The first four James Bond movies were very popular, so the producers wanted to continue making the movies even though Sean Connery was starting to get tired of playing Bond. He actually announced during filming that You Only Live Twice would be his last Bond movie.
A spacecraft from the United States disappeared while in orbit and the Russians were blamed. When a Russian spacecraft vanished, the United States was blamed and the two countries were moving closer to war. England believed that Japan was somehow involved and James Bond, who had faked his death, was put on the mission. He ended up working very closely with Tanaka of the Japanese secret service.
James and Tanaka discovered that SPECTRE was actually behind what was going on. The two men believed that an island was involved and developed a plan. James trained with Tanaka's ninjas and was made to look Japanese so he would fit in on a Japanese fishing island and be able to search for where SPECTRE was operating. It was also decided that James would blend in better if he was married, so Tanaka arranged for a staged marriage to Kissy Suzuki, one of his agents. When James and Kissy went to search an island, they discovered that SPECTRE had a base inside a hollow volcano.
You Only Live Twice was based on the book of the same name by Ian Fleming. It was the twelfth Bond book and the last one to be published before Fleming's death. I haven't read the book, so I don't know everything that was changed for the movie. I have read a little bit about the book, and it was said that this was the first movie that drastically changed the plot from the source material. The screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, a man more known for writing children's books. This movie can stand alone, but certain things, especially connected to SPECTRE, would make more sense if the first movies had been watched.
Out of the first five Bond movies, SPECTRE was somehow involved in four of them. Number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, had been at least briefly shown, with his face remaining hidden, before he was finally fully shown in You Only Live Twice. Even before he was fully shown, I was bugged by the fact that his voice sounded different. His appearance wasn't that intimidating either considering he was supposed to be such a evil character. He still had the white cat that he was constantly holding and petting. SPECTRE was still bent on doing things that would cause problems all around the world without being loyal to any one country. I do think that SPECTRE and Blofeld make for interesting villains. The movie did feature a really cool lair for Blofeld. Several elements from the movie, especially concerning Blofeld, ended up inspiring Mike Myers when he made his Austin Powers movies.
Much of You Only Live Twice took place in Japan. A few Japanese characters ended up being very important to the plot and seemed to have more to do even than James at times. Different aspects of Japanese culture, like sumo wrestling and ninjas, were shared throughout the movie without a lot of detail about the things being shared. James was supposed to be transformed into a Japanese man to make his work easier so that he would blend in more. The disguise was very weak and not believable. He didn't look remotely Japanese even with the wig and whatever they did to try to change the shape of his eyes. More emphasis was placed on the main plot connected to the missing spacecrafts and how SPECTRE was involved. That only added a tiny bit of mystery to the movie. There were a few scenes that had some suspense in them, but I don't consider the movie to be that suspenseful overall. There were some slower scenes that weren't as interesting.
I thought that there was a decent amount of action in You Only Live Twice. James was involved in several fights, including one that involved furniture being thrown around, and a few chases. The action was done well and helped to keep things interesting. James did use a few gadgets, including some that were provided by Tanaka. Q provided James with a small helicopter type of thing. James did seem to be a bit more appreciative of Q and the gadgets in this movie. There was some shooting in several scenes as well that wasn't that violent.
The Bond girl count for You Only Live Twice was four. James was in bed with one woman the first time he was shown on screen. It seemed very clear that they had been intimate. After he got to Japan, James was working with Aki, an agent working with Tanaka. It didn't take long for them to become intimate either. She started off being a bit distant with him, and then she was all but throwing herself at him. James had an encounter with Helga, Number 11 in SPECTRE, and he put the moves on her knowing full well she was the enemy. He seemed a bit dense with her, thinking that sex with him would convert her to his side. When Tanaka decided that James needed to become Japanese to blend in, a marriage was staged between James and Kissy Suzuki. She was all business at first, but James kept pushing until she later changed her mind and they started making out when they were supposed to be looking for SPECTRE's secret base. None of the relationships were developed or that believable.
James was the same as he had been in the previous movies. He was good at his job, but he wouldn't pass up an opportunity to get a beautiful woman, even if she worked for the enemy, into bed. Sean Connery was fine in the part, though he didn't seem as connected to the part as he has in the past. That was probably because he was getting tired of playing James. He ultimately decided during the filming that he wasn't going to return for the next movie. He later changed his mind and made two more Bond movies. M, Miss Moneypenny and Q all made short appearances without any of them having that much to do.
Tanaka and Aki probably had the most to do of the Japanese characters. They weren't that developed away from their work. Kissy just sort of seemed to be there and didn't do much other than resist James at first and then go exploring a volcano with him in a bikini. She really didn't add much to the movie at all.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld played an important part in the movie since he was the mastermind behind what was going on. His face was shown for the first time even though he had been in previous movies. He had some unique, extreme ways of dealing with people who didn't do what he wanted or expected. Donald Pleasence was fine in the part, though nothing special. Something about the voice he used for the character seemed a bit odd. Helga wasn't around much and seemed to just be there to try to use sex against James.
Sean Connery - James Bond
Karin Dor - Helga
Mie Hamma - Kissy
Bernard Lee - M
Desmond Llewelyn - Q
Lois Maxwell - Miss Moneypenny
Donald Pleasence - Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Tetsuro Tamba - Tiger Tanaka
Akio Wakabayashi - Aki
Lewis Gilbert - Director
You Only Live Twice has been released on DVD a few different times. I have the version that is part of the Ultimate James Bond Collection DVD set. The movie has been digitally restored and has a beautiful picture. There are two discs for the DVD, with most of the extras on the second disc. There is a short booklet that contains some information about the movie.
Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond was basically just a recap of the various women James had encountered during the first four movies before focusing briefly on the women from You Only Live Twice. Judging by the title, I thought it was going to pay more attention to James being in Japan. That was barely touched on. It was set up with one woman who was supposed to be an actress desperate to get a part in the next Bond movie. There were little segments with Miss Moneypenny and another woman talking about the different women James had met during missions and who he was going to marry. There were clips from the first four movies before showing some from You Only Live Twice, again focused on the women. Q also turned up to talked about some of the gadgets and how James had abused them, which led to more clips. There was nothing about the making of the movie and frankly I thought it was boring and not interesting.
Whicker's World - Highlights from the 1967 BBC Documentary talked about how the show had been given access during the filming of You Only Live Twice. The black and white footage showed some things from the set as well as Connery arriving in Japan and being swarmed by the press. It was mentioned how Connery decided to leave the series. I thought the footage was interesting, but it was very short. On Location with Ken Adam featured the production designer talking about finding locations around Japan and how it was decided to put SPECTRE's headquarters in a volcano. The footage, that looked like a home movie, also showed Connery acting goofy between takes and the construction of the volcano set.
Inside You Only Live Twice talked about the making of the movie. Fleming had gone to Japan in 1962 after having a heart attack to do research for the book. There were different problems during the filming, including a horrible accident with one of the stuntmen. There were some problems with the casting as well since Japan was insisting on Japanese women being cast. They had trouble finding Japanese actresses who could speak English. Connery's decision to leave the series and there was footage of how the press swarmed him all the time in Japan. It was also mentioned how the role of Blofeld was recast because the first actor looked too kind and too much like Santa Clause.
Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles featured some of the crew and cast talking about Maurice Binder, the man who created many of the opening sequences for the Bond movies. He came up with the gun barrel image that has been used at the beginning of almost every Bond movie. License to Kill was the last movie he created titles for. Several, but not all, of the titles he created were talked about. Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence shared the storyboard for the place crash scene and how it was originally planned to be a bit different. The original trailers, television and radio ads were also included.
You Only Live Twice had a few slower spots and some things that just weren't believable, but the movie was still entertaining overall. People who enjoyed the first four Bond movies will probably like this one as well.
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 ~ James Bond: The Secret Life of 007 ~ Never Say Never Again ~
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