Bond Meets Blofeld: “You Only Live Twice” (1967)

During the height of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union lose one spacecraft each, after they are both seemingly swallowed whole by a large UFO. The two superpowers are quick to blame one another, causing tensions to skyrocket. The UK has an alternate theory re: the disappearances; they send top spy- James Bond (Sean Connery)- to investigate in Japan. With the help of the Japanese Secret Service, Bond uncovers a plot more sinister than anyone could’ve imagined.

[James is in bed with a Ling, a Chinese woman]

Bond: Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?

In the pre-credits scene, we hear one of the MOST cringe-worthy lines ever spoken in a movie! FYI: Ling is played by Tsai Chin, who had a long career in both Chinese/English language films (thus avoiding the Bond girl curse). I liked the stuff about Bond pretending to die. Henderson (Charles Gary), the British agent in Japan, has a small role (but was interesting). I learned that Blofeld’s impressive volcano lair cost $1M to create- wow! We (finally) see the super-villain Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) who has a prominent scar on his face. As even some long-time fans have said, this movie hasn’t aged well. Connery looks and sounds bored/tired; he even walks in a different way (sometimes slouching). His hairpiece doesn’t even look good! As one critic commented: “Connery is phoning it in.”

Tiger Tanaka: I must say I am disappointed with the ease with which I could pull you in. The one thing my honourable mother taught me long ago was never to get into a car with a strange girl. But you, I’m afraid, will get into anything. With any girl.

I liked the setting and scenery; also, the mini-helicopter (Little Nellie) was pretty cool. the Japanese Secret Service members are portrayed in a (mostly) positive manner. Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) is in charge; he’s affable and professional. Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) is the agent who falls for Bond; she has a (very cool) death scene. Too bad that Bond doesn’t even have a minute to mourn her though-ugh! Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) is the assassin who captured Bond for a time, but he (of course) managed to disarm her. Kissy Suzuki (Mia Hama) is the agent posing as a village woman who Bond pretends to be married to. In the last act, Kissy is ONLY wearing a small white bikini. He also pretends to be Japanese for a time and trains to be a ninja- part of Tanaka’s plan.

Blofeld: James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong.

Bond: Yes, this is my second life.

Blofeld: You only live twice, Mr. Bond.

[1] While I grudgingly will admit that the Roald Dahl (yes, THAT Dahl–the “Willie Wonka” guy) script is very exciting and high on the “cool factor”, it is also silly and ridiculous throughout.

[2] This time out, perennial Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is portrayed by Donald Pleasence in a spirited performance that would provide the inspiration for Dr. Evil in “The Spy Who Shagged Me”, courtesy of Mike Myers. Some of the antics in this picture are pretty ridiculous, like Little Nellie with Bond at the controls taking out four attack helicopters, and James Bond (Sean Connery) himself becoming a Ninja master after three days of training!

[3] Ever since Mike Myers mercilessly mocked You Only Live Twice in Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, it’s been impossible to take this particular Bond adventure seriously; but to be honest, the film was always pretty ridiculous in the first place, stretching plausibility further than ever before in an effort to up the ante in terms of crowd-pleasing spectacle.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Bond Goes Under the Sea: “Thunderball” (1965)

James Bond (Sean Connery) continues on his 4th mission; his aim is to recover 2 warheads stolen by the criminal org SPECTRE. The world is held hostage as Bond heads to Nassau in the Bahamas. He is aided by assistant Paula Caplan (Martine Beswick) and faces off against redheaded femme fatale Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). Bond makes a connection w/ Domino Derval (Claudine Auger), the girlfriend of a top SPECTRE agent, Emil Largo (Adolfo Celi). “Thunderball” is a military term used by U.S. soldiers to describe the mushroom cloud seen during the testing of atomic bombs. In North America, this was the 2nd highest-grossing movie of 1966, after Doctor Zhivago.

Connery performed the gun-barrel sequence for the 1st time b/c of the new Panavision process used in the movie. Tom Jones sung the title song. Bond’s jetpack was flown by engineer Bill Suiter, as he was one of only two people qualified to fly it. It was originally invented for military use in the 1950s. This is the only Bond movie where we get a glimpse of all 00 Agents in one shot when they’re summoned to M’s briefing. Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, was adapted from a hydrofoil vessel which cost $500,000 to acquire in Puerto Rico, then transfer for refitting/refurbishment to Miami. It was given a cocoon shell 50 ft. feet long which could be separated from the main boat (as seen in the finale).

One time, we’d finished filming for the day, and there were hundreds of people milling around on the beach, all roped off watching. Sean called to the set hairdresser, ‘Here, you’, and then he simply pulled off his toupée and threw it at the hairdresser. The hairpiece sailed over like a Frisbee and as the hairdresser caught it, Sean said something like, ‘That’s it, I’m off.’ Everyone just collapsed. It was the funniest thing. -Martine Beswick, recalling a memorable moment from the filming

Julie Christie, Raquel Welch, and Faye Dunaway tried out for the role of Domino; Dunaway was a candidate to be a Bond girl in later films also. Molly Peters (Pat- the nurse in the health club) was the 1st Bond girl to be seen taking her clothes off onscreen; she is (briefly) seen from behind in the steam room. Beswick (who played one of the Gypsy girls in From Russia with Love) is tanned in this movie; before shooting, she was pale (due to years of theater work in England). Before filming, she was required to spend 2 weeks sunning herself to get a tan like that of a native. Fiona derides Bond’s ability to turn women to his side (unlike previous Bond girls). Paluzzi (who does a fine job) first auditioned for the role of Domino. To suit her name, Domino’s clothes are always in black and white. Auger (whose voice was dubbed and acted rather stiff) did her own underwater scenes, being a strong swimmer.

What was memorable re: this Bond movie (now that I’ve seen several in this franchise)? There is a good/realistic fight scene between Bob Simmons (the franchise regular stuntman) and Connery. Simmons (uncredited) plays Col. Bouvard, the man in drag, in the pre-title sequence. I liked the chemistry between Bond and Fiona; I wish she had a bit more to do. Domino and Bond lacked sparks, but she had some fab bathing suits. The various fights in the last 20 mins. (shot underwater) were unique and interesting. Bond’s underwater camera is a Nikonos Calypso I, an evolution of the Calypso-Phot, originally built for Jacques Cousteau- wow!

[1] I’m afraid I don’t consider this among the best of the Bonds, but I certainly don’t it one of the worst. If anything it is a solid if rather middling instalment. My main problems come with the bloated plot which tries to squeeze too many plot twists and high-tech software, pedestrian pacing and… Domino is one of the least memorable Bond girls.

[2] Thunderball has some great underwater cinematography as the forces of SPECTRE battle the US Coast Guard and James Bond on the ocean floor as SPECTRE tries to take the bomb into Miami Beach harbor.

[3] This film could have been called “By Land or By Water” as it would be a fitting title but it would also explain the good and bad here. The bad stuff is pretty much everything on land. When the movie started it just had a “been there, done that” feeling to it that really seemed to sink things and in many ways it just felt like we’ve seen this type of film countless times before and much better.

[4] There is something missing here, a kind of spark that even the great Sean Connery can’t provide.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984)

[first lines]

[Spock’s dying words, repeated from the previous film]

Capt. Spock: Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…

Kirk: …the needs of the few.

Capt. Spock: Or the one. I have been and always shall be your friend. Live long and prosper.

Spock died (in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). We cried- hey, it was really emotional. Then we learned that Spock could be alive- whoa! In the opening credits, there is an extra long pause between Shatner and Kelley’s names, where Nimoy’s name would normally be. Nimoy takes on the role of director; Nicholas Meyer (who directed the previous 2 films) refused b/c he thought that Spock’s death should’ve remained final. (Meyer would return to direct Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

[their first look at the USS Excelsior]

Uhura: Would you look at that.

Kirk: My friends, the great experiment: The Excelsior. Ready for trial runs.

Sulu: She’s supposed to have transwarp drive.

Scotty: Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.

Kirk: Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.

Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise crew return to Earth for some essential repairs to their ship. When they arrive at space dock, they’re shocked to discover that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned. Dr. McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) begins acting strangely. Scotty (James Doohan) is re-assigned to another ship. Suddenly, Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) comes to visit Kirk to see if he holds Spock’s spirit (katra). Once Kirk realizes that McCoy hold the katra, he decides to steal back the Enterprise and travel to the Genesis planet to retrieve the body of Spock. The body must be taken to Mt. Seleyah on Vulcan so it can be joined w/ its katra. Meanwhile, some Klingons are planning to steal the secrets of the Genesis device for their own deadly purpose!

Kirk: You’re suffering from a Vulcan mind-meld, doctor.

McCoy: That green-blooded son of a bitch! It’s his revenge for all the arguments he lost.

The film’s villains were intended to be Romulans, but the studio wanted Klingons to be used (as they were better-known aliens). The Romulan warship was already built and they didn’t want the expense of replacing it. Since TOS had established that Klingons and Romulans had shared tech/ships (for real-world cost-cutting reasons), the idea of Klingons using a Romulan warbird wasn’t a problem. Edward James Olmos was Nimoy’s first choice for the role of Kruge; producer Harve Bennett preferred Christopher Lloyd. Nimoy cast Lloyd b/c he came across as more operatic and physically intimidating. Of course, this could be funny to those who know Lloyd as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies. We also see John Larroquette as Maltz, the quiet/thoughtful Klingon.

Kruge: I’ve come a long way for the power of Genesis, and what do I find? A weakling human, a Vulcan boy, and a woman!

Saavik: My lord, we are survivors of a doomed expedition. This planet will destroy itself in hours. The Genesis experiment is a failure.

Kruge: A failure? The most destructive force ever created? You will tell me the secret of the Genesis torpedo.

Saavik: I have no knowledge.

Kruge: Then I hope pain’s something you enjoy.

Production was endangered by the large fire at Paramount Studios. Shatner helped fight the fire and rescue a crew member before firefighters arrived- wow! Shatner said he was concerned re: staying on schedule, as he also had to shoot his TV show- T.J. Hooker. The quiet (yet powerful) scene in where Kirk stumbles back into his captain’s chair after hearing of the death of David was an improvisation by the actor. Shatner was told by Nimoy to do whatever reaction he wanted to do. It’s too bad that Kirk (and we) didn’t get to know David much.

[Kirk and party have commandeered Kruge’s Bird-of-Prey]

Kirk: [to Maltz] You! Help us or die!

Maltz: I do not deserve to live!

Kirk: Fine, I’ll kill you later!

[later, once safely in warp speed]

Kirk: Take care of the prisoner.

Maltz: Wait! You said you would kill me!

Kirk: I lied!

There are some light/humorous scenes in this movie. We learn that Scotty always exaggerated how long it’d take to repair something on the ship. And who didn’t laugh when McCoy tried to do the Vulcan nerve pinch at the alien bar? Scotty told off the talking transporter on the Excelsior. Sulu (George Takei) gets to beat up a (big) security guy. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) pulled a phaser on the young lieutenant who’d made ageist comments (Mr. Adventure), then she transported her crewmates away.

Sarek: Kirk, I thank you. What you have done is…

Kirk: What I have done, I had to do.

Sarek: But at what cost? Your ship. Your son.

Kirk: If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.

The dramatic finale on Vulcan really makes this movie! Judith Anderson was 87 y.o. when she appeared as the Vulcan High Priestess; she was encouraged to take this role by her nephew (who was a big fan of TOS). The scenes on the Genesis Planet were shot on the same soundstages used by Cecil B. DeMille in  The Ten Commandments (1956); Anderson played the slave who knew the secret re: Moses’ heritage.

[1] Leonard Nimoy takes the director’s helm and while he does a competent job it is somewhat workmanlike and his experience in TV and not-so-much-experience in feature films shows, loved the focus on the characters and their relationships but it could have been more expansive.

The music by James Horner… It is bombastic and rousing at times but also swelling in romance and sensitivity and beautiful orchestration, the heavy representation of the percussive and dissonant theme for the Klingons was also effective.

‘The Search for Spock’ does have an intelligent script that develops the characters very well indeed…

[2] It seems a lot of people are split on Lloyd but I thought he was pretty good here. I liked seeing him under all the make-up and thought he did a good job even if the role itself wasn’t the greatest. The special effects here are certainly a step up from the previous movie and I’d also say that battle sequences are much better directed.

[3] …I put “The Search for Spock” on a par with my favorite episode of the original Star Trek TV series. That would be ‘Amok Time’ which examined Vulcan rituals and customs, and interestingly, pitted Spock (Leonard Nimoy) against his captain and best friend, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in a battle to the death. The return to Spock’s home planet in this film was a cool way to bring the story back around to his Vulcan roots and add to the mythology of Star Trek by introducing such concepts as the Fal-tor-pan (the refusion of Vulcan legend), and the soul essence of Vulcans called the ‘katra’.

The battle of wits between Kirk and Kruge brought to mind another favorite TV episode, ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’, a story in which Captain Kirk seemingly made up all that business about a destruct sequence to thwart an overpowering enemy. Apparently it was a good enough idea to incorporate into Star Trek lore as a legitimate way of dealing with an enemy who got the upper hand.

-Excerpts from IMDB comments

Bond Hits Box Office Gold: “Goldfinger” (1964)

James Bond (Sean Connery- aged 34 and very confident in his role) is on a new mission takes him to Kentucky, where Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his henchmen are planning to raid Fort Knox and wreak havoc on the world’s economy. To save the world, Bond will need to get close to Goldfinger. Also, he has to keep his mind off pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman- already an experienced TV actress), who says she is “immune” to his charm.

Goldfinger: Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!

Ian Fleming visited the set while filming was going on, as w/ the previous 2 films; he died less than a month before the movie’s release (August 12, 1964). This was the fastest grossing movie in history; some theaters had to operate for 24 hrs. a day to meet demand! It even won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects. The opening credits show us a woman (Margaret Nolan, who played Dink) in gold paint and we hear the the title song (sung by Shirley Bassey). For the orchestral opening to the title song, composer John Barry (who had total control over the score/song) used trombones, trumpets, French horns, and a tuba. The re-creation of the Fort Knox repository at Pinewood Studios (by production designer Ken Adam and his team) was very accurate, considering that they weren’t been allowed inside the real location (b/c of security reasons). Goldfinger’s 3-D model map (for his “Operation Grand Slam” plan) is located at the real Fort Knox.

Q: Now this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here? Now, if you take the top off, you will find a little red button. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.

Bond: Yeah, why not?

Q: Because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat. Whish!

Bond: Ejector seat? You’re joking!

Q: I never joke about my work, 007.

Aston Martin was reluctant to part with two of their cars, so the producers had to pay; after the success of the movie, they never had to spend money on a car again. Spielberg liked this Bond film above all the others (esp. the old lady firing the machine gun); he owns an Aston Martin DB5. Long-time fans noted that Q came into his own here; director Guy Hamilton advised Desmond Llewelyn to add humor into the character. So, we see the start of the friendly antagonism between Q and Bond. We see Q’s workshop for the first time w/ men testing out various gadgets. Tilly Masterson’s (Tania Mallet’s) Ford Mustang was the first appearance by a Mustang (released in April of 1964) in a movie.

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

Goldfinger and his henchman Oddjob (played by a wrestler from Hawaii- Harold Sakata) are considered two of the great movie villains; the actors portraying them are opposite of their characters. Fellow cast members have remarked how charming and friendly Fröbe (who came from Germany) and Sakata were off-camera. Fröbe can be seen singing and dancing in the popular children’s movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). It is speculated that Goldfinger was based on a German spy who once tried to rob the Bank of England during WWI; Fleming was a high-ranking officer in Naval Intelligence, so would’ve had access to such info.

Bond: My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

Shirley Eaton (who played Jill Masterson) underwent 2 hrs. of make-up for the gold-painted death scene. “Skin suffocation” by being coated in gold has no basis in fact. A doctor was on set at all times and Eaton’s shots lasted less than 5 mins. in the final movie. Blackman (who also knew judo) was the oldest Bond girl (39 y.o.) until Monica Belucci (51 y.o.) appeared in Spectre (2015); however, Belucci didn’t play Bond’s love interest.

To reflect the main setting, we see horses, the precursor to KFC restaurants, a military base, and (of course) drinks w/ whiskey on a wrap-around porch. I could’ve done w/o the segment on golfing; aside from that, the movie moved along at a good pace. I didn’t watch it 2x (as I’d done with To Russia with Love), but I did re-watch segments I liked. The flying scenes were cool, as were the soldiers (simultaneously) falling like they’d gone to sleep. So far, Blackman is the most interesting Bond girl; she has a strong personality and (surprise) a brain! Some of you may’ve seen the Mike Myers’ parody- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

[1] Thanks to a long film with lots of twists and turns, it felt like a real adventure–very escapist and satisfying.

[2] For me Goldfinger is the slickest of the Bond films in terms of how the stunts are performed and how the story is told. The story mayn’t be the most exciting of all the Bonds, but it is still very gripping. The direction is sly, the cinematography is stylish, the locations are stunning and I can never get enough of the theme song sung by Shirley Bassey.

[3] I believe he was the most dangerous opponent James Bond ever fought with in all of his films. Watch that fight scene that Harold Sakata had with Sean Connery, he’s got Connery almost down for the count. Fighting skills can only carry you so far when your opponent outweighs you and is built like a brick outhouse. In fact it’s only sheer trickery in which Connery overcomes Sakata in a shocking conclusion.

[4] The various scenes of action are slick and exciting, especially the explosive, spectacular last fifteen minutes which sees a brilliant fight scene between Bond and Oddjob, one of the best ever. The sight of Frobe being sucked out of a plane window is also something to remember.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

James Bond is Back: “From Russia with Love” (1963)

James Bond AKA 007 (Sean Connery) is on the search for a Russian decoding machine- Lektor. Bond needs to find this machine before the evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organization discovers it. While being romantically linked w/ a young Russian K.G.B. agent, Tatiana Romanova (21 y.o. Daniela Bianchi), Bond works his way around Istanbul, while S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agents tries to kill him, incl. blonde/beefy Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) and redheaded/petite ex-K.G.B. agent Col. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya). I learned that Klebb is one of the few female villains in the Bond franchise.

JFK listed Ian Fleming’s book as among his top 10 fave novels; this list was published in Life Magazine on March 17, 1961. Possibly as a result, the producers decided to make this the 2nd Bond movie. This was the last movie JFK ever saw (in a private screening in the White House) on November 20, 1963. This movie broke box-office records, and was responsible for launching Connery as a major star. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman didn’t want the main enemy to be Russian; they decided on the fictitious criminal organization (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) was seeking revenge for the death of their operative (Dr. No). The S.P.E.C.T.R.E. training school was inspired by the gladiator school from Spartacus (1960).

Bond: [in atypical self-effacement] Suppose when she meets me in the flesh I-I don’t come up to expectations?

M: Just see that you do.

Three beauty pageant queens are actresses in this movie: Bianchi (who is confident/natural onscreen), Martine Beswick, and Aliza Gur. Bianchi (Italy) and Gur (Israel) were roommates at Miss Universe 1960, in which Bianchi was 1st runner-up. Gur and Beswick (a former Miss Jamaica) play the the gypsy (Romany) women who fight over the same man. Beswick (who had a British father and Japanese/Portuguese mother) would return as Bond’s assistant (Paula) in Thunderball. M (Bernard Lee) and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) are back, of course. This is the last appearance of Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson); she was intended to be Bond’s girlfriend, but producers decided otherwise. We meet a new version of Major Boothroyd AKA Q (Desmond Llewelyn); he’d go on to appear in several films in the series. We also meet Bond’s spy/friend in Istanbul, Ali Karim Bey (Pedro Armendariz- a veteran Mexican-American actor); he has many sons (who work for him), a big/fun personality, and can fight/shoot (when needed).

Special permission was granted to film in St Sophia’s Mosque which had never granted permission before. Over 3,500 people went to the Sirkeci Railway Station in Istanbul to see the filming, which caused delays. Director Terence Young had stuntman Peter Perkins create a distraction by hanging upside down from a balcony nearby- LOL! Several years earlier, Alfred Hitchcock had been considered to direct; the helicopter chase scene is an homage to his cropduster sequence in North by Northwest (1959). As one of the hosts on the Now Playing podcast commented: “It was like the trashy version of North by Northwest.” LOL! Product placements, brand, and promos included: Rolex, Taittinger Blanc de Blanc champagne, a billboard advertising another movie made by producers Saltzman and Broccoli (Call Me Bwana) starring Anita Ekberg and Bob Hope, and Bentley.

Bond: Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.

Grant: You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees. How does it feel old man?

The villains make this movie much more interesting than Dr. No; they get time to have some character development and seem like they could be a threat to Bond. The man in charge of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Blofeld) is shown stroking a white cat, but his face is hidden. I wasn’t that interested in the gypsy camp section (until the baddies burst in); in one case, Grant ended up saving Bond’s life. Did the Anglophiles notice this faux pas on the train? Grant (who some referred to as “a shadow Bond”) addressed Bond as “old man” when pretending to be Capt. Nash. He was also calling Bond as “sir”, so odd to use “old man” (when he’s not a friend or of same rank). The big fight between Bond and Nash inside the train compartment was tense and exciting; I think it holds up well even today! After reading the script, Shaw called it “rubbish” (trash), but his wife convinced him to reconsider. At that time, he was working in the London theater, and also had a young family to support. If you’ve never seen a Bond film, give this one a try!

[1] I loved From Russia With Love. If I had one minor problem with the film, it would be that I did find the film slow in places. But I cannot deny it is a tightly plotted and well acted James Bond thriller with superb action to boot. The film looks amazing, with wonderful cinematography and stunning locations, and the action is constantly fast paced and the stunts jaw dropping. The music score from John Barry is one of the more memorable scores in any Bond movie, with its brilliant main theme my favourite.

[2] Shaw is terrifying in his role and the fact he did it without much use of a voice that was one of the best in the English language, testifies to his ability as an actor. His confrontation with Connery on the Orient Express is one of the great fight scenes ever done on film.

[3] One thing I liked a lot was the inclusion of more comedy than in the previous adventure, which Bond’s one-liners being consistently amusing and lots of little odd touches (like Bond realising that Shaw is an impostor when he orders red wine with fish, of all things).

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews