007 One by One: ‘You Only Live Twice’

Bullz-Eye is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film with look back at every Bond movie, 007 One by One, along with a series of features about the Bond franchise, all laid out in our James Bond Fan Hub.

As the worldwide spy craze peaks, the James Bond series settles in for the long, tongue-in-cheek haul with this often maligned but very enjoyable entry, introducing the world to both ninjas and the original Dr. Evil. It also might have been the final appearance of Sean Connery as 007, except that it wasn’t.

“You Only Live Twice” (1967)

The Plot

A United States space capsule is hijacked, killing one astronaut. Naturally, the Americans assume the Soviets are at fault and world war seems a real possibility. There’s only one thing for the level-headed English to do: Stage James Bond’s death and send him on an undercover mission to Japan to expose SPECTRE head Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s plot to dominate the world by partially destroying it.

The Backstory

With enormous success comes enormous pressures and change was very definitely in the air as “You Only Live Twice” began production. Now one of the world’s most bankable stars after the mega-success of “Thunderball,” Sean Connery was contractually on board for only one more film and starting to be seriously fed up with all the 007 insanity.

Behind the camera, original Bond director Terrence Young had had his fill and “Goldfinger” helmer Guy Hamilton was unavailable. Editor and second unit director Peter Hunt, who had been instrumental in the series’ creative success, badly wanted to helm the project, but producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman apparently weren’t ready for a first timer for Bond #5. Therefore, a new recruit was sought out to join the small fraternity of James Bond directors.

An old hand at period pieces and war films, Lewis Gilbert was hot off an Oscar nomination for a classic-to-be about a compulsive womanizer who could give Bond a run for his money. “Alfie” starred Connery’s good friend, fellow movie spy, and now award-winning box office rival, Michael Caine.

Lewis Gilbert also brought along one of the very few directors of photography who could have reasonably stepped into the very big shoes of series regular Ted Moore. Freddie Young had won the first of his four Oscars a couple of years prior for David Lean’s visually stunning 1963 70mm masterpiece, “Lawrence of Arabia.” For the sake of keeping things consistent, all the other key collaborators, were back on board in their regular roles, i.e., composer John Barry, credit designer Maurice Binder, and production designer Ken Adam. For once, they’d all have a nice budget to play with, too.

The script, however, was an issue. The novel “You Only Live Twice,” was the last Bond book published in Ian Fleming’s lifetime and the story was problematic for more than one reason. For starters, it was actually the third and final installment in what literary Bond fans call “the Blofeld Trilogy.” EON’s original intent had been to film the books in their original order. That way Blofeld, who had been teased as a character starting in “Dr. No,” would get his long-delayed onscreen introduction in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and finally suffer James Bond’s revenge in the follow-up, “You Only Live Twice.” Unfortunately, logistics made the ski chalet setting of “Majesty” impractical for the summer release EON and United Artists had their hearts set on.

The other problem was that the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel, which involved Blofeld setting up a lavish sanitarium for wealthy suicides, just didn’t seem to be the stuff of a James Bond movie. It also ended with Bond fathering a child with Kissy Suzuki. Only a few elements from the book would remain in the finished movie, most notably the Japanese setting, love interest Kissy, and friendly spy boss Tiger Tanaka.

There was also a problem with finding a writer. Richard Maibum, who had worked on every Bond up to this point, was deemed unavailable. A rumored screenplay by renowned author Kingsley Amis had been reportedly dismissed. Another script was commissioned by writer Harold Jack Bloom, but little of his work would remain in the finished film.

The final choice of screenwriter turned out to be an interesting one. Decades after his death, Roald Dahl remains one of the world’s most popular children’s writers with such film-friendly classics as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Witches,” “Matilda,” and “James and the Giant Peach” all too his credit. He might have seemed a far likelier choice for writing an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s children’s book, “Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang,” the gig that was apparently keeping Richard Maibum busy. Nevertheless, Dahl had written his share of adult thrillers and had actually performed wartime espionage and been friends with Fleming. Scads of 007-inspired spy spoofs were upping the humor ante and this would be a somewhat more tongue-in-cheek Bond. Dahl’s dark sense of humor would be a plus.

The main thrust of the film’s new plot was apparently invented by Cubby Broccoli, however. Upon seeing a dormant volcano while scouting locations, he came up with the idea of using it as a giant villain’s lair. With the U.S.-Soviet space race at full swing, the Russian-Chinese split a topical news item, and terrorism on the rise, the idea of SPECTRE hijacking spacecrafts in order to start a world war on behalf of Red Chinese clients seemed like a natural.

The Bond Girls (Rule of 3 + 1)

Once again, 007 does the espionage nasty with three beautiful women on his Japan adventure. Shockingly, however, the movie’s main love interest is not one of them.

Ling (Tsai Chow) — This lovely lady of Hong Kong engages in mildly racist pillow talk with Bond and then reveals herself to be an accomplice in the spy’s elaborately faked death. Though her part is small, actress Tsai Chow was already a recording artists and a major star of the London stage in “South Pacific” and “The World of Suzie Wong.” Her very long film career would include parts in “The Joy Luck Club,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and the 2006 Bond reboot, “Casino Royale.”

Helga Brandt (Karen Dor) — The latest Bond villainess with preying mantis-like tendencies, the dangerous Ms. Brandt is the secretary/in-house assassin of the wealthy SPECTRE operative, Mr. Osato. She has her way with Bond, then fails at killing him. It’s only natural that she winds up a victim of SPECTRE’s signature approach to personnel management, which in her case means being fed to the CEO’s pet piranhas. Actress Karen Dor has enjoyed a very long career in German films and television that continues to this day. She also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s unsuccessful spy thriller, “Topaz,” and the modestly titled horror flick, “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism.”

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007 One by One – Goldfinger

Bullz-Eye continues its look back at every James Bond film, 007 One by One, as part of our James Bond Fan Hub that we’ve created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film.

The third Bond film is more than one of the most enduringly popular movies in the series and the final template for James Bond movies from that point forward. In many respects, it actually set the pattern for actions films in general. It was also perhaps the first modern-day blockbuster in that it was intended as an event as well a movie — complete with mega-bucks generating merchandizing opportunities. Sadly, it’s also the first movie in the series that Bond’s 56 year-old creator, Ian Fleming, didn’t live to see completed. He could not have conceived of how insanely popular his creation would become within months of his passing.

“Goldfinger” (1963)

The Plot

007 locks deadly horns with a mysterious millionaire known for cheating at gin rummy, golf, and the exportation of gold. That naturally turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg as James Bond discovers a diabolical plan aimed at destroying the economy of the free world and making portly Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) the world’s richest man. The aptly named, gold-obsessed supervillain’s target is, of course, Fort Knox.

The Backstory

With the back-to-back success of “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” the money conscious EON producing team of Harry Saltzman and Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli were ready to spend what was actually pretty big money in early 1960′s movie production terms — $3 million! (The 2008 Bond entry, “Quantum of Solace,” had a reported production budget of $200 million.)

Dashing director Terrence Young, who had launched the series so ably with “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” smelled the cash and held out for more money. True to form, EON decided to go with a more thrifty option and brought in an accomplished journeyman director who was, nevertheless, a new hand when it came to staging elaborate action scenes, Guy Hamilton.

American writer Richard Maibum was back on board, this time with an assist from British screenwriter Paul Dehn. A very probable inspiration for the dashing English spy played by Michael Fassbender in “Inglourious Basterds,” Dehn was a former film critic and admitted World War II assassin. His next gig was, ironically, helping to adapt John le Carré’s specifically anti-Bondian espionage classic, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.”

Most importantly to the financial bottom line, Sean Connery had made himself synonymous with 007 and was also on board for another go round, though he wouldn’t appear on set until he finished off his highly dramatic starring role in Alfred Hithcock’s “Marnie.” Connery was starting to worry a little about this whole business of being typecast as a veritable superhero; he would continue to go out of his way to remind the public he could be someone other than Bond.

In any case, everyone working on the film seems to have understood what kind of opportunity “Goldfinger” represented. That bigger budget meant one thing: more — more action, more gadgets, more violence, and an extremely fast pace by the standards of its day. It was just the kind of wretched excess that could lead to a film so enormous it could launch what has to be the longest lasting and most consistently successful franchise in movie history.

The Bond Girls (Rule of 3 + 2)

Bond keeps to his usual score of three sex partners per movie. However, as befits the more lavish “Goldfinger,” we actually have five legitimate “Bond girls” this go-round. It’s just that Bond respectfully keeps his hands off of one and apparently never quite reaches home plate with another. To be specific…

Bonita (Nadia Regan) — She gets kissed while naked at the end of the pre-credit sequence, but it appears that actually doing the deed with Bond was never in the treacherous beauty’s plans, and she ends up with only a nasty bump on the head for her trouble. The adorable, Serbian-born Nadia Regan was actually on her second Bond go-round, having played a very brief kittenish role in the just-prior, “From Russia With Love,” where she was the Turkish secretary/girlfriend of Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz.)

Dink (Margaret Nolan) – This lovely bathing beauty and amateur masseuse appears to be Bond’s very temporary girlfriend during his very short vacation at Miami Beach’s ultra-lux Fontainebleau Hotel. In true super-sexist style, he dismisses her with jovial rudeness and a smart smack to the backside when his American colleague shows up. Actress and model Margaret Nolan would go on to appear in a Playboy pictorial and several entries in the “Carry On” series of British sex comedies.

Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) – Bond wastes little time in seducing the bikini clad Masterson, who has unwisely taken a job helping a certain highly suspicious gold broker cheat at gin rummy. The superspy clearly takes a liking to the spunky, frankly sexual Masterson. He is devastated when he wakes up from a clubbing-induced slumber to find her suffocated to death by being painted completely gold from head to foot. It’s a tragic death, but it gave the movie its poster and one of the most creepily memorable and iconic images in the Bond lexicon. Shirley Eaton, already a busy working actress in the British film industry, would go on to star in a number of mostly not-so-distinguished films before retiring in favor of motherhood in 1969. She came out of retirement three decades later with a memoir, Golden Girl.

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