You Only Live Twice (1967)
With the Hi-Tech, Gadget-Laden Thunderball raking in record-breaking international grosses, Broccoli and Saltzman had every reason to follow a similar strategy in planning the next 007 production You Only Live Twice. Originally, On Her Majesty's Secret Service had been scheduled to follow Thunderball, but the decision was made to delay that film and bring Bond to the Far East in the screen adaption of Ian Fleming's penultimate full-length 007 novel. For the first time, however, virtually every element of a Fleming novel was ignored in place of an original screenplay by the noted writer Roald Dahl. Dahl's script retained only two aspects of the book: the Japanese location and the Bond/Blofeld conflict. Instead of Fleming's moody tale set in the SPECTRE chief's castle and 'Garden of Death', Dahl created a space-age adventure complete with rocket ships, expensive special effects and large-scale action set-pieces.
You Only Live Twice has been criticised for carrying the reliance on gadgetry to the extreme. As in Thunderball, the character of James Bond becomes less a flesh-and-blood person than a catalyst for increasingly outlandish events. Nevertheless, Twice is a truly spectacular film boasting sets by Ken Adam which one reviewer aptly described as being worthy of exhibition at a World's fair. Indeed, Adam's magnificent volcano set is one of the cinema's major achievements in production design. Equally impressive is Oscar-winning director of photography Freddie Young's gorgeous cinematography, John Barry's lush musical score and some of the best editing in the series. (Although credited to Thelma Conell, Peter Hunt - now second unit director - did a great deal of uncredited editing at the request of the producers.) Lewis Gilbert, recently acclaimed for his work on Alfie, directed (and would go on to direct two more 007 adventures). From an acting standpoint, Sean Connery appears relatively uninterested in the proceedings, perhaps due to his well-publicised complaints about his frustration with the increasingly long production schedules of the Bond films and the fanaticism of the international press. (A furious Connery complained that the reporters followed him into the toilet for an interview.) By the time production had been completed, Connery publicly announced that You Only Live Twice would be his last appearance as James Bond.
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American and Soviet space crafts are mysteriously vanishing and both nations are blaming each other. Aware that the next incident will cause a nuclear war, M assigns James Bond to Japan, where he suspects a third party might be orchestrating the conflict. Arriving in Tokyo, 007 teams with the head of the Japanese Secret Service, Tiger Tanaka, and one of his top agents, the beautiful Aki. Bond uncovers evidence that SPECTRE is causing the friction between East and West. He disguises himself as a Japanese and trains in Tanaka's school for Ninjas. When Aki is killed in the line of duty, Bond is assigned to 'marry' another agent, the comely Kissy Suzuki, and the two mingle with the population of a remote fishing village. They discover that SPECTRE is launching rockets with capture the US and Soviet space craft and returning them to a magnificent lair inside a dormant volcano. Bond infiltrates the volcano and comes face to face with SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who informs him that he has just launched another rocket in the hopes of causing a third world war from which he will emerge as the leader of the remaining civilization. With only minutes until a full assault on the volcano and, in a spectacular battle, thwart the nuclear threat. Although Blofeld escapes, Bond has saved the world from an atomic holocaust.
Filmed entirely on location in Japan (with the exception of second unit photography done in Hong Kong, Nassau and Spain), Twice utilised the exotic backdrops of Tokyo, Kobe and the world-famous Kagoshima Castle. The remote fishing village of Ibusuki, known for its hot springs, served as the fishing village where Bond and Kissy 'honeymoon', while the volcano on Kyushu led to complications because much of the production equipment had to be transported by foot and backhorse. Because of fans' hysteria at the presence of Sean Connery in Tokyo, director Lewis Gilbert had to hide the cameras for some of the sequences to minimise the attention drawn to the production. As in previous films, Pinewood Studios played host to all the interior set sequences.
With a budget of $9.5 million, the cost of bringing You Only Live Twice to completion was $3 million more than that expended on Thunderball. The reasons are very apparent. Twice fulfilled the producers' promise always to ensure that every penny was reflected on the screen. This looks like an epic film, with stupendous sets and exotic Far Eastern locales. Yet You Only Live Twice had to contend with a rival Bond spectacular, Columbia's big-budget 007 satire Casino Royale (the one Fleming novel to which Broccoli and Saltzman did not own the rights). That film's producer, Charles K Feldman, assumed he could not compete with Eon in making a 'serious' Bond movie, so opted instead for an all-star spoof which cost more than $12 million. Broccoli and Saltzman were clearly concerned that the rival 007 film would confuse the audience, especially since both would be in cinemas at the same time. There is indeed evidence that the producers' concerns were well-founded, as box-office receipts for You Only Live Twice were significantly lower than those for Thunderball in the USA, at $43 million versus $64 million. Worldwide grosses were £112 million compared with %142 million for the preceding film. Still, You Only Live Twice was considered an enormous hit by any definition, a rather remarkable achievement considering that since the release of Thunderball, the spy mania boom had peaked and begun to subside. Yet, Bond outlived his cinematic rivals and continued to prosper. However, the resignation of Sean Connery as 007 left many wondering if the character would indeed be able to live twice with another star in the role.
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Writers: Harold Jack Bloom, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Official Rating: PG
Release Date: 12 June 1967 UK
Bond Actor: Sean Connery
Film number: 5
Theme song: "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra
Soundtrack: by John Barry
Alternate theme: None
Available on: DVD, Blu-Ray
Cast and Characters
Marketing & Merchandise
To ensure that the public knew this would be an even bigger epic than Thunderball, the producers devised a massive advertising campaign. Alas, it would be the most controversial one, at least from Sean Connery's point of view. Long before the film opened, the teaser poster featured scenes from previous Bond films along with a depiction of Connery holding a space helmet. 'This man IS James Bond', screamed the narrative. The producers - concerned about the almost simultaneous release of the big budget Bond spoof Casino Royale - were trying to remind fans that this was the true cinematic 007. However, the campaign annoyed Connery since his name did not even appear on the poster. Having already decided to resign from the role because of fears of type-casting, Connery resented the continued implication that he and his onscreen alter ego were inseparable. (Ultimately, it was too late to modify the advertisements, but in Britain certain campaigns made last-minute changes to read 'Sean Connery AS James Bond'.) The marketing department created not one but three magnificent poster designs by artists Frank McCarthy and Robert McGinnis - each of which has become highly sought after by collectors today. Lois Maxwell was sent on a seventeen-city tour of the USA and was an honoured guest at Expo 67 in Canada.
Product tie-ins included a series of collectors' slides which were sold and packaged with bubble gum and allowed the buyer to purchase a small viewer via a mail-order promotion. The soundtrack album was part of a massive promotion in the UK which included life-size models of Connery for shop windows. Airfix, one of the most prolific manufacturers of construction kits of the era, manufactured what is probably the most detailed model of Little Nellie. Such was its popularity on the collectors' market (with original kits commanding a price over £300) that Airfix reissued this kit in 1996. Additionally, Airfix produced a 1:24 scale model of the Toyota 2000 GT, as did Doyusha of Japan almost thirty years later. Continuing their relationship with the Bond market-place, Corgi Toys of England released a magnificent die-cast replica of the Toyota 2000 GT. Complete with hand-painted figures of Bond and Aki, the car featured an option not seen in the film: a rocket launcher in the boot. One of the rarest pieces of You Only Live Twice memorabilia is a children's playset based on the SPECTRE volcano lair. Sold only in France, the toy is among the most expensive and sought-after of all Bond collectables.