After faking his own death, James is sent to Japan to investigate the capture of an American space shuttle. In doing so, he learns that SPECTRE is capturing both American and Russian shuttles in order to start a war between the two world powers, in order to create a new world order.
Bond, James Bond:
Sean Connery in his fifth of five consecutive official appearances, with one more official visit after a brief stay by Australian George Lazenby. You can see why this is his last consecutive appointment, and that’s not to say that Eon wanted him out of this franchise. It’s to say that he does not want to be here anymore. He isn’t quite sleepwalking through this performance, but he clearly isn’t bringing his A or B game on this one. It’s not a terrible performance; it’s just the performance of someone who would rather be almost anywhere else. To put it even more simply, I enjoyed watching the underwater scenes in Thunderball more than Sean Connery enjoyed being in this movie.
As a character, I do like James here more than I liked him in either of the previous two films, which basically means I don’t think he was trying to rape anyone in this movie. He is certainly still a misogynist, as he seems upset that his fake wife might have a “face like a pig,” as well as racist, as his first line of dialogue is him questioning “why do Chinese girls taste different from other girls,” but at least I am confident that his sexual escapades are all consensual here. It’s a sad day that this is something worth celebrating, but that’s what Goldfinger and Thunderball did to me.
However, he does have to go undercover as a ninja, for some reason. And, to be a convincing ninja, he gets made up, given a haircut and slouches his body to look more Japanese. I think the line before all of this happens is “First, you must become a Japanese.” It’s rough.
Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) takes charge on this film’s titular song. The lyrics here are a bit odd, as they seem very focused on the idea of holding onto love while you have the opportunity, with lines like “You drift through the years and life seems tame/till one dream appears and love is its name” followed by “love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on/don’t think of the danger or the stranger is gone.” It’s odd because I would not say that love is a through-line of this particular movie. I’ll go a bit deeper on this in the Girls section, but James has a handful of “love interests” in this movie, but none of them particularly stand out as being someone that James would truly love (although Connery’s performance doesn’t help sell that).
However, where the lyrics may fail the song, the strings here are a wonderful touch. They feel appropriate for the Japanese setting of this film, without feeling heavy-handed (although there is a bit of percussion at times that does feel a bit more on-the-nose for the culture). It’s these wonderful strings that are able to push this song just outside of the top ten, at a solid 12. Stronger lyrics could have pushed it into the top ten.
Ladies and gentleman, we have officially met Ernst Stavro Blofeld. After being only a torso in two previous films, Donald Pleasence finally gives the head of SPECTRE a face (one that is the basis for Austin Powers’ nemesis Dr. Evil). However, they do not show his face for the first two-thirds of the film, which is a nice touch by director Louis Gilbert. By leading the audience to believe we will yet again not see the character’s face, we get to experience a formal meeting with the head of the international crime syndicate at the same time as James, which makes us feel like we are on this adventure with him. When we do see his face, Pleasence makes an impact immediately. Despite being well shorter than Connery, he has a physical heft to him, which allows him to feel like a physical threat. However, having him hold a cat (often to the cat’s chagrin, more on that below), allows him to feel like the most human of the villains that we have met, even as he murders people on a whim. He’s also the first villain to escape his encounter with James with his life, allowing him to officially appear in the next two films, before he kind of stumbles out of the franchise due to a weird lawsuit I don’t care enough about to do research on for this blog. In summary, after being a mysterious figure for two previous films, Blofeld’s official appearance works really well here, and I’m excited to see what he does (especially at the end of the next movie.)
This film is similar to, albeit a little bit better than, From Russia with Love as it pertains to James’s sexual partners. None of these three women make much of an impression, although one of them at least appears to have something of an emotional connection with James, one that would have worked better had Connery cared more.
I’ll start with the character who comes closest to making an impression, being Aki, portrayed by Akiko Wakabayashi. She meets James very early during his time in Japan, and she ends up escorting him around the country and introducing him to his Japanese counterpart, Tiger Tanaka. As she spends more time with him, she and James theoretically fall in love with each other. I say theoretically because, again, Connery does not care nearly enough about this movie to try to show an emotion, but Wakabayashi sells it. Little smiles that she throws to James, and the hurt in her voice at the idea that James would have sex with another woman, really makes me believe that she cares for him, and it’s a little sad to see her go. But, like Moneypenny, she deserves better than James anyway. Most women do.
James also spends some time with Kissy Suzuki (played by Mie Hama), who is his undercover wife after he becomes a ninja. She’s fine. She doesn’t get very much to do, having been introduced with maybe thirty minutes left in the movie, and being onscreen for maybe a sixth of that time. Despite that short amount of time, she does better than henchperson Helga Brandt, played by Karin Dor. This character genuinely makes zero sense. At one second, she is threatening to flay the skin from James’ body (cool!), and then suddenly she is enraptured with him and makes out with him, while releasing him from his bonds (wait, why?) and then after they have sex (“The things I do for England,” James quips, stupidly), she tries to kill him with some exploding lipstick while on a plane. All three of these things happen in, maybe, two minutes of screen time. She eventually gets fed to piranhas in Blofeld’s volcano lair, which, honestly, seems too good for her. (Although, she is probably still too good for James. She cuts it close though.)
I think because of our official introduction to Blofeld, none of his henchpeople stand out. Looking on Wikipedia, most of them are only referred to by their code number (Helga Brandt is Number 11, which seems way too close to Blofeld’s Number 1), and then the industrialist who is funding SPECTRE to start the nuclear war between America and Russia doesn’t do a whole lot except get shot by Blofeld, and rat out Brandt for letting James go (they didn’t know it was James, because he’s supposed to be dead. Even though his picture was in the newspapers, but why should they do research?)
James’s main contact in Japan is Tiger Tanaka, who is not nearly as cool as his name implied, but is still kind of awesome. Dude has a ninja school (I guess the Japanese secret service in this movie is just ninjas, which, okay, sure). He gets points off for being equally as misogynistic as James, including lines like “In Japan, men come first, women come second” while walking into a spa room filled with scantily clad women, and later describes one of these women as “very sexyful.” So, in hindsight, I think I wanted him to be cool, because his name was Tiger Tanaka. Realistically, he’s just a dude with a cool name, who runs a ninja school but is also a garbage human being. Down with Tiger.
Moneypenny, M and Q are all back, played by Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewelyn. Again, nobody really has a lot to do, although I will never, ever get tired of watching Q hate James. It’s my favorite thing in the world.
There’s a handful here, but two stand out, both very positively. The first is called a “special baby rocket” by Tiger Tanaka, and is literally a rocket inside of a cigarette. You light the cigarette, take a puff, and then the rocket blasts out, and is apparently accurate up to 30 yards. It for sure feels like something that is written into the movie at service of the plot, instead of something that would actually already exist in the world. But it may be worth it to hear Tiger say that “it can save your life, this cigarette,” and to hear James describe the gadget as “very neat” as if he were Bender from Futurama.
The other gadget is the Little Nellie helicopter, which is hand-delivered to Japan by Q, who, as you know, I adore, because he might be the only person who detests James more than me. The helicopter is stacked with weapons, all of which are on display in what is probably the best action sequence to date, as James has to avoid security choppers over Blofeld’s lair. This is also the only time that the James Bond score is memorably used, and it is used exquisitely, with key moments in the song corresponding to certain explosions. It’s a great sequence, and the gadget is utilized perfectly throughout it.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-For 1967, this movie’s space sequences are pretty excellent. I have not seen a lot of space movies before this era, but I have to imagine the work here was mindblowing to these audiences.
-The movie’s cold open ends with a shot of James, apparently dead, in his bed. Even though this movie clearly isn’t going to start with our hero dying even before the opening credits, this moment works. I assumed they were going to say that he somehow fell out the back wall from the Murphy Bed he was trapped in, so seeing his corpse was an effective twist.
-Roald Dahl wrote this movie. As in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl. Not a name you would ever expect to see in these movies.
-A secret password in this movie is “I Love You.” An extremely common sentence is a password. I tell my food that every day. Also, my wife, probably.
-One of the first things that Tiger tells James is that he knows that James “will get into anything with any girl,” which is probably James’ most defining trait.
-There’s one helicopter shot, looking over a roof where James is fighting his way through several nameless henchpeople. It’s a cool shot, but I do wish I could have seen the fight more close-up (although it probably would have been cut to hell, so I’ll take what I can get)
-At one point, the industrialist paying SPECTRE to start the nuclear war is angry that Blofeld is extorting him for money. Blofeld simply replies with “Extortion is my business.” It is the E in SPECTRE after all.
-Although the ninja school is cool, it almost always includes yelling, which I feel like is not a trait I typically attribute to ninjas.
-The mountain/volcano camouflage that the ninjas wear just makes it look like they are all doing some terrible Korg cosplay.
-I haven’t really discussed it, but this villain lair is amazing. From the “People Mover” style transport system to the fact that it is hidden inside of a volcano, this really helps the movie standout among some of the other films’ lairs.
-Look at this gif and tell me that this cat wants to be in this movie. You can’t.
Despite some unsurprisingly racist things going on (again, it’s the 60s, but, also again, that shouldn’t matter anymore), the story of this movie was one that kept me way more interested than Thunderball (even if that isn’t saying much). With the space race plot, combined with a really fun action sequence, and the introduction of one of the most famous villains in media, this movie really stands out for me. I’ll also give this one a 007 out of 0010. Which is what I gave to Dr. No which doesn’t make a lot of sense, which is why I hate ratings.
TJ Hizer Will Return With: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, starring George Lazenby
References You Only Live Twice Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Only_Live_Twice_(film) You Only Live Twice Gadget Page http://www.007james.com/gadgets/you_only_live_twice.php Pictures Cover Photo https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/32/You_Only_Live_Twice_-_UK_cinema_poster.jpg Japanese James http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/styles/main_wide/public/0/04//james-bond-japanese-agent.jpg?itok=6UlrdDf7 Blofeld https://i.pinimg.com/564x/f2/d9/89/f2d989063162d7114d3a16f43e7ad919--donald-pleasence-james-bond.jpg Q http://www.aveleyman.com/Gallery/ActorsL/10440-21740.jpg Bender https://i.imgur.com/iYOXpB3.jpg Little Nellie http://www.007james.com/gadgets/you_only_live_twice.php Korg http://www.mtv.com.au/sites/default/files/styles/image-w-760-scale/public/mtv_au/galleries/large/2017/10/26/thor-3_6011783.jpg?itok=HZ7TBJ1x Angry Cat http://i.imgur.com/3sWklNp.gif