Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (1967)
May 31, 2011 1 Comment
There is a space-rocket gobbling astronauts – both American and Russian alike – and the respective nations are having none of it. With diplomacy failing and the English intermediaries practically sweating starch, our friendly neighbourhood misogynist is dispatched to Japan by a suspicious MI6 searching for answers. With SPECTRE ultimately behind the shuttle-nappings, James Bond must track down local operative Dikko Henderson, assemble Tiger Tanaka’s ninja army and marry pearl diver Kissy Suzuki (for some reason) if he is to infultrate SPECTRE’s volcanic base of operations and expose Blofeld as the mastermind behind the attacks.
I don’t know whether to blame my place in Generation Y, my MTV-warped attention span, or my general lack of intelligence but I have as yet found these early James Bond adventures a might confusing. Killed off in the movie’s pre-title sequence, Bond is soon right as rain and being torpedoed out of a submarine, from which he apparently swims to Japan. From here he meets a steady slew of expendable (and soon expended) characters who point him in a series of directions often for no other purpose by filling out the running time. Henchmen have their henchman, and You Only Live Twice quickly becomes a game of reconstructing the script for yourself.
Why, for example, does Bond need to dress up as a “Japanese man” and marry Tanaka’s student, only to set off on a reconnaissance mission? Why bother faking Bond’s death just to expose him a scattering of scenes later? And, most importantly of all, how does Bond make it to Tokyo so seamlessly having just been fired out of a submarine off the coast of Hong Kong? These questions, and the film’s only real failing can only be aimed at one man, Roald Dahl. While the man might be endlessly talented when it comes to enlarging peaches and making foxes fantastic, his James Bond script is the weakest in the series so far.
Good thing, then, that there is so much else to love. With suspension officially disbelieved, the franchise really has started to blossom. Considering how derivative You Only Live Twice is – the majority of its elements having been recycled from previous instalments; piranhas instead of sharks; faked death instead of dead decoy; pearl diving heroine instead of shell collecting heroine – it is leant a delightful freshness thanks to a welcome change of scenery.
Not only do we finally see Moneypenny out of the office, but on a submarine no less, the film benefits from a more ambitious approach to cinematography. Whether it’s the surprisingly effective aerial battle aboard Q’s modified Little Nellie or the roof top battle with baddy Mr. Osato’s men, You Only Live Twice is perhaps the most exciting James Bond movie to date. This is largely down to a fine tuned array of sound effects which often invoked memories of playing GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. Punches finally sound painful and gunshots no longer feel staged, there is a polish descending on the franchise which appears to be heralding in a new age for the character. But we’ve not reached Roger Moore quite yet.