Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You Only Live Twice

The James Bond project is going slowly. When I decided, back in October, to watch every Bond film in order I didn't expect it to be a marathon of back-to-back viewings (not like Argento week!) but if I'd been asked I'd probably have predicted to be beyond Film #5 after 9 months! As it is, You Only Live Twice marks a milestone of sorts: it's the last film with Sean Connery. Ok, well... it's not. Because he came back after Lazenby. But it's the last film where only one actor had played Bond.

And it's a good one. You Only Live Twice has long been a favourite of mine. It's hard to explain really but, in many ways, it feel like one of the most Bond-like of Bond films.  It just ticks so many of the boxes. James Bond has, in my opinion, never really recovered from the end of the Cold War (Media barons just don't have the same level of villainy...) and YOLT is a good demonstration of Cold War threat: even if it's not actually the Russians who are the bad guys, the danger of M.A.D. looms over the space-race backdrop and spurs Bond into action. Because when the Yanks and the Ruskies are at loggerheads, it obviously falls the Britain to save the day!

In the process, we get some prime Bond action. Q turns up with a tiny fold-up plane in a box (one of the more perfect Bond gadgets that gently mocks his hyper-masculine reputation), the Japanese secret service supply NINJAS (with throwing stars!) and, Bond punches and fights his way through a series of Japanese paper walls. They even manage to create a clever, highly-trained and sympathetic female character and (even more surprisingly) resist giving her a name like 'Pussy Galore'. As Bond in the 60s goes, that's about as close to progressive or feminist as you're going to get!

The plot is reassuringly bonkers: a Spectre spaceship keeps swallowing the US/Russian spaceships and vanishing before anyone can find it. Tasked with stopping it, Bond has to fight a handful of subservient Spectre drones, find the lair and put a stop to Blofeld's sinister spaceship-swallowing plans.  The lair in question, nestled in a Japanese volcano with a metal fake-lake hiding it from view is pretty spectacular and one of the more memorable of Bond Villain lairs (I've always considered the submerged satellite in GoldenEye to be in imitation/homage to this one, really). Add to that a handful of really memorable scenes (poison on a string!) and you have a pretty neat Bond film.

As might be expected, there are a few clumsy moments - the less said about Bond's Asian disguise and the Japanese security-chief's harem of subservient women, the better... - but all in all this is a Bond film that takes some beating. Great stuff.

And it's On Her Majesty's Secret Service next. Now there's something to look forward to...