If Goldfinger is my favorite Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967) is easily the second favorite (and sometimes it even ties for first). How can I not love a movie that features space, a volcano, ninjas, all things Japanese AND James Bond on top of all that? I’ve always had something of a fascination with Japanese culture (and the language) and this film provides a beautiful glimpse into Japan in the mid-1960s.
That being said, the production was fraught with issues. Not least of which involved their star, who by now was considered the definitive James Bond (as the poster below proclaims). That was all well and good, but after five years in the role, Connery was more than tired of the constant media attention. And when the production set up in Japan, Connery found himself reluctantly thrust into a huge media spotlight, with crowds following him everywhere he went. Finding himself with no privacy, Connery finally became fed up and announced that this would be his last go-round as James Bond (of course this turned out to be not true, but that’s a discussion for Diamonds are Forever).
Property of Eon Productions
The score was once again composed by John Barry, who also wrote the songs title theme “You Only Live Twice.” For the title sequence, the song was performed by Nancy Sinatra (Frank Sinatra’s daughter). The song is widely recognized for the striking opening bars of the piece; it is widely considered to be one of the finest Bond themes ever written. Barry said later that he tried very hard to incorporate the elegance of the Oriental sound into the music for this film (and I think he succeeded). “You Only Live Twice” has been covered many times: Coldplay, Shirley Bassey, Soft Cell and Robbie Williams (among others), have all released their versions of the song (or at least sampled the melody).
In keeping with the overall Japanese theme of the film, the title sequence prominently features two things: Japanese girls (presumably dressed as geishas, though I may be wrong, at the very least they are in traditional garb). It also features images of lava, alluding to the fact that Spectre’s lair (this time) is located inside a dormant volcano. Superimposed over these images are graphics that are reminiscent of Japanese umbrellas. I love Nancy Sinatra’s voice in this song, it’s so rich and clear that the song seems to just resonate within you (I think this might be the reason why this Bond theme sticks in my head the most.)
Credit to Art of the Title
Some interesting trivia I’ve learned: in the screencaps of the credits, look in the bottom left: yes, that is the same Roald Dahl who wrote Matilda, The BFG, and all those other wonderful stories (I didn’t believe it at first when I was younger). Also, for those who have seen Spectre (2015) (and this may be a minor spoiler), Blofeld’s appearance at the end of that film is a direct homage to the character as seen in this film (no disrespect, but I think Donald Pleasance played the role best). Also, a good portion of the Japanese characters are all dubbed over (dubbing an actor over with another was a lot more common back in the day, there was nothing personal about it, it was just a normal practice of filmmaking). And speaking of Blofeld, the actor who plays Henderson in this movie will go on to play that villain in Diamonds are Forever (1971). Funny how that works, isn’t it? Oh, and one more thing. In the beginning of this film, Bond is seen in bed with a Chinese girl. That same actress appears in Casino Royale (2006) (she’s the Asian woman at the card table on Le Chiffre’s boat, if I remember the scene correctly).
Tomorrow will be a very interesting discussion with:On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Check out the rest of the “Introducing James Bond” series here
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