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Film: You Only Live Twice
"Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond!"

"Me? I never take any risks."
James Bond

The one in Japan.

You Only Live Twice (1967), often abbreviated as YOLT, is the fifth James Bond film, and the fifth starring Sean Connery. After Bond fakes his death to fall off the radar, he is sent to Japan to investigate SPECTRE's latest plot to spark a nuclear war by interfering in the Space Race. One of the goofier Bond films (but it's still awesome!), a little known fact that contributes to this is that the screenplay was written by children's book writer Roald Dahl, a good friend of Ian Fleming.

Notably, this was the first film to deviate significantly from the source novel, which has Bond, still reeling from the tragic events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, being sent by M on an extremely tricky diplomatic mission to Japan in an attempt to shake him out of his Heroic BSOD. The novel was considered to be unfilmable, so they had to almost completely rewrite the plot. Apart from the Japanese setting, the basic characters of Tiger Tanaka and Dikko Henderson (both of whom were portrayed completely differently in the film), and Blofeld as the villain, it has little in common with its film adaptation.

After five years of playing the character, Connery sleepwalks his way through the movie, having already stated he was sick of playing the role. Many of the most widely known and celebrated Bond tropes come from this movie, including Ken Adam's giant volcano set. Most famous, however, is the genre-defining performance from Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, complete with a fluffy white cat to stroke - many people are surprised to be told this is actually the only one Pleasance is in (though the character himself shows up a few more times). This Blofeld was specifically parodied as Doctor Evil in Austin Powers, as were a few other tropes such as the hollowed out volcano lair.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl
    • Aki the Japanese spy is actually a pretty good example of the trope, since she's a Waif-Fu with downright mean driving skills. Too bad she bit it.
    • Kissy isn's so bad either. She joins Tanaka and his ninjas raiding the SPECTRE volcano all while wearing a bikini!
  • Adaptation Distillation
    • The producers tried to do as in the book and use a castle by the sea. However, they found out there's no such thing in Japan (they are built well into land because of typhoons). The solution they found? A volcano base!
    • Roald Dahl had to create a new plot as he considered that the book was more of a travelogue than a novel (see In Name Only, below).
  • Agents Dating: Bond has a dinner with his "wife" Kissy (an agent who works for Tanaka) in which Kissy informs him that they're sleeping in separate rooms. Bond protests "But we're supposed to be married. We're on our honeymoon!", but Kissy replies "Not honeymoon. This is business."
  • All There in the Script: Kissy Suzuki is not called or mentioned by name at all during the actual movie.
  • Between My Legs: A common shot in Bond films; this shot is taken of a girl at the bath house framing James.
  • Big Bad: Ernst Stavro Blofeld
  • Big Red Button: Two - one pushed by Bond to destroy the SPECTRE space ship, one a switch thrown by Blofeld to activate his base's Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Bond is having his chest hair dyed to look more Japanese. Bond: "Why don't you just dye the parts that show?" Aki (in Japanese, untranslated): "That's a secret only we know!"
  • Blofeld Ploy: Done twice in this one, by you-know-who. First he uses it to kill Helga instead of Osato, and then later he hilariously points a gun at Bond and shoots Osato, only to attempt to kill Bond again mere seconds later in another location where he's conveniently subdued by one of Tiger's shurikens.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Bon appetit!" after Hans falls in the piranha pool.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Blofeld actually calls his underlings out on this. When he captures Bond himself, he does make a mistake that allows Bond to escape (he shoots Osato first), but that doesn't seem to be an example of this as Bond was saved by events out of Blofeld's control.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Hans.
  • Burial at Sea: Commander James Bond gets one.
  • Coitus Ensues: Subverted. Kissy emphatically insisted her fake marriage was strictly business and would not be consummated for their "honeymoon." This being a Bond movie, they still tried to do it, almost during a mission at that! Unfortunately M interrupted by surfacing a submarine direct beneath them while they were just getting started.
  • Collapsing Lair: After Blofeld activates a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Bond is escaping from the Osato Chemicals building when Aki drives up beside him and tells him to "Get in!"
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: The massive army of ninja is slaughtered when it initially attacks Blofeld's lair. They become incredibly effective after Bond and Tiger Tanaka takes a hand and help out.
    • In fairness, they're stuck outside the base with automated Sentry Guns firing at them. It's not until they blow a hole in the roof and come down in strength that the tables are turned.
  • Cool Car: Aki's Toyota 2000GT, widely regarded as Japan's first supercar. It wasn't supposed to be a convertible, but it got converted into one due to Sean Connery's height.
  • Cool Plane: "Little Nellie"; actually a gyrocopter
  • Death Trap: Brandt tries to kill Bond by holding him inside a crashing plane as she parachutes out the window. (don't ask how such a huge plank appears to trap Bond)
  • Death by Sex: Poor Aki.
  • Died Standing Up: Henderson dies from a dagger to the back as he stands next to a paper wall in mid-sentence.
  • Dies Wide Open: Aki, who is killed by a SPECTRE assassin who was trying to kill Bond.
  • Double Take: Osato when he sees Bond in the SPECTRE control room.
  • The Dragon: Hans
  • Dressing as the Enemy:
    • The escaped astronauts/cosmonauts dress in white SPECTRE security uniforms.
    • Earlier Bond uses a smog mask used by Henderson's assassin to pretend to be him, as well as doubling over to hide his height, pretending to be injured.
  • Drugs Are Bad
    • A surprisingly early allegory on cigarettes.
    Blofeld: It won't be the nicotine that kills you, Mr. Bond.
    • Inverted with the rocket bullet cigarettes.
    Tanaka: "These cigarettes may save your life."
  • Dueling Scar: This version of Blofeld has one.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The SPECTRE launch facility. Entirely apart from all the side tunnels, the main set is staggeringly huge.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Bond fights his way across the bad guys' port, filmed by a helicopter very high above the action so it looks like a bunch of ants fighting. Combined with the jazzy instrumental of the theme song playing, it is awesome.
  • Explosive Cigar: Tanaka's rocket cigarettes.
  • Faking the Dead: Bond in the beginning, complete with through-and-through bullet holes and fake blood.
  • False Flag Operation: SPECTRE does this to the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to make each think that the other is stealing its space capsules.
  • Fanservice: Should go without saying in a Bond movie. Examples include Bond main girl, Kissy Suzuki, wearing a white bikini while hiking up the Big Bad's lair. Eventually she puts on a sort of small bathrobe-kimono only to get rid of it later. For pretty much the last quarter of the film she's in a bikini. Also Tanaka's bath servants. Later on when Bond takes a Japanese identity the female makeup artists apply the Japanese makeup to Bond in an operating theater wearing bikinis!
  • Fast Roping: This is how Tiger Tanaka's ninjas descend into Blofeld's volcano base, but with a special roller apparatus to allow them to descend as fast as safely possible.
  • Fiery Redhead: Helga Brandt (which makes her actress - who is a brunette - saying the producers were looking for a blue-eyed blonde kind of weird...).
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Forklift Fu: One of the Mooks try run Bond over with a forklift at the Kobe docks.
  • Funny Background Event: When the rocket control room is under siege, Bond poses the question "Impregnable?" to Blofold. Meanwhile, his cat is completely freaked out and trying to escape.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Bond arrives at his home with his "wife" Kissy, they have dinner in which Kissy informs him that they're sleeping in separate rooms. Bond protests "But we're supposed to be married. We're on our honeymoon!", but Kissy replies "Not honeymoon. This is business." Bond answers "Then I won't be needing these...", as he pushes his plate away. What they're having for dinner are oysters, which are a known aphrodisiac.
  • Giant Mook: Hans and the Japanese driver who unknowingly picks Bond and takes him to Osato Industries.
  • Hand Signals: Tiger Tanaka twice uses arm signals with his ninja army.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After taking out a henchman during the fight in Osato's office, Bond breaks into a cupboard and takes a drink. Unfortunately for him, the only thing available is Siamese Vodka.
  • IKEA Weaponry: "Little Nellie" is always packed up in kit-form until needed.
  • In Name Only: The movie has extremely little in common with the novel by Ian Fleming - though the novel (which was about Bond taking a contract on Blofeld and shutting down his garden full of ways for visitors to commit suicide in exchange for the take from one of Tanaka's intelligence sources) was considered completely unfilmable. The producers allowed Roald Dahl to create a new plot, given he followed the formula by not derailing Bond's character and having him romance three women, so the writer added a space program story similar to Dr. No.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: This exchange sums the whole movie up:
    Bond: Do you have any commandos here?
    Tanaka: I have much, much better. Ninjas.
  • Island Base: Blofeld's Elaborate Underground Base is under an extinct volcano on the Japanese island of Matsu.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: While the Ninja squad that rescues Bond near the end do use some more modern equipment, there are still plenty of shots of them using shuriken and ninja blades successfully against the SMG armed minions.
  • Japanese Like Me: Bond's disguise as a Japanese fisherman.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: For some reason, Tanaka decides not to just send Bond a polite note.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: MI6 agent Henderson is backstabbed (literally) by a SPECTRE assassin while talking to Bond.
  • Last Request: Bond asks for a last cigarette which he uses to kill the mook closest to the controls opening the sliding roof.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The British Hong Kong policeman who discovers Bond "dead" in the opening sequence, almost looking straight to the audience.
    Policeman: Well, at least he died on the job. He'd have wanted it this way.
  • Leitmotif: The rocket that SPECTRE uses is accompanied by a dramatic fanfare.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Bond of all people mutters, "The things I do for England," while unzipping Helga's dress.
  • Lock and Load Montage: The scene where "Little Nellie" gets assembled.
  • Moment Killer:
    • A SPECTRE helicopter passing overhead interrupts Bond and Kissy Suzuki's romantic interlude on the island.
    • And of course what becomes a Running Gag of Bond's superiors interrupting (either before, during or after) sex with the Bond girl at the end of the movie.
  • Mugged for Disguise: How Bond, the U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts got their SPECTRE uniforms.
  • Neck Snap: Bond uses it to kill the assassin who killed Henderson.
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now: Blofeld says "Interception will take place in eight minutes. Nothing can prevent that."
  • Oh, Crap: Osato acts that way after he sees Blofeld's killing of his female underling after she failed him. Before he was calmly walking away, but after Blofeld's deed, after which the Big Bad roars, "Kill Bond, NOW!", Osato scampers up the stairs in fright at his truly crazy boss.
  • The Oner: An extended helicopter tracking shot as Bond runs across a roof fighting SPECTRE minions.
  • Out with a Bang: With the usual Double Entendre when Bond is found 'dead' in bed thanks to a Chinese Femme Fatale.
    "Well at least he died on the job."
    "He'd have wanted it this way."
  • Overt Rendezvous: Bond meets with his Japanese Secret Service contact at a sumo match.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: "Japanese Bond". It's a nod to the novel, where Bond really manages to look Japanese...somehow. He even fools Blofeld for a while after being captured.
  • Piranha Problem: Blofeld kept a piranha pond in his underground lair - handy for getting rid of failed employees.
  • Playing Both Sides: SPECTRE is stealing American and Soviet spacecrafts to provoke a war.
  • Railing Kill: Happens a lot during the big battle at the end.
  • Rare Guns: Tiger Tanaka's army utilizes Gyrojet pistols and rifles, in what is one of the few times the Gyrojet is seen used on film. They also used them in the book. Justified; at the time the film was made, Gyrojets were still available for sale and weren't the absurdly rare weapons they are today.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Tiger Tanaka, the Bond Girls Aki and Kissy Suzuki, and Soviet ground controllers and cosmonauts.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Inverted. This is the original attempt to trigger Nuclear War between Russia and the US, but it has since spawned many imitators; the plot would be recycled in the series itself for the 10th Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, but its this one that is actually based in space.
  • Red China: Heavily implied that they are the ones who hired Blofeld to do all this.
  • Retcon: Bond tells Henderson that he has never been to Japan. In From Russia with Love, he was about to go on about some Noodle Incident involving him and M in Tokyo.
  • Revealing Coverup: SPECTRE, repeatedly.
  • Right-Hand Cat: This is probably the trope maker, though Blofeld's cat had been featured before.
  • Safecracking: Bond breaks into a safe at the Osato Chemical Company with a nifty spy gadget.
  • Scenery Porn: Spectacular aerial footage of Japan.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Two of them, one in the SPECTRE space ship and one in the SPECTRE base.
  • Sentry Gun: The crater guns Blofeld used against Tanaka's ninja army.
  • Shark Pool: Instead of sharks, there are piranha.
  • Sic 'em: Osato tells Number 11 "Kill him!'' and Blofeld says "Kill Bond! Now!"
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Donald Pleasance's Blofeld has less than 30 minutes of screentime, but is easily the most memorable Bond villain of all.
  • The Speechless: Blofeld's bodyguard Hans never utters a word.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: A SPECTRE helicopter does this to Kissy Suzuki.
  • Stock Footage: The American and Soviet space launches - although the latter is clearly using a clip of an American Gemini launch, as footage of a Soviet launch was probably unavailable.
  • Storming the Castle: the ninja attack on the volcanic hideout.
  • Supervillain Lair
    • A hollowed out volcano that is also used as a rocket launch base. It's one of the most famous and recognizable lairs in any fiction. It probably inspired a lot of later such lairs.
    • It's certainly lovingly parodied in the second Austin Powers movie, with entire sets recreated very closely.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Two scenes (in Aki's car and Blofeld's lair) have filmed footage that just evokes Fridge Logic.
  • Tap on the Head: A mook to Bond at the Kobe docks and Bond/astronauts to SPECTRE guards.
  • Throw Away Guns: Kissy shoots a mook who's about to kill Tanaka, then throws away her revolver and doesn't pick up another weapon (despite a major firefight all around her) spending the rest of the time clinging to Tanaka.
  • Title Drop: Given that the film starts with 007 faking his death, Blofeld says "You only live twice, Mr. Bond."
  • Tokyo Tower: can be seen in a background shot when the helicopter picks up the car full of Evil Minions.
  • Trap Door: Blofeld has a bridge that collapses on command, dropping whatever is on it into the piranha-infested water. Also when Japanese Secret Service chief Tiger Tanaka uses one of these (plus a slide) on Bond.
  • Trust Password/Embarrassing Password: Bond's password with the Japanese Secret Service is "I love you".
  • Twenty One Gun Salute: During the Burial at Sea of James Bond at the beginning of the movie, several sailors fire rifles as a salute.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: It seems that, in a time when the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. had a monopoly on space flight, the people of Japan thought nothing of a rocket launch from one of their islands.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Blofeld is being paid to start World War III between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., apparently by agents of Red China.
  • Weddings in Japan: A fake one, but traditional nonetheless.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Say, did those American and Soviet astronauts ever made it back home?
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: After the Americans move their launch up to midnight, Bond has to move quickly find the SPECTRE base and stop their plot.


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