It’s the fifth entry in our Licence To Watch viewing marathon and we’re already up to Sean Connery’s first last performance as Bond: You Only Live Twice.
I really thought I’d have more to say about You Only Live Twice. Other than Goldfinger it’s probably the only Connery Bond movie that I remember at all well. After watching it again I realised that I didn’t actually remember it that well at all, furthermore quite a lot of it isn’t very memorable.
As a young boy it’s hard not to be impressed by the action packed finale: the volcano lair; the ninjas swinging down from the top of the crater. Donald Pleasance, despite his oddly diminutive stature and gentle performance (we are talking supervillain here) makes an unforgettable Blofeld. Nelly, the ‘home assembly’ helicopter was also one of the coolest gadgets yet to appear in a Bond film. There’s even stuff going on in space, which is pretty cool.
But the rest of it, while perfectly entertaining, somehow doesn’t make for essential Bond. It’s not as hamfisted as Thunderball but somehow misses out on the fluid style of Goldfinger. There’s also some uncomfortable undertones of racism, to accompany the already unwelcome sexism in these dated movies. While the Japanese characters are shown to be just as capable (and occasionally corruptible) as their Western counterparts, the transformation of Bond into a Japanese Ninja brings uncomfortable memories of Mickey Rooney’s performance in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
I also have to remark on how visibly Connery has aged in the five years since Dr.No. There’s no doubting he looks none the worse for wear, but in this film he’s clearly lost the youthful, cheeky charm that he brought to earlier films. At least, having already decided to quit the role by this stage, he’s not as world-weary as he appeared in Thunderball.
In summary: far from one of the worst Bond films and not a bad film by any mark but, despite some memorable moments, the whole here amounts to less than the parts.
Up next one of the Bond movies I’m really looking forward to taking another look at: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.