As I go on, one note-the script to You Only Live Twice was written by Roald Dahl. Yes, the same guy who was notable for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, James and the Giant Peach etc. wrote this film, based on a novel from a fellow World War II veteran, no less…..
You Only Live Twice dives right into Japanese culture with Bond meeting contact Aki at a sumo match, and this would become more of a trend in later films as well, of showing prominent cultural events and landmarks in Bond films (Which we sort of had in the earlier films-the gypsy camp in From Russia With Love, the Junkanoo in Thunderball; but not quite to this extent)
Aki takes Bond to Dikko Henderson, a British contact living in Japan (Henderson had a much larger role in the novel). A few things I’ve noticed about the film so far-I think Connery’s starting to look a little different, and he appears somewhat subdued in his acting. While some fans think he look “tired” in Thunderball, he seems far more ‘going through the motions’ here, and I think part of his delivery lacks punch. Apparently YOLT took it’s toll on Connery, as his popularity as Bond was at it’s peak and he was constantly hounded by Paparazzi. This was his last sequential Bond, and the only reasons he returned in Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again were largely due to monetary factors (He got a huge paycheck for Diamonds which he donated to a Scottish fund), or some more creative/producer input.
Henderson gives Bond a wrongly mixed martini (“That’s stirred, not shaken, is that right?”) but Bond isn’t particuarly offended (Saying “Perfect”-probably a bit of a joke and not a blooper). Henderson BTW is played by Charles Gray, who would later go on to play what some feel is the worst incarnation of Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever:
Although he did play a memorable role as the Criminologist in “The Rocky Horror picture show”
Henderson, before he’s about to spill the beans over what company could be causing all this trouble, is killed by a knife to the back, but Bond is able to knock the guy out and disguise himself as him, and is taken by a fellow killer to the Osato office building, obviously tied up in this mess. Looks like Bond will get his answer after all, as he takes out the other man and manages to get some papers from Osato’s safe-and also sample some Siamese vodka while he’s at it.
Bond is rescued by Aki, but then she runs off, and Bond finds himself falling down into a chute….with Tanaka at the other end. Tanaka’s main office is a pretty nifty set as well.
After some gentle ribbing from Tiger Tanaka-and a slightly uncomfortable exchange of the “I love you” password-Tanaka and Bond get down to business, sharing their intelligence-including the stuff from Osato’s safe-which includes a photograph and an order for rocket fuel-and also, that there seems to be something going on with a tanker distributing said fuel.
Tanaka is somewhat similar in demeanor a bit to Kerim Bey, although he’s a bit more critical of Bond’s western attitudes (although not nearly as much the novel version!). Plus he’s a bit less jovial and has no family payroll. He also gives Bond a taste of his hospitality, with a bath being tended by several Japanese women. Hey, it was the 60’s!
Bond says that it’s probably SPECTRE who are behind this, and they’re probably using Osato as a front. One of the frames here might have been inspiration for the For Your Eyes Only poster, although Bond is certainly more dressed and the woman is certainly more well-armed.
Bond is also reunited with Aki, the woman from earlier….and on more formal terms, to put it likely.
Bond’s next port of call is a ‘social’ visit to Osato chemicals, posing as a Mr. Fisher, sort of one of his more generic aliases such as Somerset, Sterling etc. although not nearly as obviously fake as Sir John Smithye.
Osato is an interesting henchman, played by actor Tero Samada, who did a lot of American and British film. Like Largo in the previous film, he makes a lot of veiled threats. We’re also introduced to his secretary, Helga Brandt, who as played by Karin Dor mainly comes across as a weak, more bland copy of Fiona Vulpe.
No sooner has Bond exited Osato chemicals again, then he once again finds himself being chased by Osato’s men-and rescued by Aki yet again. There’s a brief car chase, and while the car doesn’t seem to have many gadgets apart from a video screen, Aki is able to get Tiger to summon a helicopter with a magnet to grab and drop their pursuers into the ocean. Bond would use a similar tactic on Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me, also directed by Lewis Gilbert.
This also features the film’s very fast-paced action theme, a bit more fun and less ponderous than the 007 action theme used in earlier films. After the bad guys are taken care of, Bond asks for Tanaka to relay M to send “Little Nellie” and her “Father.” Tanaka also tells him that Ning-Po is sitting at a local dock-and now we get another action scene, with Bond and Aki facing off against Osato’s workers. This leads into a soaring instrumental rendition of the You Only Live Twice theme, and an interesting overhead shot a Bond battles his way through.
Sending Aki back to Tanaka, Bond manages to *almost* escape, but gets knocked out from behind-something which tends to happen a lot in these films. From Russia With Love had Bond, Goldfinger (With tragic consequences for Jill) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, Man with the Golden Gun, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and Octopussy all have Bond suffering blows from the back of the head, and usually waking up in the villain’s lair. At least some other times it’s due to drugging or a car crash or something.