Saturday, March 9, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #5: You Only Live Twice

Saltzman and Broccoli had long been building up the SPECTRE storyline first introduced in Dr. No, and this was the beginning of the end of that saga. You Only Live Twice is interesting in the way that it had some strange decisions behind its production. Chief among this was the fact that the script was written by author Roald Dahl, who most readers would know best as the author of Matilda, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Some could argue that he was out of his element, but what he turned in isn’t all that bad. It’s incredibly silly at times, but it at least has some much needed stamina behind it.

Sean Connery returns for the fifth time as James Bond, who is sent to a small location in Japan to investigate a case of spacecrafts which mysteriously disappear hours into orbit, and no one is sure who the cause of it all is. Eventually, the trail, and newfound allies eventually lead Bond to a small hanger operated by SPECTRE, where the head of the organization, Blofeld, lies in wait.

It’s no secret that I’ve never really cared for the SPECTRE storyline in previous films, but I won’t complain about that. They’re not really THE focus until quite a considerable way through the film. Despite a sometimes ludicrous narrative, it’s got everything we love to see of Bond, and does it well. The action can be strong and engaging, the talent fun to watch, there’s some good jokes in here, and the visuals look lovely. This is probably the prettiest looking entry of the Connery films, although a lot of the effects shots are pretty dated, some embarrassingly so.

For several movies, the 007 films had been building up the head of SPECTRE, and I can safely say it didn’t disappoint. I’ve never thought much of the other villains of the organization, but Donald Pleasance brings the very best out of Bloefeld. He even managed to get Mike Myers to parody him in the Austin Powers trilogy, playing the role of the comically nefarious Dr. Evil. This is more along the lines of a villain I want to see. It makes me feel that this is how Thunderball should have been. More along the lines of the delightful Auric Goldfinger, and less along the lines of the sedated Rosa Klebb, Pleasance makes the wait worth it, and he’s responsible for one of the most grotesquely creative deaths in the series. By way of piranha.

And before concluding, I must make note of the ever so popular title song. The song here is performed by Nancy Sinatra, daughter of music legend Frank Sinatra. This is one of the best of the library of Bond music, as her beautiful voice works well with the graceful sway of the music.

In short, You Only Live Twice is a silly, but freshly entertaining entry, and what would have been a fitting conclusion to a trend. Sean Connery had finally reached the end of his five picture deal with EON Productions, and retired from the 007 character. Or so he thought, because four years later, he would be proven wrong. But before he would play the role again, he had to give a turn to the living definition of a one hit wonder. Stay tuned for more on that…

**** / *****

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