You Only Live Twice
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
The fifth 007 film featuring Sean Connery as the MI6 agent James Bond is probably most recognizable today as the primary source for the Austin Powers satire and, more amusingly, the inspiration for the children's series, Inspector Gadget. It was the first time that SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) was revealed facially, having previously been little more than a hand with a pinky ring petting a cat.
Another first for the franchise was the abandonment of the source Ian Fleming novel, with screenwriter Roald Dahl pointing out that the book read as a travelogue of Japan and had no plot worthy of cinematic treatment. Resultantly, he developed a story very similar to Dr. No, only making it grander in scale and limited to a single country, noting Japanese culture as a subplot unto itself.
Though successful and received well critically at the time of its release in 1967, You Only Live Twice, a film that finds Bond trying to thwart Blofeld's efforts to start a war between the Americans and the Russians by hijacking their space vessels, is simultaneously one of the most plodding and ludicrous films in the franchise.
Despite having a promising set up in Japan with Bond re-emerging after his faked death to seek out a landed spacecraft somehow linked to Osato Chemicals, the eventual reveal of Blofeld's headquarters in a Volcano, complete with space pads and launchers, plays more as unintentionally amusing than thrilling. Some Bond films make this work by having a campier tone overall, but You Only Live Twice has several stretches of seriousness and unnecessary detailing of Japanese weddings and ninja camps (with Sean Connery dressing up as a Japanese man with complete eye prosthetics) that impede on a potentially playful tone.
This overall blandness is exacerbated by the fact that this spy mission is wedged in between two much stronger entries, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which have both held up better over time.
You Only Live Twice screens as part of The Bond Blitz: Bond vs. Blofield retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Playing initially at 10:30pm on October 27th, 2012, it will return to the Lightbox in January 2013 for additional big screen viewing opportunities.
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