You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967) – As I have said before, it is an undisputed fact that Sean Connery is the best James Bond. However, that doesn’t mean that the Sean Connery Bond movies were always the best Bond movies. The bond movies really run the gamut from truly excellent (2006’s Casino Royale) to quite abysmal (The Man with the Golden Gun). There’s a pretty wipe gap of quality there. Not to mention that the older movies could often get… well, silly. Not the sly winking humor James Bond has always possessed, but just outright silly. Of course then again sometimes things could be so ludicrously over-the-top that they pass silly and cycle back around again to awesome. Want an example? Three words: hidden volcano lair. Fuck yes! So with such a wide range of quality in the series it’s always impossible to know just how good a Bond movie is going to be. So where exactly does You Only Live Twice rate?

An American space rocket is attacked and seemingly swallowed whole by a mysterious spacecraft. Naturally the Russians are blamed. After faking his own death (thus providing the origin of the title) James Bond is sent to Tokyo to investigate. He meets with his Tokyo contact Henderson (Charles Gray), but Henderson is killed before he can divulge his important information. The head of the Japanese secret service Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurô Tamba) aides Bond and provides him with an agent named Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) to help him out with… whatever Bond needs helping out with (three guesses how that ends up). Bond investigates a chemical magnate named Osato (Teru Shimada) with known ties to the terrorist organization SPECTRE, headed as always by the sinister cat-stroking genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance, marking the first time Blofeld’s face is seen on camera). There’s also Osato’s assistant Helga Brant (Karin Dor) and his fake wife Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), not to mention appearances by Bind’s familiar allies M (Bernard Lee), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), and gadget-master Q (Desmond Llewelyn).

While Goldfinger opens with the sounds of Shirley Bassey belting out the quintessential Bond title song, You Only Live Twice opens with a pretty forgettable Nancy Sinatra title song. A lot of the movie is pretty damn silly. Not being Japanese myself, I couldn’t really say if the depiction of the culture was racist or not… but it kind of seems like it might be. On the other hand, how can you be offended by a stereotype when that stereotype is awesome as NINJAS! Yes, there are ninjas in this movie. A lot of them. However a scene where Bond must “become Japanese” (and not in the way 80s rock band The Vapors meant it) is pretty damn offensive… especially since Bond ends up looking a lot like Mr. Spock. This movie also has the awesomeness of the aforementioned hidden volcano layer and the requisite scantily clad hot women required of the Bond series (Hama spends pretty much the entire action-packed climax in a bikini). Also we get to see the ruthlessness with which Blofeld dispatched underlings who displease him.  Pleasance’s performance was iconic enough that THIRTY YEARS LATER it serves as the main inspiration for Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. That’s quite of what’s especially awesome about the old Bond movies, even when they get silly they still end up achieving the iconic. You Only Live Twice is far from the best of the series but it’s still pretty fun.

By the way, I came up with this in response to that stupid “YOLO” meme that Drake started and my good friend Daniel O’Dea whipped it up…

So everybody start hashtagging that shit now…

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