You Only Live Twice (1967)
You Only Live Twice (1967)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.

Release Date: June 13th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Lewis Gilbert Actors: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tamba, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin

 


 

A

merican spacecraft Jupiter 16 is swallowed up by a larger vessel, an intruder missile assumed to be controlled by the USSR. But the Soviet government denies all knowledge of the affair, insisting that they’re not out to gain military control of space. UK diplomats suggest focusing on Japanese airspace and motives, and send their best MI6 agent – James Bond (Sean Connery) – over to the territory. But the British naval commander is murdered in the room of his Chinese lover; 007 is dead! Taking into consideration the musical number introduction sung by Nancy Sinatra (one of the very best of the series), Bond gets two lives, as part of a ploy to draw his enemies’ attention away from his new covert assignment.

To get to the bottom of the space hijacking, Bond is to meet contact Henderson (Charles Gray) in Tokyo, along with Japanese SIS agents, where investigations are to start based on rocket launching and landing coordinates. He only has three weeks before the Americans release another spacecraft, and political tensions are high. Stereotypically, Bond’s first stop is at a sumo wrestling match, where he is escorted by Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) to British operative Henderson. But before he can learn anything, the contact is killed – though Bond sneaks into the Osato Chemical and Engineering Co. posing as the assassin. He steals a naval store order and a photograph from a safe before being picked up by Aki and brought to Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), head of the Japanese Secret Service. After the picture is analyzed, he has a clue to follow, leading him to a private organization (with which he’s had previous run-ins) destined to cause worldwide disorder: SPECTRE.

Posing as a managing director for Empire Chemicals, Bond meets with Mr. Osato himself (and his exotic secretary, Helga Brandt, played by Karin Dor), but is forced to flee once again when gunmen try to dispose of him. He continues to pursue various suspicious enterprises – repeatedly getting caught, escaping, and moving on to the next location for greater danger and disaster – but of course, he remains impervious to bodily harm or death, most especially when bound or otherwise contained. Although “You Only Live Twice” seems to move slower than “Goldfinger,” it manages to best the obnoxiously lackluster pacing of “Thunderball,” here regularly engaging in action scenes and combat between the sessions of exposition with officials (to explain why he continually finds himself in different environments).

The special effects aren’t as visually pleasing as one might hope for, with many of the stunts clearly designed to be performed by actors in front of greenscreens – instead of creative choreography and daring feats. The space elements are similarly unconvincing (failing to even remotely compare to the evident existence of superior technologies, as seen a year later in “2001: A Space Odyssey”). A subplot involving Bond being physically transformed to resemble a Japanese man (and training to become a ninja) seems peculiar and pointless, but it gets him a cover-story wife, Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama, idiotically outfitted in a white bikini, not only as fishing gear but also as hiking garb), supposedly arranged for blending in with the locals on the island that houses SPECTRE’s base. This is notably odd, since hitmen frequent the training camp the entire time Bond assumes his Asian alter ego.

For the first time, SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) is seen in his entirety (previously symbolized only by a suited torso stroking a white cat). But even this momentous reveal is downplayed by the length of the climax, an overstuffed infiltration and assault on a volcano converted to a launch pad, overrun by the flamboyant movements of squadrons of ninjas. With its excessive minutes of hand-to-hand combat, machinegun shootouts, grenade-tossing, and rappelling, what could have been a nice bit of action turns into a monotonous, time-consuming finale that founders tremendously. It’s a terrible way to end an otherwise routine James Bond adventure.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10