The penultimate release in the six canonical James Bond pics* is heavy on big sets and light on storyline. Based largely in Japan, it’s the one with kidnapped space capsules and our first good look at Super Villain Blofeld. Why it’s Donald Pleasence with a monocle shaped scar!; he’s trying to start a shooting war between the US and the USSR! And there’s Sean Connery’s 007, undergoing a new form of torture as five Asian vixens doll him up to ‘pass’ as a humble Japanese fisherman! (With that nose?) Lewis Gilbert, fresh from helming ALFIE/’66, nips the incipient bloat of THUNDERBALL/’65 while lenser Freddie Young gives it all a classy look, plus better-than-usual process work and a visually memorable poisoning. If only it were more involving. Blame Roald Dahl’s script which comes up short on the narrative thru line. Then again, it’s not so much the action scenes & stunts, nor the evil plots & hi-tech gadgets that separate the better Bonds from the lesser, it’s (of all things) his level of rapport with the leading ladies. And there ain’t no heat between Bond and his babes in this one.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *The last of the ‘first cycle’ Bonds, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE/’69, is famously spoiled by its grotesquely inadequate (and grotesque) Connery replacement, George Lazenby. Even so, it’s got the best female lead of them all in Diana Rigg and retains the balanced blend of playfulness, action & villainous sadism that made these early entries work. Connery’s one-shot return in #7, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER/’71, swapped playfulness with self-referential mockery, a misfiring mistake that continued in even the best of the Roger Moore pics. The films have been in reaction mode ever since; currently the pendulum is stuck in an ‘overcorrected’ position, perhaps permanently.
StotDII: Note our posters - On the Left - Britain, where girls come first; On the Right - the States, where the preference is for action. This explains too much!