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Sean Connery
Akiko Wakabayashi
Mie Hama
Tetsuro Tamba
Karin Dor
Donald Pleasence
Bernard Lee
Lois Maxwell
Desmond Llewelyn

Lewis Gilbert




Time: 117 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Action/Spy Thriller

Now that all the Bond films are out on DVD, I'm beginning to catch up on the trials and tribulations of everyone's favorite secret agent. Since I find Sean Connery the most attractive of the actors to play Bond, I've started with his forays into the character. I really didn't know anything about YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE except that it starred Connery and took place in Japan. Though it has some amazing production design and great action sequences, much like we see in the more current Bond films, I didn't enjoy it as much as DR. NO or GOLDFINGER. Mainly, because most of the films' efforts seemed to go into the look and action instead of the story and dialogue.

The plot itself, which must have seemed a fantastic stretch of the imagination in 1967, plays out as downright silly in the year 2000. They usually aren't the most believable storylines to begin with, but this one seemed to be stretching the limits more than just a tad. Granted, it was probably ahead of its time when first released. The film centers on the space program and the relations between the United States and Russia. Ernst Blofeld (Pleasance) the head of the evil SPECTRE organization is bent on world domination. What better way to get it then by having the two most powerful nations on the planet go to war with each other? He accomplishes this little coup by wreaking havoc with their space programs, kidnapping their astronauts from outer space.

Both super powers think the other is behind the mischief in order to be the first, and therefore, dominant power over the planet. They have no idea that this is just a game and that they're being manipulated into World War III. That's where Bond comes in. The British government believes a third party is behind the interstellar heists and want Bond to prove it...before it's too late. Of course, the world thinks Bond is dead, which allows him a little more freedom to move about without detection. M thinks the phantom rocket is being launched from Japan. It turns out he's right, or the Japanese aren't very friendly to foreigners. At least the males. The females seem to like Bond just fine.

"I think I will enjoy very much serving under you."

After a few hairy situations, he hooks up with the head of the Japanese secret service, Tiger (Tamba) and his lovely assistant Aki (Wakabayashi), who happily becomes another notch on his belt. She isn't the only one either. Blofeld's assistant Helga (Dor) is supposed to kill Bond, but she decides to give him a taste of what she has to offer before doing away with him. He, of course, doesn't die easily and she ends up with the short end of the stick. Her boss hates failure. The final third of the film has Bond going undercover as a Japanese fisherman in order to infiltrate Blofeld's secret volcano lair. To do this he has to marry a local girl named Kissy (Hama), who turns out to be quite resourceful. He also undergoes ninja training under the direction of Tiger, who has promised his group of trained fighters as back-up to Bond. Blofeld's underground complex is one of the most elaborate sets ever built for a Bond film. The ninjas attack on it is both stylish and exciting. It's certainly one of the more impressive finales, considering that Bond usually works alone. He finally gets to meet his arch-enemy face-to-face, but Blofeld is able to escape to ruin another day, as Bond tries desperately to save the world from a major catastrophe. In the end, he winds up in the arms of his "wife", exploring the meaning behind her name.

Though I haven't seen all the Bond films, this seems to be one of the first to contain all the required elements – cool theme song, sexy women, fast and furious car chase, wacky gadgets and sinister bad guy out for world domination. Somehow, though it's worked many times before, it just doesn't quite come together here. I think the main reason behind that is the fact that Blofeld just doesn't have enough screen time to be an effective bad guy. His actions speak plainly, but that's just not enough to be a decent counterpoint to Bond. It takes too long to figure out what's going on and who's behind everything and then there's no real payoff since Blofeld escapes. It's nice for the series to have a villain lurking about in the world, but it doesn't make for a great ending to this one. Connery's performance is also lacking his usual charm because he's too busy fighting to worry about dialogue. He still manages to bed three different ladies, but it's more due to his reputation than suave moves and witty conversation. If you like your Bond's straight up, than you'll probably like this one. Personally, I like mine dirty with a twist.

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