Reviews…James Bond Reviews: You Only Live Twice

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“James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong.”
“Yes, this is my second life.”
“You only live twice, Mr. Bond.” 

The Bond: Sean Connery

The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The Henchmen: Mr. Osato, Helga Brandt, and Hans.

The Bond Girls: Kissy, Aki, Ling, and Helga Brandt

The Plan: Provoke WWIII between the USA and the USSR by stealing their spacecraft.

The Gadget/Car: a safecracker, a shooting cigarette, and Little Nellie.

The Song: “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra

You Only Live Twice is the fifth James Bond movie and was released in 1967. It’s…quite a film. It’s a rather odd entry that has an outrageous plot but still manages to entertain, thrill, and even scare…at least it did me. It’s a staple in the spy-film genre and is a favorite target for parody most notably Austin Powers and The Incredibles. Here we finally get to put a face to the mysterious head of SPECTRE, see Little Nellie in action, and witness James Bond take a cue from the English band The Vapors and turn Japanese. Yes, I’m serious.

We begin with probably one of my favorite and in my opinion, scariest opening hooks: An American spacecraft is in orbit and one of the two astronauts goes out on a spacewalk. Very soon a mysterious blip appears on radar and a larger spacecraft arrives and swallows the smaller American spacecraft and severing the cord of the other astronaut leaving him to float forever into the depths of space. Who did this? Why? As if that weren’t enough, James Bond is gunned down and proclaimed dead!

Well of course this is just a brilliant ruse to throw his enemies off their guard and he “comes back to life.” (Ya get it? Cause title?) So begins a very odd yet entertaining James Bond film. The ever-present SPECTRE has hatched a new plan: hijack US and Russian spacecraft and place the blame on the opposing nation in an effort to spark WWIII. Bond is sent off to Japan to investigate and subsequently finds himself at a “Ninja school” where he undergoes surgery to look Japanese and marries one of the locals…this was OK’d by the producers, folks. (Oddly enough the screenplay was penned by none other than Rolad Dahl the author of the classics Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.)

This film is a landmark in the series as we finally get to see Blofeld (in this entry played by Donald Pleasence of Halloween fame.) I gotta be honest though, if you saw Austin Powers first, you’ll probably have a hard time taking him seriously as this is the model for Dr. Evil. But once you get past that, he makes for one of the best villains. He’s cold, intimidating, and shows no remorse for killing anyone; ally or not. To top it all off he boasts an elaborate lair that is typically villainous and inside a live volcano. He doesn’t disappoint. It’s been worth the wait to finally really see him in action. He has a single-cadence voice and it’s rather chilling and again, intimidating. There’s a reason why he tends to be the villain a lot of people associate with James Bond…or Austin Powers. I’m really not sure which one.

Bond’s mission whisks us away to Japan and we get to see a lot of Japanese culture and customs including a sumo match and a detailed wedding ceremony. The love for Japan is evident and the filmmakers did a great job conveying that. However I found that this is another Bond film that has odd pacing. It’s not that it’s slow to start, but it has a dip where there seems to be a lot of unnecessary fluff. That’s not to say the action isn’t any good. It’s great and the best sequence involves a special helicopter called “Little Nellie.” It’s like a James Bond car…but it’s not. It’s a helicopter. Anywhoo it has all these nifty gadgets and weapons and it makes for a ridiculously entertaining action sequence. The final scenes are filled with tension (courtesy of Blofeld) and the shootout is also really cool…even with the ninjas.

The Bond girls here are fun, especially the baddie Helga. She’s cunning and deceitful and of course despite her determination fails to kill 007. Aki, a Japanese agent is a nice change of pace from the usual Bond girl and Kissy Suzuki, James Bond’s first wife, is lovable and proves to be resourceful during his mission. Ling, the Bond girl with the smallest role is unique in that the actress who played her, Tsai Chin would later appear in the 2006 version of Casino Royale.

You Only Live Twice is an entry that many recall when thinking of James Bond and for good reasons. it features great action, a classic villain (who of course hasn’t made his last apperance,) a cool lair, and a diabolical plot. Despite it’s downfalls, it remains a great entry and only has me begging for more Blofeld.

Justin Davis will return…to review: Casino Royale (1967!)

 

One thought on “Reviews…James Bond Reviews: You Only Live Twice

  1. I really liked Little Nellie and always wished I could get one. They are reasonably priced nowadays. Except no machine guns, rockets or air mines included! Drat.

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