The fifth James Bond film, You Only Live Twice is the first Bond directed by Lewis Gilbert, who would go on to make The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. And, perhaps most importantly, it seemed like it would be the last Bond film for Sean Connery.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was to be the next movie, but that would have meany searching for snowy locations. Instead, the Bond team decided to make this story first.
Roald Dahl would write the story using the book as a very loose inspiration, which he felt was just a travelogue with no story.
American NASA spacecraft Jupiter 16 has been hijacked from orbit by SPECTRE, who are being paid by China to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia. Meanwhile, James Bond has been killed and buried at sea.
It’s all ruse, as Bond is in Japan to find out where SPECTRE is hiding and what their next move is. This involves him working with Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi, King Kong vs. Godzilla), a Japanese female ninja, who is in the employ of the Japanese Secret Service. Tiger Tanaka, of course, is back as the leader of the Japanese agents. After Aki is killed, Bond teams with Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hamada, King Kong Escapes), an agent who he is “married” to after receiving plastic surgery to appear Japanese.
Wait — Bond gets surgery on his eyes to look Japanese? Yeah. It was 1967.
Teru Shimada plays Mr. Osato and Karin Dor plays SPECTRE agent Helga Brandt, two of Bond’s enemies. But the real big bad finally shows up, five movies in, as Blofeld is revealed as Donald Pleasence. Ironically, Charles Gray is in this as Dikko Henderson, but he’d end up playing Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever.
By the way — Osato’s bodyguard that fights Bond is pro wrestler “High Chief” Peter Fanene Maivia, grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
I had a really emotional reaction to the end of this movie. Obviously, we’re living through some trying times, but the final of this, as Blofeld is finally revealed and he runs through his base, shooting his own men to escape just as it explodes, leaving Bond and Kissy to try to escape their duties for just a few minutes alone…I found my face wet with tears. The meta realization that Connery wanted to run from Bond in the same way that Bond wanted to escape his MI6 hit me.
Could things ever be this perfect again? This month of Bond films has been a catharsis as I deal with multiple life-changing events — the loss of my company, my wife’s worsening back, my father’s mental condition and hell, the potential end of all there is. I try not to let my real life come into here all that much, but I wanted to share a gorgeous moment with you, when James Bond did what he did best, if only for a few seconds. He saved my world.