Bond 50: Part III – You Only Live Twice (1967) & On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Part3

Here’s Part three of my 12-part series on the Bond franchise and Blu-Ray collection. This was the first time in the set that the Bond actor switched. It was interesting to see someone other than Connery take the role. Read my thoughts on the two Bond movies and actors below…

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You Only Live Twice (1967)

Release Date: June 13th, 1967 

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writers: Roald Dahl

Stars: Sean ConneryMie Hama & Donald Pleasence

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Movie

Plot:

Someone is abducting astronauts from low-Earth orbit. As tensions mount between the US and Russia, James Bond travels to Japan to uncover who is behind it and put a stop to it before the start of World War Three!

Thoughts:

I went into You Only Live Twice expecting to hate it. I’m not exactly sure why that is. I honestly didn’t know much about it going in. I think that knowing it was Sean Connery’s first “last Bond movie” I expected it to be somehow sloppy or uninteresting. But a movie that includes kidnapped astronauts, a helicopter battle, ninjas and Donald Pleasance as a cartoonish Blofeld is a movie that’s out to win my heart.

The movie opens with a pre-credit sequence that puts an emphasis on exposition rather than being a mostly standalone action sequence like past movies. Bond isn’t featured that prominently in it, either. It just introduces the plot and then gives a quick Bond moment to set up the plot. It does feature an astronaut floating freely in space, which is a deep seeded fear of mine.

The main locale in You Only Live Twice is Japan. It’s a nice change of pace from the tropical settings of Dr. No and Thunderball but it’s not as good as Istanbul from From Russia With Love.

There’s a very memorable car chase in the film. The conclusion involves a helicopter picking the car pursuing Bond with a giant magnet. It was the idea of the producer’s wife to include it and it’s nothing short of genius! I was laughing and applauding it.

Q Branch outfits Bond with a small helicopter that leads to a very memorable and thrilling aerial battle. Speaking of Q, seeing Desmond Llewelyn on screen puts a smile on my face. Q and Bond’s interactions are quickly becoming my favorite part of the franchise.

One thing that struck me about You Only Live Twice deals with the Japanese setting. There’s a scene where Bond is talking shop with a Japanese intelligence ally while beautiful Japanese women are bathing the two. It was a little bizarre. Later in the movie the Japanese ally tells Bond he must “become a Japanese.” What follows is Bond getting his chased shaved, eyes adjusted and hair wigged. The 1960s were such a different time.

You Only Live Twice includes an extravagant “evil lair” set in the crater of a volcano. It makes a great setting for the finale of the movie that includes masses of ninjas repelling into the crater. It was a great ending to a surprisingly fun Bond movie.

My parting thought on You Only Live Twice involves the filmmaking. Through the four previous Bond movies I didn’t comment on the 60s style of awkward green screen work. It didn’t bother me but there’s one example in You Only Live Twice where it’s cringe worthy in its awkwardness.

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Blu-Ray Features

 

*Strangely there’s no “Mission Control” feature on this disc. It’s a shame.*

MI6 CommentaryFeature commentary with director Lewis Gilbert and members of the cast and crew. 

Declassified: MI6 Vault

Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond (52mins, 23secs) – This is a weird franchise retrospective. It features Moneypenny and Q as Moneypenny tries to uncover the identity of Bond’s wife. Between scenes there are clips from all the Bond films. There’s also a subplot of a disgruntled actress upset she wasn’t cast as Bond’s wife. Like I said, this is kind of a weird feature. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the “Child’s Guide to Blowing up a Motor Car” feature from the Thunderball disc only not as cute.

Whicker’s World – Highlights from 1967 BBC Documentary (5mins, 22secs) – Behind the scenes footage of the making of the movie featuring some footage of Cubby Broccoli speaking about the prospect of a new actor for Bond.

On Location with Ken Adam (13mins, 59secs) – I’m enjoying production designer Ken Adam’s commentary on the locations of the Bond movies. Here he infuses a bit of humor into it.

Mission Dossier

Inside You Only Live Twice (30mins, 24secs) – A look at the adaptation of the book to the screen with a lot of behind the scenes anecdotes.

Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles (23mins, 24secs) – An interesting documentary on the making of the iconic James Bond title sequences.

Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence (1min, 38secs) – Storyboards for the plane crash sequence, includes alternate versions.

Exotic Locations (4mins, 8secs) – A look at the filming locations in Japan. Narrated by Maude Adams.

Ministry of PropagandaTheatrical Archive, TV Broadcasts & Radio CommunicationA thorough collection of all the promotional material.

Image DatabaseA sizable gallery of pictures from the making of the movie.

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Buy the individual “You Only Live Twice” blu-ray here.

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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Release Date: December 18th, 1969

Director: Peter R. Hunt 

Writers: Richard Maibaum

Stars: George LazenbyDiana RiggTelly Savalas

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Movie

Plot: 

James Bond takes a leave of absence to hunt the elusive Blofeld in the Swiss Alps while falling for a mob boss’s daughter.

Thoughts:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the Bond movies I was most looking forward to watching when I bought the set. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers working today and knowing he used OHMSS as the basis for the snow fortress sequences in Inception had me very eager to watch this movie.

I had two thoughts when I started the movie. First, this is the best looking blu-ray in the set so far. The amount of care that went into the restoration of earlier movies like Dr. No and Goldfinger is evident here as well. Being the sixth entry in an exponentially bigger and more expensive franchise just solidifies the gorgeous blu-ray copy.

My second thought was that Bond regenerated! I knew this was Lazenby’s movie, I just couldn’t resist a Doctor Who reference. I was skeptical of letting go of Connery’s Bond and letting someone else attempt the role. Despite having seen all of Daniel Craig’s movies, I grew kind of attached to Connery.

OHMSS is Lazenby’s only Bond movie. I think knowing that he is the William Henry Harrison of the franchise made me go in expecting a subpar performance. That’s surprisingly not the case at all. After the pre-credit fight sequence on the beach, Lazenby stops and says to the camera, “This never happened to the other fella.” From there, I was totally on board with Lazenby as Bond. By the end of the movie, I was disappointed this was his only one.

As for the middle sections of the movie, I was torn. Bond makes an arrangement to get Blofeld’s location. In exchange, he has to marry a mob boss’s daughter. From there, he resigns from her Majesty’s secret service in a nice scene where he looks through old gadgets from past movies. Then he goes after Blofeld.

But an hour into the movie I was having a surprisingly hard time following the plot. I was disappointed in the movie and myself. There’s a lot of exposition-heavy dialogue that’s simply lacking something in the movie. It wasn’t a fault of Lazenby, it was just a script that was failing to hold my attention.

It wasn’t until Bond got to the Swiss Alps (the most stunning location in the franchise yet) and began uncovering Blofeld’s plot that I finally got into OHMSS. After he meets the beautiful women Blofeld is conducting allergy research on, the movie gets on track and doesn’t stop.

Telly Savalas is a much less cartoonish and more diabolical Blofeld than Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice. It fits the tone of the movie, being it’s the only Bond movie thus far with a more personal plot for Bond. Savalas is still slightly strange, though. The way he holds his cigarette in certain scenes is bizarre. It gives his Blofeld a unique spin.

OHMSS wouldn’t be a Bond movie without being replete with action sequences. It’s a very thrilling movie with many memorable action sequences. The stand out sequence is a scene in which countless henchmen chase Bond on skis down the mountain. At one point Bond sis with one leg because, well, he’s James Bond. It was the highlight of the movie for me. There’s also a car chase through a stock car race that I enjoyed immensely.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the most personal Bond movie yet. Even though it took a while for me to get into, it’s one of the best out of the ones I’ve seen. It makes me wish George Lazenby had done more Bond movies. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly acceptable single entry for an actor to have in the franchise.

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Blu-Ray Features

*Strangely there’s no “Mission Control” feature on this disc either. It’s a shame.*

MI6 CommentaryCommentary featuring Director Peter Hunt and members of the cast and crew.

Declassified: MI6 Vault

Casting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1min, 35secs) – Quick look at some behind the scenes footage with some information on the casting of George Lazenby and Diane Rigg.

Press Day in Portugal (1min, 32secs) – Some behind the scenes footage of the “press day” event that took place in Portugal during an elaborate rehearsal for the benefit of the press.

George Lazenby: In His Own Words (9mins, 27secs) – A collection of interviews with George Lazenby over the years from the time of the film’s release to the early 2000s. He speaks candidly about his experience on the movie and the aftermath of taking up one of film’s most iconic roles.

Shot on Ice – Original 1969 Ford Promo Film (9mins, 45secs) – Behind the scenes look at the filming of the movie, particularly the stock car race/chase sequence. I’m glad this is a straight up featurette and not like the Child’s Guide to Blowing up a Motor Car promo film from Thunderball.

Swiss Movement – Original 1969 Featurette (7mins, 29secs) – A behind the scenes featurette on filming in the Swiss Alps. 

Mission Dossier

Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (41mins, 41secs) – Overview of the production of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There are a lot of interesting facts behind the making of the movie. It’s a very engaging documentary.

Inside Q’s Lab (10mins, 26secs) – A really good look at Desmond Llewelyn’s portrayal of Q through the movies. There are funny anecdotes about Roger Moore playing practical jokes on Llewelyn during filming.

Above It All – Original 1969 Featurette (5mins, 41secs) – Featurette on the filming of the movie in the Swiss Alps, particularly about cameraman Johnny Jordan’s work filming while suspended from a helicopter by a parachute.

Exotic Locations (4mins, 24secs) – Maude Adams guides us through an overview of the film’s locations with some anecdotes along the way.

Ministry of PropagandaTheatrical Archive, TV Broadcasts & Radio CommunicationA thorough collection of all the promotional material.

Image DatabaseA sizable gallery of pictures from the making of the movie.

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Buy the individual “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” blu-ray here.

Verdict

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This is kind of a tough call for me, surprisingly enough. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed You Only Live Twice. So much so that it almost has an edge over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service solely because OHMSS was a little hard for me to get into.

But I can’t deny that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the stronger movie across the board. It being Lazenby’s only entry and being the only one with a personal storyline makes it something special.

You can buy the Bond 50th Anniversary blu-ray collection here.

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The Obsessive Viewer will return in…

Bond 50: Part IV – Diamonds Are Forever (1971) & Live and Let Die (1973)

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4 responses to “Bond 50: Part III – You Only Live Twice (1967) & On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

  1. Definitely buying OHMSS on blu ray now. Thanks! After you’re done you should rank all of the Bond movies. Im planning on doing that. All the talk for Bond 24 has me excited.

    Like

    • Nice. I’m excited to watch OHMSS again sometime. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

      And I’m planning some pretty cool things for when I’m done with the set. I need to buckle down and get through the rest.

      Like

  2. Pingback: The Month in Movies: May 2013 | The Obsessive Viewer

  3. Pingback: Bond 50: Part IV – Diamonds Are Forever (1971) & Live and Let Die (1973) | The Obsessive Viewer

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