You Only Live Twice
19. Capsule in space
After the opening gun-barrel, the iris expands into outer-space. I can imagine the impact this might have had in 1967 with space rockets capturing the public imagination. Speaking of capturing rockets, that is exactly the plot here. A rocket splits open and literally swallows another rocket. This happens twice in the film. And these scenes are made all the more brilliant by John Barry’s amazingly atmospheric space march music.
20. Little Nellie
Q and his team put in a brief performance to build a gyrocopter called Little Nellie, complete with a formidable arsenal of weaponry to keep away “unwanted advances”. When Bond is surveying some island volcanoes, this is exactly what happens. Despite being significantly smaller and considerably out-numbered, she dispatches a number of other enemy helicopters with relative ease. Wing commander Ken Wallis built and flew the Gyrocopter in the film. The scene proved difficult to film and brilliant aerial film-cameraman John Jordan sadly lost his foot in a rotor-blade accident during the filming of it. However he would return to provide some of the amazing alpine shots for the next for the adventure two years later.
21. Volcano lair
There is no question in my mind. This is simply the coolest villains lair ever! It was originally intended to be a Japanese castle, but when they couldn’t find a suitable location – they opted for Plan B: a hollowed out volcano lair. The lair cost the same amount as it did to make Dr No ($1million) and it was built on the backlot at Pinewood. At the time it was the most expensive set ever built and it is without a doubt Ken Adam’s crowning moment, it’s bug-nuts crazy. It is surreal, cool and massive. In the photo above that’s a real helicopter flying in through the crater top, the rocket could simulate a take off and the monorail actually worked. Every time this lair is seen on film, this film glistens. Perhaps my favourite moment is when the villainous Helga Brandt slips down the bridge into the piranha pool for failing to kill Bond. It even comes with a Piranha pool for dispatching unwanted visitors! For a mere $1million, I want one!
22. Blofeld’s Reveal
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair mention You Only Live Twice without saying this is the one where Blofeld’s face is revealed for the very first time. When it is, it is in the form of Donald Pleasance with a nasty facial scar (which I kind wish they kept this with all films). This look has lost its initial shock factor thanks to the certain character in the Austin Powers franchise. But it is still a great moment. Blofeld was played by different actors from here on, partly because Pleasance was not seen as a physical match for Bond. Interestingly whilst Blofeld is usually considered bald, he get’s a full head of hair when played by Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever. Charles Gray also plays Bond’s contact’s – Mr Henderson – in this installment.
Other great scenes:
Bond getting killed and later resurrected, Mr Henderson, taking a Japanese bath, “Mr Osata believes in a healthy chest”, “Just a drop in the ocean”, Kobe docks (in particular the wonderful aerial shot of Bond fighting across the roof-tops), the dripping poison scene (actually not sure why this isn’t in my top 100), Bond’s wedding to a girl “with a face like a pig” and of course that wonderful lair assault with the Ninjas at the end.
Not so great:
Bond turning Japanese. More implausible than a hidden volcano lair and a rocket ship which gobbles up other rockets. Honestly!
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
23. This never happened to the other fella
After what I feel is one of the best gun-barrels in the series (yeah, I’m that geeky), M is talking to Q about tracking 007’s whereabouts. It turns out that Bond is in Portugal and about to witness (via his telescopic gun lens) the lovely Diana Rigg (Countess Tracy di Vicenzo) commit suicide. He saves her from drowning in the sea, but is promptly set upon by two thugs. Even if his acting isn’t, Lazenby’s physical prowess is on display here. When Tracy seizes the moment to escape, Bond is left clutching her shoes and pretty much breaks the fourth wall by announcing “This never happened to the other fella”. Cue brilliant title sequence with “time motif” by Maurice Binder and the brilliant instrumental title track by John Barry.
24. Piz Gloria
There is just something about the villainous lairs in the latter half of the 60’s. Where as the volcano lair designed to be was out of sight, Piz Gloria is designed to be inaccessible. Perched on top of the alps, it can only be accessed via cable-car, helicopter or if you are brave by rock-climbing (although this might not end well for you if you try). It is a place of supreme beauty (helped once again by some majestic scoring by John Barry) and a genuine location (which was still being built during the film’s production). Interesting during exactly the same year there was another inaccessible real life location committed to celluloid: the Burg Hohenwerfen castle used to equally brilliant effect in Where eagles dare. Must visit both when scouting for my next villainous lair!
25. Slight Stiffness
Whilst masquerading as the seemingly asexual Sir Hilary Bray in a kilt to infiltrate Blofeld’s lair, Bond gets a rather cheeky invite by Ruby whilst they are having dinner. Ruby writes her room number (8) unseen by the others and under the table on the side of Bond’s thigh using her lipstick. Bond looks slightly uncomfortable when Frauline Bunt enquires “Is anything the matter Sir Hilary?”. Ever one to rise to a quip, Bond replies “Just a slight stiffness coming on”.
26. Ski Chase
Once Bond is rustled by Blofeld, the action never lets up. This leads to several spectacular ski-chases usually accompanied by the moog-pounding main-title theme. My personal favourite is the first ski-chase when Bond escapes from Piz Gloria at night, whilst only having one ski. It is brilliantly closed with a brutal fight where Bond silences an opponent using his ski, before he throwing him over the side of a seemingly never-ending precipice. Breathtaking! It would be unfair not to mention the second ski-chase which has two classic moments also. The first being a pursuer who accidently falls into a snow making machine before turning the snow red – “he had lots of guts!”. The second being the avalanche scene described (thankfully incorrectly) by Blofeld as “a grave deep enough to prevent even 007 from walking”.
27. He’s branched off
At the end of the movie there is a spectacular raid on Piz Gloria by Bond and Draco’s men to rescue Tracy. When Blofeld and Bond finally go head to head it leads to a spectacular Bobsleigh sequence. Blofeld has obviously lost his facial scar but gained missing ear-lobes instead and he’s in the more physical intimidating form of Kojak. Aside from the odd bit of dodgy back-project, this is breath-taking stuff. Guns, grenades, fights and ultimately a (rather random) St Bernard dog. In the fight, Blofeld gets his head lodged in a tree at high-speed. “He’s branched off” notes Bond. Blofeld is left dangling with a broken neck, Bond crashes shortly afterwards and he is greeted by a slightly random St Bernard dog. The dog plays, Bond in clearly in a less playful mood: “Nevermind that, go and get the brandy”.
28. Mr and Mrs Bond
In the biggest shock in the entire series, James Bond gets married at the end of the film to Tracy. It’s a lovely scene, made more memorable by the reactions/lines of some of the series regulars such as Q and MoneyPenny. Sadly, it is just not meant to be. As Bond stops off to give his new bride flowers, Blofeld and Irma Bunt drive by firing a machine gun. “It’s Blofeld” says James leaping into action, unaware that his beautiful new bride has been killed. It’s completely devastating stuff, and to be fair for all the criticisms Lazenby might get as an actor – he pulls this scene off beautifully. Bond chances of ever-loving again are crushed in this very scene (well until Casino Royale where they get re-crushed). The film ends on the eerie shot of the bullet hole in the windscreen which killed Tracy. Each time I watch the film, I keep thinking “they’ve almost made it – come on, come on – please have a happy ending”. I doubt we will ever see such a bleak ending in a Bond film again. Rumour has it Imra Blunt still hasn’t been apprehended (it was her who actually pulled the trigger and killed Mrs Bond). Sadly actress Ilse Steppat who played her died shortly after the film’s release.
Other great scenes:
Gate-crasher, Bond meets Draco, We have all the time in the world (montage), Bond resigns/reminisces at items in his desk-draw (with some great musical references), Gumbold’s safe, Bond’s seduction using the same line, “Fancy meeting you here Frauline”, Bond is shown to his new quarters after being capture and escapes, a fight in a bell shop (inspired), Tracy “saving” Bond + subsequent car chase, the barn scene (“will you marry me?”), Bond remembers Tracy being dragged off whilst looking through M’s window.
Not so great:
Well, the big question is why didn’t Blofeld recognise Bond after their encounter together in You Only Live Twice? They were thinking of using a plastic surgery sub-plot to explain the change in Bond actor to explain things (which sort of resurfaces in the next adventure). The real reason was that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was originally supposed to be the film which followed Thunderball.
Part 4 coming soon: Diamonds are forever, Live and let die and The man with the golden gun.
Images (C) 1967/1969 Danjaq/EON.