The 007 Series: You Only Live Twice (1967)

Synopsis:

After a NASA capsule orbiting Earth disappears, U.S. government quickly blames the Soviets. However, British Intelligence discovers that the rocket landed in Japanese waters and agent James Bond (Sean Connery, Robin and Marian) is sent to investigate.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Entertaining entry in the long-running series, damaged a bit by over-familiarity with the formula, but its non-stop sense of fun and adventure is hard to resist — You Only Live Twice is an enjoyable action pic with plenty of eye-popping action sequences.

You Only Live Twice is a spectacular production in a very sense of the word. Everything is bigger — bigger sets, bigger stunts, bigger special effects, etc. Fortunately the storyline justifies all the upgrades. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired a new director, the talented Lewis Gilbert (Alfie), and they all worked together well enough to create a truly grandiose adventure.

You Only Live Twice was written by no other than Roald Dahl, the legendary children’s book author. I could not find any trace of Dahl’s penchant for kooky twists and turns, though. I’m assuming that the producers kept the writer on a tight leash and pretty much forced him to stay within the established parameters. Dahl’s twisted sense of humor could have added something new to the formula, but alas it is not here.

Dahl does go for a harsher Bond — he accentuates Bond’s coldness and callousness. For example, Bond’s girlfriend is killed and in the next scene our favorite agent is checking out possible replacements.

We finally get to see mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played by British character actor Donald Pleasence (Halloween). He seems to be the one Mike Myers is spoofing in the Austin Powers movies. Pleasence’s creepy serenity fits the role so well. It’s too bad that he was not allowed to reprise the role of Bond’s most notorious nemesis because he is really great. Blofeld’s sidekicks are, however, a huge let down. Karin Dor’s Helga Brandt and Teru Shimada’s Mr. Osato lack color.

Connery is a bit of a disappointment too. He looks tired and slightly overweight, as if he had aged ten years between Thunderball (1965) and this movie. I’m not surprised at all that he said “no more” after this movie because you can almost see in his eyes that his heart is not into the role.

Ken Adams creates some of his finest work here. Blofeld’s lair is an incredible piece of quasi-futuristic design. The piranha tank is really something! Freddie Young replaced Ted Moore as director of photography, and as you would expect from the man who shot David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), Young does his best to capture the beauty of the Japanese landscape. The title song is performed by Nancy Sinatra.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

You Only Live Twice is nobody’s favorite Bond movie. It’s Connery’s era’s ugly duckling. I used to agree with the general consensus, but this latest re-watch has changed my mind. I enjoyed it immensely and now I kinda feel this outing is a bit underrated. It’s often placed near the bottom of the franchise. It’s not as good as From Russia with Love (1963) or Goldfinger (1964), but I liked it better than Thunderball (1965). Color, 117 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
in
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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