Adam's amazing set design. From Osato's offices, to the hollowed out volcano, Adam's work is a tour de force, creating imaginative, elaborate, hi-tech spaces for the characters to inhabit.
On the musical front John Barry dishes up a haunting, mysterious, exciting piece, producing a winning combination of Oriental influences and his own “Bond sound”, making Barry's soundtrack one of his best.
By 1967 the press were hounding Sean Connery, especially the Japanese press. During production on Thunderball, Connery told the press he was looking forward to stretching his acting chops, after his reign as 007 was over.
The pressure of being 007 became too much for Connery, who liked it to “living in a goldfish bowl”, what with the intense media coverage, and intrusions to his private life. Moreover Connery and the producers were not getting along; Connery threatened to walk off set if Saltzman was there.
During filming of You Only Live Twice, Connery announced he was leaving the role of James Bond, 007.
One can tell that Connery is bored with the role; he doesn't have the same enthusiasm as he once did. It's not a bad performance per say, but when one compares it too, say, From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, it's a sad way to say goodbye to this charismatic and virile man.
As the main villain of the film, Donald Pleasence lacks menace in the role of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the criminal mastermind behind SPECTRE. One of Fleming's strength's is producing worthy opponents for Bond, and giving them a unique back story.
Sadly the film jettisons most of the novel, and we are left with an undernourished Blofeld. In addition in does not seem likely that the film's Blofeld could have risen to the top of his profession. As iconic as Pleasence's Blofeld is, he is not plausible, and that is the genius of Fleming's writing; he makes the outlandish believable, by rooting it into convincing, technical detail. Pleasence's Blofeld is symptomatic of the movie as a whole; too implausible.
Karin Dor plays Helga Brandt who is reminiscent of the superb Fiona Volpe, from Thunderball, but without her spark and panache. In a rather pointless scene, Brandt pretends to be seduced by Bond, only for her to double-cross him; a prime example of the screenplay feeling erratic. Still her death, at the hands of Blofeld, is both gruesome and innovative.
More successful, then, are two of Bond's allies, Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, and Henderson, Bond's local contact. Both are played with genuine charisma by Tetsuro Tamba and Charles Grey, respectively.
As Japanese agents Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama) are both competent, sexy and very charming in their roles; Aki, in particular, is quite delectable.
The problem is their interchangeability; when Aki dies, (a harrowing scene, and a lesson in the economy of drama) Kissy replaces her, and hardly a beat is missed.
If losing their star was not bad enough, Cubby and Harry had to go up against a rival 007 film – Casino Royale, the one novel not to be included in Saltzman's option. Charles K. Feldman, knowing that he could not compete with a “serious” Bond film, decided to make Casino Royale a spoof; a waste of a very fine novel. With five directors, a budget of $12.5 million, even bigger than You Only Live Twice's budget at $9.5 million, and cast of big name stars, including Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles and David Niven, was an utter mess.
There were reasons for Cubby and Harry to be concerned, in that You Only Live Twice would open only a few weeks before Casino Royale; and it showed, with You Only Live Twice box-office takings “only” $111.6 million, about $30 million less than Thunderball. Still You Only Live Twice was an enormous hit, and considering the “spy-craze” had waned, it's even more incredible.
You Only Live Twice is a flawed, yet highly enjoyable film, being exotic and innovative. The first 30 minutes or so, are full of From Russia With Love style intrigue, and Lewis Gilbert has an eye for visually impressive shots; the fight at Kobe Docks is simply stunning, for example. Then one adds in such artistic triumphs, as Freddie Young's cinematography, John Barry's music and Ken Adam's sets, plus a little 60's magic, and one gets an iconic entry into the Bond series.
I suppose you can play the 'mental age of' game with the Bond films. I'd say Dr No and FRWL would appeal to someone ideally in the early 30s, both have a sly, sophisticated humour and lacks (refreshingly) the earnestness of youth. In the first film, Bond is almost a Flashman character at times, you are invited to laugh at him as much as with him, at his scandalous behaviour (seducing Miss Taro then, ahem, getting her banged up), shooting Dent several times, in more or less cold blood.
GF is a brilliant entry level Bond, as it would appeal to any age range. The bonhomie and good humour would appeal to older viewers while the amazing Aston Martin brings in the kids, the really quite erotic stuff for twentysomethings.
But by the time you get to YOLT, well, it's mental age is prepubescent. It is so preposterous. Of course, I loved it as a kid and I can enjoy it in a lazy way today. But really... it's fun to have the title used literally with the 'death' of Bond. But as it is happening behind closed doors, why bother? Of course, the bed going up into the wall leaving Bond 'trapped' is a great touch and with much of the film, the sheer gimmickry and great ideas distract. But why have the bed descend with Bond 'dead' when only those in on the trick get to see it. You may as well close the scene with Bond giving a cheery thumbs up - who would it give the game away to? Unless the 'assassination' attempt was real and MI6 forestalled it, letting the killers think they'd succeeded?
Same with the burial at sea. It's clever, but really why bother? Just have Bond stowaway on the sub and have a dummy dropped into the sea. Of course, it's to tease or fool the audience, I know, but that is all it will do.
And so it goes on. Bond is fired 'in the general direction of the Japanese coast' as writer John Brosnan put it in his amusing James Bond in the Cinema, where he amiably trashes the film's logic. Bond is suspicious of Aki meeting him, not Henderson. Poor Henderson probably didn't want to deliver the password, I love you. Who can blame him? Not exactly inconspicuous is it, but it gets a laugh when Bond says it to Aki and seems to pull immediately: 'I have a car nearby.'
'Oh it's not Japan old boy. And I'm certain it's not Russia. Which only leaves...' well, it's not really a cliffhanger is it, as poor old Henderson dies. Which other country is left, got to be China, surely?
Connery is carried back to Osato's office, not sure why really, is that where the first aid kit is? And, as Brosnan pointed out all those years ago, surely Connery is a bit heavier than the usual Jap, esp in this film as the middle age spread is noticeable. He moaned about filming for six months; surely he could have changed his diet and shed a bit of weight during that time? I find it less forgiveable than in DAF, as he really is a younger man here.
What's the point of Bond insisting on a password from Tiger? Aki gave him the password earlier. So him knowing it doesn't put him in the clear, if she and he are both not what they claim.
Barry is king of course, but some of his music fails to liven things up and the film does get bogged down and laborious, as would every film from GF until Hamilton returned with DAF.
YOLT is still sort of classic, and Connery still has his moments among the lethargy, but it is a film that can never call a spade anything other than a garden instrument, Bond has to be killed by the most complicated, showy method available.
With Thunderball's success, Eon decided that more technology was better and made You Only Live Twice a bit over the top. It's full of great scenery: urban/rural Japan, volcano, evil lair, etc. The war between ninjas vs. Spectre was entertaining too. None of these technological elements make it better or worse than the more grounded films, but it balances serious and silly well. Without a doubt, whether YOLT is a masterpiece or not, it influenced many later films.
Connery, by YOLT, is quite stressed, and it really shows in his dampened performance which keep YOLT from being as good as its predecessors. Being born again was a really interesting concept and, though I'm not sure how relevant it really was to the plot, it was good addition nonetheless. Overall, YOLT is a historical cultural icon, as it uses Britain to mediate between both the United States and the Soviet Union, and not afraid to show the strengths and weaknesses of each. It may be the tipping point where the Bond series starts to get confused and lose its way, but it still has a number of good elements too.
Theme Song: Nancy Sinatra's song is subtle, understated and seductive hypnotic. Definitely great in the right mood.
"Bond Girl": Multiple submissive Asian girls fawn Bond, but none of them have fleshed out personalities and they're all basically just sex objects that make some of the most poorly developed female characters seem deep in comparison.
Villains: Pleasance's Blofeld is my favorite. He's gentle but that makes him all the more disturbing and frightening. And of course, he inspired Dr. Evil from Austin Powers.
One-Liners: "You only live twice, Mr. Bond" - Blofeld
Overall Rating: 6/10 (Good)
ACTOR & CHARACTER ELEMENTS
Bond & Actor Performance
Sean Connery returns to the role of James Bond 007 for the fifth time in EON’s series of films. Some would say Sean did two films too many in his tenure, and even more would note that this point in the series marked the stage at which his increasing disinterest in the fame the character brought him really started showing. I don’t find this to be true, however, and I think the biggest culprit for sparking such a negative response to his part in the film was a script whose ambitions and over the top nature took the story far enough away from Bond as a character to render Connery’s performance as less than grand in the eyes of audiences. The story is so overblown, so out of this world-literally-that it’s easy to lose sense of Bond in the adventure, a factor that made films like Dr. No and From Russia with Love classics. The best moments come when it’s Bond up against it with little to help him other than his refined skills and brain. In the same token, Sean Connery is best as Bond when the focus of the movie is on him as that character facing a cavalcade of villains, with nothing but his PPK and wits about him to face it all. In You Only Live Twice the larger plot is serviced with heightened emphasis to make SPECTRE seem like a greater threat, and as a consequence we lose focus of Bond within the mission and what his journey is, only growing more and more overlooked or underserved as the film progresses.
At this point, Connery also began to not look or feel as much the part as he did just two years previously in 1965’s Thunderball. The best word I could use to describe Sean here would have to be “pudgy.” His lack of fitness is visible in his frame, which had ballooned enough to make his suits fit awkwardly at times, ultimately hurting his impact as a stylish spy and a capable looking man of action.
There is a lot to like from Bond and Sean by association in You Only Live Twice, however, which I’ll get into a little bit here.
The pre-titles sequence offers us some interesting insights into who Bond is as a man, how he views his job and what he appreciates. While Bond is lying with Ling, he inquires about why Chinese women taste different from other girls, pointing out that it’s not a bad thing and that he appreciates all flavors, as he does the foods of many cultures, naming Peking duck and caviar are mere examples. I like how Bond compares women to coveted foods here, showing his love of not just fine flesh but also the meals of cultural epicenters.
When Bond “dies” while being shot from the bed, the Hong Kong police have this dialogue:
“Well, at least he died on the job.”
“He’d have wanted it this way.”
This tells us a lot about Bond from the men who no doubt knew enough about him through their work together in the past while the spy was in Hong Kong on MI6 business. Their reactions to his “death” characterize Bond as a true man of travel and adventure who lives only to be on the trail of the next thrill in whatever way it comes. Like Andrew Jackson, he was born for a storm and a calm does not suit him. In addition, his commitment to duty and the mission tells us he would go to any length to see its completion through, even if it meant his demise.
I can only image how jarring it must have been to witness the “death” of Bond in the theaters of 1967. The premise is an interesting one, though it’s largely underserved in the film and doesn’t seem necessary to the story as it unfolds, never really being mentioned again after the opening. It’s fascinating to watch Bond’s colleagues give him a funeral service at sea and read him a bit of poetry in memoriam, just as it’s also unbelievably cool to see Bond in his naval uniform and see the respect his fellow seamen have for him.
Once the film takes us to Japan we get the best of Bond that this film has to offer as we see the culture of 007’s Britain clash with that of the oriental land of Japan. As Bond strives to make contact with his Japanese associate amongst the audience of the wrestling ring, Bond seems more than a little out of sorts culturally while watching the sumo wrestlers go at it. He’s clapping his hands to follow everyone else's lead, and doesn’t look sure about why he’s doing it in the first place. His reaction to the wrestling is also interesting: there’s no ceremony to the fights in Britain, they just get on with it, so the pomp is strange to witness for him. The sumo wrestlers do a dance before they face off, kind of like the dance Bond and his villains make before they have a final, fatal face-off. Maybe he at least appreciates this aspect of the proceedings?
The prowling panther that Bond is during Dr. No returns for a moment in You Only Live Twice as he sticks up Dikko Henderson, unsure of the man’s allegiances. It’s amusing that in slaying Dikko’s killer, Bond takes up the appearance of a noir detective, which is how I’d best describe the character in Terence Young’s films. Bond proves himself in the Osato Chemicals fight with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson’s grandfather, and it’s immaculate to watch him stuff the body into the drinking cabinet while pouring himself some liquid courage afterward to take the edge off, catching his breath before he sips. A nice touch is how he condemns the taste and blend of the Siamese vodka; like the late Mr. Henderson, he can’t ever go fully Japanese to appreciate all its wonders, as his British sensibilities and tastes are too engrained in his makeup. Later on, the half detective half spy James Bond returns briefly to help Tiger Tanaka uncover the meaning of the “lox” on the naval order that he pilfered from Osato’s safe.
One of the best moments of the movie comes when Tiger Tanaka invites Bond to his home for some relaxation. The scene underscores the Japanese custom of, “What’s mine is yours,” and offers a perfect stage for Bond and Tanaka’s competing cultures to clash upon. The views of the Japanese-“men first, women second”-are jarring for the social milieu of today, but this tinge of sexism perfectly underscores the times and draws a line between the lives that both of the spies live and the divide between the east and west, even then. As Bond and Tanaka relax in the water we also discover that 007 is already sure SPECTRE is once again involved in the big scheme of the film. As in Thunderball, he is unable to be deceived by the organization, no matter how hard they try to hide.
Even stronger than the previous scene is the one that follows as Bond finds his way into Osato Chemicals under the guise of a Mr. Fisher, a fellow industry managerial director. There’s some nice subtle notes in Sean’s performance here as Bond enters the room where he recently battled for his life-and did some property damage-and finds that everything has been repaired, as if the bout didn’t even happen. There’s something uncomfortable and eerie about this, a nice visual metaphor representing how quick SPECTRE is to get back up over an upset or sign of trouble. Bond is understandably on edge after witnessing this, and there’s a great moment where he urges Helga Brandt not to get him a drink in the office for fear that the body he hid away in the cabinet will be discovered. The fact that the body is gone is a good sign he may be compromised. There’s a nice unconscious face-off between Bond and Osato that unfolds as the former tries to bullshit his way through the “interview,” while the latter uncovers the PPK holstered to the agent’s side. Just as the scene early on made us think that Brandt was going to find the body Bond hid before it was revealed to be not what we thought, when Osato comments on Bond taking a big risk he acts like he’s referring to 007’s smoking habit to avoid showing his hand, when we the audience know he is commenting on Bond walking into his offices strapped with a gun. The cherry on top of the cake is when Brandt mentions the importance of having a healthy chest, which draws Bond’s eyes to her bust.
One of my favorite moments in the series comes when Bond wakes up aboard the Ning-Po in Brandt’s quarters after being knocked out at the docks. Brandt looks triumphantly at Bond and says, “I’ve got you now,” to which he replies, “Well, enjoy yourself,” earning a slap for his efforts. It’s a great return of the Connery Bond I know and love, completely irreverent in the face of possible death and bragging about his own capture at the hands of the henchwoman.
Overall, it’s clear that by this point in the series Sean was beyond his prime in look and feeling as James Bond. He doesn’t have the same draw or appeal as he did in the previous films, nor is he given much opportunity to replicate past glories. More than anything, however, it’s a shame to see the focus of the movie shift away from the character of Bond in favor of building up a plot that isn’t exactly mind-blowing or interesting anyway. It feels like an unwarranted sacrifice, and with no big payoff to the plot on offer, Bond is ultimately wasted for no purpose at all.
Bond Girl/s & Performance
Aki- In a film where the “Bond girls” do little and amount to little, Aki does impress for however brief a time she appears. She saves Bond’s tail a series of times and proves herself to be a capable agent working alongside him. The sexual connection between her and Bond is more than a little manufactured, however, and comes off as odd in the film when the filmmakers take no time to develop the dynamic between her and 007 properly.
The scene of Aki’s death is brilliant in idea, with a SPECTRE ninja sneaking into her domicile in an attempt to get at Bond and her being the accidental victim. Watching the poisonous liquid squirm down the string is an unnerving image for some reason. You can see the sadness in Bond as he finds Aki and sees how prudent it is for him to storm the volcano post-haste. It's just hard to repress the feeling that Aki as a character deserved so much more to do in the movie, and her actress Akiko Wakabayashi deserved far more to play with as a talent.
Kissy Suzuki- Speaking of Bond girls that do nothing, here we have Ms. Kissy Suzuki. This is one that’s never done it for me, really. Mie Hama is undoubtedly beautiful in the movie (and certainly doesn't have the “face of a pig”), especially in her white bikini, even when it’s clear the only reason she’s wearing that was so EON could arouse heterosexual male viewers of the day. Besides being good to look at, there’s not much to Kissy. We know she’s an Ama diving girl from the fisherman’s village, and…and…see what I mean? I can get behind the whole “ordinary girl caught in a situation bigger than her” deal, but there’s no substance to make Kissy a worthy character. Honey, Tatiana and Domino all had the feeling of being ordinary women caught in the crossfire of big threats, but they each had something about them that made them feel multi-dimensional. Kissy is a sweet girl, but there’s nothing about her that makes you remember her after the movie ends.
There’s fun moments in the movie, like when Bond pushes a plate of clams away from him when Kissy refuses to have sex, making the aphrodisiacs useless. These moments are few and far between, however, and there’s no reason at all why Kissy would storm the volcano with Bond, at all. She doesn't really appear to have any experience with guns or combat of any kind, so her placement in the finale is beyond bizarre, one of the many things that don’t add up in the second half of the movie.
All this makes me wish Aki was kept as the main Bond girl of the film while Kissy was binned completely as a character, since she offers so little to the film beyond her exterior. Aki’s presence in the preparations to raid the volcano would have actually made sense, considering her training and skill sets as an operative, not to mention that her boss is Tanaka, who would call on her services when the moment to strike came. With the second half of the film open to her character, Aki could have been fleshed out even more to become a Bond girl that is truly extraordinary and fully formed like all the other Connery Bond girls of the past maybe sans Honey, who just falls short of that line. One of the many missed opportunities of this film, for certain.
Bond Henchman & Performance
Helga Brandt- The woman that by far makes the most impression in this movie, for how little that time lasts, is Helga Brandt. While she feels like Fiona Volpe Lite in comparison to the superior Ms. Paluzzi from the last film, her character is fascinating as a high-ranking member of SPECTRE. Her scene with Bond where he talks back to her and she gives him a slap in return is great, and Dor and Connery have strong chemistry as they continue their mating ritual. It’s interesting that like Bond, Brandt sleeps with him for the kicks, fully planning on killing him as she ditches him in the plane.
When we next see her she’s answering for her failures in front of Blofeld, who she has a visible fear of. When Blofeld leaves the main control room of the volcano lair at one point all the agents but Helga bow to him as she stands there almost stalled out of fear. For being No. 11 in SPECTRE she certainly doesn’t have much control over herself around her boss and the loyalty she carries for him is built far more out of fear than anything else.
All these little bits and pieces of moments make Brandt an interesting, if underserved, character. We don’t get much more from her before the piranhas munch on her, which is a shame. Like Aki, she deserved way more time to develop as a character, and part of why she only feels like Fiona Volpe Lite is because she lacks the screen time that character had to build up the relationship she had with Bond to make their conflicts worthwhile. We got to see Fiona’s part in the SPECTRE plot, witnessed her increasing interactions with Bond build to an explosive climax, got a window into their intimate moments-even in the bedroom-and were treated to an interesting final face-off between the two which is one of the many reasons Thunderball is a classic. With Brandt and Bond in You Only Live Twice, however, we get none of that as the fast-forward button is pressed on anything interesting that could have developed between them all to set-up a Blofeld reveal that under-delivers.
Mr. Osato- Though he’s not a major character in the action, Mr. Osato has some interesting moments in the film. I like how quickly he catches on to Bond’s game when the man comes to his offices, and spots his holstered PPK while trying not to let on all he knows about 007. It’s also amusing that his workers all act like they’re doing their jobs once Bond comes around even when they’re really just randomly typing keys and simultaneously spying on him as the interview unfolds.
Through Osato we also see the fear Blofeld commands. He’s terrified his failures will end up causing his death, and is petrified when faced with the leader of SPECTRE because of this. We know Osato is providing Blofeld with the supplies he needs to launch his rockets, but how deep is his involvement? Unlike Brandt he isn’t a high-ranking SPECTRE agent, only an associate, so you have to wonder what he’s getting out of the deal beyond the United States and Russian powers at odds, a result that wouldn’t seem to help him in any tangible way.
His death is a pattern: failure in SPECTRE is seen as an affront to Blofeld and it’s met with a bullet.
Bond Villain/s & Performance
Blofeld- The biggie. After years and many films to build up his legend, Blofeld finally appears from behind the veil in You Only Live Twice. We get a sense of sadism about him, especially considering how proud he is of his piranha pond and how keen he is to feed people to them. It’s also great to get a scene with him where he’s actively extorting money from his associates, true to one piece of SPECTRE’s famous acronym.
Donald Pleasence appears as SPECTRE’s No.1, an actor whose stature was a far cry from the physical appearance we’d come to attribute to Blofeld while he was being played by the tall and lean Anthony Dawson of Dr. No fame. But one thing we have to get used to in this series is just how metamorphic Blofeld has to be viewed as a character to explain all the rubbish re-castings his character goes through.
Blofeld has some discomforting moments in this film that impress, though the positives are short in number. Pleasence puts on a very strange voice, creepy in tone and fitting for the sick mind who had dreamed up all the plans of the previous movies. It is incredibly jarring to hear this kind of voice from the man, however, when we had gotten so used to Eric Pohlmann’s booming and commanding tone by this point in the series. Pohlmann presented a credible force of evil, and with Dawson’s physique you believed that if Blofeld had to, he could take up arms and finish Bond off himself. While Pleasence certainly has a screen presence-he wouldn’t be the iconic screen actor he’s celebrated as without it-I can’t say he was right for this role, at least with how Blofeld had been set up to us by this point in the series.
But with You Only Live Twice many things don’t add up, and the production of the film and the mishaps in casting that have plagued Bond before arose again while filming was underway. Originally the Czech actor Jan Werich was cast as Blofeld, and he had shot all his major scenes as the character with Sean as Bond before director Lewis Gilbert decided the man was wrong for the role, too “benign,” causing Pleasence to be jammed in last minute to fill the massive gap left by Werich’s departure. Sean had already finished filming his reactions to Blofeld in the control room as played by Werich by the time Pleasence was even a thought in Gilbert’s mind, which meant that when Pleasence was put in make-up and placed on set many of his lines were delivered straight to a camera and not to Connery himself. It really hurts the impact of a hero and villain’s first meeting and initial dialogues when you know the actors weren’t even on the set at the same time as it was all filmed. It doesn’t help that this lead-up to Blofeld and Bond’s first face-to-face meeting isn’t terribly exciting to begin with, but that’s just one of the problems this film provides fans with.
The truth is that it would have been very hard for EON to deliver a truly exceptional Blofeld after hyping him up so much in previous, far superior films. By this point in the series Bond was having an identity crisis and the films were no longer what they once were, and that is part of why You Only Live Twice feels underwhelming. M comments to Bond during his briefing that this is “the big one,” but it certainly doesn’t feel like it, nor does it feel like a worthy result to all the lead-up that’d teased Blofeld’s coming out of the shadows. Bond and Blofeld’s first meeting should have been explosive and dizzying, showing the prowess of both men as they did the dance of death together, preferably with an actor in the role who actually looked like Dawson’s version of the character with a Pohlmann-like tone to his voice. The story should have made a point to include more meat for Blofeld and Bond as characters in the narrative, more opportunities for them to butt heads after so many years of sabotaging each other from afar. But instead, their initial meeting is written as a very milquetoast control room repartee. Furthermore, the Bond and Blofeld interactions we do get usually result in the villain holding a gun directly at Bond’s face, with Bond doing nothing about this fact, literally just standing there, waiting to be shot. There’s a real sense of melodrama-or no drama, really-to everything we see, and as a fan of early Connery where the promise of a proper Blofeld and his first meeting in the flesh with 007 was exciting to imagine, it almost physically pains me to watch it all unfold. It’s impossible not to be disappointed with what little You Only Live Twice serves up in this regard.
Maybe You Only Live Twice and the character of Blofeld in association represents evidence of an idea greater than the James Bond film series or the villainous figure himself by being a perfect example of a literal interpretation of “the banality of evil.” After so much lead-up to this character in previous adventures, there was little hope that our expectations for a fierce, satisfying and interesting villain would be met or surpassed. But the truth, as sad as it is to admit, is that Blofeld is a rather poor villain when dragged out from the shadows. He’s at his best acting behind the veil, tinkering away as a mythic figure of mystery without a face and with only that name to call him by, his head always turned away from us, the audience. When you tear away that veil, when you give him a face and put him mano a mano with Bond, it feels like something has been lost in the doing. Maybe it’s the mystery, the suspense, the myth; whatever it is, it’s gone and once it’s shattered you can’t rebuild it.
Maybe I’m being a tad dramatic here, but I think my feelings match those of many Bond fans. You Only Live Twice was a film that had to be gotten right, and while there are some great qualities to it, like most of the first hour, the second hour and its handling of Blofeld aren’t one of them and it serves to deflate the myth of SPECTRE and its leader far too effectively. Pleasence was in it for the pay check (can’t blame him), the production was pressed for time after Werich was let go and Connery had already gone through the motions with that Blofeld before Pleasence had even landed on set. It wasn’t meant to go smoothly, nor could it have. It's just a shame that EON's first big failure in the franchise had to come at their most demanding hour, ending with them passed out miles from the finish line.
Supporting Cast Performances
M- Apart from showing up to tell the audience that the plot of You Only Live Twice was “the big one,” Bernard Lee doesn’t get much to do this time around, which is a shame. This does however fit the pattern of a film that strives to do nothing much with its minor players. M even seems quite indifferent to everything in this movie, barely realizing Bond was there in his office at the start, but I guess I’ll chalk that up to him being overwhelmed by the consequences posed by the failure of MI6 in this particular operation, driving him to be more than a little distracted by it all.
It would have been interesting to see M in the field with Bond in Japan working the mission with him in some capacity greater than from behind his office desk to underscore the threat of SPECTRE this time around and to make the organization's scheme feel too hot to handle. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Moneypenny- For a film that often disappoints in some big ways, the Bond and Moneypenny scene in this film is one of my favorites. As Bond exits M’s office he hilariously shines Moneypenny’s desk lamp on her like he’s playing bad cop and interrogating her in a padded cell, which always gives me a laugh. The best moment comes when Moneypenny says the code word aloud that Bond will be using in Japan, egging him on to say it back to her. To finish off the scene we get a nice little hint of Bond’s language studies and his proficiency in oriental tongues (that sounds weird) to set up his ability to speak with his contacts while in Japan.
Q- For two films in a row poor Q is ordered away from his workshop by Bond and, as in Thunderball, he isn’t happy about it. Q is one of the shining elements of this film, and I love that Bond refers to him as the father of Little Nellie, a nice touch. We get to see the gadget man more than a little perturbed and frustrated with Tanaka and his crew, who deride his work and Nellie as a “toy.” Q is used to hearing these kinds of rude aspersions from Bond, but sometimes a man has his fill when he’s got to get it from others too. It’s great to watch him react to this sideline commentary going on about his creations, because it’s clear that Q feels he now has something to prove to Tanaka by making sure Nellie is in fine working order. What’s missing is a shot where Q quite arrogantly sends a look of smug satisfaction Tanaka’s way as a visual expression of, “I told you so,” but that’s not really his style, is it?
In the Q scene we also get a hint of a history between Bond and Nellie, finding out in dialogue that they’ve worked together on other missions, which I enjoy. It gets your imagination firing to wonder just what scrapes Bond has gotten himself out of thanks to the gyrocopter.
In a weird twist, it’s Tiger Tanaka who gives Bond all his necessary gadgets for most of the film, a cruel bit of outsourcing that I don’t think Q would be proud of. If the alternative was staying in Japan even longer, however, I don’t think he’d mind missing out on gadget duties this time around. His workshop is calling him and tinker away he must...
Tiger Tanaka- While Tiger Tanaka fails to reach the heights of the best Bond allies, he does the job and has some memorable moments.
It is really engrossing and interesting to get a window into how Tiger runs his spy operations in Japan as we learn about the secret subway line he uses to transport himself throughout the country unnoticed. In a nice blink-and-you-miss-it moment Bond assures Tiger that M has a similar se-up back in England, all in an effort not to make his boss seem like he’s embarrassingly lagging behind in regards to resources or cunning as a spy chief. These scenes of Bond and Tiger exploring secret parts of Japan were reminiscent to me of From Russia with Love and how we got to see how Kerim navigated Turkey, as well as how his spying was directed there. It’s intriguing to get a look at how espionage differs in practice and principle from location to location around the globe, and how spy officers find clever ways to manage, counteract or work around the unique challenges of each city or nation to do their jobs, as Tiger does here.
There’s a great respect evident between Bond and Tiger that forms quite quickly, largely because each is accepting of the other's cultures and there’s no attempts mounted by one to deflate the traditions of the other. Tiger is visibly impressed and proud to see that Bond knows the right degree of temperature at which sake is best served-to the decimal point-proving him to be a cultured man despite the stuffy stereotypes the British or Europeans in general seem to carry in Tanaka’s mind. Tiger later returns the courtesy of Bond's respect and knowledge of Japanese customs by rewarding him with his favorite martini. Not bad, not bad.
Some of the most interesting aspects of this film emote from the culture clashes that Bond and Tiger experience as their perceptions of how life should be led meet at a crossroads. To see Bond live a Japanese life for a while is new and fascinating, even if the film eventually takes this too far as he goes “full Japanese.” *Shivers*
It’s also great to see Tiger in the thick of battle with Bond, saving his life and the lives of others to fight back against SPECTRE inside the hollowed out volcano. In a great departure from the Connery era, he’s also the only main side ally outside of Felix who doesn’t bite it by the end of the movie.
Dikko Henderson- Surprisingly, I found myself really taking to old Dikko in my revisit of this movie, finding him to be a rather crucial character who is representative of what it looks like when a man from another nation tries to fit into one that is vastly different from all he's ever known. Like no other character in the movie, Dikko holds massive value for the rich culture clash he represents. As he tells Bond when they first meet, he has never been able to go full Japanese in his sensibilities even while making his base of operations there, always preferring to have some objects from his native England lying around to remind him of his home while he’s away from it.
Like Bond, Dikko was definitely overwhelmed by the foreign nature of his environment at first, but over time he has learned to let Japan's milieu bleed into his personality and overall sense of character, ultimately creating an interesting mixture inside the soul of the expatriate. He is still half local, half tourist, even after spending nearly thirty years of his life there. Bond on the other hand is far too quintessentially British and finds adaptation a far greater mission to realize than Dikko, as the values of Britannia are too much a part of him now. Furthermore, his job demands of him to always be on the move-never settled to one location for long-with only enough time in the field in each adventure to try a few local dishes and taste a few of the regional women before he's rushed off elsewhere. But the biggest reason the expatriate life of Dikko doesn't suit him is because he already has a home. Bond may be a world traveler, but his home, his core unit, his work, his base, his everything is in Britain, and no matter how far he journeys he's always brought back to London in one form or another. It's his Japan, and as with Dikko and the oriental land, it always holds its everlasting mysteries.
A nice character detail for Dikko is how he messes up Bond’s drink of choice, but 007 says nothing about it, wanting to be polite. We also learn about Dikko’s loss of his right leg that he experienced in Singapore while fighting in the South-East Asian theatre during World War II. I like to imagine that while he was recovering from his injury Dikko found his way to Japan, fell in love with the place and never left, but that’s just me. He even said it’s taken him all of his 28 years there just to get to know the place, which is a testament to Japan’s rich surroundings.
Dikko’s eventual death is uncomfortable and shocking (maybe because we’d just met the man) as the reaper comes for him mid-speech. It’s a shame he exits the film so soon, because he was an interesting character and it would have been satisfying to see more from him. Of course this is a common criticism I have with much of the film's cast of figures.
Gun Barrel Sequence-
A fine sequence. Barry’s music really kicks in as a black and white gun barrel design returns after Thunderball’s full color one just a film back. Sean takes his shot and the circle is caked in red, remaining that color even as the circle moves to the left of the screen, then goes white as it moves to the center and rises, revealing to us the American shuttle floating in space. A great design with strong visual movement and a nice lead-in to the space action about to unfold.
While the space special effects aren’t up to snuff in today’s cinematic milieu, this pre-title sequence does manage-for me- to be a menacing, creepy experience. Watching the SPECTRE shuttle open its “jaws” to swallow the American space craft is bizarre yet unsettling, even more so as the astronaut’s line is cut and they are sent helplessly into space to decompose amongst the space matter orbiting earth. The sequence makes for a disconcerting series of images that feel otherworldly and frightening at the same time, thanks in part to Barry’s score that gives it all an added sense of nasty atmosphere as the scene carries out in the actual atmosphere.
The beautiful shots of the snow that lead in to the meeting with the British, American and Russian powers is wondrous, and the discussion the world powers have is tense and sets up the later threat of another SPECTRE manipulation as a high-risk danger, as we can already see how easily the Americans and Russians could be sent into a row with each other. The scene ends with a great set-up to where Bond is at during that moment in time while the peacetime with the nations crumbles.
I’ve said in my character analysis how much I like the scene with Bond and Ling because of what we learn about him, his tastes and how he’d want to go out on the job, and it remains jarring to see the image of a bleeding and “dead” Connery Bond in bed, considering he is by far the most resourceful, capable and skilled take on the character we’ve had. All of these considered factors then make it shocking to think he may have finally been bested after all the craziness he's already survived. It also well sets up Bond’s “second life” as he faces SPECTRE’s latest threat.
It’s easy to see why Freddie Young was such an acclaimed cinematographer in his career of choice. The magic he created in Lawrence of Arabia just five years prior is seen in You Only Live Twice as he brings Japan alive.
Everything about the location shooting in the film is beautiful, and we are given a great window into what Japan was like at that time. The bright, dazzling strings of lights in Tokyo flash advertisements on the populace, the green hills and deep blue oceans of the oriental coasts captivate, the wide and monolithic volcanoes feel imposing and the rustic fishing villages are a feast for the eyes.
We get to see so many facets of Japan here, from the bustling cities, the loud, crowded docks and the chaotic and exciting ninja schools to the wide-open countryside and the wondrous coasts. The film feels like a travelogue in the style of Terence Young’s Bond films that truly transports you to Japan and all it has to offer. The location shooting and the places the team chose to show off are without a doubt one of the film’s strongest aspects, if not the strongest of all. It’s a point of pride in You Only Live Twice’s favor that this film is the Japanese Bond film, full stop, and one of the greatest films shot by a crew in the location for all that it gives us in atmosphere and visuals. It brings everything to life.
A Bond film already has a massive head start on some of the other movies that emphasize globe-trotting (like the Craig films, for example) when it strives to stage its action in one major location where the majority of the film will take place. In today’s modern movie climate it’s difficult to get a Bond film like those of the 60s again because there’s always an ingrained obsession with producers and studios to go farther and put more on the screen for audiences to take in, which usually means more locations, more overblown action and more…everything. But sometimes the secret formula to a good film, and especially a good Bond film, is when its story dares to unfold in one location, sans the globe-trotting. One of the reasons why films like Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball are slam-dunks and truly classic is because they are films that pick one location to be the center of attention and object of our eyes' desires. In addition, these films are actually shot where the script tells us Bond is, with minimal shooting elsewhere in places that just look like Jamaica, Istanbul or the Bahamas, which is a modern filmmaking practice. These films strive to make the particular location (singular) a character all its own, and show off the culture of the place with great emphasis and beauty to create a unique atmosphere and visual travelogue of the location because the script allows us to get to know the setting better.
For all its faults You Only Live Twice has that essence that’s been abandoned for so long in this series, and nowadays we not only get minimal time in the locations Bond travels to, but worse yet sometimes what we think is Shanghai, or Bolivia or Prague is really just some random street in the United Kingdom that was quicker or easier to shoot at. With these early Bond films the emphasis wasn’t on lying to audiences or buttering them up with visual trickery to make them believe what they were seeing were real locations from the cities or nations we’re told Bond is traveling around. Instead we knew the location shooting was the real deal, and it was one of the defining aspects of the films that what you saw was what you got the vast majority of the time. Not everything could be done on location, but everything that could be done, the team would do it. Bond has lost that ideal, and I’d love to see it come back, delivered in the way films like You Only Live Twice did so exceptionally.
Although You Only Live Twice can be over the top in many respects, it surprisingly has a rather minuscule amount of gadgets, and what we do have isn’t overblown or too wild to take. The mini-rocket cigarette Tanaka gives Bond is the most outlandish of the lot, but it never feels that way, and is used in a pivotal moment for Bond to escape Blofeld’s control room. In a funny parallel, Bond once again escapes certain death by asking for a cigarette just as he did when he fooled Grant with the request in From Russia with Love.
Beyond the rocket cigarette and the usual cache of weapons Bond uses, including his trusty PPK, we also get to see him handle some ninja weaponry, including a shuriken star. It’s thrilling to see Bond in Japan, utilizing the ancient weaponry that the ninjas would’ve employed while fighting as mercenary-like figures in civil wars all over the oriental lands in a time centuries removed from his own. It’s also interesting to note that though ninjas saw their birth under the oppression they received from government forces and elite samurai, here the ninjas are used by Tanaka and the Japanese nation to stop SPECTRE on behalf of the world establishments, something a few of their ancestors may have viewed as shameful. Of course, the ninja were just old-style hitmen for hire, so they probably wouldn't hold any ill will towards their contemporaries, especially when they are acting to save the world.
The prime piece of gadgetry in You Only Live that still remains an iconic image in the franchise, however, has to be the Little Nellie autogyro, which Bond uses to smoke some SPECTRE pursuers while taking a closer look at the island photographed near the Ning-Po.
When it comes to Bond, and especially 60s Bond, I always like to make the point that these production teams were just the best of their class, and in You Only Live Twice this is no different. The team must have wanted to freshen up their action sequences to give Bond some action in the air after several films of him on ground or in the sea, which drove them to hire ex-RAF pilot and autogyro genius Ken Wallis to provide them with the goods necessary for shooting such feats. Wallis was a highly skilled pilot and bomber commander during the second World War, and after his war service he stumbled onto autogyros and began tinkering with them during the period of the 50s. Soon after his love affair with the contraptions sparked, he took to designing and building his own crafts as a passion.
The Little Nellie used in the film was a WA-116 craft that was first developed in 1962. A true thing of genius, it weighted less than 250 pounds but was capable of daring aerodynamic feats like those we see in the film and had a max altitude of about 13,000 feet. Even if the craft experienced engine failure in flight, the design-with an emphasis on the rotors being powered by the motion of the propellers behind the pilot’s seat-made it so that the craft’s rotors would keep it spinning until it reached a safe landing back on the ground. It’s a genius piece of aircraft that performed as advertised. There was no need for movie magic here to trick audiences into suspending their disbelief-the autogyro was fully operational and what you see is what you get.
While the autogyro sequence has never really grabbed me-maybe it’s the shoddy and heavy use of rear projections that weren’t necessary inclusions-the innovation and talent of Wallis and his crew, who filmed the entire battle sequence for real, has to be respected. It’s these kinds of done for real stunts that put Bond into a class all his own. In a crazy production mishap, an updraft occurred while the second-unit were shooting the copter chase over the coast, causing the rotors of one craft to collide with the landing skids of another copter that had the cameraman Johnny Jordan on board. Jordan’s foot was caught in the accidental chopping, injuring him badly and nearly cutting off his limb. The team were able to get Jordan to a surgeon, but later on he decided to have his leg amputated months after because of the immense pain the wound gave him. He didn't seem set back by any of it, however, as the man continued his work as an aerial cameraman following the accident and went on to perform even crazier stunt shooting for the ski chases of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
In a rather unfortunate end for one of the Bond team's greatest stunt cameramen, during the filming of Catch 22 just following his last Bond picture, Jordan refused to wear a safety harness while getting his action shots for one of the aerial sequences in the movie. With nothing holding him in place while riding and shooting in the tail turret of a B25 Mitchell Bomber and his prosthetic limb from his old injury not aiding him in getting proper footing, he fell out of the craft and landed to his death after a 4,000 feet free-fall. A sad end to one of the most daring cameramen in film history who was willing to take any risks for his craft.
As for Wallis, the craft known as Little Nellie remained a fully operational part of his collection of self-built autogyros after filming wrapped, and by the time he passed away in 2013 he had set every record on the books for autogyro flights. The Bond team really knew how to pick them.
The action of You Only Live Twice deserves its honorary place in the Bond series, as much of it truly is exceptionally clever and, for the time, highly ambitious.
We get hints of Young Bond in the rough and tumble fight 007 and Osato’s beefy henchman share in his offices. It’s messy with no finesse to it, which makes it feel all the more real, just like the Bond and Grant bout in From Russia with Love. Bond uses his environment to leverage the odds in his favor, including prized Japanese artifacts (shame on you, 007). It’s a fight that I actually wince while watching. Maybe it’s how the editors punched up the audio to make the hits feel right beside you, or the way the doubles really threw each other around at moments that had to cause them bruising, but it is highly effective and makes it truly feel “real” and dangerous. Once Bond flattens out his foe I love the way he hides the body, then sips some vodka to celebrate and rebuild his constitution.
The car chases we get are equally exciting, with some great moments of Bond and Aki tearing through Japan and the more rural parts of the country to shake off SPECTRE pursuers. Some malign the magnetic helicopter, but I love it.
The dock fight is also thrilling, and one of my favorite pieces of action in the whole franchise. It’s a devilishly clever sequence that is shot with a real cinematic eye. As SPECTRE agents surround Bond on all sides with various makeshift weapons and tools, he shoots his way past the ranks and secures Aki’s escape. Then he mounts a conveyor belt shedding the numbers of the pursuers as he goes, and battles a sea of more enemies in a fantastic far-off tracking shot along the rooftops beside the docks. The fighting choreography isn’t perfect here, as some hits feel as artificial as they are, but the momentum of the sequence and how cool it is to see Sean there fighting off the most enemies he ever faces mano a mano in his time as Bond is truly thrilling. His escape-or so he thinks-by jumping onto cushioning on two floors of the building to reach ground level is an amazing feat to watch, and perfectly choreographed. As soon as the stuntman leaps off the final cushion, Sean pops right into the frame, making you think it was him doing all of it. Exhilarating.
And of course the hallmark of the film and the sequence that started a tradition in Bond of elaborate battles staged on big sets between two massive opposing forces is none of than the volcano raid and battle with Bond and the ninjas versus Blofeld and his SPECTRE agents. The amazing technical nature of this sequence cannot be overstated. To be able to look at the massive space Ken Adam created and appreciate it as a consumer of cinema and production design genius is one thing, but to then be treated to an insanely ambitious battle that takes place inside it is just another entirely. I get a giddy feeling in my toes every time I watch Tanaka and his ninjas rope down from the ceiling of the set to the ground floor, taking out enemies as they go. It’s unbelievable that what we are seeing is real, and that it was all choreographed so meticulously with untold numbers of swarming extras and stunt performers. Not everything about it is perfect, with instances of hilariously bad deaths and the use of repeat action footage abounding, but for its time and with just the tools the team had on hand to utilize it all, it’s a stunning sequence that deserves its place in Bond history. There’s so many moments in the sequence where I see stuntmen falling and it all looks so real and painful I can’t imagine the logistics needed to shoot such a battle. This sequence right here is the precursor to finales like those in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker that carried on the tradition of Bond’s big battles well past the 60s era. We owe a lot to You Only Live Twice in this regard, as its approach to action has aided the series in living more lives than just its allotted two since 1967 thanks to its reverberating cinematic impact.
When it comes to humor, You Only Live Twice is a tough film to judge, partly because I laugh at things that I don’t think were meant to be laughed at in the first place. Even worse, these laughs are more out of my own personal embarrassment or shame at watching what’s in front of me and not at all derived from the entertainment or pleasure I’m receiving while viewing it. You can only watch Sean Connery “go Japanese” so many times before it really becomes too much, and because of the idiotic premise of it all, a good film is tarnished in big, big ways as too much silliness creeps into the plot to be able to ignore it or shove it to the side. It’s the ultimate weak link of the movie and one of the main failures of the series, which is a shame because it’s caught in a film that isn’t bad at all when compared to films outside Sean’s golden four.
In other areas, however, You Only Live Twice is witty and fun for the right reasons where I laugh or grin out of my own personal enjoyment of what I’m seeing. A great bit of recurring humor is the “I love you” code word that Bond must say to make introductions to his contacts while in Japan. This dialogue seals the Moneypenny scene as one of the best in the series with Lois being her most overtly flirtatious, and later, when Bond meets Aki for the first time Sean gives a great comedic performance as you see 007 really trying to find the best moment in their awkward and strange surroundings to bring up the three words that are just bizarre to imagine saying to a stranger right off the bat. Even later when Bond meets Tanaka, the latter says the words to Bond after being pressed, to which Bond awkwardly says, “Well, glad we got that out of the way.” One of my favorite things about the film, and ever so entertaining.
Other great moments abound. When Bond shows up late-from his own funeral-he remarks to Moneypenny, “Well, we corpses have absolutely no sense of timing.” When Bond and Tanaka are getting their baths, 007’s ally teases him about Moneypenny soaking him in soap back in England, and when the man picks on Bond’s chest hair the agent replies, “Japanese proverb say, ‘Bird never make nest in bare tree.’"
A lot of enjoyable moments unfold between Bond and Helga Brandt as well, this movie's femme fatale. When Brandt celebrates her capture of Bond following his scrap at the docks, he looks at her and says, “Well, enjoy yourself,” receiving a slap. Afterward, while preparing to bed her he then says, “Oh, the things I do for England” as he rips off her dress. In a side not to all this, I always crack up when Aki tells Tanaka that Bond would never touch such a horrible woman as Brandt, to which Bond answers, “Oh, heaven forbid,” very unconvincingly.
In one of the all-time funniest Bond moments I can recall, while making a phone call to Tanaka to get ahold of MI6 for him, Bond uses coded words to relay the information he needs shared with the home office, mentioning that he wants something called "Little Nellie" immediately and requesting that her "father" must come along too. At the time we have no idea what he's talking about, all until it's revealed that Bond has called the cantankerous gadget man of the British service to aid him in the field yet again. In a moment that absolutely splits my sides, when Bond meets Q for the first time in the movie he greets him by saying, “Welcome to Japan, Dad. Is my little girl hot and ready?” in reference to Little Nellie. After using the autogyro to kill SPECTRE pursuers, Bond playfully proclaims, “Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances toward her, but she defended her honor with great success.” Later, when Tanaka is showing Bond some gadgets while at the ninja school he uses the bullet cigarette, saying “It can save your life, this cigarette,” to which Bond responds, “You sound like a commercial.” And, when Bond is preparing to “go Japanese,” he looks at the wax the women are preparing, eyes his chest and says, “Why don’t you just dye the parts that show?”
While it has groan-inducing moments, You Only Live Twice also contains moments and dialogues like the above that are smart or entertaining in how they are written and delivered by the cast.
While there are silly aspects to You Only Live Twice, I won’t allow those elements to undercut the very real resonances tied to the story.
Just as in Dr. No, You Only Live Twice presents the heated race to space and the conquer of the cosmos fought between the major world powers of the day. While the idea of a SPECTRE shuttle that can encapsulate and steal crafts, then land neatly into a small volcano after the thefts is undeniably ridiculous, the threat posed by a false flag attack and the duplicity the organization is using to fool both the Americans and Russians into a fight makes use of real tensions that already existed between those two major world powers at the time.
In addition, the film also uses real world spy craft in its plot. After Bond steals SPECTRE files from the safe at Osato’s building, Tanaka and his team find a microdot on the papers. Microdots were a time-tested spy tool that allowed important messages to be minimized to the size of periods in typed documents, giving intelligence services the ability to transmit sensitive information on the down-low while attaching them to trivial documents in the form of throwaway papers if agents were searched in the field and came in danger of their cover being blown. This moment in the film is seeped in intrigue, and the message from SPECTRE in the microdot that confirms the death of the tourist who took the photograph of the Ning-Po is chilling, showing us as the audience just how far the organization is willing to go to make sure they stay in the shadows and sever all their loose ends.
So, while there are elements of silliness that make this film more removed from reality than any other film in the series at this point, the narrative's use of real world spy craft gadgetry and the presentation of the real world tensions in existence between the United States and Russia grounds the plot in relevancy and truth, a trick the Bond franchise-and the character’s creator-is an expert at.
As I stated above, while elements of Blofeld’s plot, including the technology of the SPECTRE craft, are ridiculous and wouldn’t operate as they appear on film, the plan our villain has devised does prey on the tense Cold War relations that existed between the Americans and Russians with a truth that can’t be denied. At a time like the mid to late 60s a sign of sabotage from either side could have seriously kicked off something nasty between the nations, especially since just years prior the two powers struggled over the future of Berlin and the situation of the Russian missiles in Cuba showed just how much they were at serious odds.
In an interesting bit of history and context, just two months before You Only Live Twice ended shooting in March of 1967, The Outer Space Treaty, formally The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on the 27th of January 1967, an agreement which was entered into action on October 10th of that same year. The treaty was designed to lay out the laws of space as they were to be followed by the world powers who added signatures to it, prohibiting any nation from placing weapons of mass destruction in the orbit of Earth, on the moon, or around any other celestial body. It also prevented the testing of weapons by these nations in space, including performing military maneuvers, while also stating that the crafts operating in space are protected under the control of the nation that sends them out and that any damages accrued on these objects can be collected by the nation with ownership over them.
With this all in consideration, having a treaty of this kind signed and agreed upon by the three major world powers (the same three at odds in the film itself) before You Only Live Twice hit theaters in June of 1967 would have already set in the minds of the public consciousness that a scheme of Blofeld’s planning would outright be defying exactly what the treaty stood for, disrupting and disrespecting its legal laws and protections. By making it seem like the Russians stole the NASA craft SPECTRE are manipulating the fears of the US and the Russians when it looks like one of the two parties is outright going back on the treaty they signed, which is brilliant. Another perfect touch is the fact that the SPECTRE shuttle the organization uses to pilfer spacecraft has a giant red star painted on it, the symbol of Communist Russia. Blofeld is actively planning for every eventuality in his scheme, knowing that if an evacuation must be made from the volcano for any reason, or if the spacecraft fails at launch and is later found once it lands by the United States or any other world power outside of Russia, the Russians would be immediately implicated in the thefts of the shuttles while SPECTRE would once again slip away into the shadows, their invisible hand remaining unseen.
One doesn’t appreciate the scheme of Blofeld in this film until one also studies the real world context and history of the 60s, which adds so many layers to our experience of the film.
While Lewis Gilbert has never been one of my favorite Bond directors, he did a good enough job handling what was a logistically challenging film.
With as much location scouting as this film had, and the endless array of extras, special effects and sets needed to produce it that challenged even the logistics of films like Thunderball, Gilbert had a lot to juggle his first time out. His early experience at shooting war documentaries and war films must have trained him to handle action with multiple actors or stunt crews well, because his team’s handling of the volcano raid is quite exemplary and thrilling for all that could have gone wrong if he wasn’t on the ball. An actor by training, he must have also understood the role of the performer well enough such that he and the cast were able to touch base more effectively than if the director had never worked in the performance industry. Roald Dahl, the film’s screenwriter, praised Gilbert, because he simply took the famed author’s script and shot it without adding his own flair to it in an egotistical manner, putting full trust in Dahl’s screenplay and writing to give him the film he said he wanted penned.
From all this it’s clear that Gilbert was a big team player during You Only Live Twice, which is a great quality to have when a director must be required to spin so many plates in the many areas of production that are essential to Bond films, including some of the wildest pieces of stunt work in cinema.
It’s crazy to think we almost lost Gilbert, Cubby, Harry Saltzman, Ken Adam and Freddie Young during this film in what could have been a disaster capable of killing Bond on the big screen. After weeks of doing pre-production location shooting in Japan for the movie, the group of four were going to fly back to the United Kingdom on a Boeing 707 flight set for takeoff on the 5th of March 1966, but at the last minute they cancelled their flight plans to watch a ninja demonstration that was going on that day. The flight they would have all been on crashed nearly half-an-hour after it left the airport, and all on board died in the accident. Many Bond films have crazy stories of production stressors, logistical terrors or big-time complications, but this one takes the cake because we nearly lost many vital members of the Bond vision on the big screen in one fell swoop. Crazy to imagine, really, and thank Fleming for ninjas, as ever.
Opening Title Design-
This one is a little weird. The shifting and overlaid images of volcanoes, Japanese women and ornate fan designs dominate this title design from Maurice Binder.
There’s a sense of cataclysm to this design that fits well with the repercussions of SPECTRE’s plot, which could have been an all out war between the United States and Russia. The bursting, spraying shots of magma and lava ooze feel like the aftermath of a nuclear strike, almost like the silhouettes of the Japanese women are apocalyptic survivors overseeing all the destruction. My favorite frame of this whole design is one of the last shots we get, featuring four nude women who look like they’re bathing their bodies with the lava of the volcano ahead of them. The imagery is fascinating, to say the least, and just wondrously bizarre.
The design is not without its interesting visual choices and elements, then, but it’s nowhere near my favorite in the series, partly because there’s not much to it really beyond volcanoes, volcanoes, and more volcanoes. The use of color is nice, with dominant blues and oranges in play, but it’s not up to par with some much greater efforts from Binder’s own catalogue and those outside his contributions.
Nancy Sinatra’s song is of no help either, as it does little to liven up the sequence. I’m not a fan of her musical catalogue in general (sorry, Frank), nor do the contents of the song inspire much relevance to the film or leave any impact in general. One of the weaker songs of the Bond bunch for me, which I rank by how much I would be able to listen to them on loop before I tired of them, as well as how effective they are at representing their respective films musically. For this tune in particular, I give it about two repeats before it’s time to switch to another song.
As with many things about You Only Live Twice, there’s a lot to love and a lot not to love. When it comes to the film’s script, that is one of the most defining criticisms.
Some of the tragedy of You Only Live Twice is that there’s such great stuff in the film that is sometimes suffocated under just plain poor ideas and poorer executions of those ideas. I’ve said it before, but Bond “going Japanese” (I really can’t describe it as anything else) will never be okay, and it’s what ultimately takes the film from being near to par with Goldfinger in my rankings to below the whole lot of the early Connery selections, its impact it so shatteringly horrid. I know it’s the Bond series and we’ve entered into a pre-arranged agreement to suspend more than a little disbelief to properly enjoy these movies, but if you try to convince me that Sean Connery could blend in around a Japanese fishing village while disguised as an oriental man when his deep Scottish brogue makes his pronunciation of “domo arigato” sounds like a whooping cough, you’re out of luck, because that is just bananas.
Show me a spacecraft that defies physics and science, fine. Give me a sequence where a 250 pound plane can carry a cache of heavy weaponry, including rockets, missiles and mines, fine, I’ll take the journey with you and you won’t even need to duct tape my mouth to silence my negations. You can even show me a hollowed-out volcano made into a makeshift headquarters and I’ll ensure my child-like awe beats any criticisms I may have with the logic of it to a bloody pulp. But Bond “going Japanese” is a step too far and a line I cannot cross. There are times when a man must speak the word of truth, lest his complacency with the bizarre and wacky renders him catatonic to it when it becomes normalized. On this point, I shall not sway.
There are also some weird moments in the script that confused me when I last watched this film, one logic based and another structure based. In regards to the latter, the scene where Helga Brandt puts Bond in a death trap in the sky is just plain awkward and out of place (it comes literally right after Bond and Helga’s love scene with no lead-up), and it’s clearly only there to give 007 a reason to be on his own again and out of SPECTRE’s clutches, once more thought dead.
Secondly-a logic issue now-how don’t Brandt and Osato know Bond is Bond the very moment they see him, and why do they later still seem shocked when Blofeld breaks the news of Mr. Fisher’s identity to them? It’s a part of the film I’m super fuzzy on, and there’s moments where I think Bond is found out, but then a later reaction by Osato and Brandt makes me believe they don’t know that who they’re dealing with is SPECTRE's enemy #1. I find this so bizarre because it directly defies canon logic and the film’s own logic. Even as early as From Russia with Love we know that SPECTRE are aware of what Bond looks like because they are able to manufacture a mask of his face for one of their agents to wear while Grant undergoes his training. If I was Blofeld I’d be circulating headshots of Bond to all my agents stationed worldwide in the hopes that the man could be taken down if he ever appeared in a specific city or nation on MI6 business where the organization also holds power. This way no SPECTRE agent would ever see Bond as a stranger and the name of their prime enemy could be given a recognizable face so that he could be killed all the faster, saving heaps of future heart ache and financial fatigue for them and their interests.
You Only Live Twice provides us with Osato, a big time SPECTRE associate and Helga Brandt, a high-ranking SPECTRE member of all things, who both are seemingly clueless when Bond walks straight into their offices. It’s as weird as Blofeld treating Bond like he’s a stranger in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, all the more frustrating for it not being properly addressed. These people should know Bond immediately if Blofeld is anything resembling a competent leader, and Bond’s “murder” at the start of the film is a big news story plastered in the papers (along with his photograph), so Brandt and Osato really should have known who to watch out for. Most illogical.
With all the meek or iffy ideas at work, however, there is also a lot of good on offer. The idea of Bond faking his death is interesting and jarring, the SPECTRE plot to play the Americans and Russians off each other is an intriguing, amped-up sequel to From Russia with Love’s plot, and the dangers posed by Bond’s failure are grounded in the context of the times and the tensions that were in existence between those nations. As I stated in my previous analysis, the inclusion of the microdots into the plot added a raw and real world sense of spy craft and intrigue to the story to give it more of an espionage edge, and the many instances of culture clash that Bond experiences while in Japan as a western man in an eastern land is fascinating and well served by a script that allows the movie to explore oriental culture in its many facets, from recreation and hygiene to wedding ceremonies, training and more. There’s embellishments as there always must be for entertainment’s sake, but on the whole You Only Live Twice is an interesting exercise in taking a man who symbolizes the west-and Britain specifically-and placing him into a locale that runs counter to some of his expectations. It’s nice to see Bond out of his element in a way that isn’t harmful to him, but that serves to give him an eye-opening look into a place and culture he’s never experienced before this particular mission.
In addition, I think the script of this movie may contain an interesting reference or tie to the story of Thunderball that I picked up on in my latest watch. As we all know the goal of the NATO theft in the previous film was for SPECTRE to acquire through extortion a sum of $100 million in diamond value. With that operation a failure, the organization is out a lot of time, effort, manpower and money, and must have been hurting in the coffers because of it. When we get to You Only Live Twice SPECTRE are up to no good once again in an even dizzier scheme, and Blofeld is in bed with some Red Chinese officials who are hoping to benefit from a rise in tensions between the Americans and Russians. During a meeting with this group, Blofeld extorts a princely sum of $100 million out of them in payment for his efforts to aid their interests-far more than originally decided, we see-which makes me wonder: is Blofeld asking for this specific value of money to make up for the loss of the $100 million the NATO plot was going to give his organization, but that they missed out on thanks to Bond’s interruptions in their plan? The Chinese are the perfect victims for this extortion because Blofeld has the power in his hands, along with all the rocket fuel from Osato he could need. If the Chinese relented and refused to pay him, he could go back on his offer to incite war with the Americans and Russians in payback as he’s in full control of all the assets and resources and makes the last-call, period. The safer deal was for the Chinese to meet Blofeld’s new payment request to guarantee that their own desires would also be met, with the loss of the $100 million being a necessary cost to endure. I’m curious if anyone else noticed this detail of the story and gave it some thought along these lines.
All in all, You Only Live Twice plays with a lot of admirable ideas, some that miss but a lot that hit, and it contains some of the greatest lines in the series when it comes to wit and comedic timing if you like Bond for the gags. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s a beautiful bag.
For the first time in the Bond series, Ted Moore sits out on this film while the esteemed Freddie Young of Lawrence of Arabia fame steps up to the plate to give a 007 picture a shot.
Right from the beginning, you know that an A-class cinematographer is handling this movie. One of my favorite blink-and-you-miss-it moments occurs right as the opening title design ends and the camera pauses on a beautiful mountain range with a sunset beating behind it. In a flash, a new shot comes and we see that same mountain range, this time in mid-day, as Bond’s funeral kicks off. It’s a simple but powerful and captivating visual that gives us a great introduction to Japan and the coexistence of the cities and mountains that make the location special.
Like Ted Moore always did, Young captures the location of Japan with real richness, making the scenery pop in color and life. Watching the film nowadays in Blu-ray quality is unreal, the images are so tangible. Young was a vital part of the scouting crew for the film, and it’s clear that just as he did in Lawrence of Arabia and all his other award winning work, he can shoot wide expanses of the natural world and create a story with the images and the characters that are roaming inside it.
The travelogue nature of the films continue to exist as we get intimate looks into different pieces of Japanese culture and the varied locations in the country thanks to the extended amount of time we get to frequent its cities, coasts and villages as audiences. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: the location shooting may be the defining piece of why this film is worth watching, and this factor alone saves it from the bottom of Bond rankings, amongst other elements.
John Barry returns in You Only Live Twice for his fourth turn as the main Bond composer. While I haven’t listened to this particular score as much as Barry’s others, there are a lot of great goodies in here.
We still get the James Bond sound we expect to hear in these films, but Barry uses more ethnic scoring than I think we’d heard up to this point in his Bond career. Compositions like “The Wedding” are beautiful pieces of music that exclude the Bond sound of the big orchestra to deliver notes that accompany the visuals of Japan beautifully, giving the music space to paint a picture of the land. These compositions that use ethnic styled sounds are called on when the film is showing us pieces of Japanese culture, including the ceremony Bond is treated to in the fishing village. The sounds again accompany the scene of Aki’s end that adds a peacefulness and beauty to her demise in a peculiar sort of way. Barry’s score avoids the pitfalls that other composers have fallen into in the past by creating music that feels almost racist in how stereotypically the sounds are collected. He pays great tribute to traditional Japanese roots and what you would expect their cultural music to sound like while meshing those notes with the elements of the Bond sound required for a film of this kind, creating a perfect, unexpected union.
Barry also uses the notes of the opening titles song from Nancy Sinatra with great cunning throughout the film in sprawling fashion, and also weighs moments down with great tension, as his “Capsule in Space” piece showcases, scoring the unsettling and bizarre moment when the SPECTRE craft opens its “jaws” and swallows the NASA flight whole. The music maestro gives the predatory images a fittingly predatory sound, like we’re watching a piece of nature unfold as one beast enters the fray to batter and conquer its prey.
All in all, it’s a great score from Barry that is as diverse as it is rich in so many ways, with tracks expressing everything from quiet and loud moments to those that enrich the visuals of the Japanese scenery with culturally inspired compositions to accompany them.
When it comes to the editing of You Only Live Twice, things get tricky. The usual Bond editor Peter R. Hunt, who gave a defining style to Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball was on holiday while the production team were location scouting for You Only Live Twice in Japan. Hunt was taking a break from Bond after he made it clear he wanted to direct the next Bond feature, but was ultimately turned down. Eventually he took the job of directing the second-unit of the film after being offered it, and also apparently supervised the editing that was going on in post-production, though I haven’t been able to tell just how much of the final cut was derived from his ideas.
The original plan was for Thelma Connell, Lewis Gilbert’s go-to editor, to have the duties on You Only Live Twice, but when she returned with a nearly three hour cut of the film that didn’t excite test audiences in the slightest, Hunt was sought out to once again work his magic. The work he and his possible team did (again, this is hard to research and/or confirm) ultimately produced a cut that was seen as superior to Connell’s effort, and Hunt’s work here is said to have finally paved the way for him to attain the directing job he sought to have that time around for the next film in the Bond production pipeline, which was to be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
What is puzzling about the editing of this film is that it is hard for me to see Hunt’s mark on it, largely because it doesn’t present itself outwardly as a Hunt handled Bond movie. This observation might give credence to the idea that he merely supervised the editing (a job he’s listed as having on the film in some texts and resource sites) instead of taking full control of the cut we see in the final film. Hunt’s fast edits characterized the early Bond films as sometimes messy and exciting adventures, and those jumpy cuts feel absent from my memory of this film. There’s no moments that feel Hunt-esque to me, beyond a few brief spots where images flash in sequence at a quicker rate than you’d imagine they would in other films, like in how we get introduced to Japan for the first time with shots showcasing all its city lights and advertisements.
On the whole, the editing feels as it does for most modern day films, in that it strives not to draw attention to itself. It does its job with no editing quirks, and allows the film to progress as you’d expect it to. This more “normal” editing style may have been advised and supported by Lewis Gilbert, who seemed to prefer shooting a Bond movie in a way it hadn’t been before, sans the jump cuts, fast camera swings and all the rest. This is all conjecture on my part, however.
I don’t have an opinion on any of this either way, as I’ve never minded Hunt’s style enough to be bothered about it, though I do know those who feel that his edits made the films he handled look amateurish once his ideas were brought out in the final cuts.
While You Only Live Twice is a little short on Bond style-he only wears two major suits in the film-and Sean is beginning to show his weight gain, the actor still remains a style icon, and rightfully so.
Anthony Sinclair gives Sean two fine suits, one a grey herringbone suit that Bond wears when he first enters Japan and sneaks into Osato Chemicals, and a dark blue summer suit he sports when he’s disguised as Mr. Fisher and fighting at Kobe docks. The first suit, the grey herringbone, is once again the default James Bond suit from clear back in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, and that also gets a brief appearance in the Junkanoo chase of Thunderball. The suit is quintessential Connery Bond, an all gray outer ensemble with either a white or blue dress shirt (white here) that was always finished off with a navy grenadine tie and black shoes. It’s nice to see Sean return to one of the suits and style palettes that made him a fashion sensation and sex symbol in the first place, and though the fit isn’t as fine as the previous films due to the changing style of the day and Sean’s noticeable weight change since Thunderball, he wears it well.
The second suit of the film, the all blue summer suit, is one of my favorite Bond ensembles with a hue that really brings out Sean’s features wonderfully. The suit is similar to the one Bond wears during his briefing with Q in Goldfinger, and Sean’s brown hair is a perfect match for the blue suit jacket and navy tie that makes him pop. The suit is my favorite of the film and one of my favorites in the era, especially for how Bond battles his way out of the docks in it.
Bond’s casual wear is serviceable but nothing fantastic, and the all gray get-up he wears during the finale is just hideous and badly fit to Sean’s frame, showing just how out of shape he’d gotten since Thunderball. All this considered, it’s a real treat to see Connery’s Bond in commander uniform as he rises from the sea and gets his orders from M. We don't get to see as much of Bond's naval days referenced or openly shown to us as we deserve to, so moments like this where we're given a window into his past life pre-00 always excites me and gets me wondering about his past exploits.
Where the other cast members are concerned, Tanaka gets a fine suit to adorn himself with, Aki looks beautiful in blue, Kissy is a feast for the eyes in her bikini (as illogically evident as the garment is) and Blofeld is properly vilified to audiences while dressed in a Mao suit, representing a bit of sartorial symbolism that couldn’t be any more deliberate.
Much like in Thunderball, for You Only Live Twice production designer Ken Adam was wearing many hats. Not only was he scouting locations to use in the film with the producers, but he was also building up the production team by discovering and hiring pilot Ken Wallis for the film, and ultimately, he crafted the set that many would say is his Bond magnum opus (I personally can’t decide).
There’s an amazing series of strong sets in this movie that really make it special. The first major one we’re introduced to is the small stage on which the British, American and Russian powers meet following the SPECTRE theft of the NASA flight. Tensions are high, and the seating of the world powers is intimate with the representatives too close for comfort in their seats. The tables the representatives sit at seem raised by a large platform that looks like a cliff edge when the camera pulls out for a wide shot of the scene, and it’s hard not to get the feeling that the 3 nations are all in danger of figuratively and literally falling over the edge. In a nice bit of visual symbolism, the British representatives are stuck right in the middle of the Americans and Russians as the two powers accuse each other of foul play. This symbolic seating arrangement makes sense for the rest of the film as Bond has also placed himself in the middle of the chaos surrounding the space thefts in order to find out what is really going on to stop further scheming.
Once we get to Japan there’s a series of amazing sets express from Adam and his team that feel right at home in the oriental surroundings. The set meant to be Dikko Henderson’s apartment is most interesting, for reasons that may be surprising. The space itself is in tune with the kind of design one would expect to see in Japan, especially in regards to tea houses with an emphasis on sitting spaces with seat cushions and small, low-level tables for keeping company. In a nice twist, however, Dikko points out to Bond that he doesn’t have it in him to allow his house to go “full Japanese,” so he keeps trinkets around him that are English in origin to remind him of his native land. This makes the set feel a bit meta, considering that like Dikko, Ken Adam was an Englishman in Japan furnishing sets that attempted to balance both Japanese aesthetics and more western styles of design foreign to that land.
Osato’s office is another Ken Adam masterpiece, a wonderful space that harkens back to the Parisian SPECTRE briefing room of Thunderball with a repeat of a ceiling pattern that resembles a large paneled window. During the fight Bond has with an Osato henchman, the items of the set are placed in the perfect positions to incite the greatest thrills for audiences as Adam and his team essentially help to choreograph the big fight through their set design choices and where various elements rest in the space. As Bond is tossed through a paper wall, a leather sofa is there to catch him as he’s launched back onto the floor, all by spatial design. Another chair is handily within reach, which Bond then uses to try and push off the behemoth of a man. As a final act, Bond takes to using statues of what appear to be Japanese warriors to dispatch his foe once and for all. When Bond shows up to the office later on as Mr. Fisher, the power of the space Adam and his team created in its very blueprints is visible. The items of the set are placed such that Bond is almost surrounded by them, like the office is a furniture ambush. The interview chair Bond is meant to sit in is also given a large space to itself in the room, right in the line of sight of Osato at his desk, a set-up meant to make the visitor feel inferior and under command in a place that doesn’t welcome them. In a nice touch, the shiny material that makes up Osato’s desk reflects Bond on its surface as he’s faced with his own image. He sees double all while the audience simultaneously knows that he’s acting the role of a double in impersonating Fisher.
And of course the big daddy of all the sets, the gigantic dessert serving, is Ken Adam’s wicked volcano set that completely defies any law of nature in existence. I have no idea how he and his team made it, and I kind of don’t want to know the tricks because the true majesty of Adam’s work, including this set, is gained by being ignorant to how it all came to be. Like a kid watching a magic show, the true glory is in being duped and taken for all you have as you marvel at the skills of the maestro doing miracles in front of you. Everything about the volcano set is shiny and massive and somehow in movement. Transport cars shoot around bends and workers busy around the launch silo in swarms all while the control room encases SPECTRE’s evil No. 1 under heavy guard. A gargantuan-and I mean gargantuan-circle commands the ceiling like the big brother of Dr. No’s anteroom set. Everything about Adam’s work up to this point in the franchise-his study of geometrics, space, structure, materials and symmetry-all come together in the volcano set’s design, showing what results when practice, genius and a nice Hollywood budget all come together and make sweet, sweet cinematic love. The sets of Ken Adam would be nothing without a team that knew how to use his creations, however, and the crew of You Only Live Twice was able to stage the volcano raid that makes up the finale of the film in beautiful, cunning fashion. Adam's art and the imagination of he and his team became the stunt crew's battlefield to play amidst, the setting of one of the greatest finales in Bond history.
An honorable mention set-wise must also be given to the bathing house Tanaka and Bond use early in the film and Blofeld’s lounge inside the volcano set. The bathing house is pure Japanese style with glorious geometry and finely crafted wooden materials serving as its foundations. The sparkling floor with a checkered pattern continues the heavy use of line and square patterning in the design, with a sloped ceiling that gives the space a great sense of movement and architectural interest. To finish the design off, stone pools and massive folds of foliage and fronds form the bathing area Bond and Tanaka frequent in the scene, items of decoration that make it feel like the nature of Japan has actively sprouted itself up through the floor of the space to take over. And of course we can’t forget the most important set design elements of all, the beautiful Japanese women that soap up our heroes.
Blofeld’s lounge inside the volcano is just too cool to handle, the kind of pad Hugh Hefner would’ve had in his prime if we was a creepy, physically scarred power hungry sadist with a love of piranhas. The set has a great elegance to it, like a playboy’s quarters, but the added menace of the snapping fish and twisted, hazardous looking walkway and stairs give it a bizarre and unsettled appeal perfect for the equally unsettled mind of the space’s resident. Adam and his team showed great genius is making the lounge look like it was cut right into the rock of the volcano, and that’s part of what makes the whole set feel like a more refined and lavish take on Dr. No’s lair, where Adam and his team used the same kind of earthy elements to create a set meant to appear both man-made and nature nurtured.
Overall, there’s such an immense load of great sets in this film that it instantly ranks up there amongst the best of the entire series when it comes to production design, big time. It would already get there with just the volcano set, but the inclusion of Japanese inspired spaces add to what is already a visual powerhouse of a film.[/quote]
I don't do quantitative ratings on a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 scale as a principle of mine, but if I did, I fear You Only Live Twice would not fair too well in the numbers. Not only is it my dead last favorite Connery Bond film (and probably Sean’s too), I don’t ever expect it to go beyond the middling section of my rankings, placing more towards the back of the pack than ahead of the half line. My hope with this latest revisit was that something between this film and I would click and I’d finally “get it.” It sadly wasn’t meant to be, however, for reasons I hope I dictated well enough above.
It's extremely difficult for me to judge this film fairly because all the iconic films that predated it almost made for certain that the big reveal of SPECTRE’s leader would fail on impact. Worse than that error, the film also represents a horrible shift in the moviemaking of the Bond franchise. This was the point in the series where the gears began turning away from the Terence Young style Bond thrillers with a slathering of espionage and intrigue and only a sprinkling of wit and comedy towards Bond films with a slathering of wit and comedy and only a sprinkling of espionage and intrigue. Every Bond film has its place, sure, but it's hard for me not to lament the death of true, pure Bond as I know it in the early 60s, with On Her Majesty's Secret Service being the last breath that beautiful vision took until Dalton's movies brought us back to that feeling almost twenty years later, though never replicating it.
Most of the great 60s team was back for this film, but You Only Live Twice feels markedly different from its predecessors in impact and quality. The first hour of the film is grand, really thrilling and clever, with some of the greatest location shooting in the series on top of some moments that give it real strength. But once Bond "goes Japanese" and the walk (“crawl” may be more suitable here) to the finale begins, the film sinks and sinks. The picture's beaten frame rises from off the floor again briefly for the volcano fight, but never stands as tall as it did before in the leading hour.
At the center of it all is Sean Connery, who does his best with what he's got-which at times isn't much. Some say this is the film where he really shows his boredom with the role, but I think it's more to do with the fact that the script doesn't provide him with the kind of meat Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball constantly did, material that he always used to great effectiveness. The sleek panther his Bond used to be appears all too briefly here, overwhelmed by a plot that is the result of EON trying to make the films bigger and bigger than before, but ultimately missing the mark entirely. The Bond films started as small, isolated adventures in one dominant area, with only Goldfinger branching out a bit more and Thunderball returning to that somewhat isolated story, but with a more ambitious plot that stopped short of being ridiculous. You Only Live Twice doesn't have Thunderball's filter, however, and while there's plenty of grand stuff in this film, the content that is absent really fights back against the positives. It's just such a tonally confused movie, not sure if it wants to be a space race thriller, a Cold War spy movie or a regular Bond film in the Young style. It's muddled because of this, which is a shame, and the first and second hours feel like two different movies as a result.
For all the great gradual build up to Blofeld and SPECTRE we get in the first four films, this wasn't the reveal it could-or should-have been, and represents one of the biggest missed opportunities of the series for that. It's a shame that all the promise of the early films amounted to barely any impact at all in this particular adventure, meant to be a conclusive chapter for Bond as his specter came out from behind the veil. For all the flashy action and great stunt choreography on display, EON can’t distract away from the lacking sense of villainy emitting from Pleasence’s Blofeld, or how downright bored Bond looks as his enemy points a gun in his face for what feels like two hours with him doing nothing to change the fact, almost asking to be shot. That’s right, a film series that built up a hero and villain as two opposing forces meddling in each other’s plans through a missile toppling conspiracy, botched subterfuge operation for a decoding machine and an extortion scheme using nuclear weaponry as bargaining chips all culminates in the brilliant MI6 spy extraordinaire standing as still as a Madame Tussauds wax figure in an unflattering gray top while his so-called Moriarty holds a tweaked out cat in one hand and a cocked firearm in the other. And then they just stare at each other, looking really cross for a bit.
Suffice it to say that the absence of Terence Young and his special touch is felt here, as is his influential understanding of the character James Bond. Young would have never stood by while Bond was done up in ridiculous make-up or as his Scottish actor was forcefully tasked with playing a Japanese fisherman (I can’t believe I even wrote that just now). Young also wouldn’t have allowed the script of the movie to overwhelm Bond the character until he feels like a nameless agent in the thick of it all as he does here. The heart of the film just feels so soulless compared to the other Connery films where Sean constantly brings the material alive, and Bond acts as the most vital part of the narrative. When the script is limp the actor suffers in association, as do we all. It's no wonder Sean saw it fit to exit the series after this movie, and it's even more understandable why it took the biggest paycheck of the day to get him back for one last adventure afterward. Always one for crisp self-awareness, the Scot saw the changes coming to the franchise and how it was gradually distorting itself from its superior origins back when he first debuted as a much younger-and less pudgy-man. If I was in his place, I'd have packed my bags too.
Though I’m admittedly kicking this film while it’s down and laughing at its expense, I admit that I certainly appreciate it more than I have in the past, back when I wouldn’t even concede that a good first half existed in it. But since I wasn't ever a big proponent of this movie in any alternate reality or this one, that's not exactly saying much. So, where does that leave us, then? Nancy Sinatra, the songbird that recorded this film’s tune, warbles during the opening title sequence, “You Only Live Twice or so it seems, one life for yourself and one for your dreams.” By trying to pull double duty, first at being a Bond film and second by shooting for the stars to become something more, You Only Live Twice fails at living for both itself and its dreams, resembling a confused mess in the aftermath. What results is largely a zero sum game that not even Tracy Vicenzo would go banco on.
I also like the many suspenseful moments where Connery avoids danger. I like how the action in earlier Bond movies relied on Bond using his wits to escape what felt like real danger, rather than being superhuman or jumping out of airplanes.
I won't go into a lengthy review I will say this:
I think the film is a real misstep in the series. While TB (IMO) is overrated as peanut butter it still has a certain bit of appeal. While YOLT, seemed impressive when I first saw it (seven years after its initial release) but after further review I find it lame.
The soundtrack is great the spectacle is up there but the plot is rather stupid and unbelievable and Sean was not in his top form. He is on screen a lot but he looks tired, bored and overweight. Helga Brandt looks hot enough but she comes off as a poor man's Fiona Volpe, and don't get me started on Donald Pleasance's Ernst.
This is the first real OTT Bond film and led to the producers decision to tone things down with the next adventure. (This would happen two more times with MR-FYEO, then DAD-CR)
I get an overall positive vibe from the film whether I'm looking at it more from a holistic, atmospheric perspective, or focusing on technical production details. It's just a few irks here and there.
After a string of four films in consecutive years, one more successful than the other, it took Cubby and Harry 18 months to get a new film into the cinemas in 1967. Sean seems to be past his prime in YOLT but he still owns the screen and there are many great moments with Connery.
There is a lot I love about You Only Live Twice
Capsule in Space. These equences are gripping and thrilling and so is John Barry's music to it. Barry's scores play a big part in making the films work, YOLT is no exception.
After the "shocking" end to Bond in the PTS, Bond's funeral at sea is quite interesting to follow and Connery being resurrected is rather funny. His second life begins in his Navy uniform!
And Moneypenny, oh how lovely she looks in her Navy secretary dress! Lois Maxwell truly was the definitive Moneypenny. She is simply perfect with Sean, and later she is again with Sir Rog. A testament to her wonderful charisma, charm and beauty.
The Henderson scene is a favourite thing of mine. It's one scene only in Henderson's flat but it's so memorable and there's some subtle comedic acting by both Sean Connery and Charles Gray.
Henderson giving Bond his Martini: "That's stirred, not shaken. That was right, wasn't it?" Bond: "Perfect."
A much beloved moment.
YOLT also features one of my favourite Bond cars. The Toyota 2000 GT and it gets a lot of screen time.
...speaking of vehicles...https://a2-images.myspacecdn.com/images04/8/d67f437df80d473694d2d230abd84c75/full.gif
Then there is the ultimate Ken Adam set. The crowning achievement in set building. The Capsule in Space scene from the PTS gets a variation after one hour and this time we get to see that it lands in the breathtaking volcano set.
The use of the set in the film is fantastic. It's on screen quite a lot and there is the epic end-battle that makes up a lot for a lengthy, a bit boring stretch in the film that comes before it.
Here is my homage to Ken Adam.
Osato's lush, wide penthouse office is another wonderful set of Adam. It gets a lot of screen time including the hard hand-to-hand fight. The fight is one of the strongest in Connery's tenure. Personally I rank it second even after the lift fight in DAF, or perhaps I should say "elevator".
Tiger Tanaka Well, there's an ally I love completely, one of the best. Love his office that is located in a private train.
Tetsurô Tanba as Tanaka is doing a wonderful acting job.
Karin Dor's Helga with her weapon of choice. Nasty, nasty! She's not really one of my favourites but the "torture" scene is rather devilishly delicious.
Turning Bond into a Japanese is a bit silly but in my opinion it adds to the outlandish charm of YOLT.
I do like that sequence anyway, the wonderful Japanese wedding procedures and the tragic end to Aki make it always worthwhile. Aki, played by Akiko Wakabayashi is very beautiful and it is always very enjoyable to see her in YOLT.
The one location only shoot in Japan makes You Only Live Twice maybe a little bit less interesting and exotic than TB, GF or DN.
When Bond turns Japanese, it can be argued that the film falls a bit flat from this point until the grand finale in the volcano.
I like the scenes with Blofeld and find Donald Pleasence quite right for the role. He seems to fit into the rather unusual volcano set.
For me YOLT is a bit the secret star of the Connery era. The film is rather fantastic and unusual compared to the four films that came before it. It's a gem that may have a flaw or two, but it nevertheless shines wonderfully in a decade who can safely be called the best decade of Bond.
YOLT and DAF are the Connery films I can go to easily.
To start with positives I liked Tanaka as a Bond ally and felt he was pretty serious while also really seeming to have chemistry with Bond which I like. There were some pretty good action moments such as the docks shootout, the Fight with Dwayne Johnson's grandfather and the volcano Lair finale. Speaking of the volcano lair the Volcano Lair is a really nice looking lair and set piece, as a whole this film had some nice set pieces. Desmond is pretty good as Q here too like always as is M and Moneypenny. Last but not least we get a pretty decent score by John Barry which has classics such as 007 at sea ( I think thats the name), and the title theme sung by Nancy Sinatra is quite good.
Now time for the negatives. The first one is that Connery seems to not care at all in this film and feels like he just isn't trying at all. Another thing I don't care for is Blofeld, I feel that Donald's blofeld is not Intimidating and really does not feel menacing in this film and doesn't exactly win me over. Another problem is that the film just isn't very interesting at all during 90% of the film and much screen time is wasted just to seemingly fill in time rather than just go forward with the interesting stuff they had.
Bond becoming Japanese was honestly quite stupid and added nothing to the plot and frankly felt like a giant waste of time. The henchmen are also very bland and uninspired in this movie, Hans is literally Red Grant 2.0 but with all the charm, mystique, Class and menace gone from the character and he really doesn't do much of anything except fight bond for about 30 seconds before being dumped into the piranha filled water, come on were they even trying with this character? Last but not least the film is just..boring, but somehow it makes itself even more boring than Thunderball which I never thought would be possible but it just is true and the film makes me sleepy.
As a whole this movie is ok but isn't anything special at all honestly, it's a shame because the first hour as a whole was kinda good but it just drops so hard after that and only briefly recovers with the volcano lair bit which frankly is the only memorable thing here.
My final Rating is a 6/10
Roald Dahl's screenplay consists of a lot of set ups looking for a pay off.
In the pre-credit sequence, Bond is "killed" to throw his enemies off the scent, but other than a cool way of leading into Nancy Sinatra's title song, it's never really motivated. There's no sense that events would have gone differently otherwise, in fact, Bond is rumbled as soon as he meets the first villain.
Later, a lot of screen time is devoted to turning Bond Japanese (unconvincingly) and having him marry a local girl as a cover for exploring the island where a lot of suspicious activity takes place. Yet again, he could have just snuck on the island at night and the whole marriage ceremony ends up a waste of time for Bond as well as the audience.
If the plot points are inconsequential, then so are the women: two thirds of the way, one bond girl (a sexy, smart, resourceful Japanese secret agent) is killed, only to be replaced by the exact same character (a sexy, smart, resourceful Japanese secret agent).
You'd think the death of a lover would motivate Bond to avenge her, but no, he just doesn't seem to care all that much (this could have something to do with Connery's lacklustre performance, he was noticeably tired of the part). Bond simply moves on to the next girl and she's never spoken of again, it's yet another thing that just happens with no consequences.
There are still plenty of cool moments; Little Nelly, ninjas, the volcanic lair,... but it's the glue that's supposed to hold them together that comes undone.
But I was also struck by how far ahead of it's time it was in other respects
For instance I'd forgotten the part where James Bond confronts Covid 19
And the Star Trek crossover, where Bond poses as a Romulan Ambassador
Or that this is the only Bond film that features two incarnations of Ernst Stavro Blofeld at the same time
And the only really sexy Toyota I have ever seen in my life
Oh, and they killed James Bond!!!