#92 You Only Live Twice
After active Russian and American spacecraft are stolen by an unknown craft each country blames the other and threatens retribution if their ship is not returned. The United Kingdom however thinks there might be another organisation at work pulling the strings. MI6 sends James Bond (Sean Connery) into Japan, the last known location of the mystery vessel, in order to avert World War 3 and discover the true culprit.
This is the last of Connery’s original run as 007. Having grown bored/annoyed of the public attention from the role and fearing being type cast, Connery announced this would be his last time playing Bond mid way through production on this film. Despite this there doesn’t really seem to be any slump in performance, and we’re given the same Bond we know and love one more time.
Donald Pleasence would finally provide the face of the mysterious Ernst Stavro Blofeld, no 1 and leader of SPECTRE, in this installment. Although Blofeld would be played by 3 different actors over the course of the series, this version is probably the most synonymous with the series (Nehru suit, bald, holding a Persian cat, facial scar) and most widely parodied since (most notably Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series).
In terms of Bond girl this time around there were two: Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama). Both girls where chosen by the producers and sent to London for 3 months to learn English for the roles. Originally the roles were supposed to be reversed but Akiko proved to be the better at English and was therefore given the part with more lines. Kissy represents the more standard Bond girl and has a part similar to Honey Ryder in Dr No, helping Bond on the island and escaping with him when it’s about to explode.
Aki on the other hand might be my favourite Connery era Bond girl (although Tanya in FRWL might tie with her). She’s smart, confident, a competent agent, of great assistance to Bond in the field and she chooses to pursue Bond. She also has a rather tragic death. All in all she’s more of an individual than most of the previous girls.
Probably the main thing this film has going for it is spectacle. There have been big action set pieces in the previous films but this has a ninja training academy and an incursion on a hollowed out volcano lair. Everything is just a little grander this time around and it feels like it has more of purpose for happening than all the underwater battles from Thunderball. It also perfectly showcases Bond’s fighting style with a panning aerial shot of the dock rooftops.
This is also the first of the Bond movies to largely deviate from Ian Fleming’s original novel and, interestingly enough, had the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, a friend of Fleming, provide the screenplay.
Maybe not quite as good as films 2 and 3 but a definite upgrade from number 4. 3.5/5.