Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for anything involving outer space, especially astronaut movies, so I loved the opening and general plot of You Only Live Twice, which features SPECTRE sending spacecraft into orbit that literally swallow up spacecraft piloted by American and Russian astronauts. This sends the world into a frenzy, and could incite another World War.
Thunderball meandered through its cockamamie plot at a painstakingly slow pace, but that’s fixed (mostly) in You Only Live Twice. The film does a good job of moving things along, and the trip to Japan is a nice change of scenery for the franchise. The idea that you could train James Bond to be a ninja in just a couple days (and disguise him as a Japanese man) was a bit much, but in a movie where – I’m going to say this again – a spacecraft is literally swallowing up other spacecrafts! – I can suspend my disbelief. The best thing about the film is that we finally get to see James’ nemesis, SPECTRE head Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in the flesh. All of those Dr. Evil jokes in Austin Powers finally make sense to me.
Blofeld, while not the most intimidating bad guy, is just so cool and “Bond villain-y,” that I had a great time seeing him on screen. Donald Pleasance gives a great performance (even if his voice is a little squeaky at times), as does Sean Connery. You can tell that this is his fifth back-to-back entry in the franchise, because he doesn’t seem as committed to the role as he once was, but he’s having a lot more fun here than he did in Thunderball.
As far as Bond girls and supporting cast go, I didn’t find them very memorable. Which is a shame, because Japanese secret agent Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurbo Tanba) could have been awesome.
Full of noteworthy action pieces, from the “Little Nellie” helicopter chase to Blofeld’s gigantic volcanic lair (how did they even build that gigantic set in 1967??), You Only Live Twice was a fun, albeit flawed, entry in the franchise. I will say, I’m excited to see On Her Majesty’s Secret Service next, as it will not only be a change of pace but a change of lead actor, as George Lazenby steps into Bond’s shoes for a single outing. I love Connery’s Bond, but miss his charm.
- A spacecraft literally swallowing other spacecraft
- James Bond’s unease while watching a sumo match
- “Permission to come aboard sir.”
- James literally fighting a Japanese goon with a couch.