YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
Tagline: Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond
Pizza: Pizza Hut
Preshow Entertainment: THE BRASS ARE COMIN' (1970)
PROBABLY BECAUSE IT WAS MADE BEFORE
SEAN CONNERY BECAME "THE DUMB BASTARD"
"The Dumb Bastard," you wonder? Before I kill you, permit me to explain, Mr. Bond. From the RMC write-up of METEOR:
Before I yap about the movie, let me tell you about a fictional scenario I've had swimming in my head for around 15 years now. I'm sitting at a conference table with Sean Connery and a bunch of studio suits. I'm in the middle of pitching a movie when Connery chimes in - "Wouldn't it be better if they took a taxi instead of the bus?" I wait a beat, slowly put my pen down in disgust, then turn my head towards him and say, "Shut up you dumb bastard. You made METEOR for chrissakes, you don't get to tell me what happens in my movie." So now, every single time someone mentions Sean Connery, all I can think of is this "dumb bastard" mind-play of mine. Hey, now that it's in writing, perhaps you too will start thinking "dumb bastard" whenever Sean Connery is mentioned.
I was cool. Therefore, using the reflexive property (sort of) - I was a spy. But I really was a spy! That's what we Wonder Years kids played after school - spy. We didn't care about the hot girls in the movies or if someone was Russian or German or Japanese, we were simply spies. And James Bond, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and OUR MAN FLINT (we had FLINT code cards, giveaways from the movie theater, yet zero hits on Google...man, I wish I had those cards today), well, they were all spies like us. I even had a looseleaf notebook with a spy shooting a laser gun with five barrels shooting five beams! A friend, either Andrew or Barry (foggy memory, sorry) had the 007 Attache Case, and don't for a second think I've gotten over that bucketful of jealousy (not so foggy memory). That's right, me and my friends were the original spy kids. Yeah, I know there were many besides us, but let me have this one, okay? But even if I didn't have this romantic past with it, I'd still rank YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE as one of the best Bond films.
For the fifth time in four years (May '63 - June '67), Sean Connery wore the tuxedo of James Bond, and if you looked in his pockets you'd find that he had licenses to both kill and hump beautiful women. Despite this, Connery was done with (read: sick of) Bond, so they released him from his contract after TWICE. George Lazenby was the next Bond, playing him for only one movie (he only lived once), ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, before Connery would come back one last time for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, which is probably what they paid him in. The Dumb Bastard would show up again as Bond in 1983's unsanctioned and awful mess NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, a remake of THUNDERBALL, though I'm not sure he showed up for work (it sure looked like a lot of stuntmen to me).
THEATER LIGHTS DOWN FULL. A spy with a gun, seen through a moving aperture peephole with our POV, turns and fires at us while Monty Norman's genius surf guitar-cum-spy riff plays. This is a Bond thrill that always led to a bigger thrill - the movie's cold open - in this case an American space capsule being eaten by a bigger spaceship of unknown origin. Then, a quick scene of America accusing Russia of being behind this dastardly event, followed by the opening credits. This installment's title song by John Barry (lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) is performed by Nancy Sinatra (who was scared shit when recording it) and features lush, sweeping strings, perhaps one of the best Bond theme musical moments ever. And as the title reveals, Bond is killed. Well, not really, you dope, it's just so he can investigate this spacejacking more freely, a terribly flimsy reason for such a great opening, but because this is Bond, he gets a pass (this won't be the only pass).
So eleven years before the Bad News Bears, Bond goes to Japan. Why? Because that's who MI6 thinks is behind this, though there is a lot of finger pointing to others. Because the US of A is launching another spaceship in three weeks, and the USS of R launching one even earlier, Bond gets his Anglo ass to Japan. In fact, except for the parts filmed in England's Pinewood studios, TWICE was shot almost entirely in Japan...odd, considering the franchise's penchant for globetrotting. Because of this, the filmmakers had to acquaint Americans with Japanese ways largely unseen on these shores at that time, like martial arts, Japanese weddings and sumo wrestling. Why else, when trying to keep a low profile, would Bond meet a contact at a sold out sumo arena? That was for our benefit. Oh, and there's ninjas, too!
While in Japan, Bond meets his contact, witnesses his murder, kills a couple of bad guys, and conspires with Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service.
It all comes to a head in Blofeld's lair. The production team (producer Cubby Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert, Production Designer Ken Adam), still without a script, couldn't find what Fleming wrote in his novel - a castle on the water. There weren't any in Japan. So they flew over Japan for weeks until they spotted volcanoes that made the terrain look like a moonscape. Skippy, I mean Cubby, turned to Ken Adam (seen in photo below) in the helicopter: "Can you do it?" And by "it" he meant build one of the, if not the most expensive set ever built in England at the time, the best villain's lair ever - a hollowed out volcano. The set included a helicopter landing pad and a working monorail. In the exciting "storm the castle" scene there were over 100 stuntmen. I'm not sure there'll ever be another Bond film with a cooler villain's lair. I'm still waiting.
I just love how low-tech some things were as compared to today. Bond's superior hands him a piece of paper with a name on it, which Bond memorizes and then burns as they talk. Then there's that scene I mentioned earlier, where they fight using the room's furniture. And the switches on a panel in Little Nellie sure look like they're labeled with a Dymo labelmaker. Also here, but not yet prevalent, are the corny Bond mots which saturated the films once Roger Moore stepped in. Quips and innuendos that weren't yet tired, like "Mr. Osato believes in a healthy chest" and "It would be a pleasure to serve under you."
Here's two interesting tidbits; Though the book YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was written by Bond creator Ian Fleming, it was his friend Roald Dahl, author of such books as CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, and THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX who wrote the script. Also, this is the only movie where Bond drinks his martini stirred, not shaken. And the only one where he doesn't drive a car.
TWICE's cast included lots of Japanese actors, some of whom couldn't speak English (the two female leads swapped roles because of this). Also on board, Charles Gray as Henderson, Bond's contact in Japan. Gray himself would take the part of Blofeld in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER three years later.
The commentary on the DVD is wonderful. How many times can you say that about commentaries, zero? It features about 20 people who worked on TWICE, which makes me say "Wow!" There's some great stories told, like when Blofeld's cat got spooked by the gunshot and sprang away. It's said that that darn cat never went on a set again. They couldn't get him to. Actors! Anyway, along with non-feline cast members like Desmond Llewelyn who played "Q", you'll hear from casting agents, special effects supervisor John Stears, matte artist Cliff Culley, sound effects editor Norman Wanstall, Publicist Charles Gureau, assistant director William Cartlidge, title song singer Nancy Sinatra (no relation to Frank...wait, maybe I'm wrong about that), composer John Barry, production designer Ken Adam, director Lewis Gilbert, and even Ron Quelch, who was the production buyer. Lots of reminiscing, all in those proper English accents. Lots of key players from in front and behind the camera. But no Dumb Bastard. There's also a 30 minute "Making Of" featurette and a 23 minute doc on Maurice Binder and his iconic gun barrel/blood drip sequence that opens Bond films till this day, in one incarnation or another. I'm guessing Bond's 23rd film, SKYFALL, which has not yet been released, will follow suit.
In the neighborhood I grew up in there was (and still is) a water tower. Every time I'd pass it, I'd imagine there was a secret government headquarters inside with an elevator going up the middle. I've watched that thought come to fruition, sort of, when I put it in a script, except it was the villain's lair. It was undoubtedly influenced by TWICE, the same way TWICE influenced THE INCREDIBLES, who also used a volcano as the villain's lair. Wait, did I say "influenced?" Also, AUSTIN POWERS borrows (and steals) more from TWICE than any other movie (it also steals from IN LIKE FLINT and OUR MAN FLINT, which were already parodies of Bond, but done back in Bond's heyday). And even though I'm a lot older now, I still believe something is going on in that water tower. But I'm not a spy kid anymore just like the Morton Village theater in Plainview, N.Y., where I saw YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE with my brother, is no longer a theater. It's now an office building. Life goes on. Gadgets get gadgetier, and Bond gets sillier, and then cooler. But YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE gives me an ability that even James Bond never had. To travel back in time.
OTTO PREMINGER'S SKIDOO
A few weeks before TWICE was released, a Bond spoof hit the theaters - CASINO ROYALE (don't confuse it with the 2008 Daniel Craig reboot). And who did the theme song? It was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, which, by total coincidence, was the subject of our Preshow Entertainment.
Alpert was the "A" from A & M Records. Alpert was huge back in the '60s and early '70s. His instrumental albums with their sometimes provocative (and subsequently parodied) cover art appealed to both kids and parents. It was a win-win, though it seems to defy logic in this day and age that a trumpet player would be that big, especially during the British Invasion. But he, and his band The Tijuana Brass, were knocking out hit after hit like CASINO ROYALE, SPANISH FLEA (THE DATING GAME song), A TASTE OF HONEY, TIJUANA TAXI (my favorite) and THIS GUY'S IN LOVE WITH YOU with Alpert on vocals. Before the Brass, Alpert wrote songs like WONDERFUL WORLD (co-written by Rocky Horror producer/Dunhill Records owner Lou Adler), made famous by Sam Cooke. As a matter of fact, when I was in New York City recently, Herb was playing there.
We watched one of his specials called THE BRASS ARE COMIN' (1970), which opened with a really long skit of the band walking up the beach with their instruments, then playing in a fake western town while everyone in the saloon beats the shit out of each other. The show also featured cameos, well, more like "don't blinks", by Gene Kelly, Johnny Carson, Lorne Greene, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. Petula Clark was the guest doing a song by herself, then some schtick with Herb about different filmmakers putting them in a movie (Hitchcock, Fellini and even Andy Warhol). There was a sketch about how the TJB got together, showing them stealing instruments from a store and playing them, making the cops dance. Corny and cute stuff that they couldn't get away with ten years later, let alone today. Comedian Jack Burns (sans partner Schrieber) did a bit as a pest following Herb on the beach (they must have rented that beach out). Also, we watched the original commercials like BankAmericard, which became Visa in 1975, (though B of A reinstated BankAmericard in 2007). All cool stuff. What a great night.