Tuesday, 12 October 2021

[Review] - You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

You Only Live Twice (1967) might not be the best James Bond film, but it's one of my favorites for one reason - it stars Donald Pleasence as the first on-screen-portrayal of the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld. When I first saw the film in the late 1980s, I thought the character was the best 007 villain. Then Mike Myers spoofed Blofeld in his Austin Powers movies, and my opinion changed. The 1964 novel of the same name is the final James Bond story published a few months before Ian Fleming's death. Critics weren't too kind to the novel, with many calling it a complete failure. Playboy serialized the story in the April, May, and June 1964 issues.

The novel begins eight months after the death of James Bond's wife Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. To cope with Tracy's death, Bond has returned to drinking and gambling. M is about to fire him for making too many mistakes but gives him one more chance. Bond is renumbered to 7777 and has a new mission - convince Japan's secret intelligence service leader, Tiger Tanaka, to hand over Russian radio transmissions. The British have nothing to offer Japan in exchange for the information, so Tanaka gives Bond a one-time offer - kill Dr. Guntram Shatterhan for the Russian intel.

Dr. Guntram Shatterhand owns a castle on the island of Kyushu. People travel to the island to visit the "Garden of Death" and commit suicide. After being shown photos of Shatterhand and his wife, Bond recognizes the couple. They're his wife's murders - Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt.

Aided by Kissy Suzuki, a Japanese film star, Bond goes undercover as a mute Japanese coal miner to get into Blofeld's castle and exacts his revenge. Bond injures his head and loses his memory. MI6 believes he died in an explosion. Bond lives his life as a fisherman in Japan with Kissy by his side. Kissy is in love with him and wants to keep him for herself. She becomes pregnant. Before she can tell him the big news, Bond reads about Vladivostok in a newspaper clipping, and it sparks his memory. He leaves Krissy and travels to Russia. THE END.

Final Thoughts

Once again, I disagree with the British critics. Every time they disliked a James Bond tale, I seem to love it, and that happens to be the case for You Only Live Twice. Is it better than the 1967 film? Yes, it's better than the film. (FYI - I still like the movie, even though it's campy.) Unlike the silly way Bond killed Blofeld at the beginning of the film, For Your Eyes Only, he kills him with his bare hands.

Overall, I had fun rereading You Only Live Twice.

1 comment:

  1. I love these covers. And I'm fond of this movie too. I always liked as a kid how long the Bond movies were back then - they felt epic to me. Like it was big deal when one came on, and this one had that mythic quality to me (again, through kid eyes).

    Kissy becomes pregnant? Interesting! I assume that was never revisited after he regained his memory and resumed his career- maybe she just lived on in Japan and had no further contact with him, but had the child? Hm.


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