A far cry from Fleming's original novel, You Only Live Twice can best be summed up as a tale of two movies: a science fiction bonanza combined with a spy drama. I won’t even touch on the question of how the volcano lair was built without anyone else noticing, but it has to be mentioned that Blofeld’s entire fiendish plot was impossible with 1967 technology. The Little Nellie sequence, which was a highlight of the movie, also required a bit of suspension of belief as did numerous other action sequences.
That said, what Bond movie does NOT require some suspension of belief? Amidst the impossible parts of the film the viewer is treated to a spy drama with great moments including Bond’s death, his “rebirth” aboard the MI6 submarine, 007’s first meeting with Tiger Tanaka and his return to Osato’s office the next day. Bond has to work hard to learn the possible location of Blofeld’s volcano and his plan of going undercover as a Japanese fisherman is brilliant. For the most part, everything about the plot, except for Blofeld’s actual plan, is classic 007.
Plot development aside, You Only Live Twice also suffers from uneven character development. True, the movie covers Tiger Tanaka and Bond’s budding friendship in great length and takes the time to make the viewer care about Aki. However, other characters such as Dikko Henderson, Kissy Suzuki, Helga Brandt and Hans have very little depth at all. This is completely understandable, as they were not major characters, but when looking at the movie as a whole the lack of development detracts from the overall package.
One area that was not lacking was the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose face was finally revealed in the form of Donald Pleasence after three movies shrouded in mystery. Pleasence was the perfect person to play Blofeld and has become one of the most iconic images of the entire series. Despite all the other actors to play the role, it was Pleasence’s portrayal that inspired Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil. In fact, I would say that for Bond fans, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld” is one of the most memorable lines of all time. He just seemed sinister, evil and a perfect foil for Bond. One can only wonder how different On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever would have been if they had kept the Donald Pleasence version around instead of the Blofeld-light versions that proceeded him.
Overall, You Only Live Twice gets most things right. Sure it’s campy and unbelievable at times. Yes the viewer leaves wishing they knew more about certain key characters. But in the end, the movie’s saving grace is the innocence surrounding it. Sure, by today’s standards the special effects are outdated and the blue screens look terrible. But when one looks at it through 1967 eyes, everything is completely believable, spectacular and “Bond and Beyond!” The volcano lair is still the best villain hideout of the series, Sean Connery is in great form (though he seems a bit tired through a lot of the film) and the action scenes are a blast! So, all things considered, the movie barely eeks out a...
Universal Exports Rating: 005
Review written on November 24, 2008
First time M and Moneypenny leave Universal Exports
First appearance of Charles Gray who would play Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever
First time a villain escapes
First time Bond takes a shot of vodka
First appearance of a submarine in a Bond film
First time Bond wears a spacesuit
First time part of the movie is in space
First time Ian Fleming's original novel has nothing to do with the movie's plot
Aki's Toyota was Japan's first convertible car.
This was supposed to be the last Bond film.
Blofeld's base was a fully working set with a monorail, elevators, heliport and a full-sized rocket that rose 50 feet.
Cameraman Johnny Jordan lost his leg while filming a helecopter battle sequence.
Henderson gives Bond a martini 'stirred, not shaken' which he accepts saying 'perfect.' It is still not known if this was an error or intentional.
Little Nellie was an actual helicopter that could fly up to 130 mph.