Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Only Live Twice

James Bond fakes his own death, disguises himself as a Japanese (unconvincingly, it should go without saying), hits a judo fighter with a couch, and blows up a volcano while dozens of extras in brightly colored jumpsuits shoot it out. Fun! And all in a tight 117 minutes with a Nancy Sinatra theme song to boot.

Sean Connery plays Bond for the fifth time in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. 007 goes to Japan to find out who is trying to instigate a nuclear war between the United States and the USSR by stealing their spacecraft. Fantasy writer Roald Dahl (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) loosely adapted Ian Fleming’s lightly plotted novel using elements from Harold Jack Bloom’s screenplay. Lucky for Bond, his Tokyo contacts are sexy Secret Service agents Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), as well as British expatriate Henderson (Charles Gray), who gets zapped minutes after meeting 007.

The culprit, of course, is SPECTRE and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (bald Donald Pleasence with a white cat and a facial scar), who keeps a pool of piranha in his office for dealing with incompetent henchmen. His office, by the way, is in an enormous hollow volcano — an incredible set designed by Ken Adam on the 007 Stage backlot at Pinewood Studios. It’s one of the coolest sets ever built for a Bond movie and hosts the thrilling finale pitting Blofeld’s goons against Japanese agent Tiger Tanaka’s (Tetsuro Tamba) incredible ninja army.

The film’s other major setpiece involves LIttle Nellie, a miniature helicopter delivered by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and used by Bond to shoot four full-sized choppers out of the sky. On the minus side, Dahl’s screenplay often makes no sense (though a Japanese assassin’s method of silently killing a sleeping Bond is ingenious), including Bond’s Japanese disguise, which is as senseless as it is unbelievable. John Barry delivers another lush score for an entertaining big-budget spy flick that marked Connery’s swan song in the role — or so he believed at the time.


Christopher Mills said...
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Christopher Mills said...

Not to be picky, but the YOLT volcano set was actually built outdoors, as there was no stage in England big enough to accommodate it at the time. The 007 stage was constructed at Pinewood in '76 for The Spy Who Loved Me to house Adams' equally impressive supertanker/submarine pen set.

Grant said...

I just wish that Tsai Chin had a bigger role in it, preferably as a femme fatale toying with Bond on and off all through the story. Thanks to her part in the Fu Manchu movies, how could I not wish that?

northierthanthou said...

Brings back some memories. The old bond flicks were quite something. I do think their day has passed.