007 – No Time to Die, the twenty-fifth official film in the longest-running film franchise, is slated for release on October 7, 2021 – after being pushed back from last year due to the pandemic. In order to heat up the engines of this new blockbuster which, as we said, is part of one of the biggest, most traditional and beloved film franchises in the history of the seventh art, we have decided to create a new series of stories dissecting a bit of all the previous films, bringing you a lot of curiosities and a lot of information.
In the fifth film in the franchise’s official timeline, the most famous secret agent in cinema had it all. Or almost, since here the producers decided to take James Bond to Japan, where, among other things, he would train with ninjas, taste exotic Japanese cuisine and once again face the face of the organization. SPECTER criminal, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. . Check out the details of the fifth adventure with Spy 007 below.
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As noted in previous articles, by this time the 007 – James Bond franchise films had taken over the world and were at their peak. The franchise’s fame had spawned several “impersonators” and spy fever even reached cartoons, such as The Flintstones. In addition to the official timeline, 007 had even won its own parody in the form of Casino Royale (1967), due to a prior agreement between writer Iam Fleming and Columbia Pictures which guaranteed the use of the mark in his own movie. The option was for a comedy. That same year, however, the “serious” James Bond film, With 007 You Only Live Twice, was released.
The production for a change happened with a few mishaps which created slight problems. Starting with the book which serves as the basis for the work. Virtually nothing of Ian Fleming’s original text was used for the film version of You Only Live Twice. That’s because the book serves as a direct sequel to Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with James Bond seeking revenge for his wife’s death – something later reused in Quantum Of Solace (2008). But, how to continue if… His Majesty had not yet been released? It turns out that this book was actually what was promised as 007’s next production in theaters, as mentioned here earlier. But, from the moment the producers opted for Só Se Vive Twice, the plot had to be changed.
For the task of retreading the text to serve as the film’s script, none other than children’s writer Roald Dahl, the creator of works such as The Fantastic Chocolate Factory and the Witches’ Convention, was chosen. With four previous films in a five-year span, one curiosity is that the 007 franchise has so far only had two directors in charge. Guy Hamilton had commanded the favorite of many (Goldfinger), while Terence Young covered the other three with equal dexterity. The franchise’s biggest financial success was Atomic Blackmail, which, readjusted to current values, would be among the highest grossing films in history. In other words, Só Se Vive Two Times had a very difficult mission in hand. And for the task, nothing better than a filmmaker fresh out of a success nominated for no less than 5 Oscars, including that of the best film. Lewis Gilbert had delivered How to Conquer Women (Alfie), such a success, the previous year (66). The filmmaker would return in some feature films of the franchise, including one that is very dear to him and another… well not that much.
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After the hassle of having countless actors, comedians, and even women playing James Bond in the Cassino Royale (1967) parody, that same year the one and only Sean Connery would restore the air of his grace to the big screen. Do not accept substitutes. But the star’s return has been far from smooth. Connery found himself completely discouraged from playing James Bond since the last episode and getting back to living the character, despite the good money involved, was almost a torment at this point for the young and up-and-coming performer. So much so that Connery would announce Only If You Live Twice as the last movie in which he would play the spy. The star had no idea he would return twice more (once unofficially).
Sean Connery’s “laziness” in the role was such that many point to the lack of willpower in his portrayal here, as if it was automatically activated. In addition, his physical form was not the best either. The result is felt, unfortunately, in what we see on the screen. However, nothing would prepare us for one of the most shameful (or even “cringe”) moments in the entire franchise. Here, on his trip to Japan, James Bond uses makeup to impersonate an Asian citizen. This is wrong on all levels. And if we talk about White wash these days and in terms like “black face” and “yellow face”, know that even the biggest spy in cinema tried to “change his ethnicity”. Something similar had already been mentioned in the original film (Dr. No), in which an actress wore makeup to pose as an Asian, but in Just If You Live Twice, it is the protagonist Sean Connery himself. who is undergoing the “politically incorrect transformation”. ”.
Read also: File 007 | Goldfinger (1964) – Discover the third film in the James Bond spy franchise
As noted, originally the plot of Only Lives Twice was more intimate in the book, essentially a revenge mistake for James Bond. With the chronological order change from book to film, the story here had to be changed. And Roald Dahl creates a more simplistic account of the megalomania typical of these films. Here, SPECTER flies American and Russian missiles in order to provoke conflicts between rival nations in the midst of the Cold War. But not only, here we have for the first time the appearance of the big villain prepared so far in the franchise, the leader of the Blofeld organization.
The clues lead 007 to Japan, where he joins the country’s intelligence service and alongside Japanese ninja agents (watch this) battles the infamous SPECTER forces. But that’s not all, the base of the criminal organization is located in … an inactive volcano! Só Vive Duas Vezes is well known for being the epicenter of anything that would come to be associated with the character’s mythology, and while this is a “serious” film in the official timeline, it is in at the same time almost a parody of what it once was as the level of surrealism and fantasy reached great scales. Many elements of this film have been satirized in other productions, the main one being of course Austin Powers (1997), who even “borrows” the villain’s look to create his Dr. Evil.
Read also: File 007 | The Atomic Blackmail (1965) – The fourth and “Aquatic” film in the James Bond spy franchise
Bondgirls and allies
In terms of Bondgirls, here we have perhaps the lowest point in the franchise, not just so far, but the entire series. The possibilities of having the first Asian Bondgirls were completely wasted when creating characters that are true blank pages. It turns out that the most interesting of them, Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) is immediately removed from the scene, when the character is murdered. So taking its place in the plot comes the less expressive Kissy, the role of Mie Hama. The “bad” Bondgirl, the redhead Helga Brent, played by the German Karin Dor, was compared a lot to another redhead who had marked the franchise in the previous episode: Fiona Volpe, played by Luciana Paluzzi.
The character Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurô Tanba) does better, a mix between the boss M and the American agent Felix Leiter: while he is the head of the Japanese spy force, he assists James Bond in his mission, even participating to action. But not only that, he commands a team of ninjas in the invasion of the enemy base, uses swords and shurikens, the well-known ninja stars, and sends out countless henchmen in the most martial way.
Read also: File 007 | ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) – An obscure James Bond comedy
Here we have the icing on the cake in this first phase of the 007 films. Everything that has been shown in the previous four films set the stage for the emergence of SPECTER’s ultimate villain and leader, Blofeld – previously only mentioned and glimpsed. With the exception of Auric Goldfinger in the third film, all of James Bond’s enemies were linked to the criminal organization, see Dr. No, Rosa Klebb, Red Grant, and Emilio Largo, all working under Blofeld. Here, finally, the boss would show his face, personified by the Briton Donald Pleasence, better known as Dr. Loomis from the horror of Halloween (1978) and its many sequelae. Pleasence is still listed by fans as 007’s best nemesis performer, even though he only appears on stage in the final 10 minutes of the film.
Even so quickly, Pleasence would leave his mark on the franchise for eternity. And, obviously, his return was planned in the eventual streak. As we will see in the following text, it did not happen like that. However, the original idea was not to have Donald Pleasence in the role, as it was initially in the hands of Hungarian Jan Werich. Realizing that the actor was not working in the character, the producers rushed Pleasence into the film. The iconic villain look would be imitated and satirized a lot, but not as good as expected. Bald and with a big scar in his eye, besides of course the furry white kitten on his knees still being stroked.
As stated, following atomic blackmail would be nearly impossible. So while it didn’t come close to that level of success, it can be said that You Only Live Twice turned into a hit and did as good a box office as it gets.
Another iconic element of the James Bond 007 films are the title songs. The soundtrack composed by conductor John Barry for the franchise’s first five films, would gain the addition of lyrics and a renowned artist singing by Goldfinger with the voice of Shirley Bassey, followed by Thunderball by Tom Jones. In this fifth film, the song was at the helm of Nancy Sinatra. The music Barry composed became a new hit when it was used years later in a remixed form by Robbie Williams in ‘Millenium’. It’s interesting to see what Sinatra and Williams do with this extremely memorable score.
At this point, everything about James Bond became an automatic success. Although not at levels above the peak reached in The Atomic Blackmail. Despite this, thanks to fan and expert revisionisms over the years since its release, Just Lives Twice has become an unmentioned episode among franchise favorites. In fact, it goes the other way, many refer to it as one of the least inspired and original. And with Sean Connery’s promise that this would be his last movie, the franchise could well have gone bankrupt here. As we know, it would last a long time yet. But all would not be as before in the following episode… it is however the subject of the next article of Dossier 007.
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