You Only Live Twice (film)

You Only Live Twice (film)

name = You Only Live Twice

caption = "You Only Live Twice" film poster by Robert McGinnis & Frank McCarthy
bond = Sean Connery
stars = Mie Hama
Donald Pleasence
Akiko Wakabayashi
writer = Ian Fleming
screenplay = Roald Dahl
cinematography = Freddie Young, BSC
director = Lewis Gilbert
producer = Albert R. Broccoli
Harry Saltzman
music = John Barry
main theme = You Only Live Twice
composer = John Barry
Leslie Bricusse
performer = Nancy Sinatra
editing = Peter R. Hunt
distributor = United Artists
released = 12 June 1967 (UK)
13 June 1967 (U.S.)
runtime = 117 min.
country = UK
preceded_by = Thunderball (1965)
followed_by = On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
budget = $9,500,000
worldgross = $111,600,000
admissions = 81.7 million
imdb_id = 0062512
amg_id = 1:55917

"You Only Live Twice" (1967) is the fifth spy film of the British James Bond series and stars Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film's screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, and based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel of the same name.

In the film, Bond is dispatched to Japan after American and Russian spacecraft disappear mysteriously in orbit. With each nation blaming the other amidst the Cold War, Bond travels secretly to a remote Japanese island in order to find the perpetrators and comes face to face with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. The film reveals the appearance of Blofeld who was previously a partially unseen character. SPECTRE is working on behalf of a third-party, a foreign government represented by Asian officals. Although their country is not named it is possible that they come from the People's Republic of China whose relationship with both the United States and the Soviet Union was at a low point (see Sino-Soviet split).

After its release in 1967, Connery stepped down from the role, leading to the hiring of George Lazenby for 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Connery later returned officially, one last time, in "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). "You Only Live Twice" is the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, who later directed 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me" and 1979's "Moonraker", both starring Roger Moore.

Also known for being the first Bond film to be released in the summertime, the film was a great success, with positive reviews and over $111M in worldwide box office, and has been parodied greatly, most prominently by the Austin Powers series and the scar-faced Nehru suit wearing Dr. Evil but also in music. The backing soundtrack to the film was used by British singer Robbie Williams in his hit "Millennium".


An American spacecraft is hijacked from orbit by a rogue craft; a similar fate befalls a Soviet spacecraft later on. With each country thinking that the other is the cause of their loss, the world is thrown to the brink of World War III. The United Kingdom's government, however, believes the spacecraft landed in the Sea of Japan. The British government suspects Japanese involvement.

The pre-title sequence depicted James Bond faking his murder in Hong Kong, allowing Bond more freedom to operate. He is sent to Japan to investigate the British suspicion, in conjunction with the Japanese secret service leader "Tiger" Tanaka.

At a Tokyo sumo wrestling match Bond contacts Tanaka's assistant Aki, who takes him to meet with the local MI6 operative, Dikko Henderson. Henderson claims to have critical evidence for the rogue craft originating in Japan, but is murdered before he can reveal it. Bond kills the assailant and steals his identity. He is brought to their headquarters, which turns out to be Osato Chemicals. Once there, Bond breaks into an office safe of the Japanese corporate head, Mr. Osato, and steals some documents after triggering the alarm.

As Bond flees, Aki picks him up in her car. However, Bond becomes suspicious when she won't answer his questions and flees to a secluded area. When Bond chases her, he falls through a trapdoor and slides into Tanaka's office. After identifying each other, they examine Bond's documents. The main item of interest is a tourist photograph of a cargo ship called the Ning-Po and a microdot on it containing a message that operatives "liquidated" the tourist who took the photo as a security measure.

Interested in what was worth killing for in that photo, Bond investigates the company's dock facilities and discovers that the ship was delivering liquid oxygen, an oxidizer for rocket fuel; the document used the term LOX, which Bond states is an American name for smoked salmon, providing a convenient cover. Together, Bond and Tanaka learn that the true mastermind behind this is Osato's client Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his organization SPECTRE.

Preparing to investigate the island in the photo, Bond trains with Tanaka and his elite ninja force. Tanaka suggests that the best disguise for Bond is as a Japanese fisherman. Bond receives training in Japanese culture and stages marriage to Tanaka's student, Kissy Suzuki. After the spies learn from surveillance photos that the Ning-Po unloaded its cargo overnight at the island, Bond investigates the area in the air with Little Nellie, a heavily armed autogyro. While in mid-flight and having no luck finding the SPECTRE base, Bond is suddenly attacked by four mysterious armed helicopters, but he fights them off. While the base is nearby, Bond and Tanaka are stumped as to the exact location.

To make matters worse, they learn that the United States has moved up their next space mission, which means it will likely be hijacked by SPECTRE and a world war will likely be triggered before they can stop the plot. However, they gain a major clue when Kissy mentions that a local woman had just died after rowing her boat into a cave.

Bond and Kissy set out on a reconnaissance mission and discover that SPECTRE has a secret rocket base hidden in a hollow volcano. Bond slips in through the crater door, while Kissy returns to alert Tanaka. Bond locates and frees the captured Soviet and American astronauts. With their help, he steals a spacesuit in attempt to infiltrate the SPECTRE craft (code named "Bird One"). Before he can enter the craft however, he mis-handles the air conditioning unit of his suit, and is caught. Bond is taken to Blofeld for interrogation, while Bird One is launched with the backup astronaut aboard.

Tanaka's troops are attacked by the crater's sentry guns. Meanwhile, the Bird One closes in on the American space capsule and US forces prepare to launch a nuclear attack on the USSR. In response Bond asks for a cigarette, which conceals a small rocket. Killing the guard by the crater hatch controls, Bond manages to open the door allowing the troops to enter the base. They soon overpower the henchman and the control room is evacuated. Bond notices the movement and advances to the control room, where there is a destruct switch for the spacecraft. After fighting Blofeld's bodyguard Hans, Bond manages to get the destruct key from him and detonates Bird One, seconds before it reaches the American craft.

The US stands down after learning that their spacecraft is safe. Blofeld escapes along a secret passage. His last act before leaving is to activate the base's self-destruct system. Bond, Kissy, Tanaka, and the surviving ninjas swim out. Safe from the now erupting volcano, the survivors board air-dropped lifeboats.


*Sean Connery as James Bond: An MI6 agent.
*Tetsuro Tamba as Tiger Tanaka: Head of Japanese secret service.
*Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld: A megalomaniac and the head of SPECTRE. He plans to ignite a global nuclear war.
*Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki: An agent with the Japanese SIS who assists Bond.
*Mie Hama as Kissy: An Ama diving girl deployed who replaces Aki after her death.
*Teru Shimada as Mr. Osato: A Japanese industrialist secretly affiliated to SPECTRE.
*Karin Dor as Helga Brandt: Osato's secretary and a SPECTRE assassin.
*Bernard Lee as M: The strict head of MI6.
*Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny: M's secretary.
*Desmond Llewelyn as Q: Head of MI6 technical department.
*Charles Gray as Henderson: British contact living in Japan.
*Tsai Chin as Ling: Undercover MI6 agent in Hong Kong.
*Ronald Rich as Hans: Blofeld's personal bodyguard. He follows the archetype of a tall, muscular blonde henchmen, started with "From Russia with Love's" Red Grant, and continued with other such as Stamper of "Tomorrow Never Dies" and Eric of "For Your Eyes Only". [cite book
last = Black
first = Jeremy | coauthors =
editor =
others =
title = The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming's Novels to the Big Screen | origdate =
origyear =
origmonth = | accessdate = | edition = | series =
date = 2005-06-01 | publisher = Bison Books | location = | isbn = | id = | pages = p. 167
chapter = The Brosnan films | ref =


"Thunderball's" end credits listed "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" as the next film, but the producers decided to adapt "You Only Live Twice" instead because the "Majesty's" would require searching for high and snowy locations. Lewis Gilbert originally declined the offer to direct, but accepted after producer Albert R. Broccoli called him saying: "You can't give up this job. It's the largest audience in the world." Roald Dahl, close friend of Ian Fleming, was chosen to write the adaptation despite having no prior experience writing a screenplay.

Gilbert, producers Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, production designer Ken Adam and director of photography Freddie Young then went to Japan, spending three weeks searching for locations. SPECTRE’s shore fortress headquarters was changed to an extinct volcano after the team learned that the Japanese don't build castles by the sea. The group was due to return to the UK on a BOAC Boeing 707 flight (BOAC Flight 911) on 5 March 1966, but canceled after being told they had a chance to watch a ninja demonstration. That flight crashed 25 minutes after takeoff, killing all on board. [ cite web |url= | work=BBC News Online | title=1966: Passenger jet crashes into Mount Fuji | accessdate=2007-11-17]

Lewis Gilbert's regular editor, Thelma Connell, was originally hired to edit the film. However, after her initial, almost three-hour cut received a terrible response from test audiences, Peter R. Hunt was asked to re-edit the film. Hunt's cut proved a much greater success, and he was awarded the director's chair on the next film as a result.

Unlike most James Bond films featuring various locales around the world, almost the entire film is set in one country and several minutes are given over to an elaborate Japanese wedding. This is in keeping with Fleming's original novel, which also devoted a number of pages to the discussion of Japanese culture.


When the time came to begin "You Only Live Twice", the producers were faced with the problem of a disenchanted star. Sean Connery had begun making noises that he was tired of playing James Bond and all of the associated commitment (time spent filming and publicising each movie), together with finding it difficult to do other work, which would potentially lead to typecasting. [ [ In Praise of George Lazenby] - Alternative 007] Saltzman and Broccoli were able to persuade Connery by increasing his fee for the film, but geared up to look for a replacement.

Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld. Upon arriving at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a poor choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After several days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich wasn't menacing enough, and recast Blofeld with Donald Pleasence in the role.cite video| title =Inside You Only Live Twice: An Original Documentary | medium=Television | people=Production Staff | publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000] Pleasence's ideas for Blofeld's appearance included a hump, a limp, a beard, and a lame hand, before he settled on the scar. [cite news|author=Ian Nathan|title=Unseen Bond|work=Empire|date=October 2008|pages=100] He found it uncomfortable though because of the glue that attached it to his eye.

Many European models were tested for Helga Brandt, with German Karin Dor being cast. Dor performed the stunt of diving into a pool to depict Helga's demise herself, without the use of a double. [cite video|people=Karin Dor|title=You Only Live Twice Commentary track |publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000]

Gilbert had chosen Tetsuro Tamba after working with him in "The 7th Dawn". A number of actual martial arts experts were hired as the ninjas, with Dr Masaki Hatsumi serving as the technical advisor on ninjutsu. [ [ IMDb Entry For Masaaki Hatsumi] ] But the Japanese women were hard to cast, because most didn't know any English. Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama were chosen because of their beauty and started taking English classes in the UK. Hama's problems with the language made her switch roles with Wakabayashi, who had no problems learning English. Wakabayashi only requested her role, "Suki", to be rebaptized "Aki".


The film was shot primarily in Japan. Himeji Castle in Hyōgo was depicted as Tanaka's ninja training camp. His private transportation hub was filmed at the Tokyo Metro's Nakano-shimbashi Station. The Hotel New Otani, Tokyo served as the outside for Osato Chemicals and the hotel's gardens were used for scenes of the ninja training. Bōnotsu in Kagoshima served as the fishing village, the Kobe harbor was used for the dock fight and Mount Shinmoe-dake in Kyūshū was used for the exteriors of SPECTRE's headquarters. [cite video|title=On Location With Ken Adam|location=You Only Live Twice: Ultimate Edition DVD (Disc 2)|publisher=MGM Home Entertainment|accessdate=2008-01-31] cite video|title=Exotic Locations|location=You Only Live Twice: Ultimate Edition DVD (Disc 2)|publisher=MGM Home Entertainment|accessdate=2008-01-31] Large crowds were present in Japan to see the shooting. A Japanese fan began following Sean Connery with a camera, and the police were called several times to prevent invasions during shooting.cite video|title=You Only Live Twice Commentary track|medium=DVD|publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000]

The heavily armed autogyro "Little Nellie" was included after Ken Adam heard a radio interview with its inventor, RAF Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Wallis piloted his invention, which was equipped with various mock-up armaments by John Stears' special effects team, during production. [cite album-notes | url= |title=You Only Live TwiceThunderball Ultimate Edition DVD |year=2006 |accessdate=2008-02-02] "Nellie's" battle with helicopters proved to be difficult to film. The scenes were initially shot in Miyazaki, first with takes of the gyrocopter, with more than 85 take-offs, 5 hours of flight and Wallis nearly crashing onto the camera several times. A scene filming the helicopters from above created a major updraft and cameraman John Jordan had his foot severed by the craft's rotor. Filming was interrupted. The concluding shots involved explosions, which the Japanese government did not allow in a national park. So, the crew moved to Torremolinos, Spain, which was found to resemble the Japanese landscape.

The sets of SPECTRE's volcano base were constructed at a lot inside Pinewood Studios, with a cost of $1 million and including operative heliport and monorail. [cite video|title=On Location With Ken Adam|location=You Only Live Twice: Ultimate Edition DVD (Disc 2)|publisher=MGM Home Entertainment|accessdate=2008-01-31] The 45 meter (120′) tall set could be seen from 5 kilometers away, and attracted many people from the region. cite video|people=John Cork|title=You Only Live Twice Commentary track|publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000] Other locations outside Japan included the ship HMS Tenby in Gibraltar for the sea burial, [cite web|url=|title=HMS TENBY - STAR OF THE JAMES BOND MOVIE YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE|publisher=HMS Tenby Association|accessdate=2008-03-08] Hong Kong for the scene where Bond fakes his death, and Alaska for the Russian radar station.

Sean Connery's then wife Diane Cilento had to make the swimming scenes for at least five Japanese actresses, including Mie Hama.


The soundtrack was the fourth of the series to be composed by John Barry. He tried to incorporate the "elegance of the Oriental sound" with Japanese music-inspired tracks.cite video|people=John Barry|title=You Only Live Twice Commentary track|medium=DVD|publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000] The theme song, "You Only Live Twice", was composed by Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse and sung by Nancy Sinatra. Sinatra reported to be very nervous while recording — first she wanted to leave the studio; then she declared to sometimes "sound like Minnie Mouse". [cite video|people=Nancy Sinatra|title=You Only Live Twice Commentary track|medium=DVD|publisher =MGM Home Entertainment Inc| date= 2000] Barry declared that the final song uses 25 different takes In 1998, Robbie Williams sampled the title song "You Only Live Twice" for the chart-topper "Millennium". A rock version of "You Only Live Twice" was covered by Coldplay when they toured in 2001, and was covered by Natacha Atlas for her 2005 compilation album "The Best of Natacha Atlas". Icelandic singer Björk also recorded a cover version, as has Shirley Bassey, who has three original Bond themes to her credit.

The title song was originally recorded by Julie Rogers, but eventually discarded. Only two lines from that version were kept in the final lyrics, and the orchestral part was changed to fit Nancy Sinatra's vocal range. Rogers' version only appeared in a James Bond 30th Anniversary CD, with no singer credit. [cite web|url=|title=You Only Sing Twice||date=2007-06-17|accessdate=2008-02-02] [cite web|url=|title=Julie Rogers Interview||date=2007-06-27|accessdate=2008-02-02] Interestingly, an alternative example of a possible theme song (also called "You Only Live Twice" and sung by Lorraine Chandler) was discovered in the vaults of RCA records in the '90s. Probably intended as a demo for consideration by the film's producers, it became a very popular track with followers of the Northern soul scene (Chandler was well known for her high-quality soul output on RCA) and can be found on several RCA soul compilations. [cite web|url=|title=Biography - Lorraine Chandler|publisher=Allmusic|accessdate=2008-02-02]

Release and reception

"You Only Live Twice" premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It was the first premiere of a James Bond film that Queen Elizabeth II had attended. [ cite web|title=Daniel Craig makes his 007 debut at premiere of Casino Royale|publisher=Daily Mail|url=|date=2006-11-18|accessdate=2006-11-21] The film grossed $43 million in the United States and over $111 million worldwide. [cite web|url=|title=You Only Live Twice|work=The Numbers|publisher=Nash Information Service|accessdate=2008-01-31]

Critical response was mostly positive, with "Rotten Tomatoes" giving a 77% "fresh" rating. [ cite web |url= | | title=You Only Live Twice (1967) | accessdate=2007-11-17] But most reviews pointed various flaws at the film. James Berardinelli said that the first half was good, but "during the second half, as the plot escalates beyond the bounds of preposterousness, that the film starts to fragment", criticizing "too extravagant rockets which swallow up spacecraft" and Blofeld's appearance. [cite web| url= | title=You Only Live Twice| last=Berardinelli| first=James| year=1996|| accessdate=2008-03-04] Roger Ebert criticized the focus on gadgets, declaring that the James Bond formula "fails to work its magic". cite web|url=|title=You Only Live Twice review|author=Roger Ebert|date=1967-06-19|publisher=Chicago Sun-Times|accessdate=2008-03-04] Christopher Null considered the film one of James Bond's most memorable adventures, but the plot "protracting and quite confusing". [cite web|url=| title=You Only Live Twice| last=Null| first=Christopher|| accessdate=2008-03-04] Ali Barclay of "BBC Films" panned Dahl's script displaying "a whole new world of villainy and technology." [cite web| title=You Only Live Twice (1967)| url=| work=BBC| accessdate=2008-03-07] Leo Goldsmith lauded the volcano base as "the most impressive of Ken Adam's sets for the franchise." [cite web|last= Goldsmith| first= Leo| title=You Only Live Twice| url=|| accessdate=2008-03-07]

IGN ranked "You Only Live Twice" as the fourth best Bond movie, [cite web|url=|title=James Bond's Top 20|publisher=IGN|date=2006-11-17|accessdate=2008-03-04] and Entertainment Weekly as the second best, considering that it "pushes the series to the outer edge of coolness". [cite web|url=,,1560072_21,00.html|title=Ranking the Bond Films|author=Benjamin Svetkey, Joshua Rich|date=2006-11-15|accessdate=2008-03-04] But Norman Wilner of MSN chose it as the fifth worse, criticizing the plot, action scenes and little screentime for Blofeld. [cite web|url=|title=Rating the Spy Game|publisher=MSN|author=Norman Wilner|accessdate=2008-03-04]

Literary allusions

Literary critic Paul Simpson called the film one of the most colourful of the series and credited the prefecture of Kagoshima for adding "a good flavour" of Japanese influence on the film. [cite book
last = Simpson
first = Paul
authorlink =
coauthors =
editor =
others =
title = The Rough Guide to James Bond
origdate =
origyear =
origmonth = | accessdate = | edition =
series =
date = 2003-01-13 | publisher = Rough Guides
location = | isbn =1843531429 | id =
pages = p. 266 | chapter = | quote =
ref =
] However he panned the depiction of Blofeld as a "let-down", "small, bald and a whooping scar." [Simpson 71] Scientist Barry Parker described the "Little Nellie" as a model WA-116 autogyro needing a runway only 72 feet long. [cite book | last = Parker | first = Barry R. | coauthors =
editor =
others =
title = Death Rays, Jet Packs, Stunts, and Supercars: The Fantastic Physics of Film's Most Celebrated Secret Agent | origdate =
origyear =
origmonth = | accessdate = | edition = | series =
date = 2005-10-16 | publisher = Johns Hopkins University Press
location = | isbn = 0801882486 | id = | pages = p. 74
chapter = | ref =
] Simon Winder said that the film is "perfect" for parodies of the series. [cite book | last = Winder | first = Simon | coauthors = | editor = Reprint edition | others = | title = The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond | origdate = | origyear = | origmonth = | accessdate = | edition = | series = | date = 2007-10-02 | publisher = Picador | location = | isbn =0312426666 | id = | pages = p. 226 | chapter = | quote = ]

eries history

This marks the first of the 007 film series to have any involvement with outer space. Subsequent films involving outer space are listed below:

*"Diamonds Are Forever"
*"Tomorrow Never Dies"
*"Die Another Day"

James Bond almost goes into outer space in this film, but is stopped by Blofeld since most astronauts go into space with their oxygen tanks on them and Bond forgot to put one on. He later goes to space in "Moonraker".

This film also establishes that Mi6 is mobile, and is evident when Moneypenny and M are present to brief 007 in a submarine before he is sent to Japan to investigate. Films that display M or any other staff out of office are listed below:
*"On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
*"The Man With The Golden Gun"
*"The Spy Who Loved Me"
*"Licence to Kill"
*"The World Is Not Enough"
*"Die Another Day"
*"Casino Royale"

This film also marks the first time Ernst Stavro Blofeld is revealed, who was previously an unseen but present character.

Also, this film is the first in the series to feature Bond in the Orient.

Also, this film marks Sean Connery's first retirement from the role. He would later reprise his role as Bond in "Diamonds are Forever" (1971) and "Never Say Never Again" (1983), a non EON production and a remake of "Thunderball".


External links

*imdb title|id=0062512|title=You Only Live Twice
*amg movie|id=1:55917|title=You Only Live Twice
*rotten-tomatoes|id=you_only_live_twice|title=You Only Live Twice
*mojo title|id=youonlylivetwice|title=You Only Live Twice
* [ MGM's site on the movie]
* [ Graham Thomas's definitive list of locations including the journey that Ian Fleming took to research the book]

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