A mysterious space craft kidnaps a Russian and American space capsule and brings the world on the verge of a third World War with the Americans blaming the Russians and vice versa. The British however have their heads screwed on and send the recently deceased James Bond to Japan to investigate. Here Bond teams up with Tiger” Tanaka (Tetsurô Tanba) the M of Japan’s SIS and beautiful agent Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) who steer bonds investigations towards Osato (Teru Shimada) and his dangerously beautiful assistant Helga Brandt (Karin Dor). Bonds investigations into the chemical company finally lead him into an explosive confrontation when Bond finally comes face to face with SPECTRE NO1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) in one of the most dramatic movie climaxes the series has witnessed so far.
Based on the 1964 novel “You Only Live Twice” by Ian Fleming the twelfth book in the series producers bring in director Lewis Gilbert and screenwriter Roald Dahl if you can believe it, to get the story going. The Japanese cast are outstanding and though it’s notable for casting the first Asian Bond girls, Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama who are undeniably beautiful but are both also underused, mostly seen trailing after Bond as props. The movie wastes time on diversions like a dogfight in a funny little one-man helicopter, and an outlandish plastic surgery moment to aid Bonds cover in being married. However all the plot issues may have been due to Connery announcing he would not be returning as James Bond halfway through filming, due to the ridiculous hounding he received from the Japanese press. It has been reported that the Japanese press requested Connery be interviewed as James Bond and although the producers took extra measures to insure his privacy by hiring more guards, that they themselves began to take photos and he was once photographed on the toilet. The theme song for You Only Live Twice was “You Only Live Twice” composed by John Barry lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and performed by Nancy Sinatra. The song is based on the poem included in the Ian Fleming novel which I think was a nice nod towards the book and its author.
Why did I choose this movie, I have to admit it is not my favourite bond movie. It’s a relentless juggernaut of danger, passion and non-stop excitement, yes plenty of potential, but poor execution. It is very apparent that they are working from a formula, but rather than mix up the ingredients they just tick them off like a shopping list. The unmasking and then naming of SPECTRE NO1 was maybe the most terrible thing they could have done for the franchise as a whole. They went from having an ominous and powerful super-villain to this creepy dumb guy named Blofeld, and though he looked menacing with the scar all the mystery stripped away! The strange “Plastic surgery moment was the most undramatic sequence of events in the history of film. In all the whole movie just feels choppy and padded out, loads money and attention thrown at action and not so much on plot or smarts. The only thing that saves this movie is Sean Connery and even Bond is looking a little board himself with this one!….James Bond will return in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service