Production on a James Bond movie is never easy. If you’ve been following the news on the upcoming 007 adventure, you know this to be very true. You Only Live Twice, the 5th film in the series, was the first time there were massive production issues. Unhappy star (Sean Connery quit after), casting problems (a Japanese actress contemplated suicide), location nightmares (Japanese fans and press were too much), etc. And yet, YOLT was extremely successful at the box-office and it provided Bond fans with everything we love about the character and the franchise.
My YOLT Notes:
Bond’s coolest moment? Watching him walk around Tokyo. He never felt like a fish-out-of-water. Although a very tall Sean Connery going for a stroll in Tokyo did have a Gulliver’s Travels feel to it.
Bond’s most embarrassing moment? It’s a cool action scene, but Bond flying around in the toy helicopter (AKA – Little Nelly) looked ridiculous.
Bond’s best line? “Well, I won’t need these” as he pushes away a plate of oysters, after learning he and Kissy Suzuki will be sleeping in separate beds.
Best acting performance? Even though it’s brief, Donald Pleasance as Ernst Stavro Blofeld remains the most iconic of all the Blofelds throughout the franchise’s history.
Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? That whole bathing scene is seriously problematic. As the great Tiger Tanaka says to Bond: “In Japan, men come first. Women come second.” Let’s not forget that Bond picked a very “sexiful” girl to give him a rub down. Having written all this, I do love that scene. Very 1960s Bond.
Worst line in the movie? Not too many to choose from in Roald Dahl’s entertaining script, but there’s something about the way Kissy says “this is business” that makes her sound like a little kid and less like an agent.
What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 182nd time? After the Soviet space capsule is hijacked, there is a picture of Dwight Eisenhower behind the American generals and military officials.
Best action sequence? That final act of Tiger’s ninjas vs SPECTRE’s crew fighting inside a hollowed-out volcano is what a James Bond climax is all about!
Who or what is the title song about? You Only Live Twice is one of the most beautiful Bond songs of all-time. It’s very poetic and sounds like a chance encounter for Bond that can lead to so much more.
Best looking cinematic moment? The cinematography of the rooftop chase/fight at Kobe docks is a stunner. Having John Barry’s hypnotic score attached to the scene doesn’t hurt.
How could the villain have succeeded? This is going to sound cliche but… just kill Bond already! Blofeld captures him, doesn’t kill him. Allows Bond to open up the crater and let Tiger’s ninjas inside, still doesn’t kill him. Blofeld then shoots one of his own men before finally attempting to shoot Bond.
Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? Considering Connery really didn’t want to be there, I think this film has a Roger Moore-ish quality to it. After all, it’s very similar to Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me.
Does Bond ever think he might die? I think when Helga Brandt leaves him to die in that plane crash.
What would have made the movie better? Better dubbing of the Japanese cast, and a clearer explanation as to why (and how) Bond faked his own death in the beginning.
What’s in a name? Bond poses as Mr. Fisher from the British company Empire Chemicals, trying to do business with Mr. Osato the CEO of Osato Chemicals, which is really a front for SPECTRE.
What’s in a title? You Only Live Twice comes from a Ian Fleming novel, although the novel and movie are not much alike. YOLT is also the title of a haiku. You only live twice; Once when you’re born, And once when you look death in the face.
Drinking game: Take a sip of Sake each time Bond bows his head.
“WTF?!” moment: The entirety of Bond becoming Japanese. They give Sean Connery a Spock wig, make him hunch down a lot, and he’s instantly Japanese. Not quite.
Fun fact: The sumo wrestler Bond fights in the office of Osato is the grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Overall ranking: 4th out of 25.
Review synopsis: I’m a sucker for any movie that takes place in Japan, so You Only Live Twice ranks higher for me than it does for other Bond fans and critics. I think this is the last time Sean Connery truly feels like a credible 007. The soundtrack might be the best of all, we also get our first glimpse of a classic villain pulling all the strings, and some breathtaking Japanese scenery.