Friday, April 29, 2016

A to Z Challenge: You Only Live Twice

This is a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming that was turned into a Sean Connery Bond movie in 1967.  I did read the book, along with all the other Fleming Bond ones.  I also watched the movie. The only similarities besides the title are the setting and at one point Bond gets painted up to disguise himself as a Japanese person.

In the book, Ernst Blofeld has taken refuge in a mansion and is growing a bunch of plants for some nefarious purpose.  Bond goes to a fishing village to learn more about the house, which is when he disguises himself as a Japanese person and hangs out with a local girl.  Of course later he's captured and has to save the day and so on and so forth.

In the movie, Blofeld works with a Japanese businessman to start WWIII by stealing space capsules of the US and USSR, making each side think the other is at fault.  Bond goes to Japan and sees lots of stereotypical Japanese stuff like sumo wrestling.  There's a great piece of misogyny where his host says, "In Japan, men are always first and women are second."  To which Bond says he'd like to retire there.  Eventually he goes to secret ninja school, gets dressed up to look Japanese (though I thought he looked more like Spock without the ears), and with some Japanese girl who replaced the Japanese girl who was killed by poison trickling down a rope while sleeping, they find Blofeld's lair in a volcano, where Blofeld has a pit of piranhas to feed victims to.

The movie is pretty silly, though I guess it's what people had come to expect from a James Bond movie.  I'd like to think the whole "turning Japanese" thing wouldn't work today, but then I think of Exodus: Gods & Kings, Gods of Egypt, and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger and I suppose things haven't changed all that much, which kind of sucks.

So really the movie and book are two completely different things.  The book, like all of Fleming's Bond novels (even Moonraker, which does not involve going into space) are pretty well grounded on Earth.  The gadgets and such are a lot less silly too.

Interestingly, there have been plenty of references to the movie.  The volcano lair has been parodied in Austin Powers, The Simpsons, and American Dad to name a few.  Actually Dr. Evil's whole look is a parody of Donald Pleasence's Blofeld.  Pleasence went on to play Dr. Loomis in six Halloween movies.  He only played the character once; the next time Blofeld appeared he was played by Telly Sevalas--and Bond was played by George Lazenby.  Blofeld had previously appeared in Thunderball and From Russia With Love though I don't think he was fully seen.  Interestingly in Diamonds are Forever, he was played by Charles Gray, who played a contact named Henderson in You Only Live Twice.  And later he was played by Max von Syndow in Never Say Never Again (an unofficial Bond movie) and of course last year by Christoph Waltz in Spectre.  So the character has changed faces about as many times as Bond himself.

There you go, lots of trivial trivia.


  1. It always seemed to me that Bond movies were never meant to be taken too seriously until the most recent ones. I always enjoyed them though. It's funny how there are always certain scenes such as the gambling scene, and the gadget discussion with Q.

  2. Today, the turning Japanese thing would be done with a hologram fake face that projects onto the real face via technology that doesn't exist. Bond movies are about one thing: sex appeal with a plot and the plot is secondary to the sex appeal.



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