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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Welcome To Japan, Mr. Bond


High Expectations For You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice came in wake of, and suffered somewhat for, the cheat that was Casino Royale. Anticipation was great as Thunderball had been the grosser peak of ones with Connery. By You Only Live Twice, the copycats had stunk up many a spy sit. Heavy selling was needed to assure us that Bond, and YOLT, were genuine articles; the ad slogan, Sean Connery IS James Bond was, in fact, meant to distinguish Twice from ersatz Casino Royale, the latter a counterfeit I refused to go see. Dropped at the Liberty from purchase of shoes, my mother had forgot earlier resolve to steer me clear of Bond excess. How many of us benefited from parental unawareness of movie content we went to see? Recall is especially keen of seeing sixties-era 007's a first time. Could fans later limited to TV exposure come away so transformed? ABC broadcasts were pan/scan, of course, with YOLT reshuffled to put credits first and trimmed in the bargain. My companion to '67 first-run was one Donald Hunter, who lived across a street from the Liberty and sold Christmas trees out of his front yard (that's how late we were getting YOLT). And Colonel Forehand gave me the pressbook on our way out, so don't wonder why I cherish this show.


A lot will say Bond had slipped by Twice, but Blu-Ray re-viewing satisfied as ever, sentiment overwhelming critic judgment maybe, but who ever called me a critic, let alone a reliable one? Action is profuse, nearly continuous, and Nippon locations mightily enhance. If Connery was getting tired, he doesn't show it, this the last Bond in any case where his appearance really flattered the part (which by Diamonds Are Forever had eroded plenty). A mild, though not crippling, disappointment was Donald Pleasence as Blofeld, but how could he fulfill what we'd imagined for the unseen-till-then character? Outer-space venturing lent sci-fi element that presaged outlandish Bonds to come, YOLT's hollow-out volcano rendered a joke by the Austin Powers group. Still, it and others of initial Saltzman-Broccoli run don't date, at least from lush mounting's standpoint, which was what imitators habitually lacked and makes them uniformly tough getting through now (tried watching a Matt Helm on the Sony HD channel --- couldn't finish).

THE END of You Only Live Twice, but James Bond will return later today with an interesting Winston-Salem Drive-In ad for Dr. No.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson remembers James Bond:


I faintly remember seeing YOLT in the Granada in Morgan Hill. The prologue where the spacewalking astronaut gets cut off unnerved me more than anything else in the movie.


I recall the Bond series generating lots of parodies but no serious imitators (other spy thrillers tended to be less glamorous and closer to noir -- no fun if you came to see secret fortresses blown up). Flint was comedy played just straight enough, at least in the first film. Matt Helm was like a Bob Hope sendup, only sloppier and raunchier. Both totter between quaintly incorrect and creepy in their attitudes: "Murderer's Row" has Dean Martin tracking villains with Ann Margaret, with constant jokes about her collegiate boyfriend and the generation gap between AM and Dino. They end the movie in bed together.


Bond killed off the parodists with self-parody. The stories were played comparatively straight, but production values, stunts and pulctritude were elevated to impossible-to-exaggerate levels.


"Casino Royale" was an amazing mess, an attempt to clone not Bond but Blake Edwards and MAD Magazine. The kind of non-sequitur gags MAD would throw into the background were front and center, often clunky and expensive (Paratrooping Indians with wigwam chutes; a UFO in London; Frankenstein's monster).

5:40 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The tough sell for me was Bond posing as a Japanese fisherman. Connery fits into a village of 5 foot peasants like Kareem Abdul Jabbar turning up in Rocco and His Brothers. The days of acceptable yellowface were dying quickly.

One thing I noticed was a pair of amusing Kubrick echoes, one intentional, one not. The unintentional one is the casting of William Sylvester as President Alexander-Knox-Dubbed-By-Paul-Frees' science adviser; busy year for Dr, Heywood Floyd going straight from Blofeld's space plot to dealing with the monolith. (How did Frees fail to land the voice of HAL 9000, anyway? It's got to be the only voice-only part he failed to get in two decades.)

But the intentional one is when Connery has rescued the American astronauts and he comes around a corner looking for henchmen with them, all dressed in white jumpsuits and swaggering like bad news. If that isn't the spitting image of Alex and his droogies, I don't know what is.

5:50 PM  

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