Friday, April 24, 2015

You Only Live Twice (1967) | Music

Maurice Binder is back to create the title sequence for You Only Live Twice, this time using a Japanese umbrella motif over images of volcanoes and the faces of Japanese women. The umbrella design is introduced in a cool way, exploding in red from a patch of blood at the end of the cold open, then turning black and shrinking into a woman's eye. In spite of that strong opening though, I get bored watching faces and lava. I'm much more interested in the song.

John Barry brought back Leslie Bricusse to help with the theme song and this one was less troubled than the song for Thunderball had been. There was one version with mostly different words and sung by Julie Rogers, but Barry ended up going with Nancy Sinatra whose "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" had just come out the year before. Barry redid the orchestra part of the song to fit Sinatra's range and mellowed out the Japanese strings in the process.

The final version is great. It swells beautifully and Sinatra's voice is lovely. Barry of course uses it in the soundtrack and the musical theme is great over scenes of the Japanese countryside.

The lyrics work well, too. Unlike the songs for Goldfinger and Thunderball, "You Only Live Twice" isn't directly related to characters or events in the movie. It follows the From Russia With Love model in that it repurposes the movie's title into a love song (my favorite kind of Bond theme). In the novel, Bond writes the title as part of a haiku: "You only live twice: Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face." In the film, it's a reference to Bond's second chance after his faked death. But in the song, it's about romance and taking hold of your dreams before they disappear.

Barry's getting even more sparing with the Bond Theme in You Only Live Twice, but he uses it to great effect. The only time it appears is during the dogfight between Little Nellie and the SPECTRE helicopters. It's a highlight of the movie, not only because it's a great fight, but because it uses that music and I go, "Ah! This is Bond."

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. You Only Live Twice
2. From Russia With Love (John Barry instrumental version)
3. Dr No
4. Thunderball
5. Goldfinger
6. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro vocal version)
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. Dr No
2. Thunderball
3. Goldfinger
4. From Russia With Love
5. You Only Live Twice
6. TBD
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

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