You Only Live Twice
Released in 1967, You Only Live Twice was the fifth film in the James Bond franchise and marked the last appearance of Sean Connery as Bond until his return in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. The film was directed by Lewis Gilbert and produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and was the first film to abandon most of Fleming’s plot.
In You Only Live Twice, Bond is tasked with investigating the hijacking of American and Soviet spacecraft, both of which disappear under mysterious circumstances. As tensions rise between the two superpowers, Bond travels to Japan where he uncovers a plot by the criminal organization SPECTRE to ignite a war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Along the way, Bond encounters new allies and enemies, including the infamous Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose name is spoken and face is seen for the first ever time after brief introductions in From Russia with Love and Thunderball.
Upon release, You Only Live Twice received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the film’s action and set pieces, while others criticized its portrayal of Japanese culture and lack of depth in the story. However, despite the mixed critical reception, the film was a box office success, grossing over $111 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Bond film at the time.
In this blog post, we will delve into the plot synopsis, take a look at Sean Connery’s performance as Bond, and a look at some of the cast including the introduction of Blofeld as the Bond villain. We’ll also look at the Bond girls, and some of the best scenes in the film that have become iconic in the Bond franchise.
An unidentified spaceship hijacks the American NASA spacecraft Jupiter 16 from its orbit. While the United States suspects Soviet involvement, the British believe that the Japanese are responsible since the spacecraft landed in the Sea of Japan.
To investigate, MI6 sends James Bond to Tokyo. To maintain cover, Bond fakes his own death in Hong Kong and is buried at sea from HMS Tenby.
In Tokyo, Bond attends a sumo match where he is approached by Aki, a Japanese secret service agent. She takes him to the home of Dikko Henderson, an MI6 operative residing in Japan, who has uncovered information about the rogue spacecraft.
According to Henderson, a third party is using Osato Chemicals, a multinational corporation, to launch spacecraft from Japan and instigate a conflict between the US and Russia. Before Henderson can disclose more, he’s fatally stabbed.
Bond apprehends Henderson’s murderer and disguises himself in the assailant’s clothing. He then convinces the driver of the getaway car to take him to Osato Chemicals, where he overpowers the driver and battles with a massive bodyguard. 007 then takes some paperwork and a film negative from the safe before fleeing the security guards.
The documents reveal the smuggling of LOX, which is code for liquid oxygen used in rocket fuel but also doubles as a cover for smoked salmon. The film negative 007 took depicts a supertanker named Ning Po and contains a microdot message stating that an American tourist took the photo and was later killed as a security measure by Osato’s associates. Bond suspects SPECTRE may be behind the space hijackings.
Bond is set to meet with Mr. Osato disguised as businessman Jim Fisher to negotiate the purchase of a large quantity of crucial chemicals. During the meeting, Osato discreetly X-rays Bond and discovers he is carrying a weapon.
Helga Brandt, Osato’s secretary, offers Bond a drink, but it becomes apparent that she is more than just a secretary. Both Osato and Helga are SPECTRE agents, and Osato orders his hit-men to kill Bond.
Tanaka contacts Bond via radio and instructs him and Aki to drive to Kobe, where the Ning Po is being loaded for departure. There, Bond and Aki discover tanks of liquid oxygen but are attacked by a group of dockworkers. 007 fights them off, allowing Aki to escape, but he’s knocked unconscious.
Bond is held captive in Helga’s room on the Ning Po, tied to a chair while she interrogates him about his snooping, weilding a plastic surgeon’s instrument very close to him to extract information, but she also becomes aroused by Bond’s masculinity and eventually succumbs to his seduction.
After their sexual encounter, Helga flies 007 in a private plane and bails out, locking him in and leaving the plane to crash. However, Bond manages to escape, take control of the the plane, and flee before it explodes.
Meanwhile, during a scheduled Russian space launch, the enemy spacecraft seizes the Russian satellite and disappears, causing the US Air Force to believe that the Russians are behind the space hijackings. The US fears that the Russians will use the excuse of losing their spacecraft to shoot down the next Jupiter launch. The rogue spacecraft returns to its base hidden inside a volcano.
Osato and Helga Brandt report to their leader in his headquarters after the rogue craft returns to base. The man’s face is not shown, but he’s holding a white cat and meets with two scientists who designed the radar-jamming system that hides the location of the villain’s base. The scientists demand more money but are intimidated by his bodyguard, Hans, and his pool of piranhas.
The villain reveals an X-ray of Bond’s Walther PPK and expresses disappointment in both Osato and Brandt for failing to kill him. Osato and Brandt argue with each other, both accusing the other of failure. He then orders Brandt to leave, but he presses a hidden mechanism that drops her into the piranha pool, where she is devoured in the piranha pool. He then commands Osato to kill James Bond immediately.
Bond is summoned to Tiger’s grand estate in Kyoto, which also serves as a ninja training camp. Tiger showcases his cutting-edge weapons lab and his collection of high-tech rocket guns, including a cigarette containing a miniature rocket.
Tiger’s strategy is to dispatch his army of men to infiltrate a fishing village on the island where the Ning Po previously docked. Bond will train with the ninja army and disguise himself as a Japanese man, eventually taking a wife from the village.
To Bond’s disappointment, Aki cannot be his wife since she is not from the village. After undergoing the disguise procedure, Bond and Aki spend the night together. As they’re sleeping, an assassin creeps into their room and lowers a poisoned needle towards Bond, but it falls into Aki’s mouth instead, killing her. Bond awakens and shoots the assassin, informing Tiger of the situation.
Bond marries a woman from the fishing village named Kissy Suzuki. They move into a small house in the village, but Kissy refuses to consummate their marriage. Bond and Kissy go exploring and he gets intrigued by a cave and decides to explore it.
Upon entering the cave, Bond discovers that poison gas has been released, and they jump overboard to escape. After swimming ashore, they hike up to the volcano’s caldera and observe a helicopter flying into the basin before vanishing.
007 tosses a stone into the lake, revealing that its surface is a massive metal cover hiding a secret base where the rogue rocket has been hidden. The rocket, named “Bird One” and flying under Soviet Union livery, is set to launch again from the base. Bond sends Kissy back to retrieve Tiger and his men while he sneaks into the crater to investigate.
Inside the volcano, Bond releases the American and Soviet imprisoned astronauts and cosmonauts, and with their help he steals a space suit to try and infiltrate SPECTRE’s Bird One space shuttle launch.
As he’s entering Bird One, the villain with the white Persian cat notices his mishandling of the equipment and orders him to be stopped. Bond is then taken to the volcano’s command center as a backup astronaut is summoned to replace him.
He meets the mysterious villain, who introduces himself as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the leader of the criminal organization SPECTRE. Blofeld reveals his plan to trigger a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union by capturing their spacecraft, allowing the Asian power who hired him to replace them.
After Bird One launches, Tiger’s ninja army arrives but is fired upon by the sentry guns. The SPECTRE spacecraft approaches the American capsule, leading the US to prepare for a nuclear attack on the USSR.
Bond, seemingly helpless, asks for a cigarette and uses one of the miniature rockets provided by Tiger to kill one of Blofeld’s men. He then opens the main crater hatch, allowing Tiger’s men to infiltrate the base while he slips away.
A fierce battle ensues, and Blofeld orders the command centre shutters to be closed. Bond and Tiger’s men gain the upper hand in the fight. Bond then climbs a flight of stairs leading to Blofeld’s private quarters.
There, he battles briefly with Hans before they both make their way to the bridge over the piranha pool. 007 throws Hans off the bridge and returns to the control room to destroy Bird One.
The US stands down their weapons after the enemy spacecraft blows up. Blofeld escapes and triggers a self-destruct system for the base, causing the volcano to erupt. Tiger, Bond, Kissy, and the surviving ninjas swim through the cave to escape.
As Japanese maritime forces rescue Tiger and the ninjas, Bond and Kissy find a life raft waiting and board it. They share a kiss when a British submarine surfaces beneath them, catching the raft on its forward section.
Sean Connery as James Bond in You Only Live Twice
Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond in You Only Live Twice cannot be dismissed as a flat or unengaging performance, as some have suggested. While it may not be the strongest entry in the Bond franchise, Connery’s performance as the iconic spy is as captivating and dynamic as ever.
Despite his well-known reservations about continuing in the role, Connery brings a commanding presence to the screen, effortlessly blending suave charm and rugged masculinity as ever. He delivers his lines with precision and wit, creating an instantly recognizable and beloved portrayal of Bond that has endured for decades and made him the icon he is.
Connery’s physicality is also on full display in You Only Live Twice. From thrilling fight scenes to daring feats of espionage, he proves once again that he is more than capable of handling the demands of the role.
While the script and special effects may not have been up to Connery’s standards, he still manages to inject the character of Bond with his magic. He showcases the spy’s softer side in moments of tenderness and compassion, while also conveying his sense of duty and loyalty to his country.
Overall, Sean Connery’s performance in You Only Live Twice is a testament to his enduring talent and natural charisma. He proves once again why he’s considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, and why his portrayal of James Bond will always be remembered as one of cinema’s most iconic characters.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the mysterious mastermind behind SPECTRE’s latest scheme. After his previous attempts were thwarted by Bond, he decides to take matters into his own hands and oversee the operation personally.
You Only Live Twice is the first time we see Blofeld’s face, and played by English actor Donald Pleasance, he’s the face that we associate with Blofeld, even though he’s been played by several actors.
Blofeld commands the Rocket Launch Facility located in a dormant volcano on an island in the Sea of Japan, from where he plans to ignite a war between the US and the Soviet Union by hijacking their respective space capsules. His ultimate goal is to destroy the last spaceship and spark a global conflict.
Blofeld is ruthless, as evidenced by his treatment of his associates. He kills his assistant, Helga Brandt, by feeding her to his piranha tank after she fails to kill Bond. He also shoots Osato in front of Bond, showing that SPECTRE rewards failure with death.
When Bond infiltrates the volcano lair, Blofeld catches on to a small error and orders Bond to be brought to him. He reveals his plans to Bond and intends to kill him after he captures the final space capsule. However, Bond manages to outsmart him by using a weapon disguised as a cigarette to escape his captors and open the launch doors for his allies.
Blofeld attempts to flee using a monorail car, and is about to shoot Bond, but Tiger Tanaka throws a ninja-star into his wrist. Blofeld activates the self-destruct system before escaping, but Bond manages to destroy the rocket remotely before it can capture any more astronauts.
Early Bond films are well known for Bond enjoying a lot of Bond girls, and You Only Live Twice the suave spy enjoyed his fair share.
Japanese Secret Service agent contact, Aki, portrayed by the pretty, soft-spoken, and polite Akiko Wakabayashi, first meets Bond in the large audience hall of a Sumo show. After saying the code words “I Love You,” Aki drives Bond in her nearby white Toyota 2000GT to meet with local MI6 operative Dikko Henderson in his Japanese-styled home.
Later Aki fortuitously rescues Bond when she drives by in her car, but Bond becomes suspicious of her when she refuses to answer his questions and flees into a deserted subway station, leading him to a secret underground HQ office of the head of the Japanese Secret Service, “Tiger” Tanaka.
Bond spends the night at Tanaka’s ancient castle, where he’s pampered by four “sexyful” girls. Aki replaces Bond’s chosen girl and promises him no interruptions for the remainder of the night, leading to a night of passion.
In another timely rescue at the Osata Company, Aki saves Bond in her Toyota sports-car, and they escape before investigating the suspicious Ning-Po freighter at the Kobe docks. As they witness the loading of liquid oxygen tanks, they’re both attacked.
Later in the film, Bond is tasked with “becoming a Japanese,” and is to marry an Ama girl to infiltrate a mysterious island near a volcano. Aki is disappointed that she isn’t chosen to marry him.
Bond is transformed into a “Japanese” by Tanaka’s female bath attendants and makes love to Aki “Japanese style” before leaving for the mission. Unfortunately, Aki meets her tragic end during the night when a SPECTRE assassin poisons her lips with deadly poison intended for Bond. Although Bond kills the hitman, he cannot save Aki.
Japanese actress Mie Hama plays Kissy Suzuki, who’s chosen by her employer, Tiger Tanaka, to assist Bond on his mission. In order to move around undetected, Bond and Suzuki stage a wedding ceremony, allowing Bond to continue his investigation as a local fisherman.
During their investigation, Suzuki refuses Bond’s advances, saying their work together is strictly business. The pair set out to investigate a cave on the mainland, where they encounter poisonous gas. They escape and continue to investigate, discovering a metal door leading to SPECTRE’s base.
Bond breaks into the base while Suzuki heads back to get Tanaka”s help with his ninjas. On her way, Suzuki is targeted by a shooting SPECTRE helicopter but uses her diving skills to protect herself. She informs Tanaka of the situation and heads back to the base to help Bond.
Assisting in the battle, Suzuki saves Tanaka’s life by shooting a SPECTRE worker. Bond and Suzuki reunite and manage to escape Blofeld’s base just before it explodes. Bond and Suzuki find a raft to relax on, and decide to finally “enjoy their honeymoon,” but they’re interrupted when they’re rescued by M’s submarine.
Played by German actress Karin Dor, Helga Brandt serves as the confidential secretary of Mr. Osato, a Japanese executive at the Osato Chemical and Engineering Company in Tokyo, who is secretly supplying liquid oxygen to SPECTRE, which is run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
James Bond goes to Mr. Osato’s office disguised as a representative of Empire Chemicals. Helga Brandt quickly becomes suspicious of him and keeps a watchful eye on his movements. When Bond departs, Mr. Osato instructs Helga to kill him as he fears that Bond is aware of their nefarious activities.
Helga has an opportunity to carry out the order when Bond is tied up in her cabin aboard the Ning-Po, but she doesn’t. Instead, Bond propositions Helga by offering to split the profits from stealing Osato’s process for making monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer that is worth $300,000.
The proposal is alluring to Helga, who is beginning to question her loyalty to SPECTRE. She releases Bond from his restraints, and in a show of gratitude, Bond cuts the straps on her dress, and the two make love.
As they fly back to Tokyo in a Cessna that Helga pilots, she betrays Bond by sabotaging the aircraft, and tying Bond down, before she parachutes to safety, leaving Bond to crash the plane. Bond gets out just in time.
Later, Blofeld summons Helga to his office and interrogates her and Mr. Osato about Bond’s survival. Mr. Osato blames Helga for her failure to eliminate Bond, stating: “I gave Number 11 the strictest orders to eliminate him…She failed.”
In a moment of defiance, Helga accuses Mr. Osato of not being proactive enough, stating: “You should have killed him yourself. You had plenty of opportunity.” In response, Blofeld activates a concealed foot pedal that releases Helga into a piranha pool, where she is devoured to the bone in a matter of seconds, a testament to the severity of failure in the organization.
Bond is first seen kissing Ling in bed and he asks her: “Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?” Ling responds by asking, “You think we’re better, huh?” to which Bond retorts: “No, just different, like Peking duck is different from Russian caviar. But I love them both.”
Tsai Chin played Ling, the Chinese girl in bed with Bond before he gets shot in bed. As England’s “man in Hong Kong,” 007 was reportedly working on a problem in Asia.
After Ling rises from the bed, she makes a questionably racy comment: “Darling, I give you the very best duck.” Bond responds positively: “We’ve had some interesting times together, Ling. I’ll be sorry to go,” he recollects.
Suddenly, Ling activates a switch on the wall, which flips the bed, with Bond still in it, into an upright position, and into the wall. Gunmen enter and fire machine guns at the bed. Later on, it is revealed that Ling had been hired by MI6 to help ‘fake’ Bond’s death.
Four Japanese Bathing Girls
Tanaka invites Bond to spend the night at his ancient castle, and provides Bond with four scantily-dressed female bathing attendants in pink bras and panties to assist in Bond’s “first civilized bath.” Bond quips as he eyes the ladies, saying “Really, well I like the plumbing.”
Tanaka explains, “Place yourself entirely in their hands, my dear Bond-san. Rule number one is: ‘Never do anything for yourself when someone else can do it for you’… Rule number two: ‘In Japan, men always come first. Women come second.'”
After Bond is soaped and scrubbed, Tanaka remarks, “I suppose you know what it is about you that fascinates them. It’s the hair on your chest. Japanese men all have beautiful bare skin.” Bond responds, “Japanese proverb says: ‘Bird never make nest in bare tree.'”
Later in the film, as part of the plan to defeat SPECTRE, Bond is transformed and disguised by Tanaka’s female bath attendants as a “Japanese.”
Best Scenes in You Only Live Twice
‘I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld.’
We see glimpses of him through the film, but when Bond first meets his arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld for the first time is an iconic moment in the Bond franchise. The scene takes place in a grandiose, high-tech lair hidden inside a volcano in Japan. Bond is captured by Blofeld’s men and brought to him.
As Bond enters the room, Blofeld turns around in his swivel chair, revealing his menacing scar and a white cat perched on his lap. The camera zooms in on his piercing gaze, emphasizing his air of authority.
“James Bond! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong,” Blofeld says, delivering the iconic line that has become synonymous with the Bond franchise.
Watch the scene
Bond tells him it’s his second life to which Blofeld retorts, ‘You only live twice Mr Bond,’ before explaining his plan for the US and Soviets to annihilate each other. The scene is only short, but with it being the first time we really get t see Blofeld, and the iconic look and presence Donald Pleasance had playing Blofeld, it’s certainly up there with the best Bond scenes.
You Only Live Twice – Connery’s First Departure
You Only Live Twice marked the first departure of the legendary Sean Connery as Bond. We all know how he returned for Diamonds Are Forever and left agin, but this film is significant in many ways.
Blofeld is the Bond villain of all Bond villains, and we’ve seen glimpses of him in other films, but not until You Only Live Twice do we get to hear him speak, and see his face, and see him and Bond come up against each other.
Many critics say Connery had phased himself out by this film and that it’s not as good as his earlier films. Everything is up for debate of course, and although it’s not as good as some, there are some iconic scenes.