You Only Live Twice (1967)


After a NASA capsule orbiting Earth disappears, the U.S. government quickly blames the Soviets. However, British Intelligence discovers that the rocket landed in Japanese waters and agent James Bond (Sean Connery, Outland) is sent to investigate.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I shall look forward personally to exterminating you, Mr. Bond.”

An entertaining entry in the long-running series, damaged a bit by over-familiarity with the formula, but its non-stop sense of fun and adventure is hard to resist. While it’s my least favorite Bond movie up to this point, You Only Live Twice does have plenty of eye-popping action sequences that will delight fans of the series.

You Only Live Twice is a spectacular production in every sense of the phrase. Everything is bigger — bigger sets, bigger stunts, etc. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired a new director, the talented Lewis Gilbert (Alfie), and they all worked together well enough to create a truly grandiose adventure.

The film was written by none other than Roald Dahl, the legendary children’s book author (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I couldn’t find any trace of Dahl’s penchant for kooky ideas, though. I’m assuming that the producers kept the writer on a tight leash and pretty much forced him to stay within the established parameters. Dahl’s twisted sense of humor could have added something new to the formula, but alas, it is not here.

Dahl does go for a harsher Bond — the author accentuates Bond’s coldness and callousness. For example, in a mean-spirited moment Bond’s girlfriend is killed and in the next few scenes our favorite agent is checking out possible replacements.

We finally get to see super-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played by British character actor Donald Pleasence (Halloween). He seems to be the one Mike Myers is spoofing in the Austin Powers movies. Pleasence’s creepy serenity fits the role so well. He is barely in the movie — approx. 10 minutes — but Pleasence is fantastic!

Blofeld’s sidekicks are, however, a huge let-down. Karin Dor’s (Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz) Helga Brandt and Teru Shimada’s (King Rat) Mr. Osato lack panache. Sean Connery is a bit of a disappointment too. Connery looks tired and slightly overweight. I’m not surprised at all that he said “no more” after this movie.

Set designer Ken Adam (Dr. Strangelove) creates some of his finest work here. Blofeld’s lair is an incredible piece of quasi-futuristic design — the piranha tank is really something! Freddie Young replaced Ted Moore (Dr. No) as director of photography, and as you would expect from the man who shot David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), Young does his best to capture the beauty of the Japanese landscape. The lovely title song is performed by Nancy Sinatra.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

You Only Live Twice is often cited as one of Connery’s weakest Bond movies. Perhaps this is true, but I still enjoyed it. The film looks great, the climax is genuinely exciting, and Donald Pleasence is superb as Blofeld. It’s not as good as Dr. No, From Russia with Love or Goldfinger, but I liked it well enough. Color, 117 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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