For his fifth outing, Bond must work out who is responsible for space piracy – yes, that’s right! An American space capsule is swallowed up by what is believed to be a Russian spaceship, which could provoke the cold war into action. Bond must work with a Japanese Secret Service agent to uncover the truth and stop war from taking place. What he does not know is that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. number 1, Ernest Stavro Blofeld is secretly masterminding events from an inactive volcano. Even without me mentioning the Bond name, looking at that plot of the film, it has to be a British double-o agent film – or an Austin Powers style parody 😀
This film is directed by Lewis Gilbert, taking over from Terrence Young. The writing team has also changed, with Harold Jack Bloom and Roald Dahl (yes that Roald Dahl) coming in. Despite those major changes, the faces we know, and love are present – Sean Connery is Bond, Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewelyn return as “M” and “Q”, Lois Maxwell is Miss Moneypenny. Add to this Mie Hama as Japanese Agent Kissy Suzaki, Donald Pleasence as Blofeld… oh and look out for Charles Gray (Henderson), Burt Kwouk (S.P.E.C.T.R.E. #3), Michael Chow (S.P.E.C.T.R.E. #4), and even Peter Fanene Maivia (a wrestler known as “High Chief”… grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). So what do you expect from a Bond film then; gadgets – check; criminal mastermind with ludicrous lair – check; smooth but dangerous Bond – check; femme fatales – check; action and fights – check; a intro song, sung by top talent – check (Nancy Sinatra FTR); a lovely John Barry score – check; ninjas… err, well it wasn’t expected, but, err, check? So, really you are getting what you might expect from a Bond film and some more too.
This is undoubtedly a fun Bond film, but it is also very over-the-top in many respects. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. starts looking flimsy and silly at times, action sequences are added for fun rather than a plot vehicle, even Connery himself doesn’t seem as solid as he did in other outings. I’ve mentioned Austin Powers in my opening paragraph and this film is without a doubt one of the influences of the Austin Powers films – this Bond is very tongue in cheek, there are a lot of clichés in the film, at times it cheesier and hammier then a cheese and ham sandwich. Despite the potentially perceived negatives I have just written, I can forgive the film, it’s Bond after all, it’s an institution in British film, it’s entertainment rather than a politically or emotionally moving story – and this film feels like the comic book version of what four previous films have been building up nicely. For me though it’s a little bit of a step in the wrong direction – one that would ultimately lead the franchise in a different direction than the previous films had been signposting that things would be heading. Is that bad then, not necessarily, change can be good after all, it’s just not what I, and not what some of the audience in 1967 were expecting.
“You only live twice” is a decent enough film, I wouldn’t say it’s as good as a “007: Goldfinger” (1964), but it is still an entertaining way to pass a few hours on a bank holiday weekend. The film is still family friendly so don’t worry if you have kids running around while this is on.
Title Song: You only live twice – Nancy Sinatra
In terms of Bond films this is a 6 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 5 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking