0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

You Only Live Twice (1967).
Starring: Sean Connery, Donald Pleasence.
Director: Lewis Gilbert.
Synopsis: Bond travels to Japan to confront criminals who are trying to agitate war between the superpowers.
Dean's comments: This is what Bond films are supposed to be about, great set piece battles, classic bad guys, pretty (yet just as tough as Bond) girls and quality one-liners from Connery. Many of Bond's future clichés were set up for the first time in this film, just look for example at the big set piece final battle in the rocket silo. That is an absolutely classic scene, the music, the dialogue and the countdown-to-armageddon ending are quintessentially 60's. The action set-pieces are simple and rely on the skill and intelligence of the combatants rather than the technology of the equipment. Look at the helicopter battle between Bond and some goons, a classic scene that's simple and works on the basis of Bond having greater guile rather than him having an 'invisible car' (say). This is my favourite 'Bond' film.
Rating: 8/10.

Yojimbo (1961).
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Eijiro Tono, Daisuke Kato, Tatsuya Nakadai.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: A samurai arrives in a small village, determined to end the terror of two rival gangs by playing them against each other.
Dean's comments: In this story of a lone samurai who 'cleans up' the gangsters in a poor Japanese village, Kurosawa gives a master class in how to defy film clichés and cross the boundaries of genres while telling a fabulously engaging tale. The story has a little of everything, comedy, black humour, tension, action, slapstick and - of course - the constantly powerful Toshiro Mifune in the lead role. The film drops us straight into the story, we see a young man go off to join the village gangs in pursuit of a better life. The local undertaker is doing a roaring trade, the local innkeeper fears for his safety. Into this fire pan walks the nameless samurai, a man who - for some reason - decides it is his mission to play the rival gangs against each other and destroy the warring families. He does this by convincing each side they need his services, and provoking attacks by single-handedly staging an attack from the other gang. In a wonderfully post modern moment, the innkeeper even asks the samurai why he is bothering to do the things he does: "Why are you here? Is this a play you wrote?" The samurai acts as a kind of moral arbiter, with the power of life and death over the gang members he is assigned god-like status and revered by everyone in the village. He tells them that they are pathetic because they are unable to stand up for themselves. I think that Kurosawa is trying to make a statement about the need for people and societies to deal with their own problems rather than be humiliated by having an external intervention. But on the other hand, the film is a classic tale of lone heroes, outlandish and arch bad guys, whimpering villagers and subtle moral messages. All the stuff you would ever need for a good fairy tale or Greek epic all under the banner of Kurosawa's exceptional directorial style, a style which meshes comedy, tragedy and action in a way that was - and still is - rarely seen in cinema.
Rating: 9/10.

Young Frankenstein (1974).
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn.
Director: Mel Brookes.
Synopsis: The infamous Dr Frankenstein's grandson persues his relative's work.
Dean's comments: Mel Brookes' subversive take on the horror and science fiction genres focuses - as the title of the film suggests - on the tale of Frankenstein's monster.  Gene Wilder stars as the famous Dr Frankenstein's grandson, a man who insists that his surname be pronounced 'Fronkensteen' but otherwise displays all of the mad scientist tendencies of his grandfather.  The film is essentially a spoof version of the Frankenstein story: Dr Frankenstein travels to Eastern Europe to pursue his grandfather's dream, once there he creates a monster - with a little help from some hilariously-outlandish assistants.  It is the set-piece humour that works best, moments like when the monster and the Doctor perform 'Puttin on the Ritz' in full cabaret gear to a stunned audience or when Igor's hump mysteriously switches sides on his back.  I'm not sure if this is my view of the film 30 years on, but some of the humour falls pretty flat.  Most of the innuendo seems out of place, although I suppose that it's a spoof of the way that all female characters in traditional horror and science fiction are either harridans or large-chested frumpy types.  A lot of people say that this is one of the greatest comedies of all time; it's very funny and possibly deserves praise for influencing the spoof genre, but 'Blazing Saddles' is better.
Rating: 6/10.

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