You Only Live Twice Review: The One With Blofeld And Secret Volcano Lair
Movie title: You Only Live Twice
Movie description: Secret Agent James Bond and the Japanese Secret Service must find and stop the true culprit of a series of space hijackings, before war is provoked between Russia and the United States.
Genre: Action, Thriller
You Only Live Twice is a standard Bond flick. You got a villain with a nefarious plan bigger than life, secret underground lair, exotic locations, over-the-top action and Bond seducing pretty women, although YOLT has some of the least interesting Bond girls. Not the best Bond movie but also not the worst in the series.
Director: Lewis Gilbert (Alfie, Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me)
Cast: Sean Connery, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Tetsurô Tanba, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama
You Only Live Twice, or the one with Blofeld, secret volcano lair and Bond’s transformation into Japanese man, is the fifth entry in the James Bond franchise produced by Eon Productions. In You Only Live Twice, the first James Bond movie not adapted from Ian Fleming’s source material, someone is hijacking American and Russian spacecrafts in orbit, and each nation is blaming the other. Agent 007 is sent to Japan to investigate who’s behind it and faces Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of a super-powerful secret organization called SPECTRE.
After the huge success of Thunderball, it was time for the next James Bond movie. Producers wanted to adapt On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but due to certain circumstances, You Only Live Twice was chosen instead. The director’s chair was offered to Bond newcomer Lewis Gilbert, who would later direct two Roger Moore’s Bond movies (Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me). After initially declining the offer to direct You Only Live Twice, Gilbert accepted and went to Japan with producers Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, director of photography Freddie Young, and production designer Ken Adam searching for locations. Filming started in July 1966 lasting till March 1967 and the movie had the premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 12 June 1967. Although it made less money than its immediate predecessor, You Only Live Twice was still a big hit on a box office earning $43,100,000 on US box office ($336,400,000 when adjusted for inflation) and received decent reviews from critics.
You Only Live Twice introduced us for the first time to the Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a cat-stroking head of a global criminal organization called SPECTRE. Yes, he previously appeared in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965) but this was the first time he was the main villain and first time meeting agent 007 face-to-face. Played by Donald Pleasence (Halloween, Cul-de-sac, THX 1138, All Quiet on the Western Front), Blofeld was a better and more menacing antagonist than Largo from the previous Bond flick, Thunderball. Although he’ll be played by a couple of other actors in future 007 movies, this was probably the best-known version that inspired Dr. Evil from Austin Powers films. Actually, actor Charles Gray who here plays Dikko Henderson, a British contact living in Japan, would later play Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, last official Bond movie with Sean Connery (also the worst Bond movie ever made).
You Only Live Twice is a standard Bond flick and falls somewhere in the middle – it’s not the best Bond movie but also not the worst in the franchise. You got a villain with a nefarious plan bigger than life, secret underground lair inside the volcano, cool gadgets, over-the-top action, exotic locations, and Bond in his element kicking ass and seducing pretty women. Although You Only Live Twice has some of the least interesting or memorable Bond girls, the main Bond girl here, called Kissy Suzuki, earned a place on our list of Bond girls with funny names.
This one also features one more hilarious Bond disguise, this time a “transformation” into a Japanese man. You see, in You Only Live Twice agent 007 needs to infiltrate Blofeld’s base so they camouflage him as Japanese fisherman. According to Bond movies, it’s enough to change someone’s eyebrows, tint the skin and put a wig and an eye flap on a person and voila, you have a really believable Japanese man, as you can see from the photo below :). I really don’t know what they were thinking.
Sean Connery, who was already reluctant to appear in this one (but accepted the offer due to high salary), left after this film and the role of 007 was inherited by George Lazenby who played Bond only once in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery returned in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever before leaving Eon Productions for good. He’ll return to the role of 007 in 1983 in an unofficial Bond movie, called Never Say Never Again, which was basically a remake of Thunderball.
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