Rewatching the James Bond films chronologically. In 1967, a mere nine months after Casino Royale was in theaters, audiences went back to the movies for the “real” James Bond with You Only Live Twice.
Bond blurb: A U.S. spaceship is stolen, nicked from space by a bigger spaceship. The mystery ship splashes down off the coast of Japan, so Bond is sent in to investigate. He’s betrayed and shot dead. But it’s a fake, so Bond’s enemies are no longer looking for him, allowing him to sneak around Japan and do spy stuff.
Bond background: Bond is a “naval commander” in this movie, and he gets a burial at sea. Perhaps this is just his cover as a spy, but he gets called “Commander Bond” in a lot of these movies, so I guess he was in the navy before getting into the spy game. He also mentions attending school in Cambridge.
Bond baddies: Back in the second movie, we met “Number One,” the leader of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., as a pair of hands stroking a cat. This movie has the big reveal, that it’s Blofeld. Donald Pleasance plays Blofeld as something of a cartoon character, but this is something of a cartoony movie. Case in point, Blofeld has a swimming pool full of piranhas.
Bond babes: Bond romances the Japanese Aki and the villain’s henchwoman Helga Brandt, both of whom get killed real good. Bond doesn’t spend a single second in mourning, immediately hooking up with female agent Kissy Suzuki, as they pretend to be husband and wife while undercover.
Bond best brains: There’s a cigarette that shoots a tiny missile, Bond’s nifty safecracking doo-hickey, and a female agent with a phone… inside her purse! (Now that’s high-tech!) The best, though, is Q supplying Bond with “Little Nellie,” a working gyrocopter! It’s pretty sweet seeing this tiny thing zip around take out full-size helicopters.
Bond bash-ups: The first hour of the movie gives us some fun fistfights and a chase or two, but those are all appetizers for the big finale, in which Bond and a crew of Japanese ninjas storm Blofeld’s volcano base. It’s an elaborate sequence, with tons of extras/stuntmen all running around and blowing stuff up in one of the biggest sets ever constructed for a movie.
Bond baggage: The space race! Rockets, astronauts, and excitement over putting a man on the moon was feverish at the time, and this movie shows it.
Bond babble: I’m torn on this one. Plot points about Japanese culture come off as culturally insensitive, and yet Japan is portrayed as exotic and mysterious, which is good for a spy caper. Also, the special effects are weak, with way too much rear projection and seriously hokey outer space model work. This is just the type of thing Kubrick hoped to correct two years later in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Still, everything with Blofeld and the volcano base is great fun, and worth sitting through the movie’s clunkier bits.
Next: George who?
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