You Only Live Twice was on last night on ABC. I still find it a far more enjoyable film than its successor, Thunderball, but this one is still not without its faults. It is one of the most blatantly sexist Bond films, with one male character informing Bond that “In Japan, men always come first and women come second” and Bond enthusiastically approving. It also has a plot that is highly improbable even by James Bond standards: would the world’s superpowers stand down from nuclear alert after Bond has thwarted SPECTRE’s plan with only seconds to spare? would a space launch from Japan really be completely undetectable by everybody? The sets are all very well-done, but some of the film’s photographic effects are just-plain lazy. For a Russian spaceshot we are shown stock footage of a NASA rocket launch, complete with swaying palm trees in the foreground, ignoring the fact that the Russians launch their rockets from a vast plain in the middle of the country which is about as likely to have palm trees as the middle of Nebraska. Late in the film, when Blofeld’s mountain base is blowing up, we are shown footage of an actual volcanic eruption complete with lava. I suppose it’s not really fair to bust on a 1967 film for such things, but I’m doing it anyway. Another flaw is the film’s two main women: one of them, named Aki, is the Bond film “sacrificial lamb”; after she dies another Japanese girl shows up whose name I don’t think we ever even learn.
But the film is still a whole lot of fun; the producers seem to have learned from their pacing errors in Thunderball and constructed a Bond film that actually moves. The sense of fun is restored, and the score by John Barry — with its nifty Asian influences — is a gem.
An added bonus during last night’s telecast was a Top Ten list, of the best Bond theme songs. This was hosted by Brandi, a person of whose existence I was almost completely unaware until last night. Ah well. Apparently the list was collated from the results of an ABC online pole, and it shows. That’s the only way I can think that one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard in any setting was actually listed (Tina Turner’s song for Goldeneye). I would have appreciated that ancillary feature more if Brandi had taken time to explain just what the hell the lyrics to Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill song are about, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.
Next week brings us Diamonds Are Forever, which began the trend of increasing goofiness in Bond films during the 1970s. For those who blame Roger Moore for taking Bond in a farcical direction, tune in next week for Connery’s last Bond film. You might notice that Moore isn’t so much to blame for that.