To make up for having her watch the 1967 Casino Royale last month, and because it fits with the movie’s setting, I buy some sushi from Marks and Spencer to accompany our viewing of You Only Live Twice. Mel loves sushi, and she spends a few happy minutes faffing with the tiny bottles of soy sauce while I load the DVD.
The film opens with a NASA spaceship slowly being swallowed up by a mysterious larger spacecraft.
“The tone is very different to other James Bonds. Feels like Thunderbirds. I suppose this was amazing space stuff at the time,” says Mel.
It’s quite fitting that Mel compares this to Thunderbirds, when we see Shane Rimmer (Scott Tracy) in Mission Control later.
When we meet Bond he’s already in bed with a young lady. “Why do Chinese girls taste different?” he asks, rhetorically.
Before long the bed flips up against the wall and gunmen run in and spray it with bullets. When the police arrive they offer some consolation, “At least he died on the job. He would have wanted it that way.”
Mel says, “That is quite funny… three minutes in and the innuendo’s there already.”
I don’t say anything, but it’s actually six minutes. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!
After a very moving ceremony and burial at sea, Bond’s corpse is recovered by divers and taken aboard a submarine.
“He’s still alive,” says Mel flatly.
A briefing from M reveals that the British suspect someone in Japan has been capturing US and Soviet spacecraft. Bond is assigned to investigate, and he reveals to Moneypenny that he took a First in Oriental languages from Cambridge University.
Mel says, “He probably shagged everybody there.”
It’s not long before Bond is being followed once he has arrived in Tokyo. A female agent is following and opens her purse to use a radio. Inside there’s something white and frilly.
“Is that a fresh pair of knickers in her handbag? That’s pretty grim if it is. Do you think prostitutes carry a clean pair with them to change into? Urrghh. It’s more hygienic if they do, but they would have to carry lots round with them. It’s like that bit in Pretty Woman when all the condoms fall out of her bag. Pretty Woman glamorises prostitution, but this glamorises promiscuity. In reality he’d end up on his own: a wrinkly old man with no family.”
007 visits a sumo match. One of the wrestlers is warming up.
“You nearly saw his balls then.”
“i would like to see sumo wrestling actually. Except they’ve got their bums out. And when they do that [leaning to the side then slamming their feet down] I’d worry their balls would fall out.”
When Aki arrives to make contact, Mel says, “That’s a very elegant dress. But I’m sure she’ll ruin all that elegance by sleeping with that skank.”
A little while later Henderson mixes Bond a drink. “Stirred, not shaken. That is right isn’t it?” Bond accepts it.
“Why does he say that’s OK?”
I suggest he’s just being a polite guest.
“Yeah, he’s always soooo polite….What does all that ‘shaken not stirred’ stuff mean?”
I explain that stirring bruises the alcohol.
Mel considers this for a few seconds.
“What a load of bollocks! What?! You’ve just made that up to pacify me! How can you bruise alcohol? And why would stirring do that when shaking is more vigorous?”
I think it read it somewhere, not sure where it was now.
“It’s bullshit. Surely it makes it colder, because it breaks up the ice?”
We rewind the DVD to check if Henderson made the drink on the rocks. He did.
I look up ‘why shaken, not stirred?’ on the internet. It seems I was wrong all these years, it’s shaking that bruises the alcohol. We learn that shaking introducing air bubbles into the mix and gives a different texture on the tongue. There is also a study from the University of Western Ontario which found that a shaken martini has more antioxidants.
“I don’t think he gives a shit, he just wants to be cool. Mark, if James Bond cared about his health he wouldn’t drink the way he drinks, and smoke the amount he smokes.”
Henderson is killed by a an assassin, who Bond promptly kills.
“He should have got some information from him first before bloody killing him. He needs to get his mask and coat and get in that car… [Bond proceeds to do this] …I thought he should do that.”
Bond feigns unconsciousness and the unsuspecting henchman carries him into Osato headquarters.
“Surely he would notice that Bond is a lot bigger than the other man!” exclaims Mel. “Why do they have paper walls? There would be no privacy for sex.”
I remind her we hear our next door neighbour sometimes, and we don’t have paper walls.
Mel nods grimly, “I know.”
Bond finds a hidden bar in Osato’s office. “Nice. I like that.”
Bond helps himself.
“He’s a bit of an alco…”
Bond doesn’t like what he tastes. Checking the bottle he finds it’s Siamese vodka.
“… and a snob. If someone came to our house for dinner and complained about the wine, I’d be pissed off. He went in there, robbed them, and now he’s complaining!”
Bond is soon running for his life, and just makes it into a lift.
“Lift doors never close that quick.”
007 is rescued by Aki, who then flees into a building, with Bond in pursuit.
“Love, take your heels off; you’re never going to beat him wearing them.”
Presently Bond meets ‘Tiger’ Tanaka, head of the Japanese SIS. He says, “My mother told me not to get into cars with strange girls. I think you would get into anything with any girl.”
“He’s got your number, Bond,” Mel tells him. Then she asks, “Is this real? is he really Tanaka?”
I confirm that it is.
“I’m too suspicious.”
They walk through a Japanese garden. “I like the garden. Stobo Castle has got a Japanese garden.” This is where Mel is having her hen party next year.
Bond and Tiger take a ‘civilised’ bath, with scantily-clad girls washing them.
“Oh my God.” Mel puts her head in her hands. “That is degrading. Absolutely horrible. You think it’s funny… it’s not.”
Bond goes undercover as Mr Fisher into Osato Industries. Mr. Osato’s assistant, Helga Brandt, tells Bond that her boss believes in a healthy chest.
“Healthy chest… urrgghh.”
I protest that at least Bond didn’t say anything.
“He didn’t have to!”
The villains decide to shoot Bond on his way out of the building. Luckily Aki turns up again to rescue him.
“She’s really saving him isn’t she?” Mel says.
That’s good isn’t it?
“I don’t know why she’s doing it. He’ll just leave her in the end.”
Bond and Aki are chased by bad guys until a helicopter with a big electro-magnet flies over and picks up the baddies’ car. Mel is amused when the driver keeps comically trying to steer the car as he sails through the air.
At the docks Bond runs across a rooftop, taking out henchmen as he goes. “This is a bit like Casino Royale, with the chase at the start.”
Blofeld opens a meeting by saying, “I must congratulate you, gentlemen, upon your superb equipment.”
“We congratulate you, sir, upon the way you handle it,” his guest responds.
“That’s a bit homoerotic!” says Mel.
Miss Brandt is killed by Blofeld for failing to kill Bond. Instead of just shooting him, she tried taking him up in a plane, then parachuting herself out before it crashed.
“It’s strict discipline at SPECTRE! No union consultation… Boom! Dead!”
Mel is not impressed with Bond’s sartorial choices in this film: “Look how far up his trousers are. Ridiculous. They’re half-mast as well. He just needs to pull them down a bit.”
Soon Bond’s trousers are off, as Tanaka’s people begin his amazing transformation into Japanese fisherman.
“He does not look Japanese!”
“Any of it! All they’ve done is flatten his hair down!”
“They haven’t even shaven that —-ing hairy chest off.”
There’s a witty description of this sequence in Bond Films (Virgin Film) (Virgin Books Ltd, 2002). “It is not a success. The combination of ineffective eye implants, fake tan lotion and black wig applied to a six-foot Sscotsman do not create an oriental fisherman. Tanaka is absurdly pleased with the result, proclaiming that all Bond needs is a wife to complete the effect. The man himself seems somewhat more aware of how foolish looks. His expression upon reaching his destination conveys embarrassment and shame.”
The next part of his cover is for Bond to take a Japanese bride. He looks unimpressed as a succession of women appear. Eventually a young one arrives.
“This’ll be his….Why is that old woman getting married?”
I suggest it might be second time round. Or maybe it’s the mother of the bride.
“I think it is.”
I say they’re dressed similarly, and ask Mel how she’d feel if that happened at our wedding.
“I’d be very upset if somebody else turns up in a wedding dress… I’d tell them to go home.”
No ‘honey’ for Bond on his honeymoon.
“Ha! Good girl.”
As Bond and his wife climb the volcano, Mel says, “I feel a bit sorry for that girl. She doesn’t get a white bikini in the sea moment. No-one talks about her.”
Bond finally comes face-to-face with SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and we see his scarred face for the first time.
“It’s not only sexist and racist, but the baddies are always disfigured aren’t they?” Asks Mel. “Dr. No had metal hands and that other man had an eye-patch. Le Chiffre cries blood.”
What about Goldfinger? I ask
“Mark. he was obsessed with gold. That’s not normal.”
Mel’s quite quiet through most of the finale, and seems to be quite enjoying the action. Unlike Blofeld’s cat, which is fighting to get away.
“I bet that cat’s really scared. That is a bit cruel. Poor thing, I feel sorry for it.”
Blofeld drops the cat as he shoots someone. It runs to hide behind Hans’ legs
“Awww, look it was dead scared there. Then it disappeared!”
In the next shot the cat has vanished.
“They probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that now.”
Mel is unconvinced by the volcanic eruption that follows the self-destruction of the volcano-base. “That’s terrible. It’s so not real.”
Bond and Aki get into a life raft.
“How many women has he ended up in a boat with, snogging their faces off?”
Four, I reply.
I tell Mel about the ending to the novel of You Only Live Twice. An amnesiac Bond lives as Kissy’s fisherman husband, until he sees the word ‘Russia’ in a newspaper. Recognising the name, he and goes there to try and figure out who he is and never returns. Unbeknownst to Bond, Kissy is pregnant with his child.
“That’s really sad. He should settle his daft self down and have babies. Stop romping around. It makes him seem more human if gets damaged. In Casino Royale you see him bleed.”
From Bond Movies (Virgin Film): “At the end of both his contract with Saltzman and Broccoli and his tether with constant press intrusion, Connery announced that this would be his final Bond film.”
I carefully break this devastating news to Mel.
“That’s brilliant news!” she replies, putting a brave face on it.
Mel will return… Watching On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
You Only Live Twice trailer:
Order You Only Live Twice from Amazon:
Order Bond Films (Virgin Film) by Jim Smith and Stephen Lavington: