James Bond
You Only Live Twice

Starring: Sean Connery
16238DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

When American and Russian spacecraft are hijacked from Earth orbit, the threat of war looms between the superpowers. James Bond must travel to Japan, where he confronts his old adversary, SPECTRE...

This was the first Bond movie to radically depart from the plot of the Ian Fleming novel on which it was based. Only the Japanese setting and certain character names, such as Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), "Tiger" Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba) and Henderson (Charles Gray) were retained from the Fleming original. Blofeld's "garden of death" is replaced by a more far-flung conception, befitting the 1960s' obsession with the US/USSR space race.

The film also has the distinction of featuring the first direct confrontation between Bond and the SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a villain whose face had remained hidden during the previous movies. Here Blofeld is played with inimitable menace by Donald Pleasence.

You Only Live Twice is also justly famous for Ken Adam's spectacular set design for SPECTRE's volcano headquarters. This, together with Pleasence's scarred and bald-headed version of Blofeld, provided Mike Myers with a great deal of source material for his Austin Powers movies!

Certain other elements let this film down upon repeat viewing, however. For instance, when Bond's love interest Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) is murdered, he recovers from his grief with alarming rapidity, and is ready to get it on with the next girl within a few short minutes of screen time! And how exactly does Bond's Japanese disguise fall by the wayside? When he sets sail with Kissy, he appears Oriental, but when he descends into the volcano, he has become a Caucasian once again. Oh well, I guess we shouldn't worry too much about the plot, but instead sit back and enjoy visual treats such as the aerial battle between SPECTRE helicopters and 007's autogyro Little Nellie - the storyboards for which are included among the DVD's special features.

These extras also provide, among other revelations, a glimpse of the man who almost played Blofeld before Pleasence took over the role at short notice.

The photo department have done it again, by the way. Another picture of Connery from Never Say Never Again appears within the "making of" booklet. Whoops! Still, I'm sure we can live it... twice.

Richard McGinlay