You Only Live Twice is a pretty good Bond film. It’s even sillier than Goldfinger, but in the best possible of ways. With a script written by Roald Dahl, it’s more engaging than Thunderball, although it does drag something awful at times.
Most of the film’s problems exist in the second act, when the film stops dead to focus on Bond being trained as a ninja (seriously), which comes into play never. Worse than that however, is when Bond undergoes a procedure to make himself look Japanese, and it’s as offensive as it is stupid. Yellowface is bad enough, but it isn’t even convincing yellowface. It completely pointless to boot. Bond’s enemies still find him despite the disguise and attempt to assassinate him, so what was purpose of that plot point? There is also a scent in which a man tells Bond that in Japan men come first, and women come second, much to the amusement of Bond. I see we’ve doubled down on the racism as well as the sexism.
However, this film more than makes up for its shortcomings and somewhat questionable content with its fair share of iconic additions to the series. Donald Pleasence is here as the first full appearance of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and fans will of Austin Powers will recognize this Blofeld as the visual inspiration for Dr. Evil. As a huge Godzilla fan, I immediately recognized Akiko Wakabayashi as Princesses Selina from Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster and Mie Hama as Fumiko Sakurai from King Kong VS. Godzilla.
I also took notice of the score, which in my opinion is John Barry’s best work in the series. Michael Giacchino had to have been inspired by Barry’s work, this film especially, for Giacchino’s own score for the Incredibles. In fact the filmmakers behind the Incredibles must have been inspired by this film in general, particularly with the set design. Blofeld’s volcanic lair looks very similar to Syndrome’s volcanic lair.
Despite some issues I have with this movie, it’s definitely one of my favorites. Check this one out for sure. Just be prepared for the usual casual racism and misogyny.