Sunday, June 22, 2014

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at Sleeper,  Diamonds Are Forever,  Sleepless In Seattle,  My Little Chickadee,  Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

If the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever set the tone for the Roger Moore era that immediately followed, we'd argue You Only Live Twice is the best of the Sean Connery era.

The scene opens with a spaceship being 'swallowed' by another space ship and quickly moves to Bond in bed being surprised and killed.

But never fear, even during the funeral scene, as Nancy Sinatra warns in one of the finer Bond themes, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse,  "You Only Live Twice."

You only live twice or so it seems
One life for yourself and one for your dreams
You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is it's name

Having faked his own death and burial to throw people off his scent, Bond now heads for Tokyo.

At a sumo wrestling match, he meets Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) who works for Japanese spy chief Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba).

While he and Tiger will indulge in being bathed by multiple lovelies, it's Aki who teams with Bond throughout the bulk of the first two-thirds of the film.

There will be thrills, chills, spills and gadgets along the way.

And for a change in a Connery Bond film, James will be the one being slapped, not a woman.

That's Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), an assassin for the evil SPECTRE.

SPECTRE is headed by the evil Blofeld (Donald Pleasence).  Hes' the one having spaceships 'swallowed' and plotting destruction via a world wide nuclear war.

And he's got a cat he carries around a lot.  Yes, he's also, in fact this whole film has, inspired Mike Meyers' first Austin Powers film.

As for the Bond films, Sean Connery walks after this one (only to return for Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again) and the film that follows You Only Live Twice is On Her Majesty's Secret Service which finds George Lazenby's Bond marrying Diana Rigg only to see her die by the end of the film.

In You Only Live Twice, Aki is killed when SPECTRE attempts to wipe out Bond and, don't try to figure it out, this is followed by Bond pretending to marry Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama).

It's Kissy that will assist on the rest of the mission.

Which is basically swim into the caves and take over Blofeld's underground lair.

Then it's a few shots of Bond and Kissy as a volcano erupts and the credits roll.

It's a gorgeous film (Freddie Young did the cinematography) with one of the better and quirkier Bond scripts of the Connery era (Roald Dahl wrote the script -- yes, that Roald Dahl).

We love the James Bond films -- all but one -- but this one truly is our favorite of the Connery era.

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