Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)

After a gap of four years the 23rd James Bond film ‘Sky Fall‘ is nearly here, 50 years since the release of ‘Dr No‘ starring Sean Connery. The Scot went on to make six official 007 films (plus non-Eon Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again‘) with my favourite being ‘You Only Live Twice‘ in 1967 which is partly responsible for my filming locations fascination and the inspiration for me going on to watch many more international films set in Japan thereby leading to this series of reviews on the subject.

This was the first film I remember watching which offered an insight into the country that has been my home for many years now. From the haunting but beautiful sweeping sounds of Nancy Sinatra’s soundtrack to the exotic oriental locations this film really does develop a flavour for Japan with its beautiful women, emerging technology and ancient customs.

 

The stakes are high in this film with the threat of World War III. The catalyst for this threat comes after a spacecraft is hijacked which sees both America and Russia blame each other. British Intelligence discover that an Unidentified Flying Object went down into the seas of Japan and so agent 007 is despatched to the Far East. Not wanting him to be distracted by old enemies under such pressure and time constraints Bond’s death is faked.

Bond forms an alliance with Tiger Tanaka, the Head of the Japanese Secret Service who many years later would reappear in the 007 novel ‘The Man With The Red Tattoo‘ which I finally read last year. Naturally, Tiger’s competent agent is a female called Aki who Bond gets together with before she goes the way of so many other Bond girls. But thats ok as she is easily replaced a short time later with another girl….or two!

As ever with Bond films I really don’t think the storyline is of paramount importance as the reason fans watch these films is to see the action scenes, the Bond girls, the lines, the villains and Bond’s charm and seduction when in the face of adversity as he often is.

This 007 film in particular played a huge part in giving Mike Myers his ideas for spoof agent Austin Powers such as the incredibly evil villain with his white cat who has a pedal that when pressed sees the floor taken from beneath his victim. There’s also the gigantic lair with guys in the background turning knobs to make it look like they’re doing something. The volcano base set is an elaborate one and the mysterious man stroking the cat is finally revealed to be Ernst Stravo Blofeld for a few brief scenes 100 minutes into the movie.

You Only Live Twice‘ may tire a bit in the second half but overall its a fun movie and on top of some nostalgic Japanese scenery it also features the “Little Nellie” helicopter which is one of the most beloved Q gadgets (used by Bond to explore the volcano area). As well as Blofeld finally being unveiled we also see the absurd plot whereby Bond is transformed into a Japanese man to maintain cover on his secret mission which can probably be attributed to (or blamed for) the many documentaries we’ve seen over the years with celebrity presenters throwing themselves into Japanese culture.

 

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

You can see my ‘You Only Live Twice‘ Japan filming locations here and here.

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