You Only Live Twice

Title: You Only Live Twice

Year: 1967. The fifth James Bond film hit movie houses in June, 18 months after Thunderball (1965), the longest hiatus between 007 pictures up to this point. The reason; one Sean Connery. In a November 1965 interview with Playboy Magazine, Connery discussed his future as Bond. I have only two more Bonds to do… On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and possibly You Only Live Twice. They would like to start On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Switzerland in January, but I’m not sure I’ll be free in time and I don’t want to rush it, although they say the snow will be at its best then. I’m not going to rush anything anymore.” Thanks to the non-rushing Sir Sean, shooting on Bond 5 didn’t start until June ‘66, way to late for the skiing heavy OHMSS. So, EON was forced to move YOLT up in the queue. This was the first in a series of events that would conspire to make You Only Live Twice the first Bond film to take a step backwards, and a giant step at that.

Film Length: 1 hour 57 minutes

Bond Actor: Sean Connery. When shooting began in the summer of ‘66, Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had a big problem on their hands; a very unhappy leading man who also happened to be the face of their multimillion dollar franchise. Connery’s disenchantment didn’t happen overnight. After staring in four demanding films in as many years, the man was simply exhausted. Never comfortable with the publicity side of Bond, while filming Thunderball (1965) in Bermuda, Connery was working long days and having to do interviews at night adding to his fatigue. It was during one of those interviews that Connery let it be known he was also becoming concerned with the direction Bond was headed telling Playboy “Each succeeding film has got bigger and the gimmicks trickier. But we have to be careful where we go next, because I think with Thunderball we’ve reached the limit as far as size and gimmicks are concerned … So all the gimmicks now have been done. And they are expected. What is needed now is a change of course–more attention to character and better dialog.” Additionally, Connery was afraid of being swallowed by 007 telling Rolling Stone in November of 1983 “I’d been an actor since I was twenty-five but the image the press put out was that I just fell into this tuxedo and started mixing vodka martinis. And, of course, it was nothing like that at all. I’d done television, theater, a whole slew of things. But it was more dramatic to present me as someone who had just stepped in off the street.” By the spring of 1966, the Bond star was not only arguing with Cubby Broccoli about slowing the pace of the series, Connery was also pushing to become a partner in the 007 franchise. When shooting started for You Only Live Twice Broccoli and Saltzman had let be know that wasn’t going to happen. All this, plus the sci-fi theme of the new film, pushed Connery to make a dramatic announcement in the middle of production; the current Bond film would be his last.

Director: Lewis Gilbert. Even thought Connery “officially” quit mid-production, EON saw the writing on the wall much earlier, and they had a strong hunch that they would be loosing their James Bond. Consequently, they made the first of many decisions that would backfire horribly. In an effort to wrestle control of the franchise back into their hands the producers got rid of most off-camera talent that made Bond a success in the first place. Simultaneously, they saw an opportunity to cash in on the publicity surrounding Connery’s swan song. Broccoli and Saltzman company line to the press was they assembled a new team behind the camera to give Bond a “fresh look” and make this “the biggest Bond yet!” The new creative crew started with the hiring of first time Bond director Lewis Gilbert. Gilbert, who would helm two more Bond films in the late 70’s, was hot off Alfie (1966), a smash hit in Britain that made leading man Michael Caine a household name. Gilbert turned the job down when Broccoli first called, forcing the producer to call back and refused to take no for an answer. With Gilbert in the directors chair, cinematographer Freddie Young, who won raves for his camera work in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965) was next to come on board.

The ticket to YOLT success?

Finally, childrens writer Roald Dahl was brought in to adapt Fleming’s novel. Dahl would go on to pen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Willy Wonka &The Chocolate Factory (1971), but at the time he wrote Bond, he had no screenwriting credits to his name. Accomplished artist all, the supposed “dream team” of talent would soon discover that making “big dumb fun” entertainment like Bond is not as easy as it looks.

Reported Budget: $9,500,000 estimated, the biggest yet. One set alone, a volcano that would act as SPECTRE’S base of operations, cost $1 million to build on the sound stage at Pinewood Studios in England. Masters of publicity, Saltzman and Broccoli took delight in telling anyone who would listen that this single set cost as much as the entire budget for Dr. No (1962); proof of how far Bond had come in five short years.

Royale with Cheese

Reported Box-office: $43,084,787 (USA) $111,600,000 (Worldwide). Whoops. While not a bomb by any measure, the most expensive Bond yet took in less that the previous two; $20 million less than Thunderball in the states and $30 million less worldwide, making You Only Live Twice the first Bond film to show a drop-off in ticket sales. Part of reason was by 1967 theater goers were suffering from a bit of Bond fatigue. Flemings first Bond novel, “Casino Royale” (1953), the only Bond book that Saltzman and Broccoli failed to acquire, was released as a film only months prior to YOLT. However, outside of the title, Casino Royale (1967) had zero in common with the book. Producer Charlie Feldman owned the rights and wanted to partner with EON on the movie, an offer Saltzman and Broccoli refused. So Feldman set out to make a bigger, more expensive Bond film that turned into what Mark Harris called in “Pictures at the Revolution” a $12 million dollar sinkhole.  Six directors and at least 17 screen writers including Woody Allen, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder took a whack at the movie that featured half a dozen Bonds including one played by Peter Sellers. Producers took what should have been a red flag and made it a selling point, crowing that none of the directors knew what the other five were doing. The psychedelic poster that promised “Casino Royale is too much … for one Bond” got people into theaters before the bad word of mouth spread and despite terrible reviews Royale not only made it’s money back, it became the third highest grossing film of 1967. Additionally, Adolfo Celi who played Emilio Largo in Thunderball appeared in the James Bond spoof Operation Kid Brother (1967) starring none other than Neil Connery, Sean’s brother. Needless to say, I’ll be writing about both of these films at some point in the future. Any who, Time magazine excused the less-than-stellar earnings for the latest Bond film saying it was “a victim of the same misfortune that once befell Frankenstein: there have been so many flamboyant imitations that the original looks like a copy.” While I’m sure that was part of it, I also think the issue may have been You Only Live Twice, on top of having a terrible title, kind of sucks. In fact, it’s a credit to the strength of the Bond Brand that the franchise was able to recover from the double whammy of this poor movie and loosing its star. Harris says as much, writing the weak returns for You Only Live Twice “signaled a dip in Bond’s drawing power that would not turn around until the late 70’s.”

Theme Song: “You Only Live Twice” performed by Nancy Sinatra. I’m not really sure what to say here, so I’ll let Nancy tell the story. I love me “These Boots are Made for Walking.” I truly believe Nancy’s vocals on Walking mark one of the best performances in Rock and Roll. But this Bond theme is simply dreary and dreadful.

Opening Titles: Like the theme song, the titles are the weakest to this point. It’s a Japanese theme, with lots of Asian lady’s eyes (how exotic!) looking into the camera while lava blasts paint the background. Coupled with the theme song, it’s difficult to make it to the end of the opening credits, not a good sign of things to come.

YOLT is in trouble even without Tribbles

Opening Action Sequence: Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of … Oh sorry got this confused with another late 60’s science fiction release. The film does indeed open in space, as an U.S. astronaut steps outside his capsule for a little spacewalk. The opening shot makes it crystal clear that Connery’s wish of less spectacle and more focus on dialoged and character was about as likely as Monneypenny and Bond settling down on a sheep farm in the hills of Scotland. The spaceships look like hooky 1950’s flying saucer on strings, a big disappointment for a series which has set the bar high when it comes to special effects. I know it’s only 1967 but the TV show “Star Trek” (1966-69) looked better and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was only a year away. I don’t expect the space stuff here to look even half as good as the groundbreaking Kubrick film but this is, after all, the opening shot of the film. At least pretend some thought and effort went into it. The US space capsule is swallowed by a lager capsule that opens like the worm mouths in Dune (1984). In one of the few cool moments of the film, the space walking guy gets cut off from the shuttle and drifts off into space to die; this image, no matter how many times I see in countless films, still manages to hit me on gut level. We then quickly move to earth, Alaska I think, where a UN type meeting is in full swing under glass globe looking ceilings. The United States is furious with the Soviets for messing with their space program and denounces the kidnapping of the astronaut as an act of war. The burly bear of a Russian diplomat swears his country had nothing to do with it. The UK acts as the voice of reason, calling out the U.S. for jumping to conclusions. The Crown feels Japan may somehow be involved, “In fact, we have our man in Asia working on it right now.” Cut to Bond in bed with the sexy Ling (Tsai Chin.) Let’s take a moment to pause here, shall we. Before we even hit the opening credits we have gone from space to Alaska to Taiwan in a matter of minutes. Not only is this extremely chaotic, it breaks with the tradition of the opening set piece being a self contained bit of business. Even if the story is tied into the larger plot, the opening still acts as a stand alone with something of a beginning and end. Anyway, the first words out of Bonds mouth manage to be both sexist AND racist as he asks Ling why Chinese women taste different than other women, like Peking duck is different from Russian caviar. I shit you not. Ling, understandably pissed off by this bit of rudeness, pushes a button forcing the bed to flip upward into the wall, trapping Bond. Two men with machine guns enter and blow countless holes into the bed. English investigators arrive within seconds and declare Bond is dead, but at least he “died on the job, doing what he loved.” Ho-ho-ho!

Bond’s Mission: James Bond is dead and burred at sea in a Navel ceremony. The camera follows 007’s tightly wrapped body to the ocean floor and then picks up two divers approaching. They retrieve the body, bring it aboard a nearby submarine, crack open the wrapping around the body and out pops Bond, wearing a scuba tank. Long Live Bond and hence the title of the film! (All I could think was ‘wow, he didn’t spend enough time underwater in the previous film?’) On board the sub are Miss. Monnypenny and M, who informs Bond of the disappearing spacecraft and England’s Japanese theory. Neither M nor Bond are convinced Japan has the technology to pull off such a stunt, but who could? Bond’s job is to find out and oh, by the by, you have 20 days or WW III will breakout. Very good old man, so it’s into the torpedo tube with you then. Relax as we shoot you out onto a Japanese beach from where you will walk to Tokyo and hookup with you’re contact, Mr. Henderson, who will direct you from there. Yes, James Bond was shot out of a submarine’s torpedo tube. By this point in the film I knew we were in trouble and wished I could abandon ship as well. After arriving in Tokyo, Bonds first trip to Japan, 007 is followed by women who talk into radios hidden in their purses. Jimmy B then goes to a sumo match where he meets a Japanese woman who will bring him to Mr. Henderson but first … oh forget it. Really, the plot unrolls so sloppily and half-assed it’s clear the filmmakers don’t care so neither should I. All you need concern yourself with is Bond has 20 days to find who has been launching the rocket that’s been stealing the other rockets. The question becomes how will 007 do this? Bond eventually meets up with Tiger (Tetsuro Tanba), the “M” of the Japanese secret service, who comes up with a three point plan. In order to carry out the mission Bond must 1) get married 2) become a ninja and 3) become Japanese. Again, I shit you not.

Villain’s Plot: Simply put; our baddies plan is to steal both the US and USSR’s spacecraft pitting the superpowers against each other until they start World War III. In 1967 the space race was on, and the U.S found themselves in second place. Three NASA astronauts had died in a launch pad fire earlier in the year and the US was fearful of falling to far behind their cold war adversary, lest the commies would control space and be able to launch weapons capable of taking over the world. Inserting Japan into the mix was another ripped from the headlines plot point. The Asian island nation was recovering quite nicely from WWII and was on the verge of become a major player in the international business world, stoking fears on Wall St. However, Japan was a long way off from a rocket launch, so what mad man could not only dream up such a plot but also have the finances to pull off such a diabolical scheme?

Villain’s Name: #1, or as he is named, and seen, for the first time, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. We don’t get conformation of #1’s involvement until about 2/3rd of the way through the film when a chair spins to reveal a white cat being stroked on a lap. This should have been a great moment but it feels like to little way to late, just like the big reveal when we finally see Blofelds face. After three films of hiding in the shadows, seeing the face of evil itself should have packed more of a punch. By now, Bond fans know what Blofeld and his SPECTRE origination are all about, but in case you forgot, as Blofeld tells his Japanese business partners “Extortion is my business.”

Villain Actor: Donald Pleasence, who was a last second replacement when the original actor cast as #1 was in director Lewis Gilbert’s words not scary enough and “too Santa Clause.” Pleasence began acting on the London stage in 1939 and was shot down in WWII when he was serving in the Royal Air Force. He became famous as the blind Lt. Colin Blythe or “The Forger” in the classic The Great Escape (1963). Pleasence was the only actor in that superstar ensemble cast to actually be held in a POW camp and served as an unofficial advisor to the director. However, for me and those of my generation, Pleasence is most likely remembered for his work in John Carpenter films, playing Michael Myers shrink Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978) and the president of the United States in Escape From New York (1981)

Villain’s Lair: As I was watching this film I didn’t recall much and felt at points that I somehow may have missed it growing up; that was until I saw the volcano hideout. I remember simply loving the hidden volcano base as a kid and at first glance, it’s truly impressive. It’s freaking huge. The creator lake moves away so rockets and helicopters can take off and land. Monorails zip to and fro transporting equipment and workers. These works have different jobs which are determined by the color of their uniforms. These red dudes, yellow dudes, and white dudes running all around brought up another childhood memory, Lego Spacemen.

#1’s minions, numbers 64 through 67

Blofeld was supposed to operate out of a castle on a cliff by the sea, as he does in the Fleming novel, but location scouts could find no such place in Japan. What they did find was a bunch of volcanoes so the idea was hatched for the secret mountain base. The $1 million set featured a movable helicopter platform, a working monorail, and a launch pad with a full size rocket that could be raised 50 ft into the air. To build one of the largest sets ever assembled for a film it took 700 tons of structural steel, 200 miles of tubular steel 200 tons of plaster 500,000 tubular couplings, over 250,000 square yards of canvas and a shitload of hubris. For this much time and money the thing should have been perfect, but set designers cheeped out on details that drag the whole affair down. The cars on the monorails are bouncy and look like chinchy cardboard cut outs. The control room is nothing special; just lots of switches and blinking lights. Even Blofeld’s office, which has some nice details, cheats on others. The main feature of his impressive room is a bridge over a Parana filled moat. After the sharks in Thunderball, which we actually see, bubbling green water that we are told is the home to Parana just doesn’t cut the mustard. Also, the office is never established or lived in. Blofild runs in, feeds the fish, and splits. It feels underused and rushed. On another note, the good guys get a cool lair in this film as well. Bond is chasing a girl through a hallway when the floor opens up and 007 sides down a chute, eventually landing in a chair. This is the office of Tiger Tanaka. As the head of Japanese Secret service he stays off the streets and gets around on his own private subway. Dude has a private train where he hangs out and drinks Saki! He also has an amazing house that comes complete with gardens, baths, and women to bathe you while in said baths. He also has a castle where he runs his own ninja training school, but we will get to that later…

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: We already knew about Blofild’s cat and propensity to whack SPECTRE employees that fall into disfavor but we learn here he also has a nasty scar over his left eye.

Badassness of Villain: Look I love Donald Pleasence. I really do. I cried at the end of The Great Escape when he, a blind man, is one of the only POWs to make it out of Germany. Pleasence screaming “You are the Duke of New York, you’re A number one!” is one of my most quoted movie lines. So I hate to say it, but Donald Pleasence as #1 just isn’t that badass. This is a character who’s been built up for three films now. In this movie, #1 is ready to start freaking WWIII and blow up half the plant.  When his loyal #11 fails to kill Bond, she becomes lunch for the Parana. At the end of the film, Blofild gets away by blowing up his volcano, killing all those cute Lego dudes he had working for him. This is one cold blooded guy. He runs SPECTRE for crying out loud! But once we finally meet him, he just doesn’t seem that badass. In fact, he comes across as kind of old and feeble. I don’t blame Pleasence, I suspect it’s the fault of the film around him and the director for not getting a better performance.

Helga “#11” Brandt

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada) is the owner of Osato Chemical and Engineering Company. SPECTRE loves using evil business men as fronts and I like the symbolism of dirty CEO’s in bed with global terrorist. Mr. Osato’s secretary is Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) or #11. She functions as kind of a poor mans Fiona Volpe, the Thunderball femme fatale who was a much better assassin and much smarter in her handling of Bond. Helga captures Bond, has him tied up, is about to slice his face, but ends up banging him instead. Post-coitus, the two take off in a small plane where 007 promises Helga he can get her to England and protect her. In response, she locks Jimmy B into his seat, and jumps out with the only parachute. Why didn’t she shoot Bond when she had him tied up? Why bother with the plane? Channeling my inner Ebert, the reason is so we, the paying audience, can get a sequence where we see a girl parachuting and Bond has a chance to escape a doomed aircraft seconds before it explodes. This is just one of several points in the film where the action sequences and special effects serve not the plot, but exist simply so things can go boom. Anyway, due to her failure to disposes of 007, we know what happens to poor #11. (Helga “#11” Brandt) There is also Hans, a personal bodyguard/ errand boy for Blofeld who is mostly useless and a shadow of From Russia With Love’s (1963) SPECTRE killer Grant. In fact, all of the characters in this film are second rate; they feel like flat versions of baddies that came before.

Bond Girl Actress: We are graced with two Bond girls in this film, Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama. Both actresses were big names in Japanese film and both were extremely excited to be making their English speaking debut in such a high profile role. In a story that is 10 times more interesting that anything that happens on screen, both ladies were sent to England prior to filming so they could learn English. Wakabayashi picked up the language fairly quickly but Mie Hama struggled mightily. So much so that when she showed up on set and started reading lines Gilbert quickly concluded she would not work for the role. He contacted the casting agent who hired her and told him to take Hama out for a nice dinner and let her down gently. The casting director reported back to Gilbert the next day with news that he refused to fire the girl and Hama must stay in the picture. When asked why, the casting director said that Hama had informed him she could not return to Japan having been fired. The shame would simply be too great. She said that if she were fired, she would kill herself by jumping out of her hotel room window, which was several stories high. So, Hama stayed in the film, and the two leading lades switched roles giving Wakabayashi the more dialog heavy part. One last note, for what it’s worth, Mie Hama, in what had become a Bond girl tradition at this point, posed in Playboy, making her the first Asian woman to do so.

Bond Girl’s Name: Aki (Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Hama). Aki, who meets Bond at a sumo match, is Tiger’s right hand woman and quite a competent spy in her own right. She successful lures Bond into Tigers trap hallway and saves his life twice; both times zipping in at the last second in her hot little white Japanese made Toyota 2000GT. (The breaks work and the gas doesn’t stick.) The second time Bond and Aki are trying to get away from a car full of four gun men, she radios Tiger who sends out a helicopter equipped with a magnet which picks up the gunmen’s car and drops it into the sea. Not bad. Then there is Kissy Suzuki; where to even begin? She too is an agent who works for Tiger, and she is the woman who Tiger sets Bond up to marry. As I mentioned, the first part of this plan is to make Bond Japanese. This is accomplished by surrounding Connery, I mean Bond, with five Asian women who shave his chest, dress him in a komono, and give him a wig that makes him look more like the fifth Beatle than anything remotely Asian. Then it’s simply a matter of the 6’2” Scotsman walking around hunched over and waalaa! There you go, he’s Japanese. The next step is to marry, Yes marry, a “pig faced” villager so Bond can “blend in” to a small fishing community and see if the locals know anything about rockets being launched nearby. Apparently, one of Tigers men couldn’t simply walk in and ask. Nor could Kissy, who after all has lived in the village all her life. So, Bond is to marry, yes marry! Kissy in a Japanese ceremony. They do (but not really, it was just for show) and later that night they learn the U.S. has moved up the launch date of their latest space mission and the SPECTRE launch sight must be found sooner rather than later. Now, if Aki gets points for saving Bond twice than Kissy should have a statue erected in Piccadilly Circus for her service to the crown. Bond and Kissy, clad in nothing but a white bikini, jump into a fishing boat and go explore a lava cave by the sea which, it turns out, is full of poison gas. To get away, the two jump into the water and swim a good 50 meters underwater. Bond concludes the cave starts all the way at the top of the volcano and asks Kissy “Do you think you can make it?” She answers “Of course, is business” and for the remainder of the film, Kissy is all business. The bikini sporting Kissy runs up the side of a HUGE volcano, all the way to the top of the creator. She and Bond then climb down the other side and discover it’s the SPECTRE hideout. “I’ll go check this out. You go get Tiger and tell him to bring every man he’s got.” Right O Bond San! Kissy then runs back up to the top of the creator, back down the other side, jumps into ocean, and while swimming the God knows how many miles to get to Tiger, she dodges machine gun fire from a helicopter that’s right on top of her.

Kissy makes Bond look like a...

She then gets Tiger and his army of ninja’s, runs back up the volcano, and back down into the creator where she avoids more machine gun fire. Then she repels into the creator, dangling like a sitting duck while every Logo guy in the joint is shooting at her. Somehow, she makes it to the bottom and joins the ninja’s in a huge battle with the Lego Spacemen. Please keep in mind, she is still wearing nothing more than a white bikini. She fights in this battle and then jumps in the water, and swims over a mile down the lava cave while the volcano explodes. She makes it out to the sea without a scratch, climbs aboard a raft with Bond and is ready to do the nasty…that is until they are interrupted by a submarine emerging under the raft. I mean, this chick is insane!

Bond Girl Sluttiness: That Kissy Suzuki is a hard nut to crack. Despite being “married” yes MARRIED! to Bond she insist on separate beds on their wedding night, forcing Bond to forego his oyster dinner. But then, during the first trip up the volcano mountain she gets randy and starts in on Bond, only to be interrupted by more damn helicopters. She also strikes out when the sub comes up under the raft at the end of the film, so the two, despite being married, THAT’S WHAT I SAID, MARRIED! never get to consummate their vows making Kissy the first Bond girl that Bond doesn’t sleep with.

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: Aki upon learning Bond will be working with her, “I think I will enjoy very much serving under you.” Ugh, eye rolling bad.

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: Bond awakes to find himself tied to a chair, captured by Helga Brandt. Helga “I’ve got you now.” Bond “Well, enjoy yourself.” He gets a good slap for that one, but it was worth it.

Number of Woman 007 Beds: 2. He was to sleep with Ling in the open but then that whole murder thing happened before he could “finish his massage.” After getting washed by the bathing beauties at Tigers house he “finishes the massage” with Aki. For the record, the bath scene is outright uncomfortable. Bond walks into the bathroom with Tiger. While the women strip the men Tiger promises 007 his “first civilized bath.” Bond, while eyeing the women, replies that he “likes the plumbing.” Both men, now naked, sit next to each other as the women sponge them off. “In Japan men always come first, women come second.” Tiger informs Bond who quips “I may just retire to here.” The scene is cringe worthy and unintentionally hysterical all at once. Anyway, afterward Bond and Aki go at it just because. Really, there is zero reason at all for this to happen. He also sleeps with Helga “#11” Brandt in her cabin on the boat before she tries to kill him on the plane. Bond gets one more go with Aki, this time in his Chinaman disguise. And by the way, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature…

Miss. Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell is always a bright spot in the films, and this dreary affair needs all the help it can get. We find our favorite executive assistant not in her costmary London digs but on board a British sub and in uniform to boot. Bond walks in to her office after his funeral and, thankfully, finds the hat rack to toss his cover upon. As Bond is walking out, Monnypenny tosses a Japanese language book at 007 who responds that he studied Asian languages at Cambridge, giving audiences the best peek into Bonds past since Dr. No (1962).

M: Also on the sub, he must settle for dreary digs and not his grand office in London. M too is in his Navel uniform, wearing his dress whites. Bond, for the record is also in uniform, blue, the first time we have seen his so dressed. Anyway, M debriefs Bond and then shoots him out a torpedo tube.

Q: Poor Desmond Llewelyn. Connery made it clear he felt gadgets were taking on to big of a role in the Bond films and over-showing character. As a result, Q gets the short stick in You Only Live Twice. Keep in mind, this is a movie where Connery becomes a ninja, becomes Japanese, and gets shot out of a torpedo tube for Christ sakes and he’s upset about a few silly props? Regardless, Q is under written and I think he may have even been a last minute addition to film. The only gadget he provides was not in the original script and was a late add-on.

List of Gadgets: On the bonus DVD, the production designer admits “Little Nellie” was shoehorned into the plot after he heard an interview on BBC radio with Wing Commander Ken Wallis of the Royal Air Force. On that program, Commander Wallis described a one man portable auto-gyro; basically a mini single seat helicopter. The production designer tracked Wallis down and convinced him to bring the contraption to Japan and pilot it for the film. I’m sure this thing was a blast to fly around (or maybe not, a camera man lost a leg in a crashed while shooting one of the 85 flights required to get the scene) but as a Bond film gadget it’s severely lacking. It’s delivered by Q in four suitcases and assembled quickly. Q then dutifully lists the toys that come with the aircraft including machine guns, missiles, rear flame throwers, sky mines, and heat seeking missiles. No sooner does Q get done running down the items than Bond is off and being chased by four helicopters, robbing us of the fun game of guessing what gadget will be used and how. Quick, you get three guess as to how Bond will take care of each of the four helicopters. You’re first two guesses don’t count. This all just happens way too quickly and feels like it was throw in to have a chase scene featuring the new toy, which is exactly what happened. It is a self contained seven minutes in which Q comes, tells Bond about the four weapons, Bond takes off and uses the four weapons, land the aircraft in the airport he took of from, and then the film starts back up again where is left off prior to Q’s arrival. Remove it and the movie would play the same, all be it tighter by seven minutes. Again, action for actions sake. One last note, Bond, no matter what, should always look cool. While flying this lame looking bird, Connery is forced to wear the dumbest looking helmet I think I’ve ever seen in a movie outside of Mick Jagger’s lid in Freejack (1992).

Nice lid Mick

The helmet is equipped with a helmet cam, basically, a Nikon lenses sticking out the front. Terrible. OK, other gadget’s, none of which are supplied by Q. Bond is equipped with a safe cracker he uses to get Osato Chemical documents. Remember that ninja training school I keep threatening to explain? Not yet…but while there Bond gets “rocket bullets” which are exactly what they sound like and a pack of cigarettes that when smoked shoot out an explosive mini-dart. He also has big suction cups he can attach to his hands and knees so he can crawl on a wall like Spiderman and he blows a lock to a door that jails the captured astronauts… somehow.

Number of People 007 Kills: 19, none of them very memorable but some of them quite ridiculous. Take Mr. Henderson’s assassin for instance. Mr. Henderson, Bond’s English contract who has lived in Japan for over 20 years, is stabbed by an Asian assassin who is wearing a mask. This is covenant because after Jimmy B kills him, 007 can put the dead dudes mask on and jump into the back of his get away car. The driver then not only takes Bond to Osato’s office building, but he carries him up to the top floor! While escaping from this office building Bond shoots a kills a guy in the parking lot. At some point Bond and Aki end up at the docks so a battle can ensue where deck-hands of all stripes try to kill the superspy. Here, he shoots three dudes. Then, there is “Little Nellie.” While flying the mini-copter Bond takes out four helicopters, each being flown by a single pilot. That’s four dead dudes, one by missiles, one by flame thrower, one by sky mines, and the last by heat seeking sidewinders. If you think I’m lacking energy in the telling of this, you should see Connery as he’s actually doing it. He is so bored, wearing this dorky helmet while sitting in front of green screen, that he doesn’t even try to hide his contempt. He supposed to be narrowly avoiding machine gun fire and he looks like he’s about to fall asleep. While at the ninja school Bond kills a guy (Tiger “This man is a stranger to me.”) who attempts to stab him. Then there is the final ninja battle in the volcano hideout. This is terribly edited and looks like a bunch of guys run around in smoke, occasionally jumping on trampolines.

I’m running out of fish bait jokes

While watching this I thought back to the pride Young took choreographing the action sequences for From Russia With Love and got depressed. Anyway, in making his way through the chaos Bond kills an engineer with a cigarette death dart, shoots one guy, gets three more with a grenade (we know Bond killed them because they fly into the air, just like one would when jumping on a trampoline!), shoots another dude, and finally, kills a guy with a Chinese star, just like the ones you can buy at the local flee market from a guy who look like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused (1993). Bond then confronts Hans, who after a brief tussle with 007, ends up in the Parana tank, sleeping with the fishes.  That makes 18 dead at Bonds hand. One more to go…

Most Outrageous Death/s: Bond, in full on Japanese disguises, enters Aki’s room at night. “Tiger say, you must a do everything a Japanese style” Aki tells Bond before they do the nasty (Japanese style?) The two fall asleep and an assassin crawls into the room, hiding in the rafters above the sleeping couple. He unwinds a single piece of string until the end of it rests just above Bonds mouth. He then applies a few drops of a deadly poison to the string and it slowly works its way down, getting closer and closer to Bonds lips. At the last second, 007 rolls over in his sleep and Aki rolls into his place. Bond is awaked by her choking and shoots the assassin dead. Within seconds, he figures out what has happened, and Aki is dead. This sequence is actually a stand out moment in this otherwise humdrum movie. It’s inventive, creates tension, and is a classic “Bond” moment that could very easily fit into any of the previous far superior films, perhaps the only moment in You Only Live Twice that can be said about.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: Sadly none. Bond is kind of on his own in Japan, since he supposed to be dead and all, and outside of “Little Nellie” he uses only stuff given to him by Tiger.

Other Property Destroyed: Bond trashes Mr. Osato’s office while battling a sumo thug who 007 defeats by breaking a statue over his head. He blows up the four SPECTRE helicopters and crash lands #11’s plane. In addition he does some damage in the volcano base and ultimately pushes a self-destruct button, destroying SPECTRE’S spaceship swallowing spaceship. Although it’s not Bonds fault, it’s worth noting that in order to escape from the volcano base, Ernst Blofeld forces the volcano to erupt, not only killing all who are left in the base … well, not all. Tiger, Kissy, the ninjas, and Bond make the mile swim through the lava cave, a lava cave that is somehow not overflowing with lava during this particular eruption and is free of the poison gas that filled it earlier, to safety. Anyway, not only does the erupting volcano kill anyone who didn’t make the swim but also, we must assume, anyone in the quaint fishing village that sits at the volcano base. Again, not directly Bond’s fault, but a good bit of Japan is destroyed, a small house cleaning matter the film has no time to concern itself with.

Felix Leiter: No Felix. Truth be told, as much as I took the piss out of the CIA man in the last film, we could have used him here. I’m a proud resident of New York and therefore considered American in most circles. As I’ve said a few times, I love how Felix is used as a stand in for American buffoonery. The character is a way for England, in the form of James Bond, to look superior. It’s a funny and appropriate running joke. However, in this film, the Americans are outright non-thinking jack-asses. They refuse to even consider England’s suggestion that Japan or more accurately, a third party operating undetected in Japan, might be responsible for the space kidnappings. Even after a Soviet spacecraft is abducted, the U.S. still refuses to believe anyone but Russia is involved. They even move up the launch date of a second mission, knowing full well the most likely outcome of this launch is going to be WWIII. If Felix, who has extensive experience with SPECTRE, were involved, I suspect even he would be sharp enough to connect the dots and convince the Dr. Strangelove generals that #1 was behind all the nastiness. But no, Felix was nowhere to be found. We get in his place Tiger Tanaka, the head of Japanese secret service who unlike M is quite hands on. He is, in fact, the most interesting character in the film. Now, the third part of his plan for Bond. On top of become Japanese and marrying a Japanese woman, Bond must train to become a ninja. Tiger has a ninja training school and that I can swallow. He is, after all, the head of Japanese intelligence. I do take issue with the idea that Bond trains, for three days and then, presto, he becomes a ninja. Three freaking days! Anyone who has seen a marshal arts movie worth its salt knows a bit more is involved in becoming a ninja.

Best One Liners/Quips: Honestly, this was incredibly difficult since Connery delivers most of Bond’s lines like he’s a hostage reading a written statement denouncing his country. One of the only lines given the old Connery roughish charm is when 007 wakes up, tied to a chair in Helga’s room, and he asks “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Bond Cars: Since he travels via one man copter and torpedo tube, MI6 fails to supply a car for Bond in this film. He gets driven around by Aki in a hot little white Toyota 2000GT convertible. Besides being quite sporty and sleek looking, this car has one of the most astounding features I’ve even seen on an automobile. As I described earlier, Aki gets rid of a car full of machine gun shooting baddies by calling in a helicopter with a big magnet to pick up the car, fly it to the sea, and release the car into the water. Good enough, but what’s so crazy is Bond and Aki are able to watch the entire flight and car dump on a monitor in the dashboard in the Toyota. This in itself is fine but how are they getting the picture? The angels in which they view the flight can’t possibility be shot by cameras on the helicopter. So what amazing device is recording these images and relaying them back to the car in real time?

Bond Timepiece: None noted. One more detail the film simply has no time for.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: It was interesting to see Bond in his military dress blues. I also like that he is smoking again. Other than that and the Beatle wig Bond operates fairly bare-boned in this movie.

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 4, in the only category where this movie hits on all cylinders. When Bond first arrives in Japan he visits Mr. Henderson who has done his homework. He offers Bond a martini, shaken. Bond takes one sip and is pleasantly surprised noting Mr. Henderson used real Russian vodka. It turns out Mr. Henderson is friendly with one of the doorman at the Soviet embassy who supplies the Brit with booze from the mother land in exchange for other favors. Details like this bring Bond’s world, that of spying and international connections, to life. Sadly, these touches are in short supply in this film. Bond has a different reaction to his vodka drink in Mr. Osato’s office. After knocking out the sumo dude, Bond raids Osato’s liquor cabinet to finds a bottle. He takes a pull and then winces saying to himself “Siamese vodka.” I Googled Siamese vodka and as I suspected, it doesn’t exist. On board the private subway, Tiger offers Bond some Saki, unless he would like a martini. In a perfect “when in Rome” moment, Bond turns down his favorite drink, showing his host the proper respect. 007 goes a step further impressing Tiger when he points out the Saki is served at 98.4F as it should be. Then next morning Bond finds himself once again in Mr. Osato’s office, this time posing as an international business man. It’s only 11:30 AM but Mr. Osato offers some Champaign, a drink Bond turns down due to the early hour, until he learns it’s a Dom ’59. I love the smell of Don ’59 in the morning.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Heartbreaking but true, no gambling here.

I can see Russia from my house!

List of Locations: The film spends a small amount of time in space and in the Alaskan tundra where the UN meeting takes place. Why Alaska? Maybe so everyone can keep an eye on those shifty Soviets. The third opening location, Taiwan, is a non-location since all we see is the inside of a hotel room, which could be in Poughkeepsie for all we know. This film doesn’t make it to London, making this the first Bond film where 007 doesn’t set foot in the UK. 98% of You Only Live Twice happens in Japan. Bond starts in Tokyo. The coolest place he visits is an arena in the round for a Sumo Wrestling bout. The shipyard scenes were shot at the Kobie Docks which sadly no longer exist. On January 17, 1995 the port was destroyed by largest earthquake to his Japan since 1923. Akime Village, pop. 180, was used for the idyllic seaside fishing community. Finally, the volcano was Mt. Kirishima, located on a southern island in a national park. Despite the fact that Japan is woven into the plot, the country and culture somehow manage to be little more than a backdrop. It feels like Bond is detached from the locations in someway, where as in past films, Bond became part of them. Like most of this film, I’m sure many things are to blame, from Connery’s less than committed performance to the lackluster direction to the silly screenplay. If I could pick a single shot to sum up the entire film, it would be the one look we get at the U.S.S.R. It’s a wide shot of a Soviet rocket launch. In the foreground, several palm trees can be seen.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: When Bond points out to Tiger that his Saki is served at the proper temperature, 98.4F Tiger responds “For a European, you are exceptional cultivated.” Indeed, we learn that Bond San studied Oriental languages at Cambridge, however we never hear him udder a word in Japanese. Bond also works double duty as a pilot, not only dog fighting in “Little Nellie” but also crash landing a small prop plane. Then there is the small task of become a ninja in three days. I can’t think of any reason to include this nonsense other than the fact that in 1967, Kung Fu films were breaking through and become hot in the west. It’s kind of sad to see Bond flowing and not leading but, there you go. In another of the countless logic defying moments in this film, during the SPECTRE rocket launch, Bond dresses up like an astronaut and attempts to sneak onto the spacecraft. Blofeld becomes suspicious when Bond tries to carry his air conditioning unit into the capsule and #1 calls Bond out. What the hell was Bond’s plan? Suppose Blofeld missed this small mistake and Bond gets into the cockpit? What then? How in the name of Jesus H Christ is he going to fly a God Damn spaceship? I’m not sure if you’ve picked this up yet, but this film kind of sucks.

Thoughts on Film: “Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond,” you should have stayed home. Since everyone involved knew this was Connery’s last film, there was a feeling that all the stops needed to be pulled out. Subsequently, Broccoli and Saltzman gave more energy to marketing than the movie; the trailer came first, the film came second. The script was changed and changed again with the goal of loading as much “stuff” as possible into Connery last go in Bond’s shoes. As a result, the final product is not a movie but a Frankenstein’s monster of action sequences sewn together with the hope of creating life. They failed and the movie is D.O.A. The poster, on the other hand, lived, screaming out loudly; Bond Dies! (but no, not really) Bond Marries! (ahh yah, but no, not really) Bond becomes Japanese! (not even Fing close) Bond finally meets SPECTRE’S #1! (OK they deliver on this last one) Connery’s Last Bond Is The Biggest EVER! (Arguable, but it’s certainly not the best.) Some of the blame for the films failure must be hung around Connery’s neck. Getting shot out of a torpedo tube, crawling on the ceiling like Spiderman, making Bond a Japanese ninja, it’s all bullshit and Connery knew it. He simply couldn’t bring himself to care and it shows. If Connery was indifferent about the movie, the producers and director were outright hostile. The cheesy special effects, the retrofit action sequences, the terrible screenplay all pile on to make this movie a labor to simply sit through.

A classic tale of a farm boy and his robot

For the record, I have a suspension of disbelief that stretches a mile wide. I will buy pretty much anything a movie is selling. If I sit down in a theater and you tell me there’s a guy with breathing problems who flies around the galaxy in a huge circular weapon that can destroy planets and he’s defeated by a farmer with magic powers and his trash can robot sidekick, I can get behind that 100%! All a movie has to do is tell me things in a logical way, don’t break its own rules, and treat me like an intelligent person. I think most movie goes will agree, we want fantasy, but don’t lie to us or worse yet, don’t treat us like fools. We will be fine with an alien who wears tights and flies (Superman I and II) but we balk at the idea he can throw every nuclear weapon on earth into the sun (Superman IV.)  You Only Live Twice not only disrespects its audience, it dares Bond fans to care and shows them no respect. It simply assumes if Bond is on the screen with some chicks and explosions, all is right with the world. Thankful, the audience struck back, hurting the films bottom line. (Ed Note: For this project, I want to focus on the films and avoid the Fleming novels as much as possible. That said, I highly recommend you read this fantastic post which details Bond creator/author Ian Fleming so-called “Blofeld Trilogy” and how that storyline was destroyed when shooting schedules demanded that YOLT be made before OHMSS. The post goes a long way to explaining why YOLT is such a mess.) To be fair, the film has it’s moments; the Aki assassination is top notch. There is a breathtaking shot of Japanese fishing boats on the water a dawn, but for every bright spot we get ten bummers. The plot is a mess, the laughs aren’t funny, the dialog is lazy, the characters are forgettable and the film is ultimately a sad swan song for Connery. Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, but I was shock at how far off the beam You Only Live Twice had fallen. Coming after three incredibly strong films I found this movie to be trying and an embarrassment to the Bond name.

Martini ratings:


Title: Thunderball

Year: 1965. Both the U.S. and British premieres were held in December within a week of each other. For what it’s worth, Thunderball is the first Bond film that wasn’t originally a novel …kind of. It was also intended to be the first Bond film …kind of. In 1959, Ian Fleming had the idea of bringing his super spy to the big screen. He teamed up with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham to write James Bond, Secret Agent but Fleming reportedly got fed up with both the screenwriting process and working with others. Feeling Bond was his, he took the screenplay, changed it a bit, and wrote the 1961 novel, “Thunderball.” McClory took legal action, claiming the story was his, and United Artist refused to touch the script or the book while legal proceedings were underway. Ipso facto, Dr. No (1962) became the first James Bond film. Thunderball was shelved until an out of court deal was struck in 1964. As a result of the deal, UA could go ahead with Fleming’s novel and McClory held onto the screenplay rights and later released a film based on what he called the “original concept,” the “unofficial” Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983). Everybody got that?

Film Length: 2 hours 10 minutes

Sir Paul and Sir Sean; Rock Stars

Bond Actor: Sean Connery. In August of 1965 the Beatles were the biggest band on the planet. To promote/ introduced their new single, they played the BBC program “Blackpool Night Out.” After performing a few hits, Ringo and John left the stage as George stepped to the microphone and introduced the brand spanking new never before heard song “Yesterday” by announcing “Paul McCartney of Liverpool, opportunity knocks.” The inside joke being, yes, the Beatles were the biggest thing in the world, but this was Paul, standing alone on stage playing a song that he alone wrote, and the other three Beatles knew they were, thanks to the ballad, about to become even bigger. After the smashing success of Goldfinger (1964), Sean Connery was a rock star in his own right, and it wasn’t a question of the new Bond being big, the question was how big. Many people created the international monster that was James Bond, but Connery knew all eyes were on him. He felt responsible for Bond, and he took his role as the face of the franchise seriously becoming physically invested. I’m a card carrying “out of the closet” heterosexual (You might not have asked, but I’m going to tell anyway) and as such I must say, Connery looks simply dreamy. When sporting a perfectly fitting tight shirt or no shirt at all, our hero could pass as an Olympic athlete. His charm is dialed up to 11 and he is as good as ever with the one liners. While Connery was giving it his all on screen, he was taking a stepping back off camera. He didn’t go to any of the many Thunderball premieres and granted just one interview, a long in depth profile for Playboy. In the profile, Connery comes across as down to earth and thankful for the success of Bond, but he also admits he doesn’t like the publicity side of things. “I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don’t intend to undergo that metamorphosis.” He also lets it be know that he has two more Bond films on his contract (at that point they were to be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and “probably” You Only Live Twice) and that after that, he would be happy to walk away. “Bond’s been good to me, so I shouldn’t knock him,” but he also admitted that he’s “fed up to here with the whole Bond bit.”

Director: Terence Young, returning to direct his third and final Bond film. Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton was asked to helm the fourth film but he felt “drained of ideas.” He had giving everything in his arsenal to Goldfinger and said he “had nothing to contribute till he recharged batteries.” Indeed, EON were popping these films out at an incredibly fast clip, one a year for four years straight with each one being a bigger production with bigger expectations. Thanks to challenges inherent in the plot, Thunderball promised to be the biggest yet.

Reported Budget: $9,000,000 estimated. After Bonds 1,2, and 3 cost one $1 million, $2 million and $3 million respectively, Bond 4 jumped to $9 mil. (Ed. Note $5.6 million is listed as the budget on the Special Addition DVD, but I’m using Box-Office Mojo for all my budget and box office figures since studios are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to these numbers.) I’m sure Connery’s salary climbed some but much of the money was up on the screen. About 20% of Thunderball takes place underwater, and in the days before digital effects, that meant 20% of the movie had to be made underwater. It got me to thinking, what if Thunderball was the first film made like originally planed, and they only had the $1 million. Needless to say, it would not have been nearly as good. None the less, after four years, Bond was now officially a big time Hollywood production with the money to match. Additionally, product tie-ins were everywhere, with Bond vodka, Bond clothes, and oodles and oodles of Bond toys coming out to coincide with the films December release and the holiday shopping season. At the end of 1965, Bond was everywhere. “Sean Connery of Edinburgh, opportunity knocks.”

Reported Box-office: $63,600,000 (USA) $141,200,000 (Worldwide). Thunderball was released in the final weeks of 1965, so its box-office run lived mostly in 1966, and it was that year’s #1 film, with a bullet. Making $10 million more than Goldfinger in the states alone, it was clear to all the other studios that they needed a Bond themselves, but as the lady would sing in a later 007 film, nobody does it better than Bond. Mark Harris details some of the copy-cat films in his best seller “Pictures at a Revolution.” According to Harris, Warner Brothers answer for Bond mania was the now forgotten Kaleidoscope (1966) staring Warren Beatty. 20th Century Fox employed James Coburn in Our Man Flint (1965) and In Like Flint (1967). United Artist even got into the Bond rip-off business. Eager to own Pepsi and Coke, the Bond studio cast a young Brit named Michael Caine as a kind of nerdy “anti-Bond” in The Ipcress Files (1965). The most aggressive attempt to dip into Bond mania was made by Columbia who between 1966 and 1969 made four films in their Matt Helm series. However, I doubt Connery lost any sleep worrying about his American counterpart Helm who was played by the immortal and terribly miscast Dean Martin.

As is often the case in Hollywood, when studios scramble to rip-off what’s working now, they are blind to what’s coming next. The #2 film in 1966 was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) staring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Studios should be afraid of Virginia Woolf

Earlier Bond films pushed the standards of the Production Code, but the Mike Nichols helmed Virginia Woolf literally distorted the standards that had been in place since the 1930’s. Bond films had a sex and violence, but it was presented as a “comic strip for adults.” Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a brutal black and white kitchen sink drama that focused on an alcoholic abusive couple where they lived. This was the “new Hollywood,” and though studios didn’t realize, it was already here.

Theme Song: “Thunderball” performed by the one and only Tom Jones. The theme song for this film was to be “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” performed by Dionne Warwick but producers freaked-out at the last second, panicking that the theme’s title wasn’t the not-so-easy-to-write-into-lyrics title of the film. Enter Tom Jones to save the day. The words, it must be said, leave something to be desired. “Any woman he wants, he’ll get / He will break any heart without regret / His days of asking are all gone / His fight goes on and on and on.” It’s nowhere near as good as the “Goldfinger” theme, but it has it moments. And for the record, the whole women throwing underwear on stage TJ shtick isn’t nearly as creepy when the singer is a 20 something year old man as it is in his later “Vegas” years.

Opening Action Sequence: For the first time, audiences saw Connery at the top of the film in the gun barrel sequences and not stuntman Bob Simmons who turns and shoots at the camera in the first three films. Sticking with the tradition started in From Russia With Love (1963), the opening minutes of the film are a mini adventure that takes place at a breakneck pace using humor and action to throw audiences into Bonds world. James is attending Colonel Jacques Bouvar’s funeral when he observes the widow Bouvar open her own car door. This leads Bond to conclude the good Colonel, also known as SPECTRE #6, has faked his death and is now posing as Madame Bouvar. Bond confronts he/she in a palatal red room and a brutal fight ensues in which no piece of expensive future is spared while Bond beats on a man in a dress and heels. Bond finally gets the better of the Colonel and pays his respects by tossing lilies on the dead body as he exits. Outside, 007 straps on a jetpack and flies away from the pursuing security detail. The shot of Bond flying over the Chateau d’Anet is worth the price of admission. Bond then jumps into …hey! That’s the Aston Martin DB-5 from the previous film, the one Bond destroyed! Humm, I guess Q has been busy. Anyway, Bond raises the bulletproof shield and douses his pursuers with water, which washes into the underwater credit sequence. Fast, exciting and funny (punching a widow in the face is ALWAYS funny) this is the best open yet.

Opening Titles: Maurice Binder, who set the opening title standard with Dr. No returned after a two film absents. (He would go one to do every opening title up until and including License to Kill (1989)) Going with the water theme of the film, the credits feature nude women swimming this way and that while explosions of color paint the screen. It’s cool, but not show stopping.

Villain’s Plot: SPECTRE is back baby! Taking a page out of Auric Goldfinger’s book, SPECTRE has decided when it comes to taking over the world; nukes are the way to go. However, being the Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion they do everything bigger and badder. If a little suitcase nuke almost worked, imagine what two full-on war heads could do? #1, who abandon his boat and is now operating out of a Paris bank (insert you’re timely Wall St/ Bernie Madoff/ Goldman Sachs joke here) pulled out all the stops for this caper. It involves paying one Angelo Palazzi to undergo plastic surgery so he will look just like Major Francois Derval, a NATO big wig. The real Derval is then killed and Palazzi takes his place aboard a flight that is carrying two nuclear bombs. After gassing the entire crew, Palazzi pulls of a water landing that would make Captain Sully stand and applaud. As the plane descends to the bottom of the ocean, SPECTRE divers swim to the aircraft with a custom sub perfectly designed to carry two nuclear bombs. They grab the bombs and escort them to the Disco Volante, a yacht equipped with an underwater diving hatch. While this is a genius plan, the film stumbles in its execution. The pacing is off and so many characters are introduced in a glossed over fashion it’s nearly impossible to keep up. I suspect this was to rush to the underwater stuff, which his indeed super cool.

Bond’s Mission: After securing the bombs, SPECTRE sends a taped ransom note demanding 280 million dollars (100 million pounds) or they will blow up an unnamed city. Every Double O is summoned to London where they meet in a super posh giant room populated by a bunch of stuck up snooty white guys in suits. (Her Majesty’s Secrete Service could use some diversity, just saying.) Each Double O receives assignments and Bond is off to Station “C” Canada. However, he petitions M to switch his port of call to Nassau, and no, it has nothing to do with the photo of the bird in case file. Bond recognizes her brother, Major Derval. (For a split second, I wished M was The Dude so when Bond says it’s the guy, not the girl he’s after, M could respond “Vagina? I mean…you know the guy?”) Why Yes! Bond does know the guy; he bumped into the Major at the Shrubland Health Club at the same time that the Major was supposed to be piloting the plane. The American military man in the room doubts this very much and in a moment that made me want to stand up and cheer, M sticks up for his agent and chops the American off at the knees. So, it’s off to Bermuda for Bond to make contact with the girl, figure out who is behind the bomb plot, and shut it down before the deadline and mass destruction. The game is afoot!

Villain’s Name: Emilio Largo or #2. As #2 he is SPECTRE’S most trusted operator and is given the task of overseeing the plastic surgery, installing underwater landing lights, covering the submerged plane with a camouflage net and getting the bombs aboard his boat. This would be enough to stress out most, especially considering SPECTRE’S history when it comes to dealing with failure, but our eye patched clove smoking villain handles his assignment with ease. He even finds time to relax, play cards, and do some skeet shooting while hanging around the Bahamas.

Villain Actor: Adolfo Celi. Born in Tuscany, Italy, the working actor was very popular in Europe and appeared in over 100 films. According to his IMDB Bio, Celi was fluent in English, Spanish, French, Portugues, and German in addition to his native Italian. Despite this we yet again have a main character being voiced by another actor, in this case Robert Rietty. EON must enjoy writing checks to SAG and getting one actor for the price of two. Celi strikes a perfect balance in the role, playing it cool until he needs to act, and then like a coiled cobra, he attacks with out warning.

Number 1, jettison the cocoon!

Villain’s Lair: Coolest yet. Largo operates out of an ocean side villa in the Bahamas that comes equipped with two swimming pools; one for the ladies, and the other for the sharks. With a convent push of a button, a tunnel between the two can be opened and the occupants of both pools can mingle. Although the house, know as Palmyra, is protected by the ocean and high walls, the place is crawling with armed guards who are dressed like assistants in a Vidal Sassoon salon. Docked off shore is the even more impressive Disco Volante. Hailing from Panama, this impressive yacht is capable of hitting nearly 20 knots and features a dive room, good for feeding out divers and gobbling up nuclear bombs out of the sight of prying eyes. But the absolute coolest feature is its ability to “jettison the cocoon.” Basically, if you need to get away in a big hurry because, say a Navy destroyer is after you, you can shoot the front half of the boat out on hydrofoils and leave the back half behind with any unfortunate crew members. It instantly reminded me of the USS Enterprise engaging in a saucer separation.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: I was going to go with the shark tank, but I can’t get the image of the SPECTRE boardroom meeting out of my head. #1 is sitting at a desk, in a separate box like room. On his lap is the cat, and in front of is face is, what exactly? A screen of sorts… Why is he hiding his face in this manner? Anyway, assembled at a table are his loyal “number” underlings who report on earnings from various blackmail, assassination and train robbery schemes. Ahh, but #9 and #11 are not hitting their projected profits with an American narcotics ring. After deciding #11 is embezzling from SPECTRE, #1 hits a button and #11’s chair descends into a furnace, only to reappear smoking and empty. Austin Powers be damned, this scene is ridiculous all on its own and it doesn’t need his help. It’s also, I must admit, quite enjoyable. This cold blooded failure = death policy keeps the “Execution Branch” of SPECTRE employed, but it also has it drawbacks. At one point, an assassin fails to off Bond in his Nassau hotel. Obviously, this failure must be dealt with. Fare enough, but is blowing up the assassin’s car while he has Bond in the cross-hairs the best use of resources? For a crime syndicate that can flawlessly orchestrate the hijacking of two nuclear bombs, this just seems counterproductive, inefficient and down right dumb.

Badassness of Villain: Largo is a pretty cool costumer, focused on the mission at hand. But if he feels you’re crossed him, look out. He has no trouble feeding underlings to the sharks and even enjoys torturing his mistress. Holding a lit cigarette and a bowl of ice, he informs her “This for heat, these for cold, applied scientifically and slowly.” This scene actually kind of got to me for a second as Largo coldly leans in and we hear screaming from behind a closed door. It’s shortly after that Largo leave half his crew to be attacked by the Navy while he makes his getaway in the faster section of the boat. Oh, yah, and he was willing to nuke Miami if SPECTRE didn’t get their money. So yah, pretty badass. I would also say he’s the “scariest” of the villains so far if for no other reason than he seems to enjoy his job a little too much.

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Largo has a few #2’s of his own, mostly cold blooded assassins. There is Vargas. “Vargas does not drink… does not smoke… does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?” and then there is the sexy Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). Volpe does it all, she sleeps with guys just to wack em, she skillful rides a motorcycle at 110 MPH while shooting off rockets, and she keeps the other SPECTRE operatives in line. When she shows up in the room next to Bond’s (lounging in a bathtub), she seduces “Mr Bond James Bond” (no hard job that) and manages to resist his sexual turning power. When done with the hanky panky, she pulls a gun on Bond and mocks his prowess forcing 007 to resort to an I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I playground response. “Don’t think it gave ME any pleasure. I did what I did for king and country.”

Bond Girl Actress: Claudine Auger. The former Miss France (1958) and dramatically trained actress is the first woman who, for me at least, lived up to the ideal of what it means to be a “Bond Girl.” She is that smart, international, amazingly hot woman who is also down to earth, fun and has an easy laugh. In other words, a woman that doesn’t really exist.

Bond Girl’s Name: Domino Derval who is by far the most sophisticated and sexiest Bond girl yet. As tribute, a little song in her honor. Take it way, Van the man.

Domino is the Major’s sister from the photo and also happens to be Largo’s niece by which he means mistress. Bond first encounters Domino while she’s free diving for shells in a bathing suit that must leave some odd tan lines. She immediately proves to be Bonds equal in the witty flirting department and seems like she’s up for anything at any moment. She can play classy just as easy, as Bond learns when he finds her with Largo at the baccarat table, where Jimmy B deftly talks her off Larog’s arm onto his own. “Any woman he wants, he’ll get / He will break any heart without regret.”

Bond Girl Sluttiness: As a kept woman who was using Largo as much as he was using her, she knows how to get what she wants using sex. At first, she playfully brushes aside Bonds advances, but once she give in, she up for some kink, like when she and Bond engage in an underwater SCUBA tango, easily taking the 1st place prize for craziest make-out location in a Bond film yet. “Lord have mercy, I said Ohhhh woooo Domino!” Still, Domino is low on the slut scale. She’s an import cog in the plot, and one of the few Bond girls who’s function in the film is more than just sex.

Number of Woman 007 Beds: 3; a blond, a red head and burnet. We already covered Domino’s underwater antics and Bonds inability to turn the badass SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe. That leaves the bizarre seduction, some would say forceful blackmailing, of the fetching masseuse Patricia Fearing (Molly Peter). Patricia works at the spa where Bond is recovering from his fight with Major Bouvar. Totally unimpressed with Bond and his witty banter, Patricia orders him to lie on a device meant to stretch out the body called “the rack.” It’s a table that one gets strapped onto while it gyrates back and forth. The film shows us this action using a 70’s porn zoom in and out while a shirtless sweaty Bond bops back and forth on the table. A SPECTRE agent sneaks into the room and puts the thing on high speed, nearly ripping Bond into two, literally. 007 actually passes out with pain and is saved at the last second by Patricia who is guilt ridden thinking she pushed the wrong button and almost killed her client. Now again, Bond was just out cold. After he recovers he stands up from the rack, and doesn’t correct Patricia, letting her think she is responsible. He then goes a step further and implies he will rat her out to her boss unless … I’m not sure why Bond had to resort to this sleazy tactic, I’m mean, according to Tom Jones “Any woman he wants, he gets.” Is this how? Anyway, 30 seconds removed from certain death, Bond has Patricia’s shirt off in the steam room where things proceed to get hot. (Sorry, it was teed up, I had to take the shot.)

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: While lying in bed, Fiona comments on the iron frame that acts as the headboard. “This bed feels like a cage, all these bars. Do you think I will be safe?” Killer.

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: I cracked up when at one point Bond hits the fire alarm in the spa and a robbed woman runs into the hall “What’s going on?” she asks James who answers like he talking to a four year old “Well, I don’t know. Could it be the front door bell?”

Number of People 007 Kills: A whooping 25 plus one shark. 25 people, holy Jesus, 007 must be making up for the lack of carnage in the last film and he earns his time and a half over-time pay here. In the open he kills the Colonel “#6” Bouvar before the credits even role. But at least he respectful enough to leave some flowers. In a nasty bit of payback for the rack business, Bond boils his attacker in a personal sauna unit during the 10 minutes of the film I like to call “death by spa treatments.” He takes out two of Largo’s Vidal Sassoon goons during a nighttime raid on his compound. Then there is one of my favorite; in a tension filled sequence, Bond is dancing with the assassin Fiona at Nassau’s “Kiss Kiss” club as a band rocks out on the congas. One of Fiona’s goons is hidden behind the band and points a gun at Bond on the dance floor. The fast and furious cross-cut editing gives us quick shots of the drums, the gun and Bond, and it looks for sure our hero, who is already wounded, is done for. At the last second, he spots the gun, spins Fiona into the on coming bullets, and leaved her slumped at a table. (“Can my friend rest a moment? She’s simply dead.”) The other SPECTRE badass assassin, Vargas, gets a nasty spear gun shot into his gut (“I think he got the point.”) Now, we know the 00 protects Bond from legal issues when it comes to killing men and woman, but I wonder if Greenpeace recognizes this bit of international law skirting. Felix and Bond find the submerged plane, but to get to it they must swim though shark infested waters. Bond orders Felix to take out one of the man eaters so the other will be drawn to the blood and not Bond. Good plan and it works. That leaves us many, many divers. As I mentioned earlier, much of the film happens underwater, and Bond takes out a diver under the Disco Volante and similarly slices the air hose of a second dude he comes across in the vault where the bombs are hidden. The climatic battle takes place under the sea where the good guys (in red wetsuits) and bad (in black) face off like underwater civil war soldiers; that is, they line up, charge each other, and when the front row is done in by spear guns, the second row happily marches/swims forward, until they are squirming and battling in what looks like a cross between hand to hand combat and “O,” the underwater Cirque Du Soleil.  Dudes gets stabbed, air hose get sliced, face masks get ripped off, and spears get shot through arms and legs as the sharks circle. I saw a comment on IMDB where the poster felt this underwater battle went on to long. That person is wrong. This is a fantastic fight that must have been a nightmare to choreograph and it’s truly the highlight of this fantastic film. Anyway, Bond jumps into the fray while the battle is in full force, entering at great speed thanks to his underwater jet pack (why not?) 007 waists no time killing 14 men. (Deep breath) Bond cuts at least two dudes air hoses, drops a heavy door on three more, throws a grenade into a vault with three baddies in it, beats one, cuts a third guys hose, rips off two masks and stab yet another before he spear guns Largo’s right hand man. Bond’s people recover one of the bombs following the battle but Largo makes it to the Disco Volante with the second. Superman, I mean Bond, grabs onto the boats anchor and climbs aboard for more fast paced fist fighting on the bridge of the boat which is going 110 MPH and narrowly missing all kinds of rocks. This last 15 minutes is non-stop action and edge of your seat exciting (and looked fantastic on my big flat screen.) It’s worth noting that Bond doesn’t kill Largo, that’s left to Domino who shoots him in revenge for her brother. Largo then falls on the dashboard of the boat but not before he “jams the controls.” Let me take a moment here and conduct a poll, has anyone ever been on any kind of vehicle where one can “jam the controls?” Why would anyone ever want to do this? How is it done? By pushing a button? By shoving a screwdriver into a circuit board? Anyway, “He’s Jammed the Controls!” Bond announces forcing he and Domino to bail out of the stern moments before the Disco smashes into a rocks and makes a great big satisfying boom.

You do not talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!

Most Outrageous/Fantastic Death/s: All thought Bond isn’t responsible for it, the coolest death happens in the underwater battle when one of the divers gets his goggles “Moe Greened” by a spear. The greatest killing involving Jimmy B happens in the shark pool at Largo’s compound. One of Largo’s men and Bond fall into the pool which Largo quickly covers with a plastic that keeps the two underwater. “Release the sharks!” While one of the big fish chomps on the baddie, Bond deftly swims in and out of the other man eaters and makes his way to the second pool and safety.

Miss. Moneypenny:  It appears she’s been doing some rearranging of the furniture in her office, and I do not approve. When Bond pops his head into her doorway, he finds the hat rack has been moved. More disturbing, when 007 goes to leave, his hat has disappeared all together. “I think I had a hat when I came in.” You did! Where did it go? Why, oh why are you screwing with Bond Monnypenny? He’s got enough on his mind with the whole tracking down two nukes business to have to worry about his hat.

M: Ahh, now that’s more like it! After giving Bond nothing but grief for the first three films, M finally pulled the stick out of his ass and defends his #1 agent in front of both the American’s and his boss, the Home Secretary. Good show M. Good show indeed.

Q: In by far the funniest Q appearance yet, the gadget guru pops out of a wall like a jack-in-a-box sporting a less-then-dignified hat and a pineapple Hawaii print shirt. Upon spotting him enter Bond roles his eye “Oh no.” Q is none to happy about having to meet Bond “in the field” and he proceeds to alternate between giving Bond his gadgets and slapping his hand for playing with them.

List of Gadgets: Bond gets some really good toys in this film, and none of them are to far outside of reality. There was the jet pack, or Bell Textron’s rocket belt, from the open which, by the by, is real. At the time only two men in the world could pilot the thing and one of them was brought in to fly over the Chateau d’Anet in France. No wires or CGI here. Bond also has a hollowed out book that conceals a tape recorder he leaves going when he vacates his room so he can come back and listen to hear if anyone has broken in. Spoiler alert, someone has. After emerging from the wall in Bermuda, Q supplies Bond with a watch that houses a Geiger counter, an underwater camera that can take infrared photos and also has a Geiger counter, a mini flare that can be hidden almost anywhere and a 4 minute underwater breather, convenient pocket size. That is, as Bond points out, “If you have a convenient pocket.” Then there is a radioactive but harmless pill that when swallowed acts like a homing device. Last but centrally not least is the rescue raft that is dropped to Bond and Domino after they jump out of the exploding Disco Volante. It inflates on its own, impresses enough, but it also comes with a sky hook. That is, a red blimp shaped balloon that flies into the sky. It’s tethered to Bond who simply sits in his raft, holds onto Domino tightly, and waits for the plane with a V shaped noise to hook the rope. Bond takes off like Christian Bale in The Dark Knight (2008), literally flying off into the sunset. I was watching this thinking it might just be the coolest thing I’d ever seen till it occurred to me, how in Gods name do you land? I mean, you’re hanging on a rope attached to a speedy plane. How does one get down from/ wheeled in/ off the damn thing? One more note about this rescue, a third guy, a Largo lackey who finds religion and helps Domino escape at the last second, also jumps off the boat with Bond and his lady. He can’t swim, so he gets a flotation device, but what happened to him? While 007 and Domino are flying off into the wide blue yonder he’s left behind in shark infested waters only a few hundred yards from a nuclear blast sight. This guy may still be out there for all we know, some kind of nuclear zombie fighting with sharks for fish food. Just saying…

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: The pill gets swallowed and the flair gets shoot off, but they were one and done deals to begin with. Bond actually treats everything OK, and even manages to return the Aston Martin with out a scratch. Oh wait, there the God Damn nuke on the Disco Volante! How much trouble do you get in for allowing a NATO owned nuclear bomb to detonate in the middle of paradise? Strangely, the film doesn’t deal with the “fallout” of the explosion.

Other Property Destroyed: Bond trashes a bunch of future at breaks a window at the Chateau d’Anet. He also escapes from Fiona by pouring rum on the backseat or her car and setting the auto aflame. And then the Disco gets blown up but Bond wasn’t directly responsible for that. However, SCUBA tank sales in Bermuda must have skyrocketed after Bond  cut countless breathing hoses.

Felix Leiter: After following Bond around the pool and lobby of the hotel, Felix knocks on Bond’s hotel room door and gets a punch to the stomach. If Bond didn’t recognize his old friend you can’t blame him, as Felix is played by yet another actor, this time one Rik Van Nutter. Van Nutter not only has the coolest handle ever, at times he looks like a poor mans Clint Eastwood. Rik Van Nutter (really, that could be a Bond character name) has one of the more interesting IMDB pages I’ve ever encountered. His first credit in 1959 and his last is ‘79 and in the twenty years he had only 13 credits, and then he just stops. Theater perhaps? Now, I consider myself a Felix fan but I must say, I wanted to bunch him in the face by the end of Thunderball. We first encounter the American flowing Bond around Nassau. If anyone was playing “can you spot the CIA agent” Felix, the only guy sporting a full on three-piece suit (blue) on the beach, would be picked 11 times out of ten. When Bond answers his door, the American loudly blurts out “Well double O..” before getting the shot to the gut. Felix, super-spy that it is, nearly blew Bond’s cover. Then there is the inexcusable mistake he makes while hunting for the lost NATO plane. Bond and Felix know the aircraft has been hidden underwater near Bermuda, but where? While the clocks ticks, the two agents search the miles of ocean surrounding the island in a helicopter until Felix finally say “Well, we searched everywhere. Everywhere that is except the Golden Grotto.” (By the by, the Golden Grotto sounds like the wing of the Playboy mansion James Caan got his mail delivered to circa 1973.) “But we won’t find it there?” Well why the F not douche bag? And since it’s the only place you haven’t looked, wouldn’t you conclude that is exactly where the damn plane is? Bond immediately instructs Felix to bring the helicopter down in the Grotto where, HOLYSHIT! It’s the plane. Idiot. At least he learned his lesson from Goldfinger when it comes to homing devices. When Bond swallows the pill, Felix has enough brain power to know it’s a call for help.

Best One Liners/Quips: Any Bond film worth its salt has the fantastic scene where the villain hosts Bond and Thunderball is no exception. When Bond shows up at Largo’s compound he finds the eye patched baddy carrying a shot-gun. Bond “That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.” “You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?” “No, but I know a little about women.” Awesome. In the next scene, Largo shows Bond how to shoot skeet, taking out the first bird with ease. Before Bond takes his shot he says “It looks very difficult.” He then rips off a shot, from the hip no less, and cracks the clay pigeon into a million pieces. “Why no, it isn’t, is it?”

Bond Cars: The Aston Martin DB-5 makes a return despite it being smashed into a wall in the previous film. Other than that Bond grabs a ride from Fiona in her blue Mustang. Bond also drives what I think is a Bentley at one point but I’m not 100%. If anyone can clarify for me, please feel free to comment.

Bond Timepiece: Breitling Geneve, Top Time. These puppies go for around $1200 today; this is a no joke watch. Also, I’m not one to point out editing errors and the like because (A) I never catch them (B) it’s sniveling and nitpicking, like a way to say you’re smarter than the film makers which unless the film makers name is Michael Bay, no, you’re not and (C) I don’t care. That said, at one point Bond checks his watch and it’s a Rolex Submariner. Just saying, for the integrity of this blog and all.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: He lost his hat, which simply breaks my heart. I hope we see it return in the next film. Bond’s attire is much more casual in this film, mostly because he’s in Nassau and unlike that twit Felix, Bond knows that when acting as spy, it’s good to blend in. Another thing I noticed is Bond doesn’t smoke at all in this film, a first. But again, this might have more to do with location than anything else. After all, not even Q can come up with a cigarette that stays lit underwater.

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 2, for a depressing drop off in this department. I simply love when Bond drinks, gambles, or partakes in anything that could be considered a vice. It’s just awesome to know the coolest guy in the room enjoys these naughty habits. Regardless, he mixes himself some kind of vodka drink in his hotel room and much to my amusement; he doesn’t offer a drink to Felix who is standing right there. He also has a Rum Collins with Largo on his pool deck.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Bond starts off with 500 pounds worth of those cool “plates” they use instead of chips at all the really high-end places. He sits down at Largo’s table and wins the first hand prompting Largo to fall into the classic gambling trap; when down, go deeper! “Shall we raise the limit, say 500 pounds a hand?” Everyone declines at these stakes, everyone that is except Jimmy B who not only wins this hand, but leaves the table with Largo’s girl errr, I mean niece. The game, James’ favorite, baccarat. In the interest of this blog project as well as my own curiosity I took to the web to learn exactly how baccarat is played. (Ed. Note; I’m a poker guy.) According to Wikipedia it looks incredibly straight forward. “Baccarat is a simple game with only three possible results—’Player’, ‘Banker’, and ‘Tie’. The term ‘Player’ does not refer to the customer, and the term ‘Banker’ does not refer to the house. They are just options on which the customer can bet. In Baccarat, cards 2–9 are worth face value, 10s and face cards (J, Q, K) are worth zero, and Aces are worth 1 point. Players calculate their score by taking the sum of all cards modulo 10  , meaning that after adding the value of the cards the tens digit is ignored. For example, a hand consisting of 2 and 3 is worth 5 (2+3=5). A hand consisting of 6 and 7 is worth 3 (6+7=13 or 3) the first digit is dropped because the total is higher than 9. A hand consisting of 4 and 6 is worth zero, or Baccarat (4+6 = 10 or 0). The name “Baccarat” is unusual in that the game is named after the worst hand, worth 0. The highest score that can be achieved is 9 (from a 4 and 5, 10 and 9, or A and 8, etc).” That be that, then it’s just a matter of straight forward odds. Could be fun; I’ll suggest we play a few hands next Tuesday at the hold em game.

List of Locations: After falling into the background in the last film, elegant locations are back in the limelight, I suspect this is thanks to Young returning to the helm. He milks these exotic beautiful places for all their worth and at moments, like during the nighttime parade in Nassau, the locations come alive and simply sing. The opening sequence takes place at the Chateau d’Anet in Anet France which features an impossibly beautiful room that gets trashed when Bond and #6 grapple mono a mono. SPECTRE operates out of Paris and MI6 is of course in London. (what does this say about Anglo/ French relations?) After getting wacked with a poker, Bond recovers at the Shrubland Health Club in St. Peters England. For some reason, the hallways in this location struck me, they just looked so 1965. Most of the action happens in the capital city of Nassau and other locations on and around the Bahamas. The underwater stuff is stunning and little details like the Kiss Kiss Club, waterfront hotels and Largo’s amazing compound contribute to the overall feel of the film in classic Bond fashion. No offence to our northern neighbors, but thank God 007 didn’t end up at Station “C” Canada.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Right off the bat Bond pilots a jetpack. If I ever even got one on my back, I assume I’d burn my legs off before I left the ground. Bond clearly got certified in SCUBA for this adventure and that included the lesson in underwater screwing. Bond also proved himself to be expert marksmen who can heal wounds in a bar sink. The guy is a machine.

Slim Pickens rides into the sunset

Thoughts on Film: For the second flick in a row, nuclear bombs are the thing which is incredibly 1965.  In fact, the entire film just feels very 1960’s, which is the golden time for Bond, at least, this version of Bond. At a time when grade school students were forced to hide under their desks during air raid drills, nukes were at the front of everyone’s mind. But unlike Goldfinger, this time the two warheads are treated with the seriousness and gravity they deserve. Not to say there isn’t humor (in fact, there are many funny moments) but the silliness is gone. For as straight forward as the plot is, the first act is a bit muddied and uneven but once the film settles down in Nassau Thunderball plays as classic 1960’s Bond. It’s got the locations, the girls, some gambling, some gadgets, a great villain and the super cool 007 at the center of it all. I love when Bond is vulnerable and not bullet proof and he actually gets shot and needs to limp his way through a massive street parade in a scene that ups the stakes and really gets the ball rolling. The action builds from this point bringing the audience on a climb up similar to what Young did in his previous Bond film, From Russia With Love. Young also once again uses little moments and details to add to the over all emotion. There is genuine tension when Largo captures Domino, there is beauty and foreboding in the shot of a dozen parachutes descending on the clear Caribbean water, and the underwater battle is simply breathtaking to watch. The film just keeps unspooling faster and faster until the final battle takes place on Largo’s boat as it skims across the ocean. The crazy hand to hand combat is shot and edited in a “jerky cam/ jump cut” style that would become a staple 30 years later. Here it’s fresh and exciting, allowing the audience to feel the force with which everyone is getting tossed around the bridge while the boat careens out of control on the open water. By the time Bond is pulled into the air, a truly rock star exit, I was literally on the edge of my couch. Thunderball doesn’t have as many memorable “Bond” moments as Goldfinger, and it stumbles out of the gate, but out of the four flicks so far, I think it maybe, along with From Russia With Love, my favorite Bond film yet.

Martini ratings: