You Only Live Twice (1967) James Bond 5, Starring Sean Connery

In the fifth feature of the popular Bond series, the action-packed espionage adventure You Only Live Twice, James Bond heads to the Far East, tasked with saving the world.

One of the weaker entries in the series, especially when compared to the first three, You Only Live Twice is rather unusual in being confined to one locale (Japan) and relies too heavily on machinery and gadgets in effort to compensate for the script’s shortcomings.

Our Grade: C+ (** out of *****) 

Previous James Bond reviews:

Dr. No (1962):

From Russia With Love (1963):

Goldfinger (1964):

Thunderball (1965):

The Plot

When an American spacecraft disappears during a mission, it’s believed to have been intercepted by the Soviet Union. After a Soviet space capsule similarly goes missing, most consider it to be an act of American retaliation. Soon the two nations are at the brink of war.  The British intelligence then discloses that some sort of UFO has crashed into the Sea of Japan, and Agent 007 is sent in to investigate.

After staging his own death–in order to avoid being followed–Bond, disguised as a Japanese civilian, teams up with agent Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba) and his beautiful associate Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi).

With their help, Bond learns that both the American and the Soviet space missions were actually scuttled by super-criminal Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) in another effort by the evil empire SPECTRE to take over the world.

As he battles the bad guys, Bond still finds time to romance both Kissy Suziki (Mie Hama) and Helga Brandt (Karin Dor).

The impressive pre-credit sequence depicts an American space ship hijacked by a mysterious space vehicle of unknown origins, which swallows it with huge metal jaws before disappearing off the radar.

At a top-secret conference of the world powers, including the U.S. and the U.K. the Soviets are accused of stealing the ship in order to dominate the world. Convinced that the vehicle landed in Japan, they assign the “Man in Hong Kong,” James Bond.

Bond is first seen in bed with a Chinese girl, who betrays him, when gunmen riddle the bed with bullets. Maurice Binder’s titles roll on screen, while Nancy Sinatra sings the popular title song, whose lyrics were written by Leslie Bricusse.

The film is directed by Lewis Gilbert, who had scored a big success the year before with Alfie, the movie that made Michael Caine a bona fide star.  Gilbert will go on to direct two more Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me, in 1977, and Moonraker, in 1979.

The brilliant production designer Ken Adams created one of the most impressive and most expensive set pieces in the Bond series, Blofeld’s volcano, the site of the climactic battle.

The fight on Kobe docks, shot from the air and reportedly done in one long take, is also pleasing to the eyes .

The dialogue contains some memorable (and sexist) dialogue. When Bond asks, “Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?” Bing replies: “You think we better?” Bond then says: “No, just different, like Peking duck is different from Russian caviar, but I love them both.” Wishing to please, Bing says: “Darling, I give you very best duck.”

There are also jokes about Japanese men being smooth, lacking hairy bodies.  Tanaka tells Bond: “You know what they’re fascinated by? It’s the hair on your chest. All Japanese men have beautiful bare skin.” Bond then quips: “Japanese proverb say, “Bird never make nest in bare chests.”

You Only Live Twice was Connery’s next to last outing as James Bond.

The next Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, would star George Lazenby, the only actor to play 007 just once.

Connery would return to the Bond series for the last time in “Diamonds Are Forever.”

In 1973, Roger Moore took over the Bond role, which he would play successfully for over decade.

Connery would play Bond one last time, in 1983, in the tongue-in-cheek’s Never Say Never Again, which, like the 1967 Casino Royale, was produced outside the official series.




Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay by Roald Dahl, additional story material by Harold Jack Bloom, based on You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Freddie Young
Edited by Peter R. Hunt
Production company: Eon Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: June 12, 1967 (London, premiere)
Running time 117 minutes
Budget $9.5 million
Box office $111.6 million

DVD: October 17, 2000


Sean Connery as James Bond, an MI6 agent
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki, an agent with the Japanese SIS who assists Bond
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki, an Ama diving girl who marries Bond as an undercover ploy
Nikki van der Zyl (uncredited) as the voice of Kissy Suzuki
Tetsurō Tamba as Tiger Tanaka, head of Japanese secret service
Teru Shimada as Mr. Osato, a Japanese industrialist secretly affiliated to SPECTRE
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt/No. 11, Osato’s secretary and a SPECTRE assassin
Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the megalomaniacal head of the terrorist syndicate known as SPECTRE
Bernard Lee as M, the head of MI6
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary
Desmond Llewelyn as Q, head of MI6 technical department
Charles Gray as Dikko Henderson, British contact living in Japan
Tsai Chin as Chinese Girl (Hong Kong), Ling, undercover MI6 agent
Peter Fanene Maivia as Car Driver, one of Osato’s henchmen, who fights Bond
Burt Kwouk as Spectre Number 3, one of Blofeld’s henchmen.
Michael Chow as Spectre 4, one of Blofeld’s henchmen and Mr Osato’s secretary
Ronald Rich as Blofeld’s bodyguard, Hans
David Toguri as Assassin (Bedroom), one of Osato’s henchmen, who kills Aki
John Stone as Submarine Captain
Norman Jones as Astronaut – 1st American Spacecraft
Paul Carson as Astronaut – 1st American Spacecraft
Laurence Herder as Cosmonaut – Soviet Spacecraft
Richard Graydon as Cosmonaut – Soviet Spacecraft
Bill Mitchell as Astronaut – 2nd American Spacecraft
George Roubicek as Astronaut – 2nd American Spacecraft
Alexander Knox as the US President