Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bond-arama: No. 006 You Only Live Twice (1967)

It has become fashionable to dislike You Only Live Twice. The plot is ridiculous! There’s a volcano lair! How can Bond possibly pass for Japanese? Heck, Connery himself admitted he phoned in the role in this one because he was getting sick of the rock star treatment. Still, for the public at large, this is essential Bond. And frankly, if this film hadn’t proven so strong, then it wouldn’t have been copied again as The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and Tomorrow Never Dies. This film has earned its place at No. 006 of 0023.

Plot Quality: The plot begins well. The story opens with Bond taking a woman to bed in Hong Kong. Some gunmen enter the room and shoot the bed full of bullets. The police appear and announce Bond dead moments later. He gets a burial at sea in full view of the public. Of course, Bond isn’t dead. The idea is to fake Bond’s death so SPECTRE will think he’s dead and turn their attentions elsewhere. And this is a pretty smart way to start the film... only, Bond does nothing to maintain a low profile after this.
Meanwhile, on an American spaceship in orbit, one of the astronauts is doing a spacewalk. This goes off without a hitch, until a mysterious blip appears on their radar. That blip is an unidentified spacecraft which opens up and swallows the American spacecraft. The Americans think the Soviets are behind this, but the British have their doubts. They believe the unidentified spacecraft originated and landed in Japan.

Bond is sent to Japan to investigate. Upon arrival, he is contacted by a woman named Aki. She is an assistant to the leader of the Japanese Secret Service, Tiger Tanaka. Aki introduces Bond to the local MI-6 operative, Henderson (Charles Gray). Gray claims to have proof that a Japanese organization is behind the spaceship hijacking, but before he can share that proof with Bond, he is killed. Bond follows the assassins back to the corporate offices of Osato Chemicals, where a fight ensues and he steals some documents. Bond then flees the scene and is picked up by Aki. Bond is suspicious of Aki and follows her when she flees into the subway. Once there, he falls through a trap door, which takes him to meet Tiger.
Tiger has the documents examined and finds a microdot which indicates that a tourist was killed for taking a seemingly harmless picture of a freighter, the Ning-Po. In light of this, Bond decides to investigate Osato Chemicals by posing as a buyer for a foreign chemical company looking for a license to manufacture. Bond plays cat and mouse with Mr. Osato and then gets chased by thugs. After his escape, he decides to investigate the docks because of the connection to the Ning-Po. There he is captured and taken to Mr. Osato’s secretary Helga Brandt who seduces him and then tries to kill him in a staged plane crash.

Up to now, the plot has been pretty solid. Yes, there are some silly bits, like why Bond wouldn’t know what Tiger looks like or why Osato didn’t just shoot him in his office or why Brandt didn’t just shoot him when she had him tied up. But all told, the story holds together very nicely. Sadly, that is about to change.
Bond decides to investigate the area where the Ning-Po was docked when the photo was taken. To do this, they stage an elaborate wedding, after a training sequence, so Bond can pose as a local fisherman. This feels like padding and its very, very hard to believe Connery could pass as Japanese; nor does it make sense that he would waste time doing this. Bond then discovers that something is strange with a dormant local volcano. Bond investigates and an aerial dogfight takes place between helicopters and Bond in a mini-copter. Then Bond realizes he must take a closer look at the volcano, so he climbs to the top and discovers that the lake in the volcano is fake.

Bond breaks in and discovers a secret base, complete with launch facilities. He tries to get onboard the rocket that is about to launch and gets caught. Then he is taken to the mastermind behind all of this, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence). Pleasence hams it up and tells Bond he’s going to kill him. But just then, Tiger’s ninjas attack the volcano. Pleasence flees. A titanic battle ensues with color-coordinated henchmen. Bond and Kissy (who replaced Aki when she was killed) escape and the film ends with them kissing in a raft.
It’s easy to see why this film is slowly falling out of favor with some people. The film has the travelogue feel we all like and a good deal of action and the first part of the plot is good. BUT, much of the plot ends up being pointless, e.g. why fake Bond’s death if he’s not going to keep a low profile? And unfortunately, once we get to the fishing village, things start going off the rails. For example, the idea that Bond would take time out to perform a fake wedding with only hours left before the next launch is ludicrous. Nor is there any reason for it, i.e. why not just snoop around the normal way? The volcano lair is WAY over the top, though it will become a common feature in these films. Blofeld turns out to be a total moron and coward, which diminishes him a lot. And then you have the Austin Powers effect. Austin Powers parodied the elements at the end of this film so well that it’s made it hard to take the last thirty minutes of this film seriously.

Still, the scene of him following the assassin to Osato Chemicals and doing some spying there is some of the best work in the series. They idea of the hijacked spaceship is extremely cool, even by today’s standards. The stakes are high as the US and Russia are on the verge of going to war over this. And the whole thing really does feel right for a Bond film. Moreover, this is one of the five films they always show in prime time during Bond-a-thons, attesting to its continued popularity. This film has earned its place.
Bond Quality: Connery has claimed that he didn’t take his role seriously in this film, but honestly, Connery at half-speed is better than most of the others at their best. What’s more, Connery puts in a truly awful performance in Diamonds Are Forever, which makes his performance here seem quite normal by comparison, i.e. it’s hard to see this as a poor performance given what he does next. Moreover, Connery’s lack of intensity actually kind of works in this film because it gives his character a sense of calm which makes the unreality of the rest of the plot easier to take. Had he been as serious as he was in Dr. No in this film, he would have felt out of place.

I also wonder, quite frankly, if Connery really did tank his performance as he indicates or if that was simply a self-serving claim for an actor who wasn’t able to handle the pressure of the role? Comparing his performance here to his performance in Diamonds Are Forever, I can’t help but think that Connery really did do his best.
The Bond Girl: The Bond girls here are not a strong suit. Aki is played by Akiko Wakabayashi and she doesn’t stand out. The role is less than challenging and the actress doesn’t add much. In this film, Bond’s relationships with M and Q and Tiger are more important. Aki is replaced by Kissy Suzuki after Aki gets poisoned and I dare you to tell the difference.

The other possible Bond girl is Karin Dor as Helga Brandt, but honestly, she’s a little too old and too, uh, East German to be sexy. She’s barely in the film and when she is, she spends more time letting Bond escape than doing anything constructive.

Villain Quality: Oy vey. I’m a big fan of Donald Pleasence in horror films, but he’s really out of his league as a villain in a Bond film. He plays Blofeld in such a near-cartoonish fashion that he became the obvious choice for Mike Meyers to parody as Doctor Evil. He has none of the menace of the prior Blofeld or Largo or Red Grant or the mathematical precision of Dr. No. He is like Goldfinger’s weaker brother. This is too bad too because Blofeld’s scheme is ingenious.
This is also the first time in a Bond film where you feel like Bond should have died. Various characters in prior films could have killed Bond, but defects in their characters saved Bond, e.g. Grant’s sadistic ego in wanting to see Bond admit Grant was better before he killed him, Dr. No’s arrogance in dismissing Bond as a threat, and Goldfinger’s insecurity in keeping Bond around as insurance. Nothing like that saves Bond here. Blofeld could have shot him dead at several points in this film, but didn’t for no good reason. That hurts this film.

All in all, this is a top Bond film. It has one of the best moments in the franchise in it, the scheme is one of the best, and despite claims to the contrary, Connery does an excellent job as Bond. There are negatives, and the Austin Powers films have parodied those heavily, which may ultimately drag this film down a couple notches. But right now, this film sits where it belongs at No. 006 of 0023.

47 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

wow ..... talk about politically incorrect; "too East German to be really sexy." Her name was partially lifted from the best Bond girl of all (see Moonraker, the novel. In my dim recollection, I never was that thrilled with this one, because it did seem to me that Connery was maybe at the stage where he feared getting "George Reeves" disease. But you knew how I felt about that. The fact it is number six and has a plot that falls apart underscores the major down side of the film franchise.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Truth is truth, my friend, and I'm all about political incorrectness.LOL!

I think it definitely underscores the downside of the franchise. And it's one you wouldn't think of when you first think of these films. When you think of these films, you generally think of them as better than they are when you start looking at them one at a time. In fact, it's amazing how many were just plain poor. And now we're well within the top 10 and we still haven't called a film flawless.

Of course, the flip side is that the franchise has strong enough pull that we've sat through a lot of garbage in its 50 years without giving up on it.

Rustbelt said...

Okay, Andrew, Here we are. You know I've been gunning for this one for some time- as has my henchman, Science and our shadowy third man, Logic. But first, a quick observation...
Your analysis seems somewhat strained, almost as if you're trying really hard to call this one good, despite its failures as a film far outweighing its successes. Makes me think of a longtime wrestling fan trying to find good things to say about Hulk Hogan, now that we all know what a jerk he is in real life (and I'm not just talking about his reality show).
Well, after 'Moonraker,' my henchman, Science and I began prepping for all the scientific inaccuracies in this stinkburger. (All kidding aside, I performed research with a contact of mine who is very knowledgeable in space exploration, This person has requested anonymity, and I'm honoring that request. Let's just say this individual has forgotten more about space travel than I could learn in 3 or 4 lifetimes.) It was then we became aware of what a disaster Roald Dahl's script is and brought in Logic. I also noticed tendencies with the Bond character that I found disturbing.
Now, due to negative feedback in the 'Moonraker' thread, my co-horts and I will refrain from reporting on scientific inaccuracies in this film unless Andrew invites to discuss them. With that in mind, I give you Logic's report. (Note: may contain some observations Andrew has already noted in his analysis.)

Rustbelt said...

The following report was compiled, completed, grammar-checked, notarized, and carbon-dated by our shadowy third man, Logic. It was retrieved from the trunk of a ’79 Ford rental on the third floor of a decrepit parking garage in the seedy section of a dirty town that, hopefully, is nowhere you. (Otherwise, you might have seen the exchange.) It runs as follows:

-Why fake Bond’s death? In the big picture, it doesn’t even factor into the plot (see below).
-Why is Bond in the ‘coffin?’ Why not just fake the funeral and have him already be on the sub? Isn’t there a chance his device could malfunction or run out of air, resulting in him being more than mostly dead? Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave a mannequin on the seafloor, in case an enemy outfit inspects the site just to make sure Bond’s joined the heavenly choir invisible?
-Why shoot Bond out of the torpedo tube? It’s dangerous and could easily kill him. Why not use the escape hatch? It’s designed for this kind of thing. After all, isn’t that the hatch they used to bring him on board in the first place?! And why the special forces-style delivery of Bond in Japan? The UK (and for that matter, the US) isn’t at war with Japan. The beach is clearly deserted. That’s the type delivery used for a heavily defended war zone, not a peacetime country. Besides, if Bond’s going to walk around in public anyway, what’s the point of his secret arrival in the first place?
-Why does the goon take Bond (whom he thinks is partner in crime) to Tanaka’s office instead of a crime doctor when he appears to be injured?
-Isn’t it convenient that Bond finds the evidence for locating the base in Tanaka’s office when, as noted, he should’ve been taken to a mob doctor?
-How did Aki know Bond was in Tanaka’s office? She never saw him leave. (He was in disguise and in the crook’s car.) And how did she know when he would be running out of the front of the building and that she was needed to drive up at that point?
-Why does Aki switch from driving a left-side car to a right-side car?
-How can Tanaka’s men blow up the Ning Po picture and see it’s name, despite the fact that the picture is too grainy for that to be accomplished in 1967?
-Why would SPECTRE kill a tourist and (later) a diving girl? Before answering that…
-How did SPECTRE build an entire base with an Astrodome-sized ceiling without anyone noticing? That’s going to require more than just hammers, chisels, and a few tech geeks. How did they keep that a secret? The Ning Po isn’t really noticed. It seems to be established that there a steady stream of commercial traffic along a shipping lane here. The diving girls show that there is a nearby pearl industry. Also, the fishing village implies numerous fishermen in the area. How did none of them notice such a massive construction project? Also, how did none of them notice a spacecraft taking off and landing numerous times? (Unmanned and manned practice runs included.) There would be a smoke plume in the day and a fireball at night- not to mention the concussive blast and accompanying shockwave. So, with that in mind…
-Why did SPECTRE kill a tourist and a diving girl when no one noticed the construction or any of the launches? Why kill them now if the camouflage has apparently been working? Because they saw the Ning Po higher in the water? Wouldn’t that indicate that the SPECTRE security was getting lax? Shouldn’t that really mean that a few inept guards deserved to be thrown into a tank with some sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads? Poison gas and mysterious deaths will ruin good camouflage any day of the week.

(continued...)

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, Negative feedback on Moonraker? I thought everyone enjoyed the report of your friend science? By all means, feel free to report anything you wish on this one. :)

In terms of being strained, no, not really. This was a highly popular film which remains one of the essential five in any Bond-athon. I think it's got some brilliant moments and some of the stronger character relationships of the early films if you look at Bond, Tiger, M and Q. I don't see any film below that can say the same things at the present time.

Moreover, like it or not, this film became the template for the franchise until For Your Eyes Only -- lunatic bad guy with secret base wants to destroy the world for no valid reason... lots of silly gadgets... killer women... tongue-in-cheek Bond.

The downside is that it became the template just mentioned, and that it's been hit with such a bull's eye parody that it's hard to take the film as seriously as it once was taken.

Rustbelt said...

-Where is the camera that allows Bond to watch the goons’ car being taken out to sea and dropped by the helicopter with the magnet?
-Why doesn’t Number 11 kill Bond when she has the chance? Why bother taking him into the plane and putting him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death? Why not just shoot him in her cabin? Now, I know some women will say that if they had Sean Connery/Bond in their clutches, they’d want to get ‘the most’ out of him. Fair enough. But then why not just be a competent black widow and do the deed after doing the deed?
-When Bond flies over the volcano in Little Nellie, why is he attacked by SPECTRE’s black ops helicopters? The entire purpose of camouflage is to hide something in plain sight without it being noticed by people who are walking past. Wouldn’t sending helicopters and attacking Bond actually defeat the entire purpose by alerting Bond that something is up?
-Why does Bond’s gun give him away as James Bond? In ‘Dr. No,’ M orders Bond to give up his Beretta and take the Walther PPK because the Berretta was unreliable. He adds that it’s being issued to all British agents and that “the American CIA swear by them.” Since when did Bond become the only MI6 agent to carry the PPK? In “For Your Eyes Only,” a hitman even refers to the PPK as “standard issue British Secret Service.” So, you mean it went from stand issue to one man, then back to standard issue? Even “Goldeneye” screws this up, with the ex-KGB guy saying that only three men use the gun and that he’s killed two of them. Welcome to ‘Plot Convenience Theater!’ Did I also mention this is the ONLY time Bond’s supposed death is brought up? That cover worked really well, didn’t it?
-Why waste all the time on Bond’s fake wedding? Was it necessary? Bond and Triple-X pretend to be married in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” They didn’t go through a fake wedding. Wouldn’t fake papers and a convincing story be enough? On that note…
-Why not investigate how that SPECTRE spy/assassin got into Tanaka’s (supposedly off the books) ninja school? “Hey, we’ve been infiltrated! They may know everything and be ready for us! Have they been watching us? Do they have a mole inside who’s feeding them information and putting us in danger? Ah, who cares? To the wedding!” Between that and Bond’s fake death, why is the movie focusing on subplots that ultimately go nowhere? (Bond’s wedding is about as useful for cover as his fake death.) Why not focus on finding out how that goon located Henderson, got through British security, and killed him with relative ease? Why not focus on the security breach at the ninja school?
-Where did Bond hide his ninja outfit? He wasn’t carrying it up the volcano and (as you can see when he’s swimming) and wasn’t wearing it under his fisherman clothes. And how does he look like a Scotsman at the top of the mountain when he was turned Japanese (I really think so) at the base following surgical makeup? Personally, I think he should look like a Welshman- just like Anthony Hopkins in the ambulance scene from ‘Silence of the Lambs!'
-How are Bond and Aki not killed by the liftoff? The concussive blast, burning fumes, and poisonous gases in such a confined space should be easy death- or at least leave them burned with seared lungs and permanent brain damage.

(...)

Rustbelt said...

-How did Aki climb out of the crater, down the volcano, up and over another mountain, swim across the bay, contact Tiger, buy clothes at "Drapes R Us," and arrive with the entire team after hardly any time passing at all?
-Where is the camera to film the two spacecraft approaching each other?
-And in terms of the exploder button…why is Hans given the key and not a SPECTRE-loyalist technician? Why do it in front of Bond, thus giving away important info to the enemy? Why didn’t Blofeld give Hans the key earlier?
-When Bond escapes from the tech room through Blofeld’s office, he tells Tanaka where to go. Tanaka says it’s “too well defended.” Why not just go back up through the office where Bond came from?
-Why blow up the ship at all? Wasn’t the point supposed to be kidnapping the Americans and blaming the Russians? Wouldn’t the Americans go ‘WHAT?’ when the Russians blew them selves up? “Well, they’re dead. No reason to start World War III.” What a waste of a plan.
-And what was the point with the piranha tank? –other than to give gunless Bond a way to kill superhuman Hans? Sounds like a good argument for the Second Amendment to me.
-Why doesn’t Blofeld kill Bond at the same time he kills Osato? He kills Osato halfway down the stairs and then points the gun at Bond at the bottom of the stairs just in time for Tiger to…oh, wait.

COPY ENDS

Rustbelt said...

Well, since Andrew's okay-ed the report from Science, here it is. Andrew, he's very happy that it's been approved. (Though it took me time to translate his text, which was sent in binary.) In short, Science didn't appreciate how his field was butchered by this film. And since people (sadly) seem to get most of their scientific info from movies (just as they got their history from Oliver Stone's 'JFK), Science feels the need to set the record straight. His report is as follows:

-That bungee cord: When the astronaut’s bungee cord is cut, the audio stops. Why? The audio is being transmitted by radio to and from the astronaut’s helmet, not through a wire in the bungee cord. Also, the astronaut’s oxygen comes from his backpack. Cutting the bungee won’t directly kill him. Mission Control should still be able to hear him run out of air and suffocate. (Interestingly, if the air was coming through the cord, he’d likely suffer from painful decompression. Plus- if that was the case- the cord should’ve been writhing like a dropped fire hose.)

-(general complaint) The capsule is called ‘Jupiter 16.’ Why Jupiter? This seems to be the fallback name for all rockets/capsules in Corman-style B-movies. I’ve heard it in cheap animation from the 70’s as well. (The Hanna-Barbera Godzilla cartoon) Look, it’s an American rocket with 2- TWO!- astronauts. While Project Gemini ended in 1966, (the year before this film came out), Project Apollo wouldn’t start until October 1968. The audience would’ve known the spacecraft was a Gemini. Why the name snafu? Why not a fictional Gemini mission? Why insult the audience of the time?

(continued...)

Rustbelt said...

-Bond getting shot out of a torpedo tube. Is this necessary? Now, I’ve read reports that Navy SEALs (and, likely, their UK equivalent), have submarines with specialized tubes for this kind of thing. But that also requires them to wear special equipment. Bond is only wearing a wetsuit and a snorkel in what is clearly a normal torpedo tube. Even at a shallow depth, (assuming the sub is trying to remain unnoticed by anyone on the surface), pressure is an issue. What’s protecting Bond from the bends? And speaking of pressure, there’s an obvious explosion. Most subs used compressed air to shoot torpedoes out of the tubes before the propellers take over. Either that, or hydrogen peroxide- a substance that reacts violently with water and was so dangerous the US and the UK stopped using it in their subs in the early 1960’s, but not the Russians. (See ‘Kursk-comma-the.’) Whatever was in use, Bond is not a torpedo. He’s likely going to fold at the joints, banging his head, knees, shoulders, or whatever and come out as a broken, bloody mess.

-The SPECTRE craft: I was all ready to blast this thing’s landing ability until my contact informed me that advancements in technology MAY make such landings possible. Recent findings have found that using an inflatable heat shield around a rocket (the part facing Earth during re-entry), could make this happen. As long as the rocket’s pressure is higher than the flight dynamic pressure, it could navigate down to the surface. (Very cool stuff!) However, none of this was available in the 1960’s. In fact, it’s more likely the SPECTRE ship would run into the same problems faced by Neil Armstrong when he tested an experimental hovercraft. LINK
And by the way…

-A little aesthetic gripe here: could the landing have been any more poorly shot? The model is just being held in front of the camera and twirled around. The landing isn’t much better. It’s just a master shot with the model being lowered by a string (which they didn’t even bother to hide) in front of a rear projection. Amazing. They spent all this money on a penultimate Bond film and shot the cheapest possible spacecraft effects. What, did their research consist only of Roger Corman movies? Compare this with the P-1 landing on Planet X in ‘Godzilla vs. Monster Zero” (1965). The cinematography, lighting, music, editing…it’s all better! That’s right. A Bond movie got upstaged by a Godzilla film. (Sorry, couldn't find a video link of the scene.)

Big G 1, Bond 0

-Those two launches: At the end of the film, the American liftoff shows stock footage of an unmanned Atlas-Agena rocket. Although mainly used for satellites, they were also used to launch unmanned craft for practicing rendezvous and docking procedures during a couple Gemini missions. So, why stock footage of an unmanned mission for a manned liftoff in the movie? Why not show an actual Gemini mission? And while I’m mentioning that…
The footage of the Soviet Soyuz launch used stock footage of a Gemini-Titan launch. Yes, you read that right. An unmanned launch for the American rocket, and an actual Gemini launch for the Soviets! WTH, Britain? Are your filmmakers really this messed up? If this was a joke, even Adam Sandler would say it stinks. Also, if this is supposed to be a Soviet launch, since when are there palm trees planted around the Baikondur Cosmodrome in Soviet Kazakhstan?!

-The filmmakers say they swapped the capsules and spacesuits of the Americans and Russians. Apparently, this was to be a joke or some kind of social, anti-war, Cold War-era commentary. I have no comment.

(continued...)

Rustbelt said...

-By the way, how does the SPECTRE ship slow and capture the two spacecrafts without firing retrorockets to slow down? In fact, it looks like it’s speeding up. If that’s the case, the SPECTRE craft would actually push itself away from Earth, go into a longer orbital period, and miss its target. In other words, it would actually end up above its target- if looking down on Earth, that is. You have to set orbits for intercept courses further away (it won’t look like trailing in an action film). By the way, according to the Third Law of Motion, if the SPECTRE craft doesn’t use its reaction control system thrusters to slow down before the capture, it’ll crash into the Gemini/Jupiter craft and destroy them both. End of movie.

-And hey…why would SPECTRE build a base inside an active volcano in imminent danger of erupting? Yes, active. You see, in order for that eruption at the end to occur, that volcano cannot be extinct. An extinct volcano would have no seismic activity beneath it for SEVERAL MILES. Based on appearance, the movie volcano’s interior shaft of the crater has collapsed and, therefore, plugged the lava tube leading to the liquid hot mag-MUH. An explosion in the crater alone will not cause an eruption. The explosives would have to bore down into the crust, find the liquid hot mag-MUH, bring it to the surface, and pressurize it. I doubt SPECTRE could afford that, given how much the base alone must have cost. (FYI- Mt. St. Helens’ 1980 eruption, caused by a landslide triggered by an unrelated earthquake, had a force of 400 times the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima, or a VEI rating of 5.) Unless that crater base was sitting on brittle rock only about 100 feet thick, floating on a sea of pressurized, high-acid, liquid hot mag-MUH, there is no chance for the lavatic eruption at the end of the film.

And to build on that, in the movie “Godzilla 1985,” Japan’s Self-Defense Force places explosives in Mount Mihara- AFTER determining that the liquid hot mag-MUH was close enough to the surface and under enough pressure to create a man-made eruption. The resulting explosion was small, but just big enough to cause Godzilla to fall inside. (Don’t worry. He doesn’t die. He IS Godzilla, after all.) And on aesthetic purposes, that film did a better job of building suspension of disbelief and leading the audience into it. (It isn’t tacked on at the end in cheesy fashion.) It looks closer to the real thing and doesn’t come off as bad animation with whatever pounds were left after Connery cashed his check.

Big G 2, Bond 0

Rustbelt said...

Now, I hate to say this, but I’ve found some serious problems with Bond in this one. And I’m not talking about Connery’s “did it for the money” attitude. After playing doctor, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bond is suffering from two Mystery Science Theater 3000-related diseases. The first one is sad enough, a condition oft referred to as:

Diamond Head Syndrome

I did a write-up on the dreadful film ("Code Name Diamond Head") that forms EXperiment 608 in Great Film Debates No. 106 on Sunday.

Suffice to say, the symptoms of this the disease are noticed when the hero only succeeds because the bad guy messes up his own plans, usually by taking unnecessary risks in the open. (Often the fault of the screenwriters having to write in a subplot in what is an otherwise foolproof plan.)

In YOLT, SPECTRE…
-tries to kill Bond in broad daylight after meeting with Osato, despite Bond learning nothing from the SPECTRE frontman.
-learns that Bond is alive and at Tanaka’s ninja school, but only takes lackluster efforts to exploit this knowledge.
-attacks Bond with black ops helicopters, despite their volcanic camouflage apparently working.
-Number 1 reveals (with Hans) how to mess up the plan in front of Bond.

This alone is sad. But it gets worse. A second disease has been diagnosed, and is popularly known as…

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, Believe it or not, I can answer almost all of those. But more to the point, I have two responses:

1. A lot of what you are criticizing is film convenience. Things like letting Bond see the car dropped on his screen is just how filmmakers do it. They could have simply explained it to Bond and then shown us, but that's not dramatic. So instead, they let him (and by extension us) watch. There are few films that don't take these kinds of liberties. Similarly, the idea of entering Japan in a special forces style insertion or putting him into the coffin are all for dramatic effect. Without moments like those, films would get rather boring.

2. You can actually take any film apart when you get to this level of nitpicking. So picking legitimate complaints requires you to distinguish between the truly inexplicable and things that just aren't fully explained on screen.

Remember that films are not real life nor are they reports of inquests or inquiries, and they cannot take the time to explain all options and contingencies and show you why each of those options of contingencies would or would not work. The key to good story telling is to give the audience enough information to feel that the options taken by the characters have been logically chosen after an examination of the facts known to them.

Thus, Bond going through a particular door or bad guys returning to HQ instead of seeking out a doctor are things you have to accept as just not fully explained so long as they are plausible (see, e.g. Reservoir Dogs). Where the problems arise is when the actions simply make no sense given what is presented.

One of the areas where this film differs from prior films to its detriment is the inexplicable ways the bad guys fail to kill Bond. In the prior films, there were obvious and legitimate reasons they didn't manage to kill Bond. Here's there are no such reasons. That is a flaw. Unfortunately, it also become par for the course after this.

Rustbelt said...

Fargo-enza

-Named for ‘superagent’ (snicker, snicker) Bart Fargo of “Danger! Death Ray” fame. (Experiment 620) There’s really nothing to say. Bad guys kidnap scientist who built death ray (without stealing the death ray) and plan to force him to build a new one. Did I mention the ray was built for, ahem, ‘peaceful purposes?’ Anyway, Fargo does save the day, mainly through being the luckiest secret agent in the history of secret agents.

-This disease is characterized by extreme luckiness and the sheer lack of suspense. (The author of the episode's article on the MST3K Wiki described this as having the hero's life being a video game he's playing in god mode and knowing all the cheat codes.)

In YOLT, Bond…
-is lucky Henderson is killed in front of him so he can follow the thug.
-is lucky the other thug has obviously bad vision, mistakes Bond for his partner, and takes Bond to Osato’s office.
-is lucky to find the photo and secret info when all he wanted was to get drunk.
-is lucky Aki was outside (twice).
-is lucky Tanaka invests in giant magnet futures.
-is lucky the SPECTRE black ops helicopters have the firing accuracy of Imperial Stormtroopers.
-is lucky the SPECTRE assassins infiltrating the school are inept and don’t take advantage of their situation.
-is lucky that Blofeld is suspicious before he enters the capsule (or he’d be destroyed).
-is lucky to learn how to blow up the capsule.
-is lucky for the piranhas that eat Hans.
-is lucky Blofeld waits for Tanaka to show up and save him; instead of being killed with Osato.

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
-Ian Fleming

“Ah, you clever bas****. So, the editor’s working with you.”
-Mike Nelson, “MST3K,” episode 703, “Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell”

Note: Some unfounded reports claim Bond was also suffering from Herculitis, or the condition of the hero constantly sleeping when other need his help. Fortunately, research has proven these reports to be false.

P.S. I personally submit the phrases “Diamond Head Syndrome,” “Fargoenza,” and “Herculitis” for the Commentarama-nary.

Rustbelt said...

Okay, counter-argument over.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, Thank you and your friend Science for the commentary. :)

Sadly, I must again note that I cannot agree. First, the sad truth of science fiction is this... for every one thing that might one day actually come to pass (like a Dick Tracy telephone watch), everything else in every science fiction film is utter bullship. Audiences really don't want scientifically accurate stories because those aren't interesting. They like the idea of the space cowboy who flies his ship like a jet fighter faster than the speed of light without suffering any negative effects as he battles aliens that could never exist. They want Wookies and lightsabers and psychic ability. They want futuristic spaceships that do the impossible while having technology that feels like what we have today.

Hence, audience are perfectly happy to overlook things like which rocket gets used, whether or not a rocket can re-enter and land, and whether or not the maneuvering is realistic... so long as what you do has the appearance of being possible using then-present, familiar technology.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, I do agree about his incredible luck factor. When screenwriters rely on luck (also known as deus ex machina) to solve plot points, then they have created a poor script.

Backthrow said...

My favorite deus ex machina scene in YOLT...

shawn said...

I make no apologies, I love this film. One of my favorites.

ScottDS said...

I haven't seen this one in a while but whenever the subject of Bond parodies comes up, I always point people in the direction of this film. We're big Austin Powers fans in this family and I remember showing my mother a picture of Blofeld, telling her, "Look familiar?!"

If you judge the franchise by how much of it's been parodied, this and Goldfinger (more so the latter) sort of represent the Bond franchise in microcosm.

This film, however, does feature some of John Barry and Ken Adam's best work. The volcano layer, as ridiculous as it is, is an iconic piece of art direction.

Tennessee Jed said...

BTW, Andrew .... vis-a-vis iron curtain women, and what with the Olympics in the former Soviet Union, I suggest you do an internet search of Irina and Tamara Press. They were before your time, but I think they would have been bitchin' villains to put up against Bond. Ask yourself, "how can we say for certain Red Grant was a man?"

Tennessee Jed said...

And, to be perfectly fair, I agree wholeheartedly with your overall point on the strength of the franchise. The reality is that James Bond ranks right up there with Sherlock Holmes as two of the strongest and most iconic characters ever created. We have discussed in the past what makes Bond so special, and how when the films get away from staying true to the character, a disconnect is created. The films tended to take on their own set of rules (ever more spectacular opening sequence, Bond girls, the ruthless vs. suave dichotemy. But for sure, when one really picks them apart, there is a lot of less than great films. I suppose that is the nature of franchise films; e.g. avoiding becoming too formula driven, and too much an unintentional spoof of the protagonist. It's also like Superbowl ads. They were great until everyone caught on they were great and started to raise expectations to unacceptable levels.

tryanmax said...

I've only ever experienced this film in the post-Austin Powers world. (Which is to say, I didn't really pay attention to Bond prior to Powers.) In that sense, the original almost feels more like the parody to me in that it is funny to think that it was ever taken seriously.

I'm surprised you didn't address the charges of "racism" that anymore are so often lobbed at Connery's Japanese *ahem* transformation. (I snorted as I typed that.) I'm sure your take is the same as mine: it is overblown retroactive offense by proxy to something that, frankly, isn't all that offensive. It's worth noting, since sci-fi is such a huge part of the discussion, a commonly used device in outer-space sci-fi is the protagonist disguising himself as a vastly different-looking alien. To be consistent, the concept should be considered offensive in principle.

tryanmax said...

I had to Wikipedia the Press sisters, which led me to an entry on the "VSS" or "Voluntary Sports Societies of the Soviet Union." All I can offer is that when the Soviets put the word "voluntary" into anything, it was most probably not.

Anthony said...

Add me to the haters list. I love over the top Bond, but over the top Bond without an over the top villain (a giggling guy with a hook for a hand, a giant with metal teeth, a guy with a razor edged bowler hat) just isn't fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, LOL! That is awesome! :D

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I've met a lot of people who feel that way. This film really has earned its place -- though I also understand the complaints.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, There are quite a few iconic images in this one. As we move closer to number one, the number of iconic images and moments rise. And whether we like it not, this Blofeld and the volcano lair are iconic.

In terms of parodies, this is the one they hit the hardest. They did get some other bits like Oddjob (Goldfinger) and holding the world hostage with a nuclear weapon (Thunderball), but they truly pounded this film. And they pounded it so closely that a lot of this film now feels like parody itself, even though it never did before Austin Powers. I suspect that powering some of the criticism of this film. But I suspect the bigger problem is Connery himself saying he didn't take the role seriously. Craig (wrongly) did the same thing with Quantum and I think that hurt the reputation of an otherwise very good film.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, LOL! I've never seen the Press sisters, but I have some later Soviet and East German "women" in the Olympics. Let's put it this way, a "Women of the Iron Curtain" calendar would have been a hard sell outside of angry lesbian circles... very angry lesbians.

Agreed on the franchise. I can't think of anyone other than Holmes with such a fan base for the character himself regardless of the story in which he appears. That's pretty fascinating to me.

Great point on the Superbowl ads. They were better before it became expected that they were supposed to be 100% amazing. Now it's getting harder to stand out.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The racism charge is relatively new. In fact, when I was growing up (which honestly wasn't that long ago), they were still showing Charlie Chan films on Saturday Morning and NO ONE was whining about it and nobody thought it was the least bit insulting. The whole Hollywood racism movement didn't get started until Grease 2 (no blacks) and Miss Saigon (honey in Eurasian role).

On the film, it does feel like a parody now. But I have to tell you that pre-Austin Powers, it really didn't. That's really a testament to the insight of Mike Meyers in Austin Powers that he was able to find something hidden so well in plain sight. Before his film, everything in this film felt like every other action film from the1960s only with Bond touches... nothing weird or stupid.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Pleasance, whom I normally like a lot, really is the weak link in this film. He doesn't fit the feel of it. As you note, he needs to be bigger, not smaller. And he definitely comes across as smaller, more loony (in a bad way), and more of a wimp than any of the prior villains.

So I can see the complaint.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, The Simpsons parodied this one as well in a genius mixture of YOLT and Larry Ellison of Oracle.

You Only Move Twice

KRS said...

They should have replaced Pleasance with Michael Dunn. Dr. Miguelito Loveless would have totally owned Bond. Move to number 1, no sequels.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I suspect that replacing Pleasance with someone more extroverted would have helped a lot.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was late to this discussion, but nevertheless.

The look of the film, the clothing, the interior designs, the cars, the actors and so forth are all fine. It looks like it should be another great early-era Bond film. I want to like it. But I can't. It's just too . . . stupid. I suppose you can try to ignore that Connery is playing a Japanese man, but that doesn't eliminate the stupidity of it. I suppose you can argue that this film must be a good one because it has been remade a few times. But then again, maybe it has been remade a few times because it was so stupid the first time around. I suppose you can argue that it must be good because it has all the elements that define Bond - like the super-villain and the villain's secret lair, but then again, so does Moonraker and nobody disputes that it sucked.

Connery isn't the problem. The other actors aren't the problem. The source of the story, the book, is not the problem. The problem is that it is just a bad, bad Bond film, with an extraordinarily silly volcano involved. Granted, that still places it above most of the other Bond films, but it's still bad. Should be ranked around 10-15, in my humble but correct opinion. Of Connery's films, this ranks above only Diamonds are Forever and Never Say Never Again.

Voz said...

If you want to see the East German women's Olympic team, just watch Top Secret! with Val Kilmer...

PikeBishop said...

Rustbelt: I'm getting the feeling that you are kind of ambivalent on this film. I really don't think you feel strongly about it one way or the other. Is that true?

PikeBishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PikeBishop said...

Ok, I'm a big fan of looking for symbolism and subtext in art as a reflection of the times, and yes, I often go down a path that Dr. Sigmund of Vienna may well have trod. With that in mind, I have to observe the movie poster for YOLT. This posterhad to be the pinnacle of selling the sexual angle of James Bond in the entire franchise. It's not even close. Look at, it is 98% sex.

Connery in a Japanese bathhouse, being tended to by eight (eight! My God! And they didn't even have Viagra back then) bikini clad, barefoot, long-legged, raven haired beauties. At least two of them are probably topless. BTW, look closely at the standing girl on the far left. I really think the art directors slipped one past the censors on that one. I believe she is fully nude and the bikini is actually her tan lines. This is James Bond and he is going to pleasure every one of those women.

A girl holds a gun and there is a shot of Connery standing holding a space helmet and a gun. That's it. The only references to the action of the film are those two props, the rest is one big Japanese bathhouse orgy, the Western Geisha fantasy come to life.

I've looked at the other posters and this one is in a league by itself, the only "honorable mention" would be Thunderball , Bond with four women, wearing a wetsuit, but YOLT takes the cake. All Bond posters have used the sex angle and the main Bond girl in a featured position, but there were other plot hints, pictures of the Villain, the Maguffin, an action shot or two, a little image of a colorful henchman etc. but not here.

and speaking of Freudian imagery, I just looked at the poster for LALD again. My God, Jane Seymour is literally riding a "penis!" Wow!

Looking at the context of the times. This was 1969, two years before Woodstock, and the film was probably in the can before the Summer of Love. I am not sure what chonrological bookends make up the Swinging Sixties in Britain, but I would imagine it must be here somewhere. Also I note that the winking, over the top spy spoof franchises of Matt Helm and Derek Flint had already produced their first films the year prior, so maybe they were just trying to catch up. (For the record, I wanted to see what Mike Myers could have done with the giant swimming pool sized bubble bath from the Helm movies. Of course that was something so over the top it was already beyond parody, perhaps)

Speaking of the Helm movies, oh look, The Silencers was done in 1966 and featured a "volcano lair," para military henchman and Vicor Buono as a megalomaniac out to take over the world. Side note, he plays an Asian supervillain. Call the PC Police!

PikeBishop said...

Didn't feel like editing again. in my previous post 1969 should actually read 1967. I regret the error

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Interesting. So you think the Bond people are trying to outdo the parody people without coming across as a parody?

PikeBishop said...

Andrew, not sure, but as someone who was born in 65 and only got to see Bonds and the Matt Helms on reruns, I wasn't aware of the original dates of the films, just that they were in the Sixties, before my time.

I had always just assumed that the Helm and Flint movies came after the Bond films got so oversize and outlandish. This was a shock to see Helm came before those. Of course Thunderball dealt with an over the top villain and stolen nukes, so maybe the Helm people just pushed that edge of the envelope a bit more.

You like the rest of my analysis?

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I do. It's an interesting idea.

PikeBishop said...

Ok, the one classic Bond film (I consider that period Connery through FYEO) that I never saw in any form, either on HBO or on the ABC movie of the week. Wow what a one to miss.

1. The travelogue: The Japan setting was nice, but it seemed like they were just taking viewers on a tour of a then exotic and unknown land. I know most Americans only knew Japan from Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War, but in the sixties I guess we finally accepting them as allies and were interested. I mean did we really need Ninjas and the tea service and the martial arts training and philosophy?

2. I guess its fortunate that I never saw YOLT as a teenager. The scene where Bond and Tiger get bathed................uh.................um........I might have never watched the rest of the film ;-)

3. Wow Andrew I totally get Austin Powers now! Of all the Bond films to have never seen, this is the one that is about 90% of the source of the parody! And you're right, Mike Meyers has made it absolutely impossible to look at the film straight again. I kept running the Austin Powers parallels through my mind in almost every scene. I can't take the film seriously. I really can't. Thanks to Austin Powers this movie doesn't crack my top ten now.

4. Now back to my other point on this thread earlier. Go look at "The Silencers" the Matt Helm movie made the year before. It's almost like this is a direct rip off of that film. A villain in Asia wants to explode an atomic bomb over an underground New Mexico test to instigate World War III. I don't recall if its a volcano, but it has paramilitary henchman and its a big complex!

PikeBishop said...

Oh one more thing. That atrocity by Nancy Sinatra has to be the worst Bond song ever! Bar none!

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Before Austin Powers came along, this film felt a lot stronger. But he systematically mocked everything in this film and he did it so well that it's impossible not to hear his jokes as you watch the movie.

PikeBishop said...

Agreed: When he feeds the girl to the pirhanas I kept hearing Will Farrell's "I'm still alive down here" scene in my head.

AndrewPrice said...

Same here. I hear a lot of Austin Powers quotes throughout this film.

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