You Only Live Twice
James Bond number 5! No one can stop us now!
An American space shuttle gets swallowed by a mysterious other space thing. Tensions rise between the US and the USSR. Bond is sent to Japan to follow a lead and investigate further.
Oddly enough I reviewed this just over a year ago1. It’s worth a read since I will be trying not to repeat myself here.
This was supposed to be Connery’s last film as Bond. He was allegedly tiring of the role and it shows. Not a surprise that he didn’t return for the next film.
In fact, everything about You Only Live Twice indicates that the franchise is beginning to show signs of fatigue. Yes, it’s a ‘bigger’ film but it pushes the boundaries of plausibility too far. There are so many gadgets and crazy things happening. It feels stupid rather than cool or entertaining.
Roald Dahl penned the script and was unable to base it on the book, because the book doesn’t actually contain much material! Instead, panicking about what to do, he wrote what can only be described as a Dr. No remake. The problem is, Dr. No wasn’t that long ago.
Ironically enough the film starts with MI6 faking Bond’s death so that he can fool SPECTRE, yet this doesn’t affect the plot at all. The worst we get is mild surprise from SPECTRE; hardly enough to warrant naming the whole thing You Only Live Twice.
There are a few memorable elements to the film though, notably the appearance of ‘Little Nellie’, Bond’s tiny gyrocopter he uses to recon the volcano. It’s also the first time we see SPECTRE-chief Blofeld, but this is a bit of a wasted opportunity as it turns out to be an anti-climax. I’m not sure it was a good idea ever showing his face.
The set design, although again reminiscent of Dr. No, is big and brash. Apparently the hollowed out volcano set at Pinewood could be seen for miles around. It’s also a little flimsy and lacking in depth. Looks great from afar, but when we get closer things are wobbly and bit rough around the edges. Some of the vehicles are clearly just painted tractors.
You Only Live Twice shows us that Bond films require a surprising amount of talent and care to do well. It tries to fly on a big budget and lots of explosions, yet ultimately fails to make an impact.