You Only Live Twice
Cast & Credits
Sean Connery James Bond
Akiko Wakabayashi Aki
Tetsuro Tamba Tiger Tanaka
Mie Hama Kissy Suzuki
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Original Running Time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
After the legendary gun barrel sequence, we are transported to outer space. In the precredits teaser, we see a U.S. astronaut doing a space walk outside of a space shuttle. Out of nowhere comes a gigantic space craft. The front of this unknown vessel opens up and swallows the shuttle whole. As the sinister vehicle's nose closes, the astronaut's cord is snapped and he is given a dark, cold, and ghastly death in the vastness of space where no one can hear you scream. The teaser continues with everyone's favorite secret agent making out with a beautiful Chinese lady named Ling in a hotel room in Hong Kong. Next thing you know, Ling gets up and presses a button which makes the bed close up against the wall with 007 in it. Two men barge into the room and cut the bed to ribbons with a machine gun. Has Bond been killed in the first five minutes of the movie? Will 008 be sent to replace him? While one ponders these questions, the credits begin...
The title sequence features the title song that is performed by Nancy Sinatra. It is tranquil, cool, relaxing, and melodious. It may not be the best theme song (I'd rank a few higher), but it has to be the most beautiful. The soundtrack in itself is one of the tops in the entire series. It has a distinct Asian flavor, but still has the big John Barry sound. It hits the accents at the right times and shows restraint when needed. The titles themselves are once again done flawlessly by Maurice Binder. They feature the silhouettes of Japanese women and volcanoes erupting. The entire experience is extremely pleasing to the senses and rumor has it that if you watch the beginning credits of You Only Live Twice once a day, that you will only get one wrinkle on your face every twenty years.
As the film starts back up we see a meeting betwwen the U.S. and Russians being moderated by Great Britain. The Americans point the finger at the Russians when it comes to their missing space craft. The British suggest that a third party is involved and that their tracking system showed that it looks like the apprehended space craft touched down somewhere in Japan. The plot thickens...
Next, we see that Bond's death is getting newspaper headlines and he is getting a funeral at sea by the Navy. His body dumped into the water and soon scooped up my a couple of men and brought aboard a submarine (flashbacks to Thunderball... get out of the water now). The bandages that he is wrapped up in are cut off and Bond is lying down in a plastic bag with a breathing apparatus in his mouth. It turns out that he's alive, after all and that his death was faked in order to get his enemies off of his track (a plan by M). M is aboard the sub and immediately has a meeting with James. He explains what happened in outer space and tells him to go to Japan to find out what he can.
The next portion of the movie fits a lot into a little amount of time. Bond goes to Japan and meets his beutiful contact, Aki, at a sumo match, who in turn leads him an agent named Henderson. Henderson tells him that he believes that Osato Chemical Engineering Ltd. is a front for the group involved with the shuttle snatching scheme. Henderson is killed in the middle of giving up more information, Bond follows his assassin, and knocks him out cold. He gets into the back seat of the getaway car acting like he was the attacker. James winds up at Osato Chemicals and gets into a knockdown drag out fight with the driver (played by professional wrestler Peter Maivia - grandfather of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). After the end of this battle, Bond breaks into a safe with a safecracker and takes some and photos photos out of it. He sets of an alarm and runs out of the building to be picked up by Aki, who in a roundabout way leads him to M's opposite in Japan, Tiger Tanaka.
007 examines the photos with Tanaka and finds the ship Nin-Po. Also there are shipping plans that have Lox listed on them. Bond cleverly figures out that Lox not only is smoked salmon, but could also be short for liquid oxygen which makes rocket fuel. They also find out that Nin-Po is a ship docked in Kobe. After meeting up with Osato and his assistant Helga Brandt (actually an agent for SPECTRE) , surviving a car chase with the help of a giant magnet, finding out that in fact huge amounts of liquid oxygen was being load onto the ship Nin-Po at the shipyard, and Bond knocking out about ten people with one punch onto of the warehouse Bond gets knocked out cold by being hit from behind. He wakes being tortured with Ms. Brandt watching. She calls off the dogs and asks to be left alone with Bond. Before you know it, they're making love and soon afterward flying off in a plane. Then she locks him down in the plane, skydives, and leaves the plan to crash with him in it. Why didn't she just pull out a gun and kill him when he was tied to the chair being worked over earlier? Who knows? Anyway, Bond frees himself and safely crash lands the plane.
Shortly afterward, Q arrives to meet Bond at Tanaka's place with Little Nellie. What is Little Nellie, you ask? It is a one man gyrocopter that can be fit into five suitcases when taken apart. Soon Bond is flying around looking for any clues and then he is attacked by several helicopters near a group of volcanoes. It turns out that Little Nellie has machine guns, a flamethrower, mines, and heat seeking missiles at its disposal. While I have to admit that this sequence is great, I found a small problem with it. In the earlier Bond films, Q would give Bond some ultra slick gadget that was explained early in the film. Later on, a scene would come up where the device would come in perfectly handy at a crucial point in the movie after you waited for it. In this movie, Bond gets the gadget and uses it immediately. Not as cool.
The movie then descends into the realm of the bizarre and starts to almost become a self-parody. Bond is told that he has to become Japanese since Tanaka and his men are going to aprroach the villain dressed up as fisherman. Bond begins to master the ninja arts, apparently in a couple of weeks. Then he is made up to look Japanese. He is given eyepieces, has his skin dyed, and is given a new hairstyle. Does it make him look Japanese? No, it makes him look like Sean Connery with a tan and a bad wig that's squinting his eyes all of the time. Terrible... I know that some people will say that cheesiness adds to the charm of the movie, but if it went on much longer itwould have ruined it. Next, an assassin in the rafters runs poison down a string leading into Bond's mouth while he is sleeping next to Aki. He flips over and Aki turns exactly where Bond was supposed to be at the same time. Why didn't he just slit Bond's throat in his sleep? Once again, who knows? Then, for whatever reason Bond has a sham marriage to an island girl, Kissy. The only thing that saves this section of the movie is the wonderful music and that fact that it's shot beautifully on the gorgeous fishing island of Akime. Bond and his new bride investigate a tunnel from which a local was found dead. It turns out that it's filled with poison gas and on the other side of the tunnel is a volcano that has helicopters flying into it...
Bond realizes that it's actually a hollowed out volcano lair (the lair is actually the star of the movie). He decides to descend into it ala Spiderman with suction cups for his hands and knees while Kissy goes to get help. After SPECTRE number one feeds an underling to some piranhas in a pool, Bond get's a hold of an astronaut suit and plans to go into the vehicle which is going to now swallow up a Russian spacecraft and in turn possibly start World War III. Bond is found out and brought before SPECTRE number one who finally shows his face and introduces himself as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played brilliantly by Donald Pleasance). He has a long scar down his face and a bald head. He has a calm montone voice, is cool, calculating, and can go from collected to looney tunes in one millionth of a second. Blofeld extorts his "clients" for one hundred billion dollars in gold bullion by saying he won't go through with the plan otherwise. Bond uses a gadget to get out of a sticky situation and Blofeld's lair is attacked by Tanaka and his ninja. Let's just say that this climactic scene is nothing short of spectacular.
In the end, there were alot of things that I like about this movie. The pacing was good, the music was phenomenal, Connery was Connery, and there were some riveting action sequences, Tanaka was a good ally, Donald Pleasance was the best Blofeld ever, and the volcano lair is my favorite hideout for a villain in the history of the Bond series. Ken Adam spent over one million dollars on making the set for the lair. In fact, it cost more than the entire Dr. No production. There were some problems though. The movie jumped all over the place a little too quickly, Helga Brandt came across as Fiona Volpe Lite, Sean Connery trying to look Japanese is one of the most ridiculous things in the history of the franchise, and there's not enough Blofeld. Waying the positives and negatives I would have to say that there is definitely more good than bad, but it's a little too unrealistic, even for a Bond movie. I like my Bond movies with a little realism. Not much, but a little. I liked this movie better than Thunderball, but not as good as the others so far (excluding the unofficial ones, of course).
3 out of 5. Average for a Bond movie. At times it's great, but at others it's not.
A cool thing to know: When the production team was originally scouting for locations, they looked all over Japan for a castle on the coast like Blofeld had in the book, You Only Live Twice. It turns out that none exist because of the threat of tsunamis. They came across a huge inactive volcano on the island of Kyushu and producer Cubby Broccoli suggested that the villain's lair be in a volcano instead.
Another cool thing to know: The screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, the guy who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.
James Bond will return next Monday in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
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