Frank McCarthy's hyper-detailed Bond painting requires a second glance.
Every James Bond movie has been exhaustively pored over online, which makes them not particularly discussion worthy for our website. But we're making an exception for You Only Live Twice for two reasons. First, because of the promo painting above. It's an amazing visual masterpiece created by the realist painter Frank McCarthy, and it was used in various types of promos, tilted to the left, as you see in the example just below. Looking at the painting oriented correctly, we see that Bond is actually defying gravity, and if you look super close you'll see he's wearing a pair of slippers and is managing to hang on using his strangely prehensile toes. The canvas is filled with intricacy, and within the whole there are various secondary set pieces. We've isolated a few areas below so you can see what we mean.
The second reason we decided to talk about this movie is because it has amas in it. Yes, we just talked about amas a couple of weeks ago when we shared a poster for Woman Diver's Beach: Red Pants. But if you missed that, we're referring to female Japanese skin divers who forage in shallow waters for pearls and aquatic delicacies. The entire concept of the ama was obscure at best in Western culture until they appeared onscreen in You Only Live Twice. They first appear in the film briefly when Bond looks at a surveillance photo, but later he goes undercover as a Japanese man (we know, we know) and has to pretend to marry an ama named Kissy Suzuki. The character is played by Mie Hama, who we've featured a couple of times. See here and here. Oh, and You Only Live Twice had its world premiere in London today in 1967. That's the third reason we decided to talk about it.
Last one there is a rotten ama.
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie.
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
Zoku kindan no suna Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji
Always wear proper safety gear when handling firearms.
This is an irresistible little treasure, an image from a West German lobby card for Man lebt nur zweimal, aka You Only Live Twice, with Karin Dor in character as Helga Brandt. We like the helmet. Dor's focus on safety is admirable. But since she's eaten by piranha it does her no good at all. Side note: also appearing in the film is former Pulp femme fatale Mie Hama. Double side note: she also gets killed. These Bond girls never learn.
We’ve got something special up our sleeves.
Above and below are the front and rear sleeves of four Japanese soundtrack pressings for the 1960s James Bond films Thunderball, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger. The themes were sung by Tom Jones, Matt Munro, Nancy Sinatra, and Shirley Bassey respectively, and pictured along with Sean Connery you see Bond beauties Claudine Auger and Shirley Eaton. Ms. Eaton, as wrong-place wrong-time Jill Masterson, had the dubious honor of being suffocated under a coating of gold paint, certainly one of the most infamous deaths of any Bond femme. We think these sleeves are great, and if you agree and want to see a lot more excellent 007 soundtrack art, check our previous posts here, here, and especially here.
On a related note, the Bond franchise’s fiftieth anniversary is next month, and in honor of the occasion former star Roger Moore, along with co-stars Britt Ekland and Richard Kiel, are touring around England with a Blu-ray box set of all the films, which are stored inside a gold case that is in turn comfortably riding in one of Bond’s preferred vehicles, an Aston Martin DBS. Actors, auto, and discs are visiting some of the iconic locations of the Bond series in advance of the release of the next film, which is entitled Skyfall. You can read more about all that here.
The object of Mie affection.
Above, Japanese actress Mie Hama, who was known to Western filmgoers as Kissy Suzuki from the 1968 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. This shot comes from the cover of the Yugoslav magazine Ilustrovana Politika.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
1966—Missing Nuke Found
Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the deep submergence vehicle Alvin locates a missing American hydrogen bomb. The 1.45-megaton nuke had been lost by the U.S. Air Force during a midair accident over Palomares, Spain. It was found resting in nearly three-thousand feet of water and was raised intact on 7 April.
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