You Only Live Twice (1967 US/UK)

As I watched “You Only Live Twice,” I developed a nostalgia for many scenes that made the older Bond films work so well. One of the great things about “You Only Live Twice” is that it has the confidence to be quiet. Take Bond’s conversation with Henderson (Charles Gray). Bond walks into Henderson’s home, he asks his contact a few questions, an interesting conversation between the men ensues and then Henderson freezes. Someone threw a knife into his back. “North by Northwest,” also has a man unable to reveal a crucial piece of info because he is suddenly killed. And you know what? Between you, me and the gate post, these scenes never get tired/worn. They are what separates the old world of film from the new.

While the previous Bond films had tried to keep things still believable to certain point, this is the movie that finally asks its audience to not think too logically. Roald Dahl’s script just races along – it’s a faked burial at sea one moment, corporate intrigue the next, a ninja army after that – the action is breathless but never stupid or complex. This is an idealized world where everything is perfect, from Aki’s white Toyota 2000GT to the temperature of the saki Tanaka serves Bond, but it’s a joyous fantasy world you can’t resist. Sean Connery was obviously tired of playing Bond by this point, and it shows, but he still injects the role with some oomph.

Connery set the standard for playing Bond that has not been surpassed and — judging from the direction Hollywood has taken its Bond films — is unlikely to ever be surpassed anytime soon. One of the big reasons why Sean Connery’s Bond is larger than life is that he does not apologize for his flaws, compared to Pierce Brosnan’s hen-pecked Bond who quits smoking, gradually switches to Coca Cola (for which the Coca Cola company was very grateful because they had a product placement), drive a Ford (give me a break! More product placement) and looked apologetic (take a bow, Daniel Craig – you do it too) after being slapped by a woman. And for all that sexism, Connery’s Bond is still very appealing to women.

You Only Live Twice is a Bond film only Mr Connery could have pulled off without the film falling into the lowest pits of camp. In a motion picture that includes spaceship eating spaceships, a miniature attack helicopter, a man-eating piranha tank, rocket-bullet firing guns, and pistol toting ninjas; this is a case where only Sean Connery’s charm could save a film from being dominated by its cheese. Even when he’s wearing poor make-up to make him “Japanese.” This is actually the most fun-filled of his escapades as 007 because it contains the campy over-the-top formula that would characterize the Roger Moore era….rich male fantasy and travelogue hung on a spy thriller, the plot of which only occasionally makes logical sense.

As with any series the trend is for each successive film to top the one that precedes it. But how many cinematic orgasms can you give the public before arousing them, or premature climaxes, becomes a problem? As the 5th entry in the series YOLT has to beat the girl from Dr. No, the car from Goldfinger and the stiletto boot from Russia With Love, and actually comes pretty close. The problem is that five films into any series predictability sets in & for an actor, probably the feeling of futility. The most telling shot in the film may be Bond on the roof of a waterfront warehouse fending off several dozen armed Japanese attackers with single chops of his wrist. All this is filmed from overhead by a helicopter, which seems to lose interest in the shot after several moments and simply drifts away. R you bored, Mr Bond-san?

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