Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You Only Live Twice

Welcome to another installment of my series of James Bond reviews in chronological order. If you would like to read my previous entries, please follow the links: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball.

You Only Live Twice is the fifth James Bond film, again starring Sean Connery as 007. It's directed by Lewis Gilbert, a newcomer to Ian Fleming's universe. It quite literally rockets past Thunderball as the most expensive, and the most excessive, James Bond film up to this point. I chose the above poster to represent this movie in order to prove that point. Yes, there's a sequence where Q assembles a sweet ass portable helicopter for Bond, followed by a big crazy helicopter dogfight. And that's not all!

This time around, Bond, after faking his death in order to get off of SPECTRE's hit list, is sent to Japan to investigate a stolen spacecraft that landed in the Pacific nearby. A stolen spacecraft. See, Spectre is trying to escalate the cold war by using their own, larger spacecraft to eat American and Russian spacecrafts and have each country cast the blame on the other.

This is actually a pretty important James Bond film for a few reasons. First and foremost, we are introduced to 007's arch-nemesis, evil mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance), seen in 3 of the previous 4 films as only a pair of hands stroking a cat. We are also introduced to his secret evil mastermind headquarters located inside a volcano. This is the reason villains always build bases inside volcanos! The base itself served as the inspiration for Dr. Evil's base in the first Austin Powers film.

There's a lot more silliness to go around in this movie, including a scene where Bond has his face "altered" to look Japanese. He has some prosthetic eyelids put on and brushes his hair forward. The effect is less than impressive. The finale is also pure craziness, where Bond and an army of NINJAS invade Blofeld's volcano base! This is a dream come true. It was also parodied brilliantly in You Only Move Twice, my personal all-time favorite Simpsons episode, guest starring Albert Brooks as loveable-boss-slash-diabolical-terrorist, Hank Scorpio.

As ridiculous and over the top as You Only Live Twice gets, it's probably the most fun of the first five. Not the BEST, mind you, and also not my favorite, but it's loaded with action and camp value. The script is written by Roald Dahl, best known for childrens books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and he brings a level of cleverness to the story that balances out the ridiculousness.

It only took a few movies, but by this point there is absolutely no attempt to ground James Bond in any kind of reality. You Only Live Twice is pure escapism, and I can't fault it for that.

James Moore will be back with his review of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE.

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