Tuesday, April 14, 2020

You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice is a middling Bond film, part travelogue and part spectacle. Sean Connery is still in his prime and there are many memorable moments. Set in Japan, the film is the first of a quasi trilogy of Bond squaring off with Blofeld, although Blofeld is played by a different actor in each film. With a comic book plot and a sometimes uncomfortable racial politics, the film has not aged as well the other Connery entries in the franchise, but still packs in the thrills.

The script by Roald Dahl made major changes from the source novel which followed Bond's descent into darkness after the murder of his wife. Of course that would not happen until the film to follow On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But the film did take the Japan setting and used some of the characters from the novel, but the similarities end there. The film centers on SPECTRE attempting to start a world war by disrupting the American and Soviet space programs.

The impressive first act has MI-6 faking Bond's death, an idea taken from the novel. Sent to Tokyo on a lead where he works with the Japanese Secret Service led by Tiger Tanaka. In another twist, Bond must disguise himself as a Japanese fisherman (also trains to be a ninja and gets married) in order to infiltrate the SPECTRE base inside a volcano - all in the midst of an international crisis!

The volcano lair was designed by Ken Adams and the final battle impressive is impressive, but also borders on overkill, dwarfing Bond and the movie. The plot borders on incoherent so not everything appears to make sense. Pleasence as Blofeld plays him as conniving and even a little cowardly.

Connery was tiring of the role and was ready to move on, but would return to the role in Diamonds Are Forever. The theme arranged by John Barry and performed by Nancy Sinatra remains one of the most iconic in the series. 

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