Watch You Only Live Twice (1967), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
You Only Live Twice (1967)
James Bond and the Japanese Secret Service must find and stop the true culprit of a series of space hijackings, before war is provoked between Russia and the United States.
You Only Live Twice is a 1967 spy film and the fifth in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, who later directed the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me and the 1979 film Moonraker, both starring Roger Moore.
The screenplay of You Only Live Twice was written by Roald Dahl, and loosely based on Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel of the same name. It is the first James Bond film to discard most of Fleming’s plot, using only a few characters and locations from the book as the background for an entirely new story.
In the film, Bond is dispatched to Japan after American and Soviet crewed spacecraft disappear mysteriously in orbit, each nation blaming the other amidst the Cold War. Bond travels secretly to a remote Japanese island 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 for the government of an unnamed Asian power, implied to be the People’s Republic of China, to provoke war between the superpowers.
During the filming in Japan, it was announced that Sean Connery would retire from the role of Bond, but after one film’s absence, he returned in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and later 1983’s non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again. You Only Live Twice received positive reviews and grossed over $111 million in worldwide box office.
However, it was the first Bond film to see a decline in box-office revenue, owing to the oversaturation of the spy film genre from Bond imitators, including a competing Bond film, Casino Royale, from Columbia Pictures (1967).
You Only Live Twice (1967) Trailer
You Only Live Twice (1967) Reviews
For example, we’re given another of those delicious scenes we’ve grown to love, in which Bond has a new gadget explained, to him. This time it’s a lightweight one-man helicopter that can fire machine-gun bullets, missiles, rockets and flames. So far, so good. But instead of working the helicopter into the plot, the film immediately demonstrates all these goodies.
Bond takes off. Four helicopters attack him, naturally. He shoots one down with the machine-gun, one with the rockets, one with the missiles, and he incinerates the fourth with his flame-thrower. Just like that.
Same goes for the other stock ingredients. The girls (breathtaking Japanese lovelies) are beautiful and sexy as always, but they don’t really emerge as characters the way Pussy Galore did. They’re just there, decorating the place, running around in bikinis and, worst of all, not presenting much of a threat to old 007 most of the time.
Connery labors mightily. There is still the same Bond grin, still the cool humor under fire, still the slight element of satire. But when he puts on his cute little helmet and is strapped into his helicopter, somehow the whole illusion falls apart and what we’re left with is a million-dollar playpen in which everything works but nothing does anything.
You Only Live Twice (1967) Credits
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Tetsuro Tamba as Tiger Tanaka
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki
Teru Shimada as Osato
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki
Sean Connery as James Bond
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt
From a screenplay by
- Harry Saltzman
- Albert R. Broccoli
- Lewis Gilbert
You Only Live Twice (1967) Plot
American NASA spacecraft Jupiter 16 is hijacked from orbit by an unidentified spaceship. The United States suspects it to be the work of the Soviets, but the British suspect Japanese involvement since the spacecraft landed in the Sea of Japan. To investigate, MI6 operative James Bond is sent to Tokyo, after faking his own death in Hong Kong and being buried at sea from HMS Tenby.
Bond attends a sumo match where he is approached by Japanese secret service agent Aki, who takes him to meet local MI6 operative Dikko Henderson. Henderson claims to have critical evidence about the rogue craft, but is killed before he can elaborate. Bond chases and kills the assailant, taking the assailant’s clothing as a disguise, and is driven in the getaway car to Osato Chemicals.
Once there, Bond subdues the driver and breaks into the office safe of the company’s president, Mr. Osato. After obtaining secret documents, Bond is pursued by armed security, but is rescued by Aki, who flees to a secluded subway station. Bond chases her, but falls down a trap door leading to the office of the head of the Japanese secret service, Tiger Tanaka. The stolen documents are examined, and found to include a photograph of the cargo ship Ning-Po, with a microdot message saying the tourist who took the photo was killed as a security precaution.
Bond goes back to Osato Chemicals to meet Osato, masquerading as a potential buyer. Osato humors Bond, but after their meeting orders his secretary, Helga Brandt, to have him killed; both are SPECTRE agents. Outside the building, assassins open fire on Bond before Aki rescues him again. Bond and Aki drive to Kobe, where the Ning-Po is docked. They investigate the company’s dock facilities, and discover that the ship was delivering elements for rocket fuel.
They are discovered, but Bond eludes the henchmen until Aki gets away; however, Bond is captured. He wakes, tied up in Brandt’s cabin on the Ning-Po. Brandt interrogates Bond, before seducing him. Brandt flies Bond to Tokyo the next day, but en route, she sets off a flare in the plane, seals Bond in his seat and bails out. Bond lands the plane and flees before it explodes.
After finding out where the Ning-Po unloaded, Bond flies over the area in a heavily armed autogyro created by Q. Near a volcano, Bond is attacked by and defeats four helicopters, confirming his suspicions of a nearby base. A Soviet spacecraft is captured in orbit by another unidentified craft, heightening tensions with the United States.
The mysterious spaceship lands in an extensive base hidden inside the volcano, operated by Ernst Stavro Blofeld of SPECTRE, who has been hired by a great power to start a Soviet-American war. Blofeld summons Osato and Brandt to his quarters for not having killed Bond; Osato blames Brandt, and as she leaves, Blofeld drops her to her death into a pool filled with piranhas. Blofeld then orders Osato to kill Bond.
At Kyoto, Bond prepares to conduct a closer investigation of the island by training with Tanaka’s ninjas and donning a Japanese disguise, but Aki is inadvertently poisoned to death by a SPECTRE assassin targeting Bond. To complete his disguise, Bond stages a marriage to Tanaka’s student, Kissy Suzuki. Acting on Kissy’s lead, the pair reconnoitre a cave booby-trapped with phosgene gas, and the volcano above it.
Establishing that the mouth of the volcano is a disguised hatch to the secret rocket base, Bond slips in, while Kissy goes to alert Tanaka. Bond locates and frees the captured American and Soviet astronauts and, with their help, steals a space suit to infiltrate the SPECTRE spacecraft, “Bird One”. However, Blofeld spots Bond, and he is detained while Bird One is launched. Bond is taken into the control room where he meets Blofeld, who kills Osato to demonstrate the price of failure.
Bird One closes in on an American space capsule, and U.S. forces prepare to launch a nuclear attack on the USSR. Meanwhile, Tanaka’s ninjas approach the base’s entrance, but are detected and fired upon. Bond distracts Blofeld and lets in the ninjas. During the battle, Tanaka saves Bond by disarming Blofeld with his shuriken.
Bond fights his way to the control room, tosses Blofeld’s bodyguard into the piranha pool, and activates Bird One’s self-destruct before it reaches the American craft. As the Americans stand down their forces, Blofeld activates the base’s self-destruct system and escapes. Bond, Kissy, Tanaka, and the surviving ninjas leave before the eruption destroys the base, and are picked up by the Japanese Maritime Forces and the British Secret Service.
You Only Live Twice (1967) Box office
You Only Live Twice (1967) Critical Response
You Only Live Twice premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 12 June 1967, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. The film opened the following day in the United Kingdom and United States, set an opening day record at the Odeon Leicester Square, and went to number one in the United States with a weekend gross of $600,000.
It grossed $7 million from 161 theaters in the United States in its first three weeks, and was number one for seven weeks. The film grossed $43 million in the United States and over $68 million worldwide.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, in which he criticised the focus on gadgets, declaring “the formula fails to work its magic. Like its predecessor Thunderball, another below-par entry, this one is top-heavy with gadgets but weak on plotting and getting everything to work at the same time.” Bosley Crowther, reviewing for The New York Times, felt “there’s enough of the bright and bland bravado of the popular British super-sleuth mixed into this melee of rocket-launching to make it a bag of good Bond fun.
And there’s so much of that scientific clatter – so much warring of super-capsules out in space and fussing with electronic gadgets in a great secret underground launching pad – that this way out adventure picture should be the joy and delight of the youngsters and give pleasure to the reasonable adults who can find release in the majestically absurd.”
Variety stated more positively that “As entertainment [You Only Live Twice] compares favorably in quality and is replete with as many fights, gadgets, and beauties as its predecessors”. Time was sharply critical of the film claiming the franchise had become “the victim of the same misfortune that once befell Frankenstein: there have been so many flamboyant imitations that the original looks like a copy.” The reviewer later derided that “the effects are ineffective.
The outer-space sequences would be more appropriate in a grade school educational short entitled Our Amazing Universe, and the volcanic climax is a series of clumsy process shots that no one took the trouble to fix. Even Connery seems uncomfortable and fatigued…” Clifford Terry, reviewing for the Chicago Tribune, remarked that “a large percentage of You Only Live Twice is disappointing, lacking the wit and zip, the pacing and punch, of its predecessors, especially the first three.
Roald Dahl’s script is larded with sex-slanted jokes that are either pathetically feeble or sophomorically coarse, Bond’s patented puns are punier and even Connery’s enthusiasm for his shrewd, suave, and sensual character seems to have waned.”
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 49 reviews with an average rating of 6.53/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “With exotic locales, impressive special effects, and a worthy central villain, You Only Live Twice overcomes a messy and implausible story to deliver another memorable early Bond flick.”
James Berardinelli of ReelViews said that the first half was good, but “It’s only during the second half, as the plot escalates beyond the bounds of preposterousness, that the film starts to fragment”, criticising Blofeld’s appearance and stating “rockets that swallow up spacecraft are a bit too extravagant.”
Ali Barclay of BBC Films lightly criticized Dahl’s script, writing that Dahl had “clearly helped thrust Bond into a whole new world of villainy and technology, maybe his concepts were slightly ahead of themselves, or maybe he just tried too hard.” Leo Goldsmith lauded the volcano base as “the most impressive of Ken Adam’s sets for the franchise.” Danny Peary wrote that You Only Live Twice “should have been about twenty minutes shorter” and described it as “not a bad Bond film, but it doesn’t compare to its predecessors – the formula had become a little stale.”
IGN ranked You Only Live Twice as the fourth-best Bond film, and Entertainment Weekly as the second-best, considering that it “pushes the series to the outer edge of coolness”.
However, Norman Wilner of MSN chose it as the fifth-worst, criticising the plot, action scenes and lack of screentime for Blofeld. 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, but he panned the depiction of Blofeld as a “let-down”, “small, bald and a whooping scar”.
Simon Winder said that the film is “perfect” for parodies of the series. John Brosnan, in his book James Bond in the Cinema, compared the film to an episode of Thunderbirds with a reliance on gadgetry, but admitted it had pace and spectacle. Christopher Null considered the film to be one of James Bond’s most memorable adventures, but the plot “protracting and quite confusing”.
The film is recognised by the American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2003: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains:
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Nominated Villain
You Only Live Twice (1967) Accolades
You Only Live Twice (1967) Movie Info
Watch You Only Live Twice (1967)
You Only Live Twice (1967) Pictures