While some people throw this on the same page as “Moonraker” and “Die Another Day”, I’m not sure if I agree with that. Certainly, it’s probably the most “out there” of the Connery Bond films, but still carries a lot of the Bond elements we know and love.
First of all, the beautiful locations: Japan looks like such a wonderful place, and the people working on this film made sure to capture that beauty. It’s best scene, in my opinion, while we’re at Tanaka’s place. This is usually when we see Bond, Aki, and Tiger sitting outside discussing something or other. The beautiful architecture of Japan, along with the fantastic mountains and vegetation paint a vibrant background to many of the scenes in this film. The streets of Japan also make for interesting location, also.
The music, in my opinion, is the best Bond soundtrack of them all. It complements the film well, though I don’t think it was used as properly as it should have. However, Barry captures the essence of Japan, the treachery of SPECTRE, the suave and cool nature of James Bond himself, and the romance between Bond and his couple of lovers in this film. Barry also enhances the action in many scenes of this film.
Ernst Blofeld, portrayed by Donald Pleasence, was, in my opinion, the ideal villain of the Connery years; he certainly put a very definitive face on Blofeld- the arch enemy who had been so mysterious in the films before. Pleasence is a great actor, and had he been given another film to fully show off his true colors as Blofeld, I think many people would hold him high up in their villain rankings.
Now, perhaps this was one of Connery’s most laid back roles as Bond, but it not anything less of greatness. He’s still as cool as ever, still as humorous as ever, and still as handsome as ever. Though, his earlier performances were superior to his role in “You Only Live Twice”, I don’t have anything to complain about with Connery here. I thought he did a lot better than Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, to be honest- but after all, he’s Sean Connery. Who isn’t he better than?
Now, the production design for this film was brilliant. I hold Blofeld’s volcano lair on top of my favorite villain’s lair list. To put it simply, no other villain lair in this series has been as well done or as unlimited as this. It had a tram system, it housed a rocket ship, it contained an army of guards, it has a control room, a prison, and even a personal room for Blofeld, equipped with a pool of piranha; on top of all that, it was hidden in a volcano. Atlantis didn’t have that – Piz Gloria wasn’t as unlimited as that – and any of those Brosnan villains couldn’t match it; absolutely brilliant on Ken Adam’s part.
My favorite scene in this movie was at the Kobe Docks. When Bond gets to the rooftop, and we have an aerial view of him fighting off a bunch of thugs, along with Barry’s action score playing to it- I think it was awesome. It pretty much spelled out Bond right before our eyes.
So… that’s all the good stuff.
Well, I think there were a few weak performances by some of the Japanese agents. Tanaka was dubbed the whole time, wasn’t he? There’s that continuity error about Bond “never going to Japan before”. The film wasn’t as realistic as some of the ones before it.
Overall, “You Only Live Twice” makes for a very fun Bond adventure. I think that’s about as far as people should look when criticizing “You Only Live Twice”. Certainly, it doesn’t hold up to “From Russia With Love”, “Goldfinger”, or “Dr. No”, but it certainly is entertaining.