Director Lewis Gilbert
Year 1967
Starring Sean Connery, Donald Pleasence, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Karin Dor, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Run Time 117min
More Info IMDb

"Sean Connery IS James Bond" insisted the promotional materials for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. But he wouldn't be for much longer: By the time YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE arrived in theaters in June 1967, Connery had already let the world know he was not interested in making any further Bond adventures.

The series had made him an international superstar -- which was part of his problem with it. He was recognizable to millions around the world, but primarily as James Bond, not as Sean Connery the actor. None of the handful of films he had made during his breaks from the Bonds -- MARNIE, WOMAN OF STRAW, THE HILL and A FINE MADNESS -- had been popular enough or gotten enough critical recognition to help him escape the shadow of 007, and Connery had finally decided to bail out.

Initially, his series swan song was supposed to be ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. When the changing seasons ruined plans to shoot in the right snowy locales, the producers jumped ahead to YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE instead, which would be shot on location in sunny Japan. This would be the first Bond movie to jettison most of the plot of the book it was supposedly based on: Although screenwriter Roald Dahl (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH) was a personal friend of Ian Fleming, he thought YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was a terrible novel, and he soon learned producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman felt the same.

So aside from the title and the Japanese setting, the cinematic YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is almost entirely the work of Dahl and collaborator Harold Jack Bloom. The story, among the wildest Bond tales, finds the Americans and Soviets blaming each other when their spacecrafts disappear from orbit. The true culprit, however, is Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), who has set up shop inside a Japanese volcano and is hoping to provoke the super-powers into a nuclear war. To stop the scheme, Bond fakes his own death and is "reincarnated" to go undercover as a Japanese man (this plot twist has made YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE controversial in some circles, but the entire movie is so unapologetically out-there you can't take any of it seriously). Ninjas, geishas and a lavish but platonic wedding for Bond 2.0 also figure into the proceedings.

If you're a fan of Bondian gadgets and gimmickry, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is going to be your idea of heaven; there were probably even more in the original cut of the movie, which ran a whopping three hours. The film also contains one of the loveliest scores of the series, with John Barry doing the honors and Nancy Sinatra providing a marvelously exotic title track, which was only a modest hit in its day but is now one of the best-loved theme songs of the entire series. (James Sanford)


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