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You Only Live Twice (1967) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on November 28, 2015

You Only Live Twice was directed by Lewis Gilbert and premiered on 12th June 1967. Starring Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasance and Charles Gray. Screenplay by Roald Dahl. Music by John Barry. Theme sung by Nancy Sinatra. 117mins.

An orbiting NASA spacecraft mysteriously disappears and America believes the Russians are involved. The British government suspect other forces are at work, tracking stations detected a spacecraft falling into the Sea of Japan,

James Bond is sent to investigate. He teams up with Japanese SIS agents and the trail leads to SPECTRE no.1. 007 has just days left to stop Blofeld from starting World War III.

You Only Live Twice was Ian Fleming’s 12th Bond novel and was first published in 1964, the last Bond story to be published in his lifetime. His previous novel was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The title's from a poem Bond writes to his friend Tanaka – "You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you look death in the face".

Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Akiko Wakabayashi
Akiko Wakabayashi
Mie Hama
Mie Hama
Karin Dor
Karin Dor
Donald Pleasance
Donald Pleasance
Tetsuro Tanba, Akiko Wakabayashi and Connery
Tetsuro Tanba, Akiko Wakabayashi and Connery

Sean Connery (1930-) / James Bond

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sean Connery won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Untouchables (1987). He has also played 007 in - Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never say Never Again (1983).

Aki: I think I will enjoy very much serving under you.

Akiko Wakabayashi (1941-) / Aki

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Akiko Wakabayashi's films include - King Kong vs Godzilla (1962), Lost World of Sinbad (1963), Dagora, the Space Monster (1964), Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1965) and Diamonds of the Andes (1968).

Mie Hama (1943-) / Kissy Suzuki

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Mie Hama's films include - King Kong vs Godzilla (1962), Lost World of Sinbad (1963) and King Kong Escapes (1967).

Tetsuro Tanba (1922-2006) / Tiger Tanaka

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Testuro Tanba plays 007's Japanese contact Tiger Tanaka, his voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty, who also dubbed Emilio Largo in Thunderball (1965). His films include - Harakiri (1962), The 7th Dawn (1964), Kwaidan (1964), Diamonds of the Andes (1968), The Five Man Army (1969), The Water Margin (1972), Tidal Wave (1973), Message from Space (1978), The Bushido Blade (1981) and Japan Sinks (2006).

Karin Dor (1938-) / Helga Brandt

Born in Hesse, Germany, Karin Dor's films include - The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967), Topaz (1969), Dracula vs Frankenstein (1970) and Warhead (1977).

Blofeld: The firing power inside my crater is enough to annihilate a small army. You can watch it all on TV. It's the last program you're likely to see.
Bond: Well, if I'm going to be forced to watch television, may I smoke?
Blofeld: Give him his cigarettes. It won't be the nicotine that kills you, Mr. Bond.

Donald Pleasance (1919-1995) / Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Born in Nottinghamshire, England, Donald Pleasance is the first actor to play Blofeld in face and voice. Czech actor Jan Werich was originally cast in the part but left after filming a couple of scenes. A scar was added to Pleasance face to make him look more villainous, with one critic saying he looked like "an egg that has cracked on the boil."

His films include - The Great Escape (1963), Dr. Crippen (1964), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Night of the Generals (1967), Will Penny (1968), Halloween (1978), Dracula (1979) and Escape from New York (1981).

Charles Gray (1928-2000) / Dikko Henderson

Born in Bournemouth, England, Charles Gray plays Dikko Henderson, an MI6 agent helping 007 in Japan, the actor would play Bonds nemesis Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). His films include - The Entertainer (1960), The Night of the Generals (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968 as Mocata), Mosquito Squadron (1969), Cromwell (1970), The Beast Must Die (1974), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976 as Mycroft Holmes), The Legacy (1978), The Mirror Crack'd (1980), Shock Treatment (1981) and The Jigsaw Man (1984).

You Only Live Twice was competing with another Bond film in 1967, the spoof comedy Casino Royale. Producer Charles Feldman held the rights to Ian Flemings first novel, and after failing to make a deal with Broccoli and Saltzman decided to produce a Bond spoof instead. An expensive misfire and box office disaster, the film had five directors and starred David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr and Woody Allen.

You Only Live Twice has little relation to the novel, which involves Bond finding Blofeld, disguised as Dr. Shatterhand, and his botanical garden of death situated in a castle in the south of Japan. The garden is full of deadly plants and animals and attracts people who want to commit suicide. Bond duels with Blofeld at the climax and finally strangles him, avenging the death of his wife Tracy from the previous novel.

Production designer Ken Adam designed a huge set for Blofelds hidden rocket base, which in the film is located within a dormant volcano. The set cost $1m, which was roughly the cost of the first Bond movie, Dr. No. Blofelds base contains a heliport, working monorail system and full scale mock-up of a launch pad with rocket. It was constructed at Pinewood studios just outside London.

Q arrives in Japan with Little Nellie, an autogyro mini-helicopter equipped with rocket launchers, machine guns, flame thrower, aerial mines and heat-seeking missiles. During filming of the copter battle a cameraman lost his leg after one of the SPECTRE helicopters got too close to the helicopter he was filming from, the rotor blade slicing through his leg.

Look out for Blofelds cat during the final battle, with explosions and gunfire in all directions the frightened animal is trying to claw it’s way out of Blofelds grasp. Reportedly the cat ran away and was found days later hiding in the rafters.

John Barry’s lush music score was one of the best in the Bond series and the gorgeous theme song was sung by Nancy Sinatra, it peaked at #11 in the UK pop charts.

British pop artist Robbie Williams sampled Barry’s title theme for his hit single “Millennium” which topped the charts in September 1998.

By this time Sean Connery was tired of playing Bond and was afraid of being typecast, This was his fifth Bond film in 5 years and Connery looked visibly bored and weary on screen. The producers would be searching for another actor to play Bond for the next film in the series – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The movie was retitled in some countries –

007 Dies Twice (Japan)
You Live Only Twice (Finland)
One Doesn't Live More Than Twice (France)
James Bond in Japan (Norway & Greece)
007 Seized the Rocket Base (China)

The Critics Wrote -

"Lewis Gilbert is a rather more humanistic director than his predecessors and he's a reasonably efficient traffic manager; he doesn't let the actors loiter on the sets too long." (Pauline Kael)

"Scientifically the most ambitious, sexually the most routine, scenically one of the best." (New York Post)

"...Connery paces with his elegant nonchalance a little more non than usual and Donald Pleasence is grandly grotesque as the evil genius who would rule the world.

Although there's a lot more science-fiction than there is first-vintage James Bond in "You Only Live Twice," the fifth in a series of veritable Bond films with Sean Connery, 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." (New York Times)

"Represents the ultimate triumph of gadgetry. Plot twists are devised simply to use the gadgets." (Village Voice)

"The special effects are excellent, the girls gorgeous (though virtually indistinguishable from one another), the cinematography by Freddie Young spectacular, the sets by Ken Adam amazing, and John Barry's music outstanding." (Chris Tookey)


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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Cogerson, I didn't know that, thanks for the info dude.

      YankeesRule, Bond goes undercover dressed and made up like a Japanese at one point in the film, he even marries Kissy Suzuki but using a fake name of course. But no he isn't turning Japanese, I really think so. :)

      wendell, the three Bond films you mentioned are some of the best, you can't go wrong with those three.

      Thanks for all your comments.

    • profile image

      wendell 6 years ago

      I just got through reading your three Bond articles, I would say that I liked Goldfinger the best of the three, but From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me are my favorites/

    • YankeesRule profile image

      YankeesRule 6 years ago

      I have never seen this movie, looking at your photos is Connery supposed to Japanese in the movie? Very nicely done, I might have to final see the only Connery Bond movie I have not seen.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Connery will turn 81 next month...but he is currently working on a computer animated movie called Sir Billi and he provides the main was due in 2012...but now IMDB has move it to a release date of ????

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      After Diamonds Are Forever Connery didn't have another big hit until he returned as Bond 12 years later in Never Say Never Again. But luckily for him The Untouchables and Indiana Jones broke his ex-Bond losing streak.

      In a recent magazine interview his friend Michael Caine said he tried to coax him out of retirement but he wasn't interested. Plus he is in his 80's now.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Donald Pleasance was the best of the Blofeld's, I thought. I wonder why they could never get the same actor twice. (I wondered the same thing about Felix Lighter.) I can understand Connery's fear of type-casting, but he needn't have worried, because he went on to do great roles like "The Man Who Would be King" and his oscar winning role in "the Untouchables".


    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Cogerson, the Bond producers were hoping to release You Only Live Twice in december 1966 but filming took too long and it was released in the summer of 1967 a couple of months after Casino Royale opened in US theaters. But Bond #5 still went on to be one of the years top grossers.

      I think The Graduate was the biggest hit of 1967, a huge success.

      Austin Powers Dr. Evil was obviously modeled on Donald Pleasance Blofeld.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Another interesting Bond hub Steve....I think Connery he good reason to worried about being typecast......he was indeed typecast....pretty much all the movies he made in his down time were either complete bombs...or well liked by critics but ignored by audiences...The Hill comes to mind.

      Interesting comments on Donald Pleasance playing Blofeld...I like the comment about the cracked egg. As a kid the Blofeld character confused me...with all the different actors playing him....but I always liked the Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. I never realized that You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale were competing against each might explain the last scene in Casino Royale a little was like the producers had lost their minds in trying to find a great they included anything and everything ....they were probably worried that You Only Live Twice was going to bury them.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Hinton.

      If anyone wants to see those pictures full size, click on one to open it and than right click mouse button and "view image".

    • hinton1966 profile image

      hinton1966 6 years ago

      I really like these movie articles. For some reason I always get this movie mixed up with Diamonds are Forever. I agree Connery was tired of Bond. I am sure he was worried he would be sterotyped the rest of his life. Too bad noone told him he would be remember as Indy's Dad later in life. Voted up and useful.