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Monday 10 October 2011

Burl reviews You Only Live Twice! (1967)

Hi, it’s Burl here with a review of a James Bond movie, namely 1967’s pen-penultimate Connery adventure, You Only Live Twice! This is probably the worst of the 1960s Bond movies, I’m sorry to say, and nearly the worst of the Connery pictures, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that bad! Ha ha, when you’re in competition with the likes of Goldfinger, From Russia With Love and Thunderball, there’s no shame in coming up short!

I watched the movie again because, as a part of my self-imposed summer reading program, I just recently finally read the book! And hoo-boy, is it a weird one! It starts with Bond engaged in a high-stakes game of rock-paper-scissors; then flashes back to describe how depressed and incompetent Bond had become after the death of his wife Tracy at the hands of the notorious Blofeld! So M gives him a mission in Japan, where Bond discovers that none other than Blofeld himself has set up a castle with a garden of every poisonous plant, animal and fish he can find! When Bond is captured, he’s placed on a torture-toilet that is equipped to send boiling mud up his inner rectus! He escapes from that one and manages to give old Blofeld a pretty stiff neck-twist, but then gets bonked on the head and comes to believe he’s a Japanese pearl fisherman! The book ends with him still firmly believing that, but planning a trip to Vladivostok anyway! Altogether a weird one!

The movie, which was adapted by none other than my favourite childhood writer Roald Dahl, is much more conventional! They keep Blofeld being in Japan, and they keep the piranha fish and some of the character names, but that’s about it! Actually, they also keep one of the dumbest and least-cinematic aspects of the book also: the idea that James Bond could be convincingly transformed into an itinerant Japanese labourer by the liberal application of tanning jelly and the donning of a goofy blouse! Ha ha, it doesn’t work for a second on the page or the screen, no big surprise!

So it seems Blofeld is planning to start World War III by pretending that the Russians and the Americans are eating each others’ spacecraft! Left unexplained is exactly how the B man thinks he’ll escape Armageddon, and what he plans to do among the smoking ruins if he does; but I guess he is after all supposed to be a bit crackers! Bond, having gained ninja skills in a matter of days, manages to impregnate Blofeld’s impregnable volcano fortress, where he comes this close to being shot into space! I’d say this movie in combination with Moonraker represents convincing evidence that James Bond and space travel simply do not mix!

Anyway, it all ends with a gun battle, a number of small explosions and then some really big ones! Ha ha, that’s not a bad way to end things in a Bond movie I guess, but I did hope for something better from Dahl, whose Henry Sugar story fascinated me in my youth! Still, it’s a James Bond movie and has some of the usual great elements in it, so I give it two pointless minicopters!

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