You Only Live Twice is the last of the five movie Sean Connery streak before we’re introduced to George Lazenby (side note: I’ve never seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and am really looking forward to it, given the place it holds in Bond fandom). Something that occurred to me while marinating on our transition to the next Bond (and of course, back again to Connery in Diamonds are Forever) – is James Bond supposed to be a static character throughout the movies? I can’t believe I never considered this before. Or is ‘James Bond’ simply the agent name for whoever is holding the 007 designation at any given time? Seems like the folks at the fan site MI6 call horse-hockey on a lot of the continuity theories.
Plot in twenty words or less: SPECTRE is inflaming the Cold War by capturing space ships. The Americans and Soviets freak out. The UK stays smug.
How it’s aged: Not very well. One always has to grant a certain amount of cheesiness to space scenes made during this period, but the SPECTRE spaceship-eating rocket was pretty silly. James Bond’s “Asian makeover” (which covered all the bases between wtf, WTF, and W. T. F.) was totally unnecessary, especially since the only appearance-related outcome of it was he ended up looking like the love-child between the Three Stooges’ Moe and Ringo from the Beatles. All the super-weird racism in this movie made me think I need to start dropping some Edward Said into these reviews. And when we finally get a glimpse of Blofeld, it’s hard for those of us who saw Austin Powers before the earlier Bond movies to think of anything else besides Dr. Evil.
Something that was just weird and/or WTF y’all: Besides the things noted above, did anyone catch Blofeld’s poor cat freaking out when all hell was breaking loose on the volcano base? Ugh, I hated that part.
Obligatory feminist commentary: Well, this is pretty obvious… the scene where James Bond is bathed by the gaggle of women, catering to pretty much every awful stereotype about Asian women’s alleged sexual submissiveness, was probably the low-point of this movie. Also, I couldn’t quite get a handle on the scene where Bond is told he’ll be marrying a woman who resembles a pig – is this to throw him off when it turns out she looks just fine?
Also, WTF was happening with Helga Brandt’s terrifying torture scene? If the roles were reversed (a man trying to make out with a restrained woman) we’d rightfully look at this as something seriously non-consensual. But I guess in the world of James Bond, we’re supposed to just view this as something that’s all in a day’s work for 007, culminating with each character playing deliberately into the trap that’s been set up and Bond remarking “The things I do for England” as he takes off Brandt’s dress. Hmmmm.
Here are the good things I can manage to recall: Bond doesn’t make any obnoxious comments about Aki’s awesome driving skills, plus she gets to wear some pretty cool-but-normal clothes in the chase scene (I seem to recall a nice beige sweater and skinny pants). Both Sasha Holiday and I were like FINALLY A BOND GIRL GETS TO WEAR NORMAL, FLATTERING REAL PEOPLE CLOTHES THAT I MIGHT ACTUALLY WEAR.
Completely hypothetical cultural reference points: Boyfriend and I both liked that this was the first time someone yelled at Bond for smoking. This movie was released in 1967, and by this time, the landmark US Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking (published in 1964) had percolated through mainstream culture. According to the National Library of Medicine, by 1968, a majority of Americans believed in the link between smoking and cancer.
Superficial Thing that did not Amuse Me: I really wish someone had explained, how, exactly, James Bond did not die after the scene in which he was completely shot up. Did they preemptively insert a metal plate under his skin? Did all the bullets simply get embedded in the mattress? I know the answer is just “Dude, he’s James Bond, he doesn’t die” but this is so unsatisfying to me. Is this some “a magician never reveals his tricks” nonsense? I NEED TO KNOW.
Superficial Thing that highly Amused Me: I love Q’s dorky pleated man shorts so much. I tried and failed to find a picture. That just means y’all have to watch the film yourself!
Interesting and possibly dubious thing I learned from Wikipedia: I can’t do justice to this in my own words, so I’ll just quote it: “As the screenwriter of the previous Bond films Richard Maibaum was unavailable, Roald Dahl, [yes, that Roald Dahl] close friend of Ian Fleming, was chosen to write the adaptation despite having no prior experience writing a screenplay except for the uncompleted The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling.” (Source!!) (Also, seriously, click the link for the “The Bells of Hell” – Gregory Peck + Ian McKellen ?!?!?!)
Administrative information concerning this viewing:
Drinks consumed: Beer. I forgot to note down what it was.
Food eaten: We ate before the movie.
Viewed on: May 12, 2013
Viewing Partner: Sasha Holiday, Mystery Man, Boyfriend and Cat.
*Not their real names. All my viewing buddies are getting Bond-girl aliases.