Unlike Goldfinger which makes a valid attempt at solid, strong filmmaking, You Only Live Twice is just plain fun. It is not to best in the series, nor is it the best of the Connery Bond’s. It’s just a truly guilty pleasure…gadgets, action, romance and super spies…what could be better! The pretty inconsequential plot revolves around Blofeld (again) and his continued drive for world domination. This time, Blofeld is capturing spaceships…in space! First, a Russian one, then a British one…so who is doing this. The Russians, of course, think it is the British. And the British, of course, this it is the Russians. Enter James Bond to save the day and clear everything up for everyone (not!). Along the way he fakes being Japanese (don’t ask!), fakes getting married, and fakes being dead. Too bad he spends all of that time faking and doesn’t get around to taking care of Blofeld for good. Instead, the one-eyed villain comes back for two of the next films…plus a great intro in For Your Eyes Only. Basically, this is not the finest piece of filmmaking ever but, after all, do you watch a Bond movie for purely aesthetic reasons? Probably not. So, this one will satisfy your spy thriller craving.

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As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.

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If you read my annotation on The Birds, you know Tippi Hedren is not my favorite actress. But, compared to her lackluster performance in The Birds, she shines here. It’s the script in Marnie that I have trouble with. When this one came out in 1964, it didn’t do as well as expected and was not raved by the critics. As with Vertigo, both the public opinion but mostly the critical opinion, time has been kind with Marnie. Some critics now hail it as one (with Vertigo) of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. I would not go that far. Yes, Hedren is better, but she’s still not good enough to carry a film. The plus here is that unlike The Birds’ Rod Taylor (who is just so-so), Sean Connery provides a stronger counterpart for Hedren’s weak-ish acting. But, a masterpiece? Have these critics seen Notorious or Shadow of a Doubt? As I said, Marnie’s biggest issue, in my humble opinion, is the script. The screenplay here is lagging considerably, especially in the middle. The film starts off well and moves along at a good pace. Then, somewhere around the time Connery begins helping Hedren with her many problems, the story almost comes to a halt. Hitchcock saves it with a tense ending, but I admit I do expect more from The Master than just a good beginning and ending. So, you might be asking, why do I keep writing reviews for films that I’m not in love with? Well, first of all, I like them. They are great movies. They are just not up to Hitchcock’s usual HIGH standards.

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