Film Review: You Only Live Twice
In 1967, Lewis Gilbert released You Only Live Twice, based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the fifth film of the franchise. Starring Sean Connery, Mie Hama, Donald Pleasance, Akiko Wakabayashi and Tesuro Tamba, the film grossed $111.6 million at the Box Office.
After Bond fakes his death, he is sent to Japan to investigate SPECTRE’s latest plot to spark a nuclear war by interfering in the Space Race. When he arrives, he finds himself face to face with his archnemesis: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
You Only Live Twice seems to be the point where Connery started getting burnt out playing the character of James Bond as the performance he gives leaves a lot to be desired and is only somewhat decent at best. It feels like he’s just coasting through the film and only doing it because of his obligation and the paycheck. The scene when he’s flying Little Nellie is a great example, after the action is over, Connery just sounds bored. It is true that Bond is supposed to be unfazed by what’s happening around him, but there needs to be a little more emotion behind the character's actions. He also seems like he really doesn’t want to be there in other scenes. Fortunately, despite his lack of enthusiasm, the other actors in the film prop it up to make it better.
Pleasance does very well as Blofeld. While he starts out the film with his face off camera, just like every other Blofeld, he winds up doing a lot more than any other Blofeld before him. He may be a little stilted before he reveals his face, it's after he introduces himself to Bond when his performance gets quite a bit better. When speaking face-to-face with Bond, he speaks very fluidly, exuding the smarminess that comes when feeling unstoppable. The only problem with that was, he got cocky and Pleasance is great in bringing that about. He does kill Helga at one point because she screwed up. Yet, he has Bond looking down the barrel of a gun, he decides to kill his other henchmen because he screwed up. His demeanor just shows that he thinks he’s won anyway and will kill Bond when he finally has. Once again, this shows that Blofeld may find himself unstoppable,when he really isn’t.
The plot itself is also interesting because SPECTRE could have actually succeeded in its plot about three different times in the film. If Bond’s first contact in Japan hadn’t been stabbed in the back, he wouldn’t have known to go to the island containing the lair. Blofeld would have won. Had Blofeld killed Bond instead of Osato, he would have won. Had he not given Bond one final cigarette, he would have won. It’s fascinating to see just how many times a supervillain organization can bring about its own demise.
At the same time, where the idea of SPECTRE almost succeeding three different times is notable, it's also quite interesting that the film diverged a bit from those before it by adding a few over the top elements, such as more cartoonish villains and extravagant sets. Despite the film after this one taking Bond back and toning it down somoewhat, it's entertaining to see the beginnings of the more campier James Bond that the Moore films would present audiences.
Then there's Tanaka’s ninjas who are seen very early on, training in the ways of ninjitsu as well as modern combat. This sequence is where Bond gets the gadgets he uses throughout the film and is well placed, considering it replaces the usual visit to Q Branch without leaving audiences with the desire to still have that trip. Furthermore, it’s quite a sight, seeing them all in the climax of the film descending on Blofeld’s lair using both of their methods to take him and his operation down.
Nancy Sinatra’s opening song also deserves a mention. Singing about living twice when there’s classic Japanese imagery and volcanoes in the background has sort of a beautiful ring to it. Even though it's not one of the most memorable title sequences of the series, it's still quite good
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Golden Screen Awards
- Golden Screen
- Best British Art Direction
IGN Summer Movie Awards
- Best Movie Blu-Ray (for the "Bond 50 Box Set")
Golden Satellite Awards
- Best Classic DVD Release (for "The James Bond DVD Collection," volumes 2 & 3)