[about to make love to Helga Brandt]
James Bond: “Oh the things I do for England.”
7 out of 10 –
Why start with the 5th Bond film? Because I left it to chance. I felt like being random and I spun my being Bond Wheel and voila! it landed on “You Only Live Twice.” YOLT is the fifth Bond film to star Mr Sean Connery and the very smooth, smart and sexually confident James Bond. Very loosely based (actually almost in name only) on the novel by the same name by Ian Fleming. The screenplay was written by Roald Dahl (Matilda, The Witches). It is the first to be directed by Lewis Gilbert (Alfie, Sink the Bismarck, Educating Rita) who went on to direct “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker” after which he became famous (or in some circles, infamous) for the over the top, comedic and epic scope of the Roger Moore films.
YOLT is neither epic or really that over the top. It falls almost in the middle. It has a very traditional Bond-esque opening where we treated to a very deceptive start. A United State spaceship in orbit around the earth is hijacked by another unidentified spacecraft. The US suspect it to be the Russians but the Brits believe it could be the Japanese since the spacecraft landed in the waters off the Japanese coast. In proper fashion they send oo7 to check things out and to investigate. James Bond is sent to Tokyo after faking his own death and confronting “M” about the dangers of being undercover for too long and the seriousness of the situation. The “M” and Bond moments throughout Connery’s films are one of the best constants of the movies and they are witty, biting and hilarious to behold. “M” is played with the stunning timing of a comedic actor and the intensity of a tax audit by Bernard Lee, who steals every scene from under Connery.
Having Bond go East and jumping right into the Japanese culture and inner circle of their spy ring is a great idea. It shows progress, finesse and an increase of danger and scope. Bond has to adjust and adapt to his Asian counterparts and he does with a wink in our direction and a smarmy bit of machismo. Even as he watches a Sumo match he plays it as if he belongs there and has seen a million matches before. There are plenty double twists, spy lingo, booby traps and a very athletic and brutal fight sequence where furniture gets tossed around. DP Freddie Young also treats us to a long reveal shot of an awesome chase / fight scene.
He teams up with the very alluring Bond Girls (In this order) Aki and Helga Brandt (Akiko Wakabayashi and Karen Dor) . Brandt has the better chemistry since of course she has the meatier role of the femme fatale. During these scenes Connery’s Bond is ever the dominant but is shown eventually that he isn’t always in control. Not a bad thing.
So, lets get to the best parts. The Little Nellie sequence / copter chase. “Little Nellie” is sent to Bond via Q (Desmond Llewyln) and we get the routine and funny repartee between Q and Bond. Q, as always, detests Bond’s cavalier attitude with his equipment and Bond really lets Q have it by doing not one but two close flybys with the whirly-bird. YOLT is the first time we are treated to actually seeing Blofeld, the leader of SPECTRE. Here he is played by the brilliant Donald Pleasence (Dracula 1979, Halloween and Fantastic Voyage) and he plays it deadly and straight. Before he is revealed we are treated only to his voice and by the time we do see him, scar and all, Gilbert has set up his villian’s more terrifying traits by his actions and dialog alone. It is just brilliant. Pleasence plays deadly right through his make-up and he relishes in getting rid of some of his enemies in ways that Austin Powers fan will most likely chuckle at. It is a bit dated but it’s too tongue in cheek not to love.
John Barry’s music is classy but a bit redundant in parts. The title song by Nancy Sinatra is elegant lean but reported to be glued together from 25 takes or so. The we get (spoiler free) the huge payoff where all sides get into the fray of trying to stop SPECTRE from starting WWIII by stealing everyone’s spacecraft’s. There is a nifty, fake lake that will be remembered by the most jaded Bond fans forever. There are ninjas, piranha, self destruct mechanisms. Everything to keep us Bondheads happy. I can only gripe about some of the flat set up scenes in the beginning and at times we are bogged down by lingering establishing shots of the beautiful Japanese countryside. I’m nit picking though. I can strongly recommend this Connery entry even if his execution in parts is lazy. Enjoy, gang. Another Bond review coming soon!
The Ten Greatest Movies Ever Made
Today marks our one year anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s gone by so quickly, and it’s even harder to fathom how quickly our site has grown. We never thought when we started that we’d be getting tens of thousands of readers and listeners. We humbly thank you all for reading.
Surprisingly, there is only one film on our list that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. All of them, with the exception of Paths of Glory, were nominated for best picture. We scanned all genres, decades, and nations to pull together a list we’re very happy with. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was fun. We’re not ranking them. Instead, we’re simply naming these The Ten Greatest Movies Ever Made:
Paths of Glory: This is an anti-war film that looks at the true inhumanity we don’t often speak of in war, and that is how we treat our own soldiers. Paths of Glory has a script that is wise without ever wagging a finger in our faces and has some of the best war cinematography ever seen. It gives a sense of gloom and a foreboding destiny for the soldiers. Kirk Douglas was fantastic.
The Wrestler: This is simply a phenomenal film. We’ve heard people say it was nothing but violence and a “dumb guy movie.” They missed the point. This is a father/daughter story. It’s about a man who makes every wrong decision, but always tries to make it right. He has a great heart, but can’t get out of his own way. It’s a heartbreaking story with a performance by Mickey Rourke that is rarely seen. He is the only man that could have been Randy “The Ram.”
Forrest Gump: Is one of those rare films that touch on every aspect of our lives: love, loss, hope, fear, humor, confusion, growth and being lost before you find your way. This film was brilliantly directed and acted and had incredible waves of emotion, from complete hilarity to disbelief, heartbreak and fear. It’s a masterpiece.
Dr. Strangelove: It’s hard to believe that someone could make the Cold War funny, but that’s exactly what Stanley Kubrick did in this dark, smart comedy he co-wrote and directed. He took something that gripped two nations with fear and had the intelligence to make a script with absolute levity. We couldn’t be happier to have this film on the list.
Raging Bull: Which film won best picture at the Oscars the year Raging Bull was nominated? Anyone? Anyone? Exactly. It was “Ordinary People,” a good but forgettable film. Raging Bull will always stand the test of time. It’s unforgettable. As the great Roger Ebert said: “(Raging Bull) is a movie about brute force, anger, and grief. It is also, like several of Scorsese’s other movies, about a man’s inability to understand a woman except in terms of the only two roles he knows how to assign her: virgin or whore.”
Jaws: The perfect action thriller. Amazing acting, tight and suspenseful directing, and an antagonist that lived up to the hype. Each time we watch it, we think it’s even more than the last. It put Steven Spielberg on the map and ushered in the first summer blockbuster.
The Shawshank Redemption: It takes an amazing story to grip you for three hours with little or no action. Stop and think about it. What was Shawshank’s big action scene? There wasn’t one. Even the jail break at the end was told in flashback. And yet, we cannot remember a film that gripped us more than this one did. The dialogue is thought provoking and honest and the acting of the entire collaborative cast gets you hooked right from the beginning. This is the kind of movie that people can relate to and understand 100 years from now. A gem.
Seven Samurai: Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece is a triumph of the human spirit. It shows what can happen when a group of people decide to rise up against all odds and defend the life and people they love. We are introduced to a foreign land in a foreign time spoken in a foreign tongue and yet there’s not a person on earth that can’t relate. That’s a testament to not only Kurosawa the filmmaker but also Kurosawa the writer. A true artist and genius.
The Exorcist: The most unnerving and frightening film ever made. Why did it end up on this list? Because it’s about more than pea soup vomit and curses thrown at holy men from a foul demon. It’s about good winning over evil when it feels like all hope is lost. It’s also about a faith challenged man, who despite his questioning of God, still finds his heart when he needs it most. William Friedkin’s work here is stupendous and timeless.
Pulp Fiction: The greatest and most important independent film ever made. It not only made Quentin Tarantino a household name, it also put Miramax on the map and opened doors for so many indepedent filmmakers. Not only is the movie historically important but it is also amazing entertainment wrapped in possibly the greatest script ever written for the silver screen. The dialogue is spot on perfect, the casting is perfect, the progression is perfect, and his direction is flawless. You see where I’m going with this? Perfect.
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