Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bond Ratings - You Only Live Twice!


I was very much surprised to discover that You Only Live Twice is my second favorite Bond movie. The movie itself is such a mess in terms of narrative and it's painful transformation of Sean Connery into an utterly unconvincing Japanese man is more than a little bit embarrassing. All that said, no Bond movie before or since has a more dynamic finale and the utterly awesome volcano secret rocket base is my favorite set in all the history of film. Roald Dahl is credited with the screenplay, but the haphazard nature of the story makes me imagine things were wildly off the original outline.


This movie is really what most people think of when they imagine the movies of super spies. We have a strong heroic lead who tumbles into a bizarre twisting impossible scheme to hold the world in fear and who by dint of strength, skill and a lot of luck defeats the villains in the most bombastic ways conceivable. That's what defines this movie, a series of strange and sometimes confusing set pieces which eventually add up to a plot to destroy the world. The villain too is a bit weak as we finally meet Blofeld, but as portrayed by Donald Pleasance is not as awesome as the character was in the shadows. Karin Dor is lovely and dies much too soon in this story, but then that's the way this unravels.


We get the ironic Bond in this one, the one who realizes there's some absurdity in all this mishegoss, but when the action starts it's full on and the tempo is wonderful. I realized watching it this time that the story itself makes almost no sense, but the pacing is so good that you have little time to realize it. The idea that SPECTRE could build an entire volcano facility with apparently no hint of it to people on the island is bewildering, but then the decision to invade the island by posing as fishermen is equally absurd. It serves to give the viewer glimpses of Japanese culture, but little beyond that.


And finally in a movie in which Bond is supposedly killed to make his secret agent status a bit more secret, he gets found out and attacked with regularity, though of course as usual others pay the freight. All that said, this one is a blockbuster which despite its myriad flaws offers up a thrill ride of a movie that pays off completely. Watching it now, I see the lines and shapes which informed Jim Steranko in his memorable SHIELD work.

More to come.

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6 comments:

  1. You Only Live Twice was directed by Lewis Gilbert who died just last week, aged 97.

    And you didn't mention the wonderful song by Nancy Sinatra!

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    1. The music on all of these has that schmaltzy essence that these movies call to mind. Sinatra's is, if anything, a bit more tender.

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  2. This is hands-down my favourite Bond movie, probably because it was the first one I saw, on its original release when I was young (7 years old) and impressionable. Probably didn't understand most of it, but it had space capsule-eating rockets, hidden HQs in volcanoes, ninjas, helicopters, fast cars....what more could a kid want?

    I agree with you that this is the one that people probably think of when wanting to invoke the whole 60s secret agent film movement. It's got the lot, but enlarged just that bit more. And at a time when overseas travel was beyond the means of most people, it was a great travelogue film showing off Japan.

    As Mr Jones noted, a great theme song (in fact the entire soundtrack is worth getting, the incidental music is the theme's equal) and a fantastic poster (when film posters really had to sell a film)...like you said, it's full of holes if you think about it too hard, but I'm still kid enough to overlook its faults.

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    1. Thinking too hard can kill many a movie, so it's never a great idea when confronted with fine pulp entertainment. This movie is that in spades.

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  3. You're absolutely right it's kind of a mess of a movie but the volcano base finale make it a classic!

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    1. It's one of the finest finales in all the long broad history of film. The scale of that set still gobsmacks me.

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