Movie Review: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) 5th James Bond Film

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Movie Reviews

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Starring Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Donald Pleasence and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes


In the midst of the cold war still going on, someone is stealing Russian and American spaceships right out of space. Bond fakes his death to go undercover in Japan, to find a chemical company supplying and hiding illegal rocket fuel. A mysterious island catches Bond’s eye after a young girl is found dead. On the island Bond searches a volcano that is not what it seems. Can Bond stop world War 3 and stop whoever is stealing the spaceships? I have a feeling a good predictable ending ensues.


Roald Dahl wrote the imaginative script for You Only Live Twice and it is the most imaginative script so far of the series. Abandoning Fleming’s novel almost completely Dahl and the film makers make an epic Bond film dealing with the space race and the cold war. Someone is stealing ships right out of space using their own spaceship. Russia is blaming the U.S. and vice versa. Bond under the foes impression that he is now dead travels to Japan and finds that the Osato corporation is behind the crime. The themes in You Only Live Twice are great, especially for the time, before the first man hit the moon the Russians and Americans were fighting for the glory, so why not excite audiences who were all excited about the prospects of space at the time. Also this is the first film that deals with a corrupt corporation funding the money for big crime.

The first hour, You Only Live Twice is exciting and well told with great mystery woven around Japanese customs. Supposedly at the time men were put first in Japan before the women. They even say it in the movie with Bond saying I have to retire here, which doesn’t help the controversy of Bond being the worlds biggest womanizer, but he is. Bond slowly figures things out and it leads him to a volcano which is in fact a secret launching pad and station for none other than SPECTRE head No.1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld petting his white cat ready to kill anyone who fails ONCE. He is ready to start World War 3 for some money.

This is the film that is truly spoofed by the Austin Powers films. Blofeld’s volcano station is just crazy. Bond films were never the same grounded films after You Only Live Twice, with the exception of a couple. It pushes Bond in a direction completely away from Fleming’s novels into what the studios wanted. More action, more stunts, more gadgets overriding the stories being told. And I’m not saying I don’t like it. I still do, because it’s fun, emotionally it becomes lost, but this is the direction the franchise takes.

There is a certain amount of convenience in most Bond films. You just have to accept as an audience member and suspend disbelief. The Americans and Russians almost seem to jump to conclusions about each other too soon for the convenience of the film. Bond gets the chance to use each one of his gadgets at a perfect time in the movie. That is the fun of these movies though. As I am watching the film I can’t wait for Bond to get a chance to use a cigarette that is actually a gun.

As haywire as You only Live Twice is and fans of the novels may be disappointed. It still has its great moments, locales, action, girls and mystery to keep audiences excited. It feels like all the previous Bond films rolled into one, trying to revolutionize the genre into what it did become when Roger Moore took over.


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