Published on September 17th, 2012 | by Ben Abbott0
Bond in Film: You Only Live Twice.
Agent 007 – Sean Connery
Bond Girls – Akiko Wakabayashi
Villain – Donald Pleasence
Budget – $9.5million Gross – $111.6million
Space Exploration, Helicopter Chases, Ninjas, Man-Eating Piranhas and secret underground lairs. It certainly is another James Bond adventure worthy of appreciation.
You Only Live Twice was Ian Flemming’s twelfth novel published before his death in 1964. Once again, producers of the franchise have near doubled the budget of the previous Bond film two years before, jumping from $5.6m to $9.5m. Along with a bigger budget and a screenplay by none other than Children’s Book Legend Roald Dahl, Lewis Gilbert was brought in as Director, replacing Terrence Young who directed three of the four previous Bond films (Guy Hamilton directed Goldfinger). Gilbert’s talent would later be seen again in two of Roger Moore’s Bond films; The Spy Who Loved Me and (everyone’s favourite) Moonraker.
The opening prologue details a US space exploration disaster. This film was released in 1967, two years before the Moon landing, one year before Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddysey and a full decade before the first Star Wars film, yet it handles the subject matter with modest ambition. Whilst being an interstellar-focused feature, James Bond takes to Oriental territory, investigating the suspected Japanese involvement in the disaster. Intriguingly, the film introduces Bond in his death scene and the girl with Bond in this scene is played by actress Tsai Chin, who later returns in the Bond franchise almost forty years later as one of the players in Le Chiffre’s poker match in 2006’s Casino Royale.
The responsible party for the disaster in space is the usual suspect, SPECTRE and it’s faceless head-honcho Blofeld. This time, SPECTRE’s hideout is contained in an elaborate lair within an inactive volcano. The set of the lair was built on Pinewood Studios and cost just over $1million (1/9th of the entire film’s budget). Extremely large, featuring a moving heli-pad, operational monorail and a launch pad with matching full-size rocket, able to simulate blast-off, the gargantuan lair looks amazing. The film also features a spectacular wide lens helicopter shot of a well-choreographed rooftop fight, on the docks of Kagoshima. It seems out of character from what previous Bond films have done in these situations, something that is used more in later Bonds like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but it gives and incredible scale to the film and it isn’t done enough these days.
Something I noticed upon this re-watch of You Only Live Twice is the obvious likeness to the espionage spoof Austin Powers. This was clearly a huge influence on Michael Myers’ for his successful trilogy. Most overtly referenced is the face of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, which would become the face of Dr. Evil. It’s the first time you see Blofeld’s face on screen, after being played by several actors in the off-screen performances.
As a follow up from the less impressive Thunderball, You Only Live Twice is a breath of fresh air. However, it’s level of complexity and story seems lower. I’ve read that the plot of the Film and that of the Novel are extremely different. Perhaps if Dahl had stayed closer to the source material it might have been something more special, but hey, it’s not Moonraker so it’s worth time you give it.
My sources tell me we’ll be taking a look at the original Casino Royale next, so tune in on Thursday for that viewers.