It’s a true fact that nothing lasts forever and that sooner or later Sean Connery’s reign as cinema’s premiere super spy would have to come to an end. Of course, hindsight and history tells us that he returned twice to the role after his much ballyhooed final bolstering of his Walther PPK, but as far as the audiences of 1967 knew, this was it.
Soon after a rousing and brazen space-jacking of an American rocket in the earth’s atmosphere (set to the most John Barry piece of music John Barry ever wrote), MI6 agent James Bond 007 is seemingly shot and killed while canoodling on a mission in China. Neatly avoiding having to roll the end credits 10 minutes into the feature, it’s revealed that Bond’s death has actually been faked in order for him to move more freely about the globe (however, it must be said, if so many people know who you are that you have to fake your own death, you’ve somewhat failed at the basics of spy mastery) and he’s sent to Japan to investigate the vanishing space capsule.
While in Japan Bond has to adapt to the culture and forms a bromance with Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese secret service. After alarmingly bonding over getting publicly bathed by multiple, young, giggling women who are fascinated by his bird’s nest of chest hair, James follows a lead which takes him to Osato Chemicals, which he finds are in bed with notorious terrorist organisation SPECTRE. Their plan this time is to convince the super powers of America and Soviet Russia that it’s each other who are abducting their various space capsules in order to claim the mastery of space itself for military purposes and Bond has a mere two weeks to sort the whole mess out before war is declared. Narrowing his search to one of the volcanic islands in the South China Sea, Bond is smuggled in disguised as an Asian fisherman (don’t ask), infiltrates a hollowed out volcano base and eventually, and finally, gets face to face with the Number. 1 of SPECTRE – the scar-faced, pussy stroking slaphead known as Ernst Stavero Blofeld. Can Bond defeat his nemesis yet again before the trigger happy superpowers shift their pissing contest to something more nuclear?
There’s a real sense of franchise producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli (LOVE that name) Harry Saltzman and are pulling out the stops to try to create an action extravaganza that’s second to none and it’s certainly the best Connery Bond in the wake of Goldfinger. Everything is huge. The plot, the characters, the sets (the interior of the volcano base is legitimately stunning without a digital set extension or matte painting in sight), everything. Even the concepts are massive and as a small child I remember watching, wide-eyed, as SPECTRE’s rocket-swallowing spacecraft glide, Jaws-like, toward the camera which made the terrifying cruelness of space all too real years before I settled down to watch Alien or Event Horizon.
The movie also marks the beginning of the plot (penned by famous author Roald Dahl – although there’s sadly not a BFG in sight) being intrinsic to to where in the world where 007 happens to be at the time. Other Bond movies had obviously traversed the globe before, enthusiastically gobbling up frequent flyers mileage like a traveller possessed, but YOLT is this first of the series to actually act like a travelogue of a foreign country, taking in it’s cultures and it’s sights in an often clumsy (Sumo! Ninjas! Fishing!) but generally well meaning sort of way, although having a scene where Bond is “turned” Japanese with a shiny black wig and prosthetic eyelids is as racially tone deaf as it is fucking stupid.
Connery still brings the goods (along with some astounding come on lines to various women), although he’s visibly starting to look a little long in the tooth and the rest of the cast manage to project charisma and chemistry through their obvious dubbing. However it’s diminutive, intensity-cauldron Donald Pleasance who, despite a limited role, brings the evil nicely while he feeds employees to voracious piranha like a man blissfully unaware of such things as human resources in the work place.
It’s a good thing too as the other villains assembled here are less interesting carbon copies of characters from previous films. Blonde mountainous henchman Hans is merely Grant from From Russia With Love with a complete personality bypass and vivacious redhead Helga Brandt isn’t a million miles away from vivacious redhead Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. However, copying the concept of a huge final battle from Thunderball while exchanging the ocean for the volcano launch pad and frogmen for screaming ninjas (the modern versions disapointingly sport the boring grey tracksuits of a 1980’s gym teacher) is a thrilling choice as the pyro team enthusiastically detonate huge sections of the gorgeous set.
As a purely explosive extravaganza, You Only Love Twice is up there with Bond’s better efforts – even if some of the less progressive views on sex and race causes a wobble or two – and would have proved to have been a fitting exit for Connery if things had gone to plan. As it is, it’s still a classic ride and a fun temporary pause for the actor as a search for a new Bond transpired behind the scenes.
I guess Connery’s Bond really DOES live twice…