Originally slated to be the final appearance of Sean Connery in the lead role, You Only Live Twice was the fifth James Bond film in the franchise. Featuring one of the largest sets ever created for film, it was a commercial and critical success during its original release taking $111m at the box office from a budget of $10m. You Only Live Twice would be the first film in the series to heavily feature SPECTRE number 1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) as lead villain and character that would heavily influence the future parody films Austin Powers.
An American spacecraft is hijacked in space by an unidentified spacecraft which swallows it whole. Suspecting Japanese involvement, MI6 send secret agent James Bond (Connery) toTokyoto try and find out who is responsible. After tracing leads to a chemical factory Bond continues to follow links to the shady SPECTRE organisation and it’s leader Blofeld (Pleasence).
Sean Connery’s James Bond, often hailed as the best incarnation of the character is older and a little bit less explosive in You Only Live Twice. Being his fifth outing, Connery doesn’t quite phone in the performance but certainly seems less immediate in delivery and interaction. Luckily he is surrounded by one of the most over-the-top, explosive and frankly bonkers script in Bond history. The idea of a master criminal having his base built into a hollowed-out volcano seems second nature to fans of the series, but on its release must have seemed mind-blowing. Yet here it stands, in the canon of Bond works and the good people at Pinewood Studios really outdid themselves on set design.
Blofeld, played with scenery-chewing aplomb by Donald Pleasence is at the heart of You Only Live Twice and it is perhaps fitting that the shady mastermind behind all previous Bond films should get this as his big blow-off. The character, now a stock film villain is as synonymous to Bond as Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes and would appear in three other films, but You Only Live Twice is definitely hisReichenbachFalls moment. The final action scene, with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and explosions galore stands as far and away the best finale to any Bond film ever.
If Goldfinger was the best at blending Bond’s tongue-in-cheek cool with a slick and sinister plot, You Only Live Twice is the finest example of the series’ full-blown madness. The speed at which the plot flies along gives the audience no chance to worry about inconsistencies or issues and by the time the final bullet is fired, they’re left exhausted, overwhelmed and ultimately extremely satisfied. You Only Live Twice is one of the silliest Bond film, but it’s also the most unashamedly brilliant ones too.