You Only Live Twice

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You Only Live Twice
Caption: You Only Live Twice movie poster
Bond: Sean Connery
Writer: Ian Fleming
Screenplay: Roald Dahl
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Music: John Barry
Composer: John Barry
Leslie Bricusse
Performer: Nancy Sinatra
Distributor: United Artists
Released: June 13, 1967
Runtime: 117 min.
Preceded by: Thunderball
Followed by: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Budget: $9,500,000
Worldgross: $111,600,000
Admissions: 81.7 million
Imdb id: 0062512

You Only Live Twice is the fifth film in the EON Productions James Bond series and the fifth to star Sean Connery as British Secret Service agent Commander James Bond 007. 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). This is the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, whol later directed 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979's Moonraker, both starring Roger Moore.

The film's screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, and lightly based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel. This is the first Bond movie to greatly deviate from the source material. Other than the Japanese setting and several characters, the two stories are very different.

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 comraderie between James Bond and his opposite number in Japan. Felix Leiter is frequently used as Bond's 'man in America' in other films, but their relationship is on a professional level only. In Japan, Bond meets 'Tiger' Tanaka. 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.

Plot summary

In outer space, a mysterious spacecraft captures and steals manned space capsules, of both the United States and the Soviet Union, in mid-orbit. Thinking that the other government is the cause of their loss, the Cold War world is thrown to the brink of World War III. The United Kingdom's government, however, believes the mystery spacecraft landed in the Sea of Japan. This indicates that a Japanese element may be involved.

James Bond had participated in a charade faking his murder in Hong Kong. According to his superior, M, this is to give James Bond "more elbow room". He is then sent to Japan to investigate the British suspicion, in conjunction with the Japanese secret service leader "Tiger" Tanaka, to stave off a possible nuclear war. After Bond infiltrates Osato Chemicals, he discovers that the company has been delivering quantities of liquid oxygen, a component of rocket fuel. Together, they learn that the true mastermind behind this is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his organization SPECTRE, with China financing him in their effort to have the superpowers destroy each other so they may rule supreme over what survives. SPECTRE was discovered to be Osato's client as well.

Bond infiltrates SPECTRE's secret rocket base, hidden in a hollow volcano, while his female partner, Kissy, returns to alert Tanaka. Bond, however, is caught before stopping the final phase of the plan, and is taken before Blofeld. Meanwhile, Tanaka and his elite ninja force attempt to enter the volcano's crater hatch. Unfortunately, they are spotted before entering, and Blofeld shoots at them with the crater's sentry guns. All is hopeless until Bond manages to open the crater hatch, allowing Tanaka's troops' entry in force to the rocket base. In the ensuing battle, Bond enters the rocket launch control room and destroys the SPECTRE spacecraft before it could capture a second U.S. space capsule and spark a war with the U.S.S.R. Bond, Kissy, Tanaka, and the surviving ninjas evacuate the base for Blofeld had rigged it to self-destruct. They board lifeboats and watch the volcano erupt in a fiery inferno, taking the base with it. Blofeld had escaped separately.

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

Tiger Tanaka, played by Tetsuro Tamba

The cast included Charles Gray, as Dikko Henderson, MI6 liaison with Japanese SIS; Gray later portrayed Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever.

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.

The Women of You Only Live Twice

Picture Name Actress
100px Aki Akiko Wakabayashi Aki is Tiger Tananka's assistant and James Bond's guardian angel in Japan, saving him on several occasions. In a manner that is unusual for a Bond film, Aki, which the audience had been led to think was the main Bond girl, was killed off at the end of the second third of the film, leaving her successor Kissy to carry on as the female lead in the film's final third.
100px Kissy Suzuki Mie Hama One of Tiger Tananka's top agents, Kissy is an Ama diver instructed to "marry" Bond through a sham marriage ("Remember, you gave false name to priest!"). Although she is considered the main Bond girl of the film, she didn't make her appearance until the final third of the film. Kissy held the distinction of which the main Bond girl's name, first or last, was never mentioned. In the beginning, Kissy held off Bond's advances ("This is business!"), which, as usual, did not last long.
100px Helga Brandt Karin Dor SPECTRE agent Number 11 is Helga Brandt, who poses as a personal secretary to Osato, a Japanese businessman who also is a SPECTRE operative. A villainess in the tradition of Fiona Volpe, Helga wants to kill Bond off in a most spectacular manner (after bedding him, of course, thus ensuring she will be his last encounter). Spectacular usually does not mean effective, and her failure to execute Bond led to her being fed to a pool of piranhas.
100px Ling Tsai Chin Another of the pre-title sequence/pre-mission Bond girls, Ling helps Bond to fake his own death. To make it authentic, she gave him "very best duck" before having him "killed".


The screenplay was written by Roald Dahl


The soundtrack was composed by Bond veteran, John Barry. At the time, this was his fourth credited Bond film. The theme song, You Only Live Twice, was sung by Nancy Sinatra.

Vehicles & gadgets

Main article List of James Bond vehicles and List of James Bond gadgets

  • Toyota 2000GT convertible — Owned by Aki. Two 2000GT coupes were turned into convertibles for the film. One is displayed at Toyota's headquarters today, while the whereabouts of the other are unknown.
  • Little Nellie — A heavily armed autogyro that could be transported in several suitcases for quick field assembly. Based on the real-life Wallis Autogyro, Little Nellie was actually flown by Wing Commander Wallis in the film.
  • 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.
  • Gyrojet rocket guns — prototype guns using a small rocket-propelled projectile rather than conventional ammunition. A limited number were made in real life for trials by the US and British militaries, but the design never caught on and the guns and ammunition are now highly collectible.


Film locations

Shooting locations

Continuity errors

  • 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."
  • The manned U.S. spacecraft named Jupiter in the film are actually Gemini vessels, flown between 1965 and 1966 with two astronauts to test various systems and procedures vital to the successor manned space project, Apollo. Meanwhile 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.

Cultural References and referrals


  • Jan Werich was originally cast to play Blofeld. But he fell ill just before filming began and was replaced by Pleasence.
  • Kissy Suzuki's last name is never mentioned on screen (even in the closing credits, she is identified only as "Kissy").
  • While filming, Connery's then-wife, Diane Cilento, had to replace Mie Hama (as Kissy Suzuki) for a swimming scene.
  • Connery was involved in a minor scandal while filming when he stated that he didn't find Japanese women sexy, though he claimed that it was an accident because the question was not properly translated to him. This took place on a day when Connery had been exhausted and not really in the mood to do interviews. When the interview began, a slightly insensitive reporter was aghast at Connery's casual wardrobe (an unbuttoned T-shirt and baggy trousers with sandals) and asked "Is this how James Bond dresses?!" Connery is said to have replied "I'm not James Bond. I'm Sean Connery, a man who likes to dress comfortably."
  • 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 takeoff, killing all on board.

External links

The James Bond films
Official films
Dr. No | From Russia with Love | Goldfinger | Thunderball | You Only Live Twice | On Her Majesty's Secret Service | Diamonds Are Forever | Live and Let Die | The Man with the Golden Gun | The Spy Who Loved Me | Moonraker | For Your Eyes Only | Octopussy | A View to a Kill | The Living Daylights | Licence to Kill | GoldenEye | Tomorrow Never Dies | The World Is Not Enough | Die Another Day | Casino Royale | Quantum of Solace
Unofficial films
Casino Royale (1954 TV) | Casino Royale (1967 spoof) | Never Say Never Again