In the opening to the fifth Bond film and almost the last one
starring Sean Connery, an American astronaut is just beginning an EVA
(Extravehicular activity) from his spacecraft. In shock, the world
witnesses another spacecraft coming up to attack them. The second craft
swallows the first, cutting off the lifeline for the EVA astronaut and
leaving him to drift forever in space. The Americans immediately
suspect the Russians and tell them that, if this happens again, they
will consider it an act of war. The loyal Bond audience knows in an
instant that it is SPECTRE up to its old tricks and not the Russians.
The 1967 film YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE has arguably its most surprising
moment during the opening credits. Although it is based on an Ian
Fleming novel, the screenplay is by none other than Roald Dahl, the
classic author of such dark children's tales as MATILDA and JAMES AND
THE GIANT PEACH. No one could ever read one of his children's books
without being mesmerized by his shockingly bleak but highly literate
writing. Even more surprising than his being chosen to adapt a Bond
novel is that none of Dahl's gifts for dark humor or sparkling writing
is evident. Although the script is good, it is a direct descendent of
all of the preceding Bond scripts and breaks no new ground.
(As the title suggests, Bond is killed early on, but it is merely a
ruse, and he lives on to fight the forces of evil.)
Since the British suspect that the foreign satellite was launched
from Japan, Bond makes his first visit to that country. In order to
identify himself to the Japanese spy network he is given a password of
"I love you," which provides opportunities, largely underutilized, for
funny encounters. The one where he accidentally says "I love you" to
someone not a spy never occurs, for example.
In Q's bag of tricks this time for James is "Little Nellie," a
tiny, personal helicopter with heat seeking air-to-air missiles and many
other gadgets of warfare. It's so fast moving and highly maneuverable
that four full-sized attack helicopters are no match for its adroitness.
Bond also gets a killer cigarette, and we're not talking about the
effects of second-hand smoke.
Not all of the technology is as impressive as Little Nellie. When
SPECTRE's rocket lands, the cheap model looks like a parody of an old
Flash Gordon film.
Through a make-over Bond is made to appear Japanese. And he is
trained in the ways of the Ninja. The not particularly impressive
result is a slightly different Bond with a few new fighting skills.
Bond, who has bedded half of the good looking women of the world --
all in the service of her Majesty's government, of course -- has to get
married this time and to one with supposedly a face like a pig. The
joke is that she turns out gorgeous afterall. Why he has to go through
with an elaborate wedding ceremony makes little sense, but this is a
Bond film so logic is largely irrelevant.
Up until YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, we only saw SPECTRE's #1 operative's
waist as he strokes his snow-white cat. This time, played by Donald
Pleasence, he comes out from behind his chair and shows off his
hideously knife-scarred face.
Connery, who was full of energy and confidence in his previous Bond
outings, seems to be losing heart and interest in this film. He said
afterwards that he'd "never" do another one. When years later the
studio made him an offer he couldn't refuse, that show was aptly named
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE runs 1:57. It is rated PG for violence and
sexual innuendo and would be fine for kids around nine and up.
My son Jeffrey, almost 9, liked this movie but still liked
THUNDERBALL the best and DR. NO second best of the first five Bond
films. His favorite parts of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE were the big battle
scene and all of the Ninjas.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes