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You Only Live Twice (1967) is the fifth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film's screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, and loosely based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel of the same name. It is the first James Bond film to discard most of Fleming's plot, using only a few characters and locations from the book as the background for an entirely new story.

You Only Live Twice is the eleventh novel (and twelfth book,) in Ian Fleming's James Bond series of stories. It was first published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom in March 1964 and sold out quickly. The book holds the distinction of being the last novel by Fleming to be published in his lifetime, with subsequent works being published posthumously. You Only Live Twice is the concluding chapter in what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy". The story starts eight months after the murder of Tracy Bond, which occurred at the end of the previous novel, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. James Bond is drinking and gambling heavily and making mistakes on his assignments when, as a last resort, he is sent to Japan on a semi-diplomatic mission. Whilst there he is challenged by the Head of the Japanese Secret Service to kill Dr. Guntram Shatterhand. Bond realises that Shatterhand is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and sets out on a revenge mission to kill him and his wife, Irma Bunt. The novel deals on a personal level with the change in Bond from a depressed man in mourning, to a man of action bent on revenge, to an amnesiac living as a Japanese fisherman. Through the mouths of his characters, Fleming also examines the decline of post-World War II British power and influence, notably in relation to the United States.

In the film, Bond is dispatched to Japan after American and Soviet manned spacecraft disappear mysteriously in orbit. With each nation blaming the other amidst the Cold War, Bond travels secretly to a remote Japanese island in order to find the perpetrators and comes face to face with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. The film reveals the appearance of Blofeld who was previously a partially unseen character. SPECTRE is extorting the government of an unnamed Asian power, implied to be the People's Republic of China, in order to provoke war between the superpowers.

It was announced during the Japanese location filming that Sean Connery would retire from the role of Bond; but Connery returned, after a hiatus, in Diamonds Are Forever and the non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again. You Only Live Twice is the first Bond film to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, who later directed the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me and the 1979 film Moonraker, both starring Roger Moore.

The first Bond film to be released in the northern hemisphere summertime, the film was a great success, with positive reviews and over $111 million in worldwide box office. You Only Live Twice and Stavro Blofeld has subsequently been parodied, most prominently by the Austin Powers series and its scar-faced, Nehru suit-wearing Dr. Evil. For those living in a cave for the past few decades Blofeld (Donald Sutherland) is pictured below on the left and on the right is Mike Myers as Dr. Evil.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the intended next film, but the producers decided to adapt You Only Live Twice instead because OHMSS would require searching for high and snowy locations. Lewis Gilbert originally declined the offer to direct, but accepted after producer Albert R. Broccoli called him saying: "You can't give up this job. It's the largest audience in the world." Peter R. Hunt, who edited the first five Bond films, believed that Gilbert had been contracted by the producers for other work but they found they had to use him.

Gilbert, producers Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, production designer Ken Adam and director of photography Freddie Young then went to Japan, spending three weeks searching for locations. SPECTRE’s shore fortress headquarters was changed to an extinct volcano after the team learned that the Japanese do not build castles by the sea.

Pictured above, SPECTRE’s volcano fortress headquarters. Below, Dr Evil's Secret Volcano Lair.

The group was due to return to the UK on a BOAC Boeing 707 flight (BOAC Flight 911) on March 5th 1966, but cancelled after being told they had a chance to watch a ninja demonstration. That flight crashed 25 minutes after takeoff, killing all on board. In Tokyo, the crew also found Hunt, who decided to go on holiday after having his request to direct declined. Hunt was invited to direct the second unit for You Only Live Twice and accepted the job.

Unlike most James Bond films featuring various locations around the world, almost the entire film is set in one country and several minutes are given over to an elaborate Japanese wedding. This is in keeping with Fleming's original novel, which also devoted a number of pages to the discussion of Japanese culture. Toho Studios provided soundstages, personnel and the female Japanese stars to the producers.

The producers had Harold Jack Bloom come to Japan with them to write a screenplay. Bloom's work was ultimately rejected, but since several of his ideas were used in the final script, Bloom was given the credit of "Additional Story Material". Among the elements were the opening with Bond's fake death and burial at sea, and the ninja attack. As the screenwriter of the previous Bond films Richard Maibaum was unavailable, Roald Dahl, close friend of Ian Fleming, was chosen to write the adaptation despite having no prior experience writing a screenplay except for the uncompleted The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling.

Dahl (pictured right) said the original novel was "Ian Fleming’s worst book, with no plot in it which would even make a movie", and compared it to a travelogue, and said he had to create a new plot "[though] I could retain only four or five of the original story's ideas." On creating the plot, Dahl said he "didn't know what the hell Bond was going to do" despite having to deliver the first draft in six weeks, and decided to do a basic plot similar to Dr. No. Dahl was given a free rein on his script, except for the character of Bond and "the girl formula", involving three women for Bond to seduce: an ally and a henchwoman who gets killed, and the main Bond girl. While the third involved a character from the book, Kissy Suzuki, Dahl had to create Aki and Helga Brandt to fulfil the rest. Gilbert was mostly collaborative with Dahl's work, as the writer declared: "He not only helped in script conferences, but had some good ideas and then left you alone, and when you produced the finished thing, he shot it. Other directors have such an ego that they want to rewrite it and put their own dialogue in, and it's usually disastrous. What I admired so much about Lewis Gilbert was that he just took the screenplay and shot it. That's the way to direct: You either trust your writer or you don't."



Sean Connery stars as James Bond in the 5th film entry You Only Live Twice.
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When the time came to begin You Only Live Twice, the producers were faced with the problem of a disenchanted star. Sean Connery had stated that he was tired of playing James Bond and all of the associated commitment (time spent filming and publicising each movie), together with finding it difficult to do other work, which would potentially lead to typecasting. Saltzman and Broccoli were able to persuade Connery by increasing his fee for the film, but geared up to look for a replacement.

Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld. Upon his arrival at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a poor choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After several days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich was not menacing enough, and recast Blofeld with Donald Pleasence in the role. Pleasence's ideas for Blofeld's appearance included a hump, a limp, a beard, and a lame hand, before he settled on the scar. He found it uncomfortable, though, because of the glue that attached it to his eye.

Many European models were tested for Helga Brandt, with German actress Karin Dor (left) being cast. Dor performed the stunt of diving into a pool to depict Helga's demise herself, without the use of a double. Strangely, for the German version Dor was dubbed by somebody else. Gilbert had chosen Tetsuro Tamba after working with him in The 7th Dawn. A number of actual martial arts experts were hired as the ninjas. The two Japanese female parts proved difficult to cast, due to most of the actresses tested having limited English.

Eventually Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi were chosen and started taking English classes in the UK. Hama, initially cast in the role of Tanaka's assistant, had difficulty with the language, so the producers switched her role with Wakabayashi, who had been cast as Kissy, a part with significantly less dialogue. Wakabayashi only requested that her character name, "Suki", be changed to "Aki". Various lists frequently ranked Aki among the best Bond girls ever, "So beautiful you almost forget that Sean Connery has been ridiculously made up to look Japanese. Almost" and "Hot Japanese agent, she kicks ass and look damn fine doing it." Aki is among the more pro-active female characters from the 1960s Bond films, and her character has some similarities to that of Tracy Bond, who Bond would marry for real in the series' next film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Both are depicted as intelligent women who can take care of themselves, both save Bond from the villains during the course of the story, and both are excellent drivers, taking the wheel during the films' respective main car chases. Wakabayashi made only one more film (and a guest TV appearance) before disappearing from both the big and small screen. In an interview in G-FAN magazine (No. 76), Wakabayashi said she retired from acting owing to injuries sustained while making a movie.

Filming of You Only Live Twice lasted from July 1966 to March 1967. The film was shot primarily in Japan. Himeji Castle in Hyogo was depicted as Tanaka's ninja training camp. His private transportation hub was filmed at the Tokyo Metro's Nakano-shimbashi Station. As of 2011, many of the fixtures in the station are unchanged from the time of filming. The Hotel New Otani, Tokyo served as the outside for Osato Chemicals and the hotel's gardens were used for scenes of the ninja training. Bonotsu in Kagoshima served as the fishing village, the Kobe harbour was used for the dock fight and Mount Shinmoe-dake in Kyushu was used for the exteriors of SPECTRE's headquarters. Large crowds were present in Japan to see the shooting. A Japanese fan began following Sean Connery with a camera, and the police were called several times to prevent invasions during shooting. You Only Live Twice is still fondly remembered in Japan. In the western part of the country, used as a location for the Ama fishing village, there is a stone marker in honor of the movie (above). The marker reads: “Our James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, was filmed on location here at Akime,” It features the signatures of producer Albert R. Broccoli, star Sean Connery and co-star Tetsuro Tamba, who played Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service.

The heavily armed autogyro "Little Nellie" (pictured above with Q and Bond) was included after Ken Adam heard a radio interview with its inventor, RAF Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Little Nellie was named after music hall star Nellie Wallace, who has a similar surname to its inventor. Wallis piloted his invention, which was equipped with various mock-up armaments by John Stears' special effects team, during production. "Nellie's" battle with helicopters proved to be difficult to film. The scenes were initially shot in Miyazaki, first with takes of the gyrocopter, with more than 85 take-offs, 5 hours of flight and Wallis nearly crashing onto the camera several times. A scene filming the helicopters from above created a major downdraft and cameraman John Jordan's foot was severed by the craft's rotor. The concluding shots involved explosions, which the Japanese government did not allow in a national park. So, the crew moved to Torremolinos, Spain, which was found to resemble the Japanese landscape.

The sets of SPECTRE's volcano base were constructed at a lot inside Pinewood Studios, with a cost of $1 million and including operative heliport and monorail. The 45 m (148 ft) tall set could be seen from 5 kilometres (3 miles) away, and attracted many people from the region. Other locations outside Japan included the ship HMS Tenby in Gibraltar for the sea burial, Hong Kong for the scene where Bond fakes his death, and Norway for the Soviet radar station.

Sean Connery's then wife Diane Cilento did the swimming scenes for at least five Japanese actresses, including Mie Hama. (Cilento is pictured right with Connery and Bond Producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli at the premiere of From Russia With Love in 1963.) Martial arts expert Donn F. Draeger provided martial arts training, and also doubled for Connery. Lewis Gilbert's regular editor, Thelma Connell, was originally hired to edit the film. However, after her initial, almost three-hour cut received a terrible response from test audiences, Peter R. Hunt was asked to re-edit the film. Hunt's cut proved a much greater success, and he was awarded the director's chair on the next film as a result.

The soundtrack was the fourth of the series to be composed by John Barry. He tried to incorporate the "elegance of the Oriental sound" with Japanese music-inspired tracks. The theme song, "You Only Live Twice", was composed by Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse and sung by Nancy Sinatra. Sinatra was reported to be very nervous while recording – first she wanted to leave the studio; then she claimed to sometimes "sound like Minnie Mouse". Barry declared that the final song uses 25 different takes. There are two versions of the song "You Only Live Twice", sung by Nancy Sinatra, one directly from the movie soundtrack, and a second one for record release arranged by Billy Strange. The movie soundtrack song is widely recognised for its striking opening bars and oriental flavour, and was far more popular on radio. The record release made No. 44 on the Billboard charts in the USA, No. 11 in UK. Both versions of the title song are available on CD.

In 1992, Acen sampled the title song "You Only Live Twice" for his song "Trip II the Moon Part 2". In 1997, Icelandic singer Björk recorded a cover version. In 1998, Robbie Williams used the distinctive string figure for his song "Millennium", (although it was re-recorded, rather than sampled from the movie for cost reasons). Coldplay covered it when they toured in 2001, and it was covered by Natacha Atlas for her 2005 compilation album The Best of Natacha Atlas. Shirley Bassey, who has three original Bond themes to her credit, has also covered the song.

A different title song was originally recorded by Julie Rogers, but eventually discarded. Only two lines from that version were kept in the final lyrics, and the orchestral part was changed to fit Nancy Sinatra's vocal range. Rogers' version only appeared in a James Bond 30th Anniversary CD, with no singer credit. In the 1990s, an alternative example of a possible theme song (also called "You Only Live Twice" and sung by Lorraine Chandler) was discovered in the vaults of RCA Records. It became a very popular track with followers of the Northern soul scene (Chandler was well known for her high-quality soul output on RCA) and can be found on several RCA soul compilations.

You Only Live Twice premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It was the first premiere of a James Bond film that Queen Elizabeth II had attended. The film grossed $43 million in the United States and over $111 million worldwide. Critical response today is mostly positive, but some reviews point out various flaws in the film. James Berardinelli said that the first half was good, but "during the second half, as the plot escalates beyond the bounds of preposterousness." Roger Ebert criticised the focus on gadgets, declaring that the James Bond formula "fails to work its magic". John Brosnan in his book James Bond in the Cinema compared the film to an episode of Thunderbirds with a reliance on gadgetry but admitted it had pace and spectacle.


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