We reach the end (sort of) of the Sean Connery era with You Only Live Twice. By now, Bond has gone completely over to camp. We open with Bond faking his death to throw off assassins, before being revived aboard a submarine. There, M and Moneypenny, both in Royal Navy attire, give him his next assignment.
Someone is capturing American and Russian space capsules (both of which look like Gemini craft.) The US and USSR are about to come to blows over it, but the British aren’t convinced. The ship responsible for swiping the craft lands in Japan. M sends Bond, who teams up with Tiger Tanaka and an unusually kickass female agent from Japan named Aki. Aki seems to be a forerunner of Michelle Yeoh’s Wey Lin from Tomorrow Never Dies, every bit Bond’s equal but still smitten with him.
Bond tracks down the culprits to (Surprise!) a hollowed-out volcano. There, Bond discovers Blofeld, who finally shows his face after hiding it since From Russia With Love. Turns out, he’s Dr. Evil. (The look and feel of Austin Powers is taken from this movie. The plot is lifted from Connery’s short-lived return, Diamonds Are Forever.)
I liked Aki better than a lot of Bond girls. She’s not a resistant foil like Pussy Galore but a leggy version of Bond. Alas, she’s killed off 2/3 of the way through the movie and replaced with a character from the novel, Kissy Suzuki. Kissy, however, seems to be just a means to use Aki as a character after killing her off. Which makes her death rather pointless.
Pleasance establishes the classic Blofeld, an image later referenced in For Your Eyes Only and Spectre. His is the sinister master terrorist who “does not tolerate failure.” Ironically, Charles Gray, who later played Blofeld in Connery’s last EON film, appears as M’s man in Tokyo. He’s also the first casualty.
YOLT is pure camp. There would be one last serious Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, before the franchise slips into a five-film run of camp films. Roger Moore would turn it around briefly with For Your Eyes Only before Timothy Dalton brought Bond back to the real world with The Living Daylights and the narco thriller Licence to Kill.