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You Only Live Twice (1967)

March 23, 2011

7/10 Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs

Not sure how the guy who created Willy Wonka ended up with this of all writing gigs, but whatever, I had fun.

You Only Live Twice picks up with good ol’ Jimmy B. faking his death and booking it over to Japan to investigate an unidentified spacecraft that’s been eating up American and Soviet space pods like gangbusters. With each new shuttle launch that is for some reason taking place every damn day, JB finds himself in a race against time to figure out who the hell is behind all this bullshit before World War III breaks out and the Queen ends up on the short of end of a nuclear holocaust. TIME TO KICK SOME ASS…NINJA STYLE!

So there are three noteworthy things that separate this movie from the previous four entries. First, James is in in Japan and he’s finally getting the chance to test out all those politically incorrect Asian jabs he’s been stockpiling since Jamaica. Second, it’s probably got the best theme song of any Bond film. Never knew that this was the tune Robbie Williams sampled in “Millennium“, but since that song’s sweet, so is the source material. Well done, Nancy Sinatra. And third, the screenplay is written by Roald-freaking-Dahl.

Yeah, you read that right. From the outset, it might make as much sense as Dr. Seuss writing for Die Hard, but as ridiculous as this movie gets, it works because it’s fun.

So as far as the gadgets are concerned, this here’s an interesting mix. The only one of the bunch that I found pretty suspect was the fancy schmancy, high tech safecracker that Jimbo magically whips out of his pocket after discovering a hidden safe in his foe’s office. If there had been some prior mentioning of this device that’s about as big as a shoebox yet easily concealable for business attire and highly resistant to any damage caused during fistfights with sumo security guards, that would have been fine. But by the same taken, whatever, it’s not a huge scene to begin with and I’m making a bigger deal out of this than anyone could really give a shit about. I’ll just chalk it up to JB having a hunch.

But the other two noteworthy gadgets I actually do kinda get. There’s a ninja cigarette that turns into a one-shot magnum of sorts when lit, and that’s cool, that’s something I could see myself making good use of in a tight spot and that’s exactly what JB does with it. But that thing flat-out pales in comparison to the holy grail of Q’s inventions this time around: the Erector Set helicopter with a school bus yellow finish that James somehow pilots like he’s goddamn Iceman or something. One the one hand, its presence here makes sense because he needs a fast way to search an entire island for secret lairs, but it is a little weird watching him fly around in this thing that looks like it came with a Happy Meal.

Then again, it’s hard to knock this kinda stuff for being stupid because it’s all from the mind of Roald Dahl. And even if it is stupid, the gadgets aren’t insanely convenient, they’re not used to the point of exhaustion, and it really was pretty sweet watching James massacre four big boy helicopters with the obscene amount of rockets, mines and machine gunnery attached to his chopper that arrived no less than an hour earlier in four big-ass suitcases. Seriously, look at that thing, imagine how embarrassing it would be to get killed by that. Double embarrassing since its name is “Little Nellie”.

Jesus, what a weird “gadget” that is.

Although there are a couple plot developments here that I couldn’t brush off with a grain of salt let alone a fire hose blasting Dead Sea water down my throat. For some reason, James’ contact in Japan thinks it’d be a good idea to disguise to turn 007 Japanese. It’s like that scene in Team America where the puppet goes under the knife so that he can go undercover with the natives of Derkaderkastan, only this is serious…and with real people. I’m not kidding. A half-dozen sexy Japanese plastic surgeons place James on an operating table in a room the size of a football field, then proceed to work their magic by giving him a Japanese man’s wig, placing some kind of makeup pads over his eyelids, and then I think they give him a spray tan off-screen. I don’t know about you folks and I don’t know about the gullibility of the Japanese people, but you’d have to be a genuine dumbass not to raise an eyebrow at the six-foot-tall stranger with a white guy’s facial features who says “Arigato gozaimas” in a thick Scottish accent. No wig is that convincing.

And then the story eventually makes its way into a ninja colony where James is trained in the ways of silent death and such, and as much as I should have seen that coming, it’s still a little much.

Alright, so Dahl does take this plot in some suspect directions here and there, but he does pull of a lot of it and, most importantly, he does go back to the original formula of not clueing the audience into everything that’s going on within the first 15 minutes of the movie. What killed Thunderball for me was that SPECTRE’s plan was laid out for us right from the get-go and so the rest of the plot was just us waiting for James to catch up to speed. But this time around, the audience is back to being kept in the dark until James starts getting answers, and that’s the way it should be. Makes the whole thing way more watchable and I truly don’t understand why it ever changed to begin with.

And, hey, we finally get to see what Blofeld looks like, and he’s a dead ringer for Dr. Evil in more ways than one. But it’s a shame that there’s simply nothing even remotely terrifying about a five-foot-tall bald man in a flesh-colored bodysuit who’s always holding a cat, and it’s astounding how many golden opportunities he passes up to just shoot Bond in the forehead. How this guy got to the top of the world’s leading terrorist organization is beyond me.

So it’d been a long time since I’d last seen this movie and my vague impression going in was that this was one of the more forgettable entries in the series. But I guess nine-year-old Aiden didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about ’cause You Only Live Twice is actually a good ol’ time. With the exception of the Bond girls who all suck (although it’s absolutely hilarious how fast they go from hating James to jumping his bones with the flick of a switch) and how shamelessly offensive and misogynistic some of it is, it’s easily one of the more entertaining and amusing entries of Connery’s run, there’s some great fight scenes to boot, and I love that James has his sense of humor back. Wasn’t expecting things to get much better after the crushing disappointment of Thunderball, but whatever, I’ll take it and I hope this keeps up when Lazenby takes the reigns.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 12:54 am

    I couldn’t ever get behind the ridicliousness of this plot and found a lot of the Asian stereotyping painfully hard to watch. I really didn’t care for this one at all.

    Also, I think Live and Let Die is the best Bond theme ever.

    • March 23, 2011 10:20 am

      Hahaha. Yeah, I can’t knock you for that. Definitely one of the more politically incorrect entries in the series.

      But I don’t know, man, never been a big fan of that song. Love McCartney, but it’s whenever the song starts speeding up after the chorus that I stop listening. I don’t know, Wings never really did it for me with the exception of “Band on the Run”.

  2. Ryan permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:04 am

    Is this the one where the enemy base is inside a volcano?

    • March 23, 2011 9:09 am

      That’s the one. Pretty epic set piece if I do say so myself, but completely ridiculous that no one in the neighboring village or NASA wouldn’t notice a goddamn rocket shooting out of that thing all the time.

  3. March 23, 2011 4:12 pm

    I hope it has sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads.

    Kidding. Great review, and like you, I had no idea Roald Dahl write the script for this one. Might have to go back and rewatch it just for a laugh!!

    • March 24, 2011 1:50 pm

      Haha. Thanks, man. That was a surprise to me as well, but hey, all the more reason to check it out.

  4. March 24, 2011 2:11 pm

    Ha…ha… well Blofeld is indeed a dead ringer for Dr. Evil as that’s Mike Myer’s homage to him. I saw this with my brothers as a kid and really enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’d have the same feeling about it now. I mean, it’s so darn campy and those girls are just irritatingly silly, they’re nothing more than a piece of eye candy. Same reasons I hated Denise Richard’s Bond girl… but glad they’ve finally got one w/ a brain in Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. She rocks!

    • March 24, 2011 3:07 pm

      Haha. Yeah, it’s campy alright and the girls don’t have much to offer other than some quick sex before getting offed in some bizarre fashion, but still, I thought it was fun.

      But you’re right, Vesper Lynd’s got all these girls beat by a long shot.

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