You Only Live Twice (1967)
Film #15: You Only Live Twice (1967)
James Bond film #05 (Sean Connery Bond)
Sean Connery is back as James Bond in the fifth film of the series, You Only Live Twice. SPECTRE’s back again, trying to goad the US and the Soviets into a war by eating up their astronauts with a big ole hungry spacecraft. Despite the fact that SPECTRE just stole two atomic bombs in Thunderball, the Americans and Soviets blame each other, so of course it takes level-headed Britain to take care of things. Noting that the mysterious hungry hungry spacecraft landed somewhere in the sea of Japan, they dispense their top agent to the land of the rising sun to see what’s up. During his mission, Bond finally comes face-to-face with SPECTRE’s number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as played by Donald Pleasance and as spoofed by Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers series.
You Only Live Twice, like From Russia With Love and Thunderball, is a movie where every single minute seems to be spoofed in Mike Myers’ late 90s series. As someone who grew up watching those movies and never really saw the Bond films until now, it’s impossible for me to view them without the influence of the Austin Powers parodies. As such, plenty of things in the Bond series make me laugh when maybe they wouldn’t have without this backwards viewing order – most egregiously of these, Blofeld. He’s supposed to be the top bad guy in all of SPECTRE, but he’s about as threatening as the cat that he seems to obsess over. The Bond films clearly don’t try to take themselves too seriously, but I wonder how much of the humor I derive from watching them was intended, and how much was caused by Mr. Myers. But back to the film.
At this point, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman could probably make a Bond film in their sleep. They know the formula. We know the formula. Does it matter that these movies just recycle the same things with slight variations? Not really, because the variations keep things entertaining. For instance, the usual car chase scene is transposed into a mini-chopper battle around a volcano. Yeah, that scene is plagued by bad projection screens behind Connery and obvious dangling props when the enemy choppers explode, but it’s still a fun play on Bond’s usual endeavors.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Bond series for me is all the globetrotting that goes on. In the past four films, Bond has been to Jamaica, Turkey, Switzerland, the US, and the Bahamas – and the production team always follows him for on-location shooting. By going to these places and getting shots of the Jamaican beaches and the Swiss Alps, the audience is able to go on vicarious vacations. And since these movies are nearly five decades old, they also serve as time capsules. That’s why I can be such a huge fan of these films despite the ridiculous sexism that pervades each one. I’m looking into a window of how people thought in an era that preceded my existence by almost two generations.
Anyway, this role as cultural educator is more prominent in You Only Live Twice than in any of the films that came before it. Part of this is the source material: Screenwriter Roald Dahl compared the Fleming novel to a “travelouge”. The entire movie (minus the Hong Kong-based opening sequence) takes place in Japan, and it doesn’t mind lingering on cultural events as Bond witnesses them. We get to see a sumo wrestling match, a Japanese wedding, and freaking ninjas. Ninjas all over the place. It’s great. And throughout all his travels, Bond is never dismissive of the other cultures he encounters (then again, what reason has he to dismiss this film’s Japanese culture of totally subservient women?). Bond is a cultured gent – he has to be, if he’s about to sleep with women from every corner of the globe.
You Only Live Twice is Bond as usual. Connery’s starting to look a little aged, and the movie has more moments of cultural education and political manipulation than straight-up action scenes, but there are still mini-choppers and ninja battles for those who want to see some Bond-style ass-kicking. Blofeld’s a bit of a disappointment, but it’s probably because the Bond films have become so infused in Western popular culture that it’s impossible to separate him from his spot-on parodies from the past few decades. It’s just another Bond movie, but luckily, I’ve yet to have a Bond movie disappoint me.
Final rating: 7/10
–James A. Janisse
- Cheesy Bond Post-Kill Line of the Film: (after sending silent henchman Hans into the piranha pool): “Bon appetit!”
- Once again, Bond gets used for sex by a woman, this time henchwoman Helga Brandt, who sleeps with him and then tries to kill him in a helicopter crash.
- Brandt’s failure gets her fed to piranhas. PIRANHAS! Last movie we got sharks, this time piranhas. I’m hoping the next film gives the super villain evil squids!
- Little bit of rare Bond biographical information – apparently, he’s a Cambridge man.
- Best gadget: The cigarette rocket.
- How many times is Bond going to have sex in an emergency raft?
This entry was posted on February 22, 2012 by James A. Janisse. It was filed under 7 - 7.5, Action, Adventure, Genre, Ratings and was tagged with 007, Akiko Wakabayashi, albert r. broccoli, austin powers, bernard lee, Desmond Llewelyn, donald pleasence, dr. evil, eon productions, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, hans, harry saltzman, helga brandt, ian fleming, james bond, john barry, karin dor, kissy suzuki, lois maxwell, maurice binder, mi6, Mie Hama, mike myers, nancy sinatra, osato, Peter R. Hunt, q, ronald rich, sean connery, spectre, Tetsurō Tamba, tiger tanaka, united artists, you only live twice.