You Only Live Twice is the 5th film in the James Bond series and the fifth to star Sean Connery as MI6 agent James Bond. The film's screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, and lightly based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel of the same name.
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. 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).
In the film, Bond is dispatched to Japan after American and Russian spacecraft disappear mysteriously in orbit. With one side blaming the other, and an American moonshot just a few days away, Bond goes undercover on a remote Japanese island with local agent Kissy Suzuki, to find the perpetrators, bringing him face to face with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. This film reveals the features of Blofeld, who was previously a partially-unseen character.
Orbiting over the Earth is Jupiter 16, a US space capsule manned by two astronauts. As they maintain radio contact with bases in Hawaii and Houston, one of the astronauts ventures outside to make routine repairs, when radar picks up another spacecraft closing fast. Radio contact is lost and the spacecraft opens up and swallows Jupiter 16, in the process severing the other astronaut's lifeline and leaving him to die in space.
In Hong Kong, MI6 agent James Bond is enjoying a romantic encounter with a Chinese woman. She leaves the bed a pushes a button that levers it into the wall. Two men burst into the room with machine guns and spray the bed. When the police arrive, the woman has disappeared and Bond is found dead.
A contentious meeting between US and Soviet diplomats follows, brokered by a member of Britain's foreign service. The US believes the pirate spacecraft is Russian in origin, having tracked the ship in orbit before it ventured into the atmosphere; the US is to launch another capsule in three weeks and will regard interference with the ship as an act of war, and will launch a military attack on Russia should the capsule come under attack itself. Great Britain, however, believes the alien ship landed in the Sea of Japan based on tracking of the ship from a station in Singapore and that a British official in Hong Kong is following this lead.
News is made of Bond's death, and he has a funeral by being buried at sea. As soon as Bond's casket hits the sea floor, it is retrieved by MI6 agents and taken to an undersea base, whereupon the casket is opened and a healthy Bond emerges. His assassination in Hong Kong was a ruse to trick his enemies into believing he was dead so he can continue his mission undetected. He is ordered to Japan to meet with members of Japan's SIS. One, a beautiful woman named Aki, takes him to the home of Dikko Henderson, a British intelligence official living in Japan who has discovered information about the rogue spacecraft. Henderson theorizes that a third power is using Osato Chemicals, a vast multinational corporation, to launch spacecraft from Japan to attack US and Russian space crafts and trigger war between the two superpowers. However, Henderson is stabbed to death before he can reveal more. James subdues Henderson's killer, then takes his place and infiltrates Osato Chemicals to find more information. He battles with a large bodyguard and defeats him before he finds a safe containing paperwork and a film negative that he takes before being pursued by security guards.
James is rescued by Aki, but he is now mistrustful. When Aki stops her car near a subway entrance James chases her, only to fall into a "trap" set by Tiger Tanaka, the head of Japanese SIS and the most secretive official in Tokyo. After verifying Tanaka's credentials via a codeword, James works with him and they examine the paperwork found in Osato's safe. It details the smuggling of LOX - technical shorthand for liquid oxygen for rocket fuel and which is also the name for smoked salmon, and the perfect cover. The film negative is of a supertanker, the Ning Po, the picture coming from an American tourist killed by whoever works for Osato Chemicals; the picture shows not only the ship but a small boat of fishing women, indicating the area is an outer island on the way to Shanghai. James theorizes that the international criminal consortium SPECTRE has a role in the space hijackings given their history of using private organizations for the actual legwork of a conspiracy in the service of other foreign powers.
James spends the night at Tanaka's house, where he is given exotic hospitality in the form of being bathed by "very sexiful" young ladies and given a relaxing massage by one. James' massage is taken over by the shapely and scantily-dressed Aki, who has fallen in love with him, a love the two consummate.
The next day James is arranged to meet with Mr. Osato in the guise of businessman Jim Fisher to negotiate a bulk-purchase of important chemicals. Osato surreptitiously X-rays James, finding he is armed, and James is given a drink by Osato's secretary, Helga Brandt, who is more than just an efficient aide-de-camp. Osato orders hit men to kill James, but he and Aki escape and Tanaka dispatches the hit men via a transport chopper sporting a giant magnet.
Tanaka radios James and orders James and Aki to Kobe, where the Ning Po is being loaded for departure. James then urges Tanaka to contact M in London to dispatch "Little Nellie" and her father - a minicopter gunship built under the supervision of Q. After arriving at Kobe, James and Aki find tanks of liquid oxygen but the two are attacked by a gang of dockworkers. James fights them off to allow Aki to escape, and it appears James himself will get away - until he is ambushed and knocked unconscious.
He is bound to a chair in Helga's room on the Ning Po, where she questions him about snooping around the dock and holds a plastic surgeon's instrument dangerously close to James to pry information from him. But she is also aroused by James' masculinity and allows herself to be seduced by him; after consummating their arousal she flies James in a private plane, then bails out and locks him in, but James manages to escape, land the crippled plane, and escape before it explodes.
Returning to Tiger's house, James is given photos of the Ning Po showing she stopped at an outer island and offloaded an enormous stockpile of equipment, shown by a vastly lower waterline. The threesome meet "Q" and Little Nellie is assembled by Q's crew of specialists. Sporting a variety of powerful weapons aboard Little Nellie, James overflies the area islands and is attacked by four gunships which he shoots down and which leave no doubt as to the presence of SPECTRE.
A scheduled Russian space shot, meanwhile, goes off, and is grabbed by the enemy rocket, which is tracked by the US Air Force before disappearing, seeming to confirm to the US that the Russians are behind the space hijackings and will now use the excuse of losing their own spacecraft to shoot down the next Jupiter launch. Russia is angry at America for stealing one of their rockets.
Both Osato and Helga Brandt meet with their leader, "Number 1", in his headquarters after the rogue craft returns to it's base. The man's face is not shown however he holds a white cat and finishes a meeting with two scientists who designed the radar jamming system that has cloaked the location of the villain's base. Both men demand more money but acquiesce after his bodyguard, Hans, shows them his leader's pool of piranha. The two scientists leave and the mysterious villain flashes the x-ray showing Bond's Walther PPK and expresses his disappointment in both Osato and Brandt for failing to kill him. Both accuse each other of failure. The villain orders Brandt to leave and drops her into the piranha pool as she walks across its bridge; she is eaten alive. He then sharply orders Osato to kill Bond immediately.
Bond is ordered to report to Tiger's palatial estate which also doubles as a ninja training camp. Tiger's plan is to use his army of men to infiltrate a fishing village on the island where the Ning Po last made port. Bond himself will be disguised as a Japanese man and will train with the rest of Tiger's ninja army; the army will later hide in the island's largest village as local fishermen. Bond will also take a wife; to his dismay, Aki will not be the woman because she is not from the village. After the procedure which disguises him, Bond and Aki spend the night together. While they sleep, an assassin sneaks into the rafters above their bed and lowers a needle on the end of a thread. He trickles a powerful poison down the thread, his target being Bond. Bond, however, shifts in his sleep. Aki also shifts at the same moment and the poison drips onto her mouth. As she struggles and dies, Bond wakes up and shoots the assassin dead. Tiger comes in and Bond tells him what happened. Bond seems more urgent than ever to investigate the plot but Tiger tells him he needs a few more days of training. The next day during a staff match, Bond is attacked again by another assassin who tries to stab him with a knife hidden in his weapon. Bond kills the man and Tiger identifies him, saying he's not one of his men. The next day Bond is wed to a lovely young woman from the fishing village, Kissy Suzuki.
The two settle into a small house in the village and Kissy rejects Bond's advances to consummate their marriage. The two also notice a small funeral being held for a young girl who'd been exploring a nearby cave along the shoreline. When the girl's boat floated out of the cave, she was mysteriously dead. At early morning, Tiger warns Bond that the Americans are launching their next spacecraft today with a last warning to the Soviets! Bond becomes interested in the cave; the next morning, he and Kissy drift away from the fishing fleet and explore the cave. When they enter it, Bond immediately notices that a poison gas has been released in the cave and they jump over the side of their boat and swim inside. The come ashore and hike up to the volcano's caldera. They see a helicopter fly down into the basin but it disappears. A closer investigation reveals that the surface of the crater's lake is actually a gigantic metal cover that hides a secret base where the rogue rocket has been hiding after swallowing the USA and Russian spacecraft. Bond sends Kissy back to find Tiger and his men, while Bond himself sneaks into the crater.
Inside the volcano, Bond locates the missing astronauts and cosmonauts being held prisoner. They subdue a few guards and imprison the SPECTRE astronauts that are next to fly into space and capture the next spacecraft launched by the USA. Bond takes the place of one of them, in the hopes that can sabotage the next capture, however, as he prepares to enter the rogue rocket, he's stopped at the last moment and taken to the volcano's command center. There he meets the mysterious villain; Ernst Stavro Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE, a vast criminal organization. Bond's personal effects are confiscated and Blofeld reveals his plan; the capture of both American and Russian spacecraft will trigger a nuclear war between the two, eliminating them from the world stage. Presumably China would move in and seize control of the world from the two superpowers. As Blofeld's craft moves into position, Bond asks for a cigarette, one of the weaponized ones given to him by Tiger. He kills one of Blofeld's men with the miniature rocket inside and escapes from the control room as Tiger's ninja army arrives at the crater. A fierce battle erupts. Bond and Tiger's men eventually gain the upper hand in battle. Bond finds a way into the control room through Blofeld's private quarters. There Bond battles briefly with Hans until the henchman is thrown into his boss' pool of piranha. Bond reaches the control room and struggles briefly with the detonator for Blofeld's spacecraft until he is able to destroy the craft. Relieved, the POTUS calls off the nuclear run. Blofeld himself escapes after killing Osato and triggers a self-destruct device that cause the volcano to erupt. Tiger, Bond, Kissy and the ninja army escape into the sea.
Bond and Kissy find a life raft waiting nearby and board it. Bond asks Kissy if it's OK to take their "honeymoon" now and she agrees. As they kiss, a British sub surfaces underneath them and the raft is caught on the fore section of the sub. Inside, M orders Miss Moneypenny to tell Bond to report in to headquarters.
You Only Live Twice became the quintessential example of the spy film particularly with the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his aspirations of world domination and extravagant lair in a volcano. As a result the film has been parodied greatly perhaps 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.
Although this film is not the series' first wholly original James Bond film adventure (Bond's infiltration of the Japanese fishing village, and the characters of Blofeld, Tanaka, and Kissy are from the novel), the screenplay by Roald Dahl is the first James Bond screen story to substantially diverge from the original novel's story and plot, due, in part, to having been produced before On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Cast & Characters
- James Bond - Sean Connery
- M - Bernard Lee
- Miss Moneypenny - Lois Maxwell
- Q - Desmond Llewelyn
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld - Donald Pleasence
- Kissy Suzuki - Mie Hama
- Aki - Akiko Wakabayashi
- Mr. Osato - Teru Shimoda
- Helga Brandt - Karin Dor
- Tiger Tanaka - Tetsuro Tamba
- Hans - Ronald Rich
- Dikko Henderson - Charles Gray
- Ling - Tsai Chin
- Hera - Jeanne Roland
The cast also included Alexander Knox in a small role as the unnamed President of the United States. Knox had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944 for his performance as another President, Woodrow Wilson, in Wilson.
- Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
- Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
- Written by: Ian Fleming
- Screenplay by: Roald Dahl
- Cinematography by: Freddie Young
- Music composed by: John Barry
- Production design by Ken Adam
- Second unit director: Peter R. Hunt
- Main article: You Only Live Twice (soundtrack)
Vehicles & gadgets
- Toyota 2000GT convertible — Owned by Aki. Two prototypes were built especially for the film; no others were made.
- Little Nellie — A heavily armed autogyro that could be transported in several suitcases for quick field assembly.
- Shooting Cigarette — Tiger gives Bond a rocket-shooting cigarette with an accurate range of 30 yards; he uses it against a guard in Blofeld's volcano to reach the control to open the crater hatch, allowing Tanaka's forces to storm the base.
- Safecracker — A small, pocket-sized device that attaches to a safe lock the secret agent wants opened. When properly positioned, the user needs only to turn the combination lock's dial, and the device lights as each correct combination digit is found until the safe is opened. However, Bond learns the hard way that the gadget does not defeat a safe's other security measures, such as alarms.
- This is considered to be one of the most cultured Bond films to date. Unlike most Bond epics featuring England, Russia, or America as prime locations, almost the entire film is set in Japan, and several minutes are devoted towards an elaborate Japanese wedding in the middle of the movie. This is in keeping with Fleming's original novel, which also focused a number of pages (more than the usual for a Bond book) to the discussion of Japanese culture.
- The film is unusual in the degree that it illustrates a camaraderie between James Bond and Tanaka, a.k.a. Tiger. The two are seen cavorting about in several scenes during the movie, and seem to form a genuine friendship, and not simply a business association through the course of the movie. This is also in keeping with Fleming's novel. Tiger even seems to have come up with a nickname for Bond in this film, at one point calling him "Zero Zero".
- James Bond is married in this film, although controversy exists over whether it is a legitimate marriage because he chose a fake name to go undercover when the marriage occurred. Since his wife, Kissy, survives it leaves open whether he was still married under Japanese law when he wed Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
- During the movie, James Bond tells expatriate Henderson he has never been in Japan. It contradicts the scene in the earlier From Russia with Love in which 007 tells Tatiana (Tania) Romanova that "once when I was with M in Tokyo, we had an interesting experience."
- Dr. Evil (from Austin Powers), a spoof of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was inspired by, more than any other actor, Donald Pleasence's portrayal in You Only Live Twice. Both share the same grey suit, bald head, pet kitty, facial scar, and bulging eyes.
- Blofeld's volcano lair, complete with internal monorail system, was heavily borrowed for the 2004 film The Incredibles.
- Jan Werich was originally cast to play Blofeld. After five days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich wasn't menacing enough, and recast Donald Pleasence in the role – the official excuse being that Werich was ill.
- The death of Helga occurs when Blofeld presses the footpedal and lets her fall into a piranha-infested tank. This death resembles the death of the archvillain's secretary in The Spy Who Loved Me who fell down a trap elevator into a shark tank. Both films were directed by the same man.
- Kissy Suzuki's last name is never mentioned on screen, and is known only from the closing credits where the character is identified fully (and, of course, from reading Fleming's novel). The only other Bond girl likewise unidentified is Octopussy, whose real name is never revealed (although in the movie, Octopussy gives her father's last name as Smyth).
- It has been reported that Blofeld's cat was so surprised by the loud noises in the finale that it was only found several days later cowering in the rafters of the volcano set.
- This was the first film in which M's office is shown to be "portable", relocating to a submarine. This gimmick would be revived in The Man with the Golden Gun (in which M's office is hidden aboard the wreck of the RMS Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong Harbor), The Spy Who Loved Me (hidden inside an Egyptian tomb), Moonraker (located in a monastery in Brazil), and The Living Daylights (on board a C-130).
- While filming, Connery's then-wife, Diane Cilento, had to replace Mie Hama (as Kissy Suzuki) for a swimming scene, because the Japanese actress was struck with stomach cramps. Other sources suggest Cilento stepped in because it was discovered that Hama could not swim.
- Connery was involved in a minor scandal while filming when he stated that he didn't find Japanese women sexy.
- The manned U.S. spacecraft named Jupiter in the film are clearly Gemini vessels, flown between 1965 and 1966 with two astronauts to test various systems and procedures vital to the successor manned space project, Apollo, that would land the first men on the Moon in 1969. These procedures included EVA and spacecraft docking.
- The Soviet manned spacecraft shown — ironically named Gemini — are based on early (incorrect) U.S. speculations about Soviet Vostok and Voskhod spacecraft — the designs of which were not revealed officially by the Soviet Union until 1967.
- The launch scene of the Soviet mission was actually a Gemini launch on a Titan II rocket from Cape Kennedy, Florida (note the palm trees).
- Cubby Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, Ken Adam, Lewis Gilbert and Freddie Young were due to return to the UK on a BOAC Boeing 707 flight on March 5, 1966 after scouting locations across Japan. The group cancelled their tickets when they were told they had a chance to watch a ninja demonstration. That flight crashed 25 minutes after take off, killing all on board.
- The first Bond film to indicate James Bond holds the rank of Commander. M holds the rank of Rear Admiral (the old insignia) while Miss Moneypenny holds the rank of Second Officer in the Women's Royal Naval Service (later disbanded).
- Bond has the following decorations on his Royal Navy Uniform: Top row L-R
Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George Distinguished Service Order 1939–45 Star 2nd row Atlantic Star (With subsequent France and Germany Star denoted by the Silver Rosette clasp) Pacific Star (With subsequent Burma Star denoted by the Silver Rosette clasp) 3rd row Defence Medal War Medal