Amph 60+ Years of James Bond 007

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ender Sai, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Paladin307 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 24, 2004
    star 2
    I was inspired by this thread to start watching all the movies as I had only seen the Brosnan/Craig films. Just managed to catch up and so far so good. These are great. Of the 4 FRWL is probably my favorite although I think they are all good.
  2. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 7
    That's great! That's like the best possible outcome for a thread like this! Definitely share your thoughts as you move through the series.
  3. Kenneth Morgan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 27, 1999
    star 4
    So, is a discussion of "You Only Live Twice" coming soon?
  4. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    I watched it last month in preparation.
  5. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I liked Thunderball until the last 30 minutes or so. The underwater sequence, while beautiful to look at, is rather tedious. I can understand why it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects that year.
    JoinTheSchwarz likes this.
  6. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I was lucky enough to acquire the Bond 50 Blu-Ray set today, and since I was going to be going through them, Ender has been gracious enough to let me post my thoughts here, to get this thread jump-started again and push it onward. He and Rogue will of course continue with their own comments, but hopefully my rewatch will help keep things moving. Before I get past Thunderball, though, I'll be viewing all the first four, so I might as well put my reviews up here as I go along.


    Dr. No

    I really love this movie. For one, Bond fits most naturally into this timeframe, that of his creation. The suits, the style, the sets, and the atmosphere of the period – not just the Cold War, but the postwar period when the British Empire was alive, if not quite well, and society (and high society) looked different -- it really feels the most suited to Bond.

    But even without the charms of the period, Dr. No really works. Bond investigates a mystery, and the focus is on the detection and espionage, as Bond figures out what got Strangways killed, uncovers spies, and foils assassins to get at the truth – all done quite suavely. The film is at its best before Bond gets to No's island, showing off Bond (in his gorgeous suits) tracking down leads and getting in fights. From the iconic introduction all the way to Dent's death, the film is firing on all cylinders. I love Bond's flirtation with Moneypenny, which Connery and Lois Maxwell play so wonderfully, and Bernard Lee's M, though we don't get to see much of him. Eunice Gayson is quite the seductress as Syvia Trench – I wish we'd seen more of her.

    Once Bond is in Jamaica, the film packs a lot of incident into a short running time. The action is never elaborate, but it's solid for the era and the budget, and Bond's interactions with everyone else are the real attraction. I'm especially fond of his tense, oppressive interrogation/romance of Miss Taro. It's a great lead-in to the Dent confrontation, one of the classic Bond scenes. I'm surprised how brutal the film was willing to be, given the era. There's a lot of violence against women, and our hero's approach to death and violence is casual and callous – the way he just leaves a dead body in the back seat of his convertible like a bag of groceries for the help to dispose of is particularly wonderful.

    Overall, you get a very good feeling for Bond as a character from the film. I'm especially fond of the little, well-observed details that establish his professionalism – little things like the hair across the closet, or slipping his shoes off before he sneaks up on what turns out to be Sylvia. Those are the kinds of little details that make a big difference, and the series is better off when it pays attention to them and takes Bond seriously as a spy.

    The film does lose a little of its momentum once Bond hits the island, though. Ursula Andress is gorgeous, but Honey doesn't add much to the story, and the sneaking-around-the-island stuff is pretty generic and low-key. The climax, too, is underwhelming – putting Connery in a big radiation suit was a bad move, since it turns the whole No fight into a couple of guys in full-body diapers scuffling awkwardly. When you can't actually see your protagonist, you lose a lot of the connection. And then after that, Bond just runs away and the facility blows up, end of story. There's not a lot there. The bright point of this stretch of the film, though, is the usual villain-capture sequence, starting with the wonderfully discombobulating stay in Hotel No. The sheer WTF shock value of the captives being ushered into a prison that's effectively presenting itself as a four-star hotel is wonderful, turning the whole experience into a lengthy mind-****, whipping back and forth between prison – capture, knockout drugs, beatings from thugs – and unctuous hospitality in classy digs. And boy, is Ken Adam's set design fantastic here. The actual dinner confrontation with No – essentially Joseph Wiseman's one real scene in the movie – is great, a simmering verbal conflict that Bond is constantly on the edge of escalating. No's lair is the one real sequence where the film gets into "Bond movie" tropes, and while certain aspects of it are great, it's also probably the weakest segment of the film overall, which shouldn't have too much read into it but is certainly worth thinking about.

    In the end, it's a very fun, very atmospheric film, one that I think does a tremendous and underappreciated job setting Bond up. Young got it right, and we're lucky he did. Oh, and the Blu-Ray restoration looks absolutely gorgeous.


    Rankings:
    1. Dr. No
  7. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    From Russia with Love

    I hadn't seen this one in forever. It lived up to my memories of its quality. There are some uneven bits, to be sure – the plot has a few leaps of logic (for someone who knows he's walking into a trap, Bond is awfully unguarded around Tatiana, her own approach to him is so ridiculously forward that it's too unbelievable for a real spy situation, and Grant's rather too obvious felling of the Bulgarian in Hagia Sophia is too blatant for someone who's supposed to be trying to go undetected, yet seems to evoke remarkably little curiosity from Bond) and a few for-the-hell-of-it scenes (gypsy camp, I'm looking at you), but at least they're there just to move the film along and spice it up a little, so they're not terribly in the way. It would probably be asking too much for the film to really develop a more involved romance plotline with all the other stuff it's juggling. There are also little things like the Klebb confrontation being a bit of an anticlimax, interrupting the film's downward slope of denouement but not being big enough to stand on its own as a climax, so it just sort of throws off the energy briefly and then slams into a finish. The dubbing is also not that great – I don't get the mania for dubbing in this era, but the dubbing was at least reasonably seamless in Dr. No. Here, we've got rather obvious dubbing, including one guy who's apparently able to speak with his mouth firmly shut.

    Overall, though, that doesn't drag down the film, which works so wonderfully as a plot-packed espionage thriller, the sort of caper that I'm surprised the franchise hasn't tried harder to emulate since. Bond's stay in Istanbul is great, full of Cold War espionage and counterespionage, and his team-up with Kerim Bey is fantastic. Kerim is one of the best supporting characters in the series, with Armendariz's performance genuinely amazing in light of the fact that he'd found out he was dying of cancer. The chipper, game, smoothly competent Kerim really plays well off Bond, and his nonstop sex life and endless supply of sons makes for great character detail as well as great comedy ("Back to the salt mines . . ."). Ender's already mentioned the seduction scene with Tatiana, but I think the great standout sequence of this stretch is in Hagia Sophia, with Bond creeping around for a rendezvous, trying to figure out how to deal with the Bulgarian in the middle of the tourists. Red Grant, of course, takes care of him first, which gives me a great segue to talk about Shaw's Red Grant.

    It's always fantastic to have Bond facing off against a real opposite number, rather than just some fat plutocrat with a beefy lackey. It's even better to put the twist on the situation that the opposite number is stalking Bond completely with all his knowledge, and even better quietly aiding him until he can swoop in at the end. It's a great dynamic, and Shaw plays the hell out of his role silently lurking through the background. He really comes into his own once he finally comes face-to-face with Bond, though. We're tense to see him finally making his move, yet it takes an agonizing age for him to do anything, while we get surprised by his chameleonlike ability to play to role of a posh, chummy bureaucrat. His final scene is absolutely wonderful. The tension is maximized with the near-revelation before he bluffs Bond into believing or at least half-believing him, and just when we think we were played with a false alarm, he springs into action and gets the drop on Bond. That leads into the great back-and-forth, in which Bond uses words and wits to trick Grant into gassing himself, giving us a magnificently straightforward and fierce fight, stupendously staged. Truly one of the all-time Bond sequences, from one of the all-time villains.

    Our other villain, Klebb, can't quite match Grant's presence, but she's still great, giving off a very creepy vibe without having to do a whole lot to earn it. The lesbian undertones in her interview with Tatiana are played just right, not over the top but just subtle enough to register as disconcerting – vaguely predatory, threatening and unnerving Tatiana not so much through anything overt as through the suggestion that this situation is turning off-kilter under the surface and creating a fear of what could happen next. Her scene against Bond is nothing special, but her real role is to be our eyes inside SPECTRE, and she excels there, providing a suitably memorable villain and letting us see the as-yet-unnamed Blofeld, whose handling as a mysterious voice and a set of hands petting a cat is immediately iconic and sets a tone of menace and mystery for SPECTRE.

    Thrilling, filled with great action and tension, witty without relying on the cheesy gags of the Moore years, sexy, serious – it's an absolutely sharp and masterful Bond film, giving us 007 as a real Cold War agent, and it represents the early series at the height of its power. I can't say enough about how tremendous the film is.



    Rankings:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
  8. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Goldfinger

    Goldfinger is remembered as the first of the series to really go for the "Bond movie" formula. In some ways, that's wrong – From Russia with Love was, despite a few flourishes, almost completely a straight spy thriller, with more in common with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold than Moonraker, but Dr. No pioneered almost all the elements in Goldfinger. Its Ken Adam villain lair was even more extravagant than anything in Goldfinger, Dr. No himself was a mechanical-handed supervillain with a big scheme, Honey was a Bond girl thrown in purely to have eye candy rather than to serve any sort of story purpose, you got a few quips . . . the only thing it didn't really have was the gadgets, which FRWL introduced, though in tamer form. What Goldfinger did was put all those Bond-formula elements together, lean on them throughout the movie, and do it with enough panache to blow up worldwide. The result is a film that's weaker than either Dr. No or From Russia with Love, leaning more on these superficial elements, but still interested in maintaining a solid enough core that it works without collapsing on itself.

    There's a lot to like about Goldfinger. First and foremost, the DB5 is a gorgeous, gorgeous car. Gert Fröbe is great as Goldfinger, blustery and seemingly perpetually sour even when he's covering it up with cheeriness, though the dubbing does get in the way a little yet again. Desmond Llewelyn is always tremendous. Oddjob is very effective as a henchman, and has a great fight with Bond. I loved the wit in the running gag of Leiter and MI6 not rescuing Bond because his reputation is such that they assume he must be on top of things at all times. The twist of Bond actually having succeeded in getting a message out is also quite nice. It also manages to have a considerable sequence set in the USA and not suck, which is quite the feat for a Bond film.

    Overall, though, I think it's a disappointment compared to the previous two films. The plot isn't very involving, and leans on underthought stuff like Goldfinger keeping Bond around because if he killed him he'd stop reporting and MI6, which already knows about Operation Grand Slam (supposedly), would send 008, which . . . won't happen if Bond stops reporting because he's being held captive? Or if Bond is captive, will MI6's purported knowledge of Operation Grand Slam disappear, sucked out of M's mind and into a prison cell next to Bond? It's completely incoherent. Other sections of the plot show the same underthought quality, like the way Tilly drops into the story, provides a brief distraction for Bond as he figures out her backstory, and then just instantly dies before she even accomplishes anything. Why was she in this film? And yet again, as in FRWL, the actual climax of the film is a fight with a henchman of the top-tier planning villain, which means that it doesn't manage to wrap up that villain until after the climax when we get a sudden fight in the middle of the denouement and then slam into an ending. It's a little more graceful and less uneven here than in FRWL, but it's still a clunky handling of a narrative device they didn't need to begin with.

    The captivity lacks the menace and tension that we saw in Dr. No's lair, or at least it does after the laser sequence. The gags are coming more heavily now, and while some of the laughs are fun and witty, others aren't. Cartoonish stuff like the ejector seat doesn't really get the franchise anywhere. The opening sequence has one great bit – Bond throwing the girl in the way of the incoming blow – but otherwise it's lazy, just a random collection of fairly uninvolving stuff thrown together to make you go, "Hey, it's James Bond!" . . . and that's all the segment is really trying to evoke. It's too self-satisfied and indifferent. It's the weird thing about the movie as a whole – it was a big leap forward (at least in a sense) for the franchise, but it feels like it got there by coasting. There are wonderful sequences in the movies, but I have to stick by my opinion that they don't add up to all that much, and after a pretty good opening, it doesn't keep up its momentum after Goldfinger decides to keep Bond around like a pet or something, and the tension drops out of the movie.

    As for miscellaneous observations, I'm not a fan of Cec Linder as Leiter. Jack Lord's Leiter wasn't spectacular, but he seemed to fit the role. He looked and acted the part of the prototypical CIA agent, a blandly handsome, professional company man who was relatively quiet and blended into the background, but also acted with a sort of quiet confidence and implicit arrogance perfectly suited to the newly ascendant America while maintaining a generically friendly professional rapport with Bond. He was the man in the gray flannel suit as an actual professional, an authority figure. Linder, on the other hand, is just kind of a guy. He goes here, he goes there, he says some laugh lines, and there you go. He's the authority figure you'd see in a sitcom. He belongs somewhere in the offices of McMahon and Tate, not the CIA. Also, why is the CIA operating domestically? It's interesting to see just how obsessed the films are so far with the CIA, though. Bond is in many ways a figure of the last days of the British Empire, but MI6 seems to have fallen quite easily into the role of second fiddle and bagman to the CIA. They're essentially doing legwork for the USA and protecting American interests throughout Dr. No, and in FRWL, Bond's first reaction to the prospect of getting a Lektor is, "Hey, isn't that what the CIA is so interested in?" Here, Bond's again fighting for American interests. MI6 appears firmly locked in the American orbit.

    In the end, Goldfinger, for all the individual moments and elements to recommend it, doesn't work as well as its predecessors. It lacks their tension and their energy and commitment to themselves as films. Hamilton, I think, just isn't up to the task as Young was, and the result is a more cartoonish Bond, one that's already falling into the start of the process of aping itself and becoming a caricature. It's far from bad, and it's just about constantly enjoyable, but it just doesn't live up to its predecessors. I really wish we'd seen it in Young's hands.


    Rankings:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
    3. Goldfinger
  9. darthcaedus1138 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2007
    star 5
    Agreed Havac. After the incredible FRWL, I was astounded that Goldfinger was the fan favorite movie. From then on, the movies pretty much got increasingly ridiculous (though Thunderball, IMO, is just boring), with You Only Live Twice somehow being the most ridiculous, yet somehow transcending that quality and being quite enjoyable. In a 'Oh God what is Bond doing this time' kind of way.

    And I mean ridiculous literally. It became harder and harder not to ridicule the movies I was seeing in front of me as the movies went on (with some minor Moore exceptions...not many) and it became difficult to actually watch the movies because I wasn't invested in this caricature fighting caricatures. At least Dr. No and FRWL were effective in introducing and sustaining the character so that I retained interest. After that, it mostly went downhill.

    When is Ender doing YOLT? This thread seems to have fallen by the wayside. My hope was that we'd make it through them all before the next movie comes out, but not at this pace.
    Last edited by darthcaedus1138, Mar 15, 2013
  10. soitscometothis Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    Well I'm one of the few here that really rate Goldfinger. It's my favourite Connery Bond, and I find it witty and imaginative, with rarely a dull moment. I love Dr. No, but I find the actual fight between Dr. No and 007 a bit of an anti-climax, which is my only real criticism of it; FRwL I'm not nearly as keen on as some people, partly because I watched it to death as a kid, but also because I find Tatiana unbelievable and uninteresting, and once the film loses the great Red Grant I find it becomes just a chase-scene with little tension. Horses for courses I guess.
  11. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Thunderball

    I was really looking forward to seeing Thunderball, as it has a very mixed reputation and it's one of only four Bond movies I have no memory of ever having seen. After having seen it, my own opinions are mixed. It's definitely not a perfect film. It's nowhere near the level of FRWL or Dr. No. But thinking in terms of how I'd rank this, I found myself wondering how it matched up to Goldfinger. It doesn't really have any of the high points that Goldfinger had throughout – it's fairly bland as a Bond film. But it has a little more pep and forward momentum as Bond searches for these bombs, rather than stopping to let Bond lay around Goldfinger's farm and such, and the fact that it was more consistent and had more forward momentum than Goldfinger meant that I actually had maybe a little more fun watching it even if it wasn't particularly good.

    The pre-credits scene was, I think, better than Goldfinger's. The jetpack can go to hell (it's even worse than Bond's underwater piss jetpack in the final fight), but the rest of it, though essentially random and pointless, has an actual narrative, a gorgeous setting, and a passable conceit with solid action. The film takes a dive after the passable opening, though – it plunges Bond into a stay at a health spa that it never feels bothered to explain, where he randomly stumbles across the side effects of a murkily-explained and overcomplicated plot to steal nukes. The SPECTRE scene setting up the plot is quite good, atmospheric, with cool set design, and continuing to make Blofeld an imposing behind-the-scenes presence. But the spa stuff never gets off the ground, and the nuke theft itself is cheesy, happening, like much of the rest of the movie, in a prolonged underwater sequence that makes no logical sense but lets Young show off his underwater cinematography.

    That's a problem that runs throughout the film. The core conceit, that SPECTRE is stealing nuclear weapons in order to extort Her Majesty's government for their return (though the price of one hundred thousand pounds sounds laughably low today), is solid. The plot details to get there, like too many other post-Goldfinger Bond films, aren't. Why does the stolen bomber splash down in the ocean shallows rather than just landing somewhere to offload them in a manner that's not ridiculously risky? Why does Largo, having offloaded the bombs from the bomber using the Disco Volante, not keep them aboard, but store them somewhere else underwater so that he can then have to go out again and load them up again a couple days later? Like everything else, the answer is, "So we can have a long, long underwater sequence." At least this time, the answer to why the villain doesn't have Bond killed is, if not absolutely compelling, at least logically coherent.

    Thunderball has its high points. Claudine Auger is gorgeous, and it's fun to see the tradition of Bond seducing the villain's girlfriend start (he seduced the villain's henchwoman and the villain's beard in the last one, but not technically the villain's girlfriend). Fiona Volpe makes for a sexy, dangerous assassin. There's great set design, some neat practical gadgets along with the silly ones, and Q in a Hawaiian shirt. I also like seeing Bond work with more of a crew, here having Leiter (though the actor playing him is impossibly boring), a local contact, and a girl Friday. And while I'm not a big fan of the underwater fight at the end, it would be okay if it didn't go on so long, the paratrooper frogmen are at least cool to watch deploying, and though the speeding-boat thing is ridiculous (when will these 60s movies realize that speeding up footage doesn't make things look dangerously fast; it just makes them look stupid?) the actual fight inside the bridge is tremendous. It's almost modern in its relentless, brutal, fast-paced action in close quarters and energetic editing, and it really works. Overall, I have to say I liked this movie better when it was Never Say Never Again, but this certainly beats the way Largo was dispatched there.

    But while most of the scenes are fair enough (for Pete's sake, enough with the underwater stuff, though), none of them really tend to stand out. Largo is also the first boring villain in the series. He just never comes to life or rises above bland. The film doesn't have the core of seriousness that kept Goldfinger anchored, and while on one hand that might contribute to the lighter, fleeter feel of the film when watched, it also means it doesn't have much weight as an entry. Passable entertainment, much better than the series at its worst, but it just never gets enough going to be great.


    Rankings:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
    3. Goldfinger
    4. Thunderball
    Ulicus and JoinTheSchwarz like this.
  12. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    A great point--one not often made in reviews. In studying Connery's reactions, you get the sense that this is Bond's first foray into the supervillain realm. After years of trailing Communists and traitors, he's thrust into completely alien territory. It's exhilarating to watch, comparable to Jim Gordon handing the Joker card over to Batman. "I'll look into it."

    If anything, Dr. No should have come after From Russia With Love, so that the series starts with a low-key Cold War thriller before slowly shifting to the outrageous.
  13. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Yeah, we've gotten very used to the crazy villain lairs and the villain doing the whole "I'll be a gentleman and show you around before I kill you" thing so it tends not to stand out as much, but it's very much a break from the movie up to that point and certainly nothing we'd expect Bond to have seen before. Even when we get the formula established, it's usually either the villain treating Bond like a prisoner he's half-taunting and half-humoring as a gentleman, but with no illusion about the fact that he's a prisoner, or it's the villain showing Bond around socially while he's suspicious of him but not ready to come down on him yet. This, where he veers back and forth between clearly being a prisoner and getting this random, Method-acting commitment to treating him as if he's a guest in a perfectly normal hotel, creates an even bigger mental discontinuity. They just burned his assistant to death and shot at him, and now they're doing everything but putting chocolates on his pillow, and now the first-rate spread they put out for him is drugged. Connery very much plays it as an insane experience.
  14. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Absolutely. And how refreshing it is to see Bond put through the wringer here. Drugged. Beaten to a pulp. Electrocuted, burned and all but drowned in the vent system. I don't think 007 would be rendered this vulnerable until the second act of Casino Royale. (Although FRWL, OHMSS and LTK would at least inject fleeting but potent anxiety into the character.)
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    It's time to move on, time to get going.

    [IMG]

    You Only Live Twice (1967)

    Behind the scenes

    Whatever your opinion of Thunderball, it was a massive success at the box office, and Bond mania kept getting bigger and bigger. Connery, though, was getting disenchanted with the role. Bond-mania had become obnoxiously intrusive and out of hand for him personally, the filming and promotional schedule was demanding, and he didn't want to be typecast as James Bond for the rest of his life. And it's not as if the scripts were particularly challenging anymore. The result was that Saltzman and Broccoli dumped some more money on him to get him in for You Only Live Twice, but they knew that he was about to move on, and began preparing for it. And in fact, Connery decided to leave the franchise after this film.

    There was a harrowing near-miss during pre-production, when the location-scouting team of Saltzman, Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert, Ken Adam, and DP Freddie Young (the DP for Lawrence of Arabia, guys. Lawrence of Arabia!) were scheduled to take a flight back to the UK, but decided to wait for another flight when they were invited to stay for a ninja demonstration. The plane they were supposed to be on crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone aboard. The plane literally broke apart in midair due to incredibly intense turbulence over Mt. Fuji. It's a pretty wild situation.

    The production team had a lot of trouble with the script -- they scrapped one by Harold Jack Bloom, though they kept some of his ideas, couldn't get Richard Maibaum, who had written all the previous films, and ended up going with Roald Dahl (yes, that Roald Dahl), Fleming's friend but not an experienced scriptwriter. Dahl's script was the first of the series to keep the title of the book it was adapting, but throw out most of the book and create an essentially new work rather than an adaptation.

    YOLT didn't gross as big as Thunderball, but it made about ten times its budget (the series' biggest yet -- when Ken Adam said it would take a million dollars to create his famous volcano set, Broccoli just said okay). Bond-mania continued, and the Queen even attended the premiere (unfortunately, she picked the worst one yet to attend).

    Plot

    You Only Live Twice features SPECTRE's attempt to spark a nuclear war between the USA and USSR, at the behest of Red China (which, of course, SPECTRE extorts for money midway through) by capturing spacecraft from both sides, leading each side to think the other is behind the capture of their spacecraft. While the superpowers gear up for war, the UK is convinced the captor spacecraft is landing in Japan, and sends Bond to investigate after faking his death to give him more cover.

    In Japan, Bond's MI6 contact, Henderson, is killed. Bond traces responsibility back to Osato Chemicals and is aided in escaping by Aki, who takes him to Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service. Tanaka and Bond work together to find the launch site, but Osato catches on to Bond when he visits his office in the guise of a buyer. Helga Brandt, posing as Osato's secretary but actually SPECTRE Number 11, captures, has sex with (of course), and then tries to kill Bond. He escapes, and she is killed by Blofeld for her failure.

    Bond and Tanaka eventually locate what they suspect is the launch site, and Bond scopes it out with the aid of Q's Little Nellie autogyro. He's attacked by helicopters, confirming that something's going on, but can't locate any installation. Tanaka decides to infiltrate him into the nearby village by training him as a ninja, putting him in crappy makeup so he can pose as Japanese, and marrying him to a local woman who's working for Tanaka. Bond seduces Aki, who is killed in an assassination attempt on him, then goes through with the infiltration, getting married to Kissy Suzuki.

    [IMG]

    Bond and Kissy explore the area and find SPECTRE's base hidden inside a volcanic crater. Bond infiltrates, desperate to stop a launch of the captor spacecraft that will surely bring on nuclear war, while Kissy goes to bring in Tanaka's ninja commandos. Bond infiltrates the base and tries to board the spacecraft, but is found out by Blofeld and captured. He comes face-to-face with Blofeld, whom we see for the first time, and the launch goes forward. Tanaka's ninjas attack the base in a massive battle, however, allowing Bond to free himself and hit the self-destruct button for the spacecraft just before it swallows up an American capsule. Bond is victorious, though Blofeld escapes.

    Review


    Here, I think, we have the first Bond movie that's working purely on how silly it is. You can enjoy it by laughing at how outrageous and self-parodic it is, but there's really nothing serious to get out of it.

    The plot is silly, from Blofeld being willing to spark nuclear armageddon between ridiculously obliging superpowers for a cheap payday (while the UK act like giant phalli in the UN . . . so much for that solicitousness toward America), to the village next to the rocket launch site not being able to notice GIANT ROCKETS LAUNCHING AND LANDING, to Bond's crappy disguise fooling the partner of the dead man he's impersonating at close range for a sustained period when it would have been just as easy for Bond to pull a gun after he gets in the car, to Bond getting fake-married and fake-Japanesed for no serious reason, to Tanaka keeping Bond in a blatantly compromised secret facility to work on a plan that's clearly not so secret anymore. Roald Dahl's script has lots of smirk-worthy innuendo, but not a lot of plot coherence.

    Like Thunderball, there's always something going on, but it rarely comes in a particularly memorable form anymore. The boldness of the pre-credits scene, seemingly killing Bond off, is appreciated – we know it's not real, but at least it's pushing outside the comfort zone, and it ultimately gets us Bond in his naval uniform, which I always enjoy. The chopper fight is silly, but at least has some fairly impressive shots, though integrating the combat isn't quite smooth yet. The attempted poisoning is creative, the long chase-fight at the docks is good, and the volcano set is visually memorable. But generally, it just feels like standard stuff at this point. The best you can say about most of the stuff is that it's good, not that it's great.

    The Bond girls look beautiful, and Tiger Tanaka is a badass, a solid ally character. The only problem is that he's too badass; his omnipresent, ultra-competent, ridiculously resourceful counterintelligence ninjas put Bond and MI6 to shame. You're left wondering why they need Bond to begin with, and frankly, he never really provides the answer. He's just sort of bumbling around in the early going of the film and keeps getting his ass saved by Tanaka's forces, which could be interesting if the film were going for something, but it isn't really. It just thinks that having Osato's idea of a great sneaky assassination of an enemy spy be shooting him from a car with a rifle right as he walks out of Osato's headquarters (but only if the car is about five feet away or less, judging by how long the car spends paralleling Bond) is great, and Aki speeding up to save him is even better. The late going of the film isn't really any better, with Bond's job being blatantly better off performed by an actual Japanese person and not a Scot in yellowface, and Tanaka's men proving capable of taking care of things themselves.

    [IMG]

    You can't talk about the film without talking about the Blofeld reveal. Honestly, I'm not that impressed. Pleasance's Blofeld has a memorable look, but it's not a particularly impressive look (it makes him look more like a refugee from a lousy Halloween party than a menacing leader of an international supercrime syndicate). Blofeld had ten times as much presence when he was a nonpresence than he does as a tiny little guy with a mediocre makeup job waddling around a control room, keeping Bond alive for no reason yet again. It's just misguided. If you're going to reveal Blofeld, this is not the reveal you make.

    Ultimately, this is the point where Bond and Bond-parody become largely indistinguishable. It's sort of fun to watch and guffaw at the silliness, but it's not in any way good for the franchise. It's an all-around misfire.

    How it fits in the series

    This is, as I mentioned, the first Bond movie in which the script bears almost no resemblance to the book. It's also the first movie directed by Lewis Gilbert, who would go on to do a couple Moore entries, neither of great distinction (*cough*Moonraker*cough*). It is also the first movie to break the pattern of annual releases, appearing two years after Thunderball.

    On the whole, I think YOLT really marks the first Bond film that doesn't work as anything except a "Bond movie," a big, in-jokey, silly parade of gadgets and quips and innuendo and fights and sexy ladies. As I said, it's the point where Bond and parody of Bond are almost indistinguishable. It feels like a Moore movie that happens to star Connery. It thus threatens to start us down that road, but in the larger context, that's interrupted by Connery's retirement from the series, forcing the producers to bring on a new Bond and shaking up the descent into formula. The fact that they finally adapted On Her Majesty's Secret Service next, after having wanted to for some years, meant that they also got to work with some meatier material, keeping them from coasting on Bond-movie formula.


    Rankings:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
    3. Goldfinger
    4. Thunderball
    5. You Only Live Twice
    Questions to jump-start discussion

    1. Blofeld's revelation: classic or dud?
    2. How about the Bond elements that aren't heavily dependent on the overall quality of the film: the Bond girls, the car (which Bond never drives -- the only film in which he doesn't drive at all), the gadgets?
    3. Even if the pure Bond formula isn't as serious or rewarding as classics like FRWL, does Bond as silly adventure have a value of its own that can be defended?
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  16. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 7
    I love this film for basically every reason you've cited for its being the "worst so far" so, um... yeah. :p
    SithLordDarthRichie likes this.
  17. soitscometothis Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    I'm also fond of this one. It helps that I watched it first at an early age, decades before Austin Powers' Dr. Evil spoofed Blofeld so brilliantly. Love the theme music too.

    So...

    1. Classic I guess
    2. The girls are good, I don't remember the car
    3. Heaven help us if a Bond film (or indeed any film) has to have a serious or deep message in order to justify its existence; I find it entertaining, so mission accomplished as far as I'm concerned.
    Ramza likes this.
  18. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    1. An utter dud. Thankfully, this movie is non-canonical for me. After Thunderball, I go staight to OHMSS; consequently, Savalas is the one and only Blofeld.
    2. Two facets of note: the Volcano base is the best villain lair ever, and Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice" is tied with "Goldfinger" as the finest tune of the series. Beautiful and haunting.
    3. Sure, although I would have preferred that there just as many installments patterned after FRWL as Goldfinger.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Elaborate! Are we talking genuine enjoyment? So-silly-it's-good laughs? How do you think it stacks up against the other films?

    [IMG]

    Toyota 2000GT, converted into an open-top by the film crew. The 2000GT wasn't manufactured in a convertible, but as a tiny Japanese car, it was too small to hold the 6'2" Connery, so they took the top off. Here's the car as Toyota made it:

    [IMG]

    Personally, I like it. It's no Aston, but it's a good-looking local change of pace.

    I love how elaborate and bustling it is. I'm especially fond of Blofeld's little mini-lair behind the control room. Even so, I still think that Ken Adam did the same design aesthetic -- the structural mix of rock and metal with the mod design and furniture -- better in Dr. No's lair. The volcano set looks like a big movie set, or maybe more accurately like an awesome action figure playset, with just a big chamber and a control room and a lot of empty space, but No's lair looks like a completely livable, awesome hotel I'd love to stay at while still being a crazy villain lair.


    Goldfinger? Really? I can't say I'm a fan. It doesn't really have anything going on other than Bassey yowling "Gawwwwwwllllllldfingah!" which, thanks, but no.

    That's the thing, isn't it? I myself don't mind the Bonds that are more in the fleet, fun adventure mold, and if they get a little silly, that's okay, but the backbone of the series should be Bond as an actual character, not the cheese. But all too often, Bond descends into just being ridiculous, and then the movies go from being silly fun to so-bad-they're-good, if they're not just so-bad-they're-bad, and that's not a good direction for the franchise at all.
  20. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Yeah, it's both astonishing and depressing to think that with the exception of the truncated Dalton era, there was roughly a 40 year gulf of insipidity between OHMSS and the Craig era.

    Mostly depressing, actually.
    Havac likes this.
  21. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    YOLT is an icon, regardless of how good it is. After all, it is arguably the most referenced and parodied Bond movie along with Goldfinger (see The Simpsons, Austin Powers etc) which says something about how many people remember it. Ask people to name memorable moments from the series and something from YOLT will come up, perhaps more than one thing.

    It gets 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of all the previous Connery movies but hardly a terrible rating given what Diamonds Are Forvever & most of Moore's Era scored.
    It turned Bond into an epic, few other Bonds prior to the Brosnan era managed that.


    Blofeld's revelation is perhaps underwhelming, he has an iconic look for sure but he never comes across as particularly threatening. I know in the books he is much more physically imposing, but a villain doesn't have to look tough to be a threat. The Volcano lair is cool and the action is often impressive not to mention the sets. Connery seems largely at ease with the role, ridiculous as much of it might be.
  22. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    Ugh this is my least favorite Bond film besides Moonraker. I have no idea how they managed to make ninjas attacking a volcano lair so boring. I did love Pleasance as Blofeld though. Incredibly menacing. Sinatra's tune is memorable too.
  23. soitscometothis Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    I guess I'll put up my rankings of the Bond films so far:

    1.Goldfinger
    2. Dr. No
    3. You Only Live Twice
    4. From Russia with Love
    5. Thunderball
  24. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 7
    Well, like I said earlier in the thread, I consider it second only to Goldfinger by a very narrow margin in my personal rankings. And it's honestly because of a mixture of those two things - there's a lot I generally enjoy of this film's lighthearted approach to globetrotting antics, Tiger Tanaka might be my favorite Bond teammate ever, everything that happens in the volcano base is seriously the best thing, etc. There're parts I like because of how goofy they are - Bond "becoming Japanese" is so goddamn ridiculous that it's actually a running joke in my family, the inevitable reoccurrence of the woman who doesn't like James for all of five minutes before she ends up sleeping with him, etc. But overall, regardless of the precise manner in which I'm entertained, I'm entertained throughout, which is more than I can say for a lot of Bond movies.

    I suspect it all ties back into my personal feelings on the films - I'm not keen on serious takes on Bond, as I consider him sort of intrinsically goofy in the way that all masculine power fantasies are of necessity. Consequently I enjoy it when there's a winking (Or in the case of Roger Moore's tenure, loud blaring sirens indicating) acknowledgement of that silliness. In addition, I get a lot of my "serious" spy shenanigans from Danger Man, so when I watch Bond, I want the cheese.
    Last edited by Ramza, Mar 17, 2013
  25. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Well, prepare to object throughout the Moore run. :p

    I've got a review for OHMSS ready to go, but I think I'll hold off until a little into the workweek to give people more time to react to YOLT. Hopefully we can get @Ender_Sai and @Rogue1-and-a-half to weigh in, too.
  26. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    Some of the Moore movies are fun. The Spy Who Loved Me comes to mind.