Director: Lewis Gilbert
Cast: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn
Film matched beverage: Kamikaze
Synopsis: As this was to be the last film Connery was to be involved with, they took this opportunity to finally reveal the big bad. Audiences finally met Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Pleasence), the brains behind SPECTRE. This was amidst an adventure in which Bond attempted to determine the cause of the disappearance of both American and Russian space craft. The mission leads him to going under cover in Japan.
Exotic locations have always been key to the Bond franchise, and for a western audience, the orient is very exotic. You Only Live Twice is largely set within Japan, and the country as it has been filmed is absolutely gorgeous. Add the high def Blu-Ray upgrade, and the scenery just pops off the screen. Add to this the exotic beauties that surround Bond in this, both Bond Girls are Asian, then there is a lot visually to enjoy about this film.
The plot, while exciting, is not quite as spectacular, a disappointment for the film in which Blofeld is finally revealed. It is not so much that one can find fault with the plot, the individual elements are thrilling, the space heists are gripping, and the evidence adds up amidst a great dose of action. The concern more arises from simple comparison with the three films that preceded this one. You Only Live Twice can be considered superior to a number of succeeding Bond films, but the fact that this is a Connery Bond does mean that the standards to which it can be compared are generally much higher.
To the film’s credit, however, it does really embrace the atmosphere of the setting, with Bond in co-operation with ninjas and the Japanese secret service in general. Being Bond, it does highlight the cultural predilection if the time that females were subservient to men (as also captured by the poster above). His two prominent female contacts however, are both strong women. Aki (Wakabayashi) is an agent whom co-operates with Bond and steals the movie in a few of her scenes. Kissy (Hama), whilst not as resourceful as Aki, has strong moral beliefs, and wooing her is not quite as easy as Bond would originally hope.
So, I guess for me the let down with the film is that the final Blofeld reveal is somewhat underwhelming. It is incongruous that such a powerful character was embodied by a small man lacking physicality. The look of Pleasence’s Blofeld did inspire Dr. Evil, but it is a look that, for me, lack’s menace. As I referred to in my initial discussions of the Blofeld character, often what you imagine does not match reality. In many ways I prefer Telly Savalas’ interpretation from the subsequent On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (my next review, in fact).
You Only Live Twice is an entertaining film, and the elements of a great Connery Bond film are all there. A more powerful villain would have really completed the film.
4 stars out of 5
1 part fresh lime juice (or 1/5 of lime juice concentrate)
1 part Triple Sec
Shaken over ice and served in a martini glass.