Review: You Only Live Twice (1967)


Directed by: Lewis Gilbert | 112 minutes | action, thriller, adventure, science fiction | Actors: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tamba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin

One of the big surprises that the fifth James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” offers is not the murder of the famous secret agent in one of the first scenes, but the appearance of the name Roald Dahl on the screen. The well-known children’s author of classics like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” wrote the script for the film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s book. For the first time in 007 history, almost every element of the original book was erased, only the location (Japan) and the Bond-Blofeld conflict were preserved. Roald Dahl created a space travel story, full of rockets, expensive special effects and beautiful sets, such as the one with the volcano. With this knowledge in mind, the plot of this Bond is unfortunately quite disappointing.

So Bond dies in “You Only Live Twice”. The viewer is not shocked, however, not only is the title a not-so-silent hint that it is a staged murder, the chance that James Bond dies is still smaller than Sean Connery making an eighth James Bond film. After his mock naval funeral, 007 is sent on a new secret mission to Japan. He must look for clues to the mystery of the rocket swallowed up in space by an enemy spaceship. America blames the Russians, but England thinks Japan is behind it. In Japan, the secret agent is helped by the head of the Japanese Secret Service, Tiger Tanaka and the beautiful Aki. Bond discovers that SPECTER is behind the missing missiles, creating friction between East and West in the hope of starting a world war.

“You Only Live Twice” is special because Bond meets his nemesis Blofeld face-to-face here for the first time. Donald Pleasence (who later rose to fame for his role as Dr. Sam Loomis in the ‘Halloween’ series) does a fine job, even though he isn’t much in the picture. His character comes across as mean enough, and it’s easy to understand that later parodies such as Dr. Evil from the ‘Austin Powers’ films are based on him The other enemies are less impressive, such as Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), who is one of Japan’s most important industrial leaders, also a member of SPECTER His secretary Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) is brought into the film in a strange plot line, she seems to immediately understand Bond, which puts the viewer on the wrong track, because it is suggested that she actually wants to help him.

“You Only Live Twice” contains some humorous scenes, but there was more to it. For example, the password chosen by Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) for Bond’s meeting with Tiger Tanaka is “I Love You.” Unfortunately, the secretary in love is not yet able to get the apple of her eye to say the desired words, not even with this trick. However, it would have been funny if Bond had said it once in the wrong situation.

The most important technical gadget is Little Nellie, a mini helicopter equipped with all kinds of weapons. It is a pity that in the scene after the explanation all possibilities of Little Nellie are used immediately. In other Bond films it is often a question of whether and when Q’s inventions are used. The music is again exceptionally well composed and will sound familiar to a large audience – not even connoisseurs of this film – because Robbie Williams has used the repeatedly repeated tune for his song “Millennium”.

It is said of Sir Sean Connery that he acts on automatic pilot in this Bond, without inspiration, but that is not too bad. It is true that after this film he temporarily quit his role as a famous British secret agent, but the man is so bursting with talent that it must be impossible for him to play badly a role that suits him. It’s not his best rendition, but it certainly can get through. He just plays confident and relaxed. “You Only Live Twice” is an entertaining film that makes little impression. You could therefore give him a second life.

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