You Only Live Twice was to mark the final performance of Sean Connery as James Bond and for produces Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman perhaps the end of the franchise all together. Suffering through a checkered production history You Only Live Twice is the thrilling tale of James Bond coming face to face with his arch nemesis Ernst Blofeld who is attempting to start a war between American and the Soviet Union.
The foreign object swallowing the american capsule
Jupiter 16 runs a standard mission for the United States when a foreign object flies in swallowing the capsule and sending of the astronauts free floating in space. The incident sends the Russian, American and English governments in a tension with each pointing the finger at the other. The American government states that in twenty days it will launch another capsule and if there is any interference it would conclude that the Russians were starting a war and retaliate. With a more level head the English representative states that Her majesties secret service does not believe that Russia sent the foreign object and that signals were coming from the coast of Japan were their man James Bond (Sean Connery) is investigating.
James Bond dead?
In China Bond is in bed with a female spy who betrays him. Two men enter the room and shoot up the bed with Bond in it and leave. Officers rush in and confirm James Bond is dead. In Hong Kong Bond is given a burial at sea. At the bottom of the ocean two divers retrieve the body and take it aboard a submarine. Once in the sub Bond is using a breathing device and wakes up aboard the sub. Also on board M (Bernard Lee) briefs Bond on the situation and sends Bond to Japan to find the source of the trouble and tells him that the Russian’s are planning a capsule launch before the Americans.
In Tokyo Bond is followed by several mysterious women and tries to meet his contact Mr. Henderson (Charles Gary) but instead meets Henderson’s employee Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) at a sumo match. She takes Bond to Henderson’s house where he says that the main person Bond will be working with is Japanese Secret Service agent Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba). Henderson hints that he knows who is all behind this but is assassinated before he can tell Bond. Bond hunts down the assassin, kills and then disguises himself as the assassin. He has the assassin’s driver drive him to Osato Chemical and Engerineering Company. Pretending he is hurt Bond has the muscular driver carry him to Mr. Osato’s (Teru Shimada) office. Once there the driver discovers Bond’s ruse and attempts to kill him. Bond disposes of the driver with some difficulty and hacks his way into the offices main safe. After taking everything he thinks of value in the safe Bond dashes out of the building were Aki is waiting from him in an escape vehicle.
Bond and Tanaka
With the death of Henderson Bond grows suspicious of Kissy who stops the car and runs from Bond. During the chase Bond is tricked and falls through a false floor which opens to Tanaka’s office. Tanaka looks over the papers Bond stole and says it’s a list of shipments. Aboard Tanaka’s private train his employees have the negative Bond stole enlarged which ends up being a picture of a ship and strip of land a tourist was killed for taking. Using the photo as reference Tanaka makes work on pinpointing the exact location the picture was taken.
While they wait Tanaka takes Bond too his private spa were Bond speculates that SPECTRE would have the most to gain if Russia and America went to war. That night Aki sneaks into Bond room and spends the night.
Osato and Brandt
The next day Bond goes to his arranged meeting with Mr. Osato. At the meeting Bond meets Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) and discusses random business with Mr. Osato who already knows that Bond’s cover is false and orders him to be killed. When Bond leaves the building Aki once again saves him from Osato’s assassination squad. The ensuing car chase ends with Tanaka’s helicopter placing a magnet on the henchman's car and dumping them into the ocean. Tanaka tells Bond that the ship in the picture he found is currently docked and that Bond should race over there and look the ship over.
At the shipyard Bond runs into more of Osato’s henchmen. For a moment Bond thinks he has escaped but is knocked unconscious. Once Bond awakens Brandt threatens Bond with torture. With the promise of money and a life free of Osato Bond convinces Brandt to let him go. On their flight back to Tokyo Brandt double crosses Bond and jumps out of a plain, with a parachute, leaving Bond to crash. At the last second Bond is able to pull the plane up enough to avoid instant death.
Bond in Little Nellie
Later at Tanaka’s home Tanaka tells Bond they have pinpointed the location of the coast line and that Q had arrived with Little Nellie, a small personal helicopter. In Little Nellie Bond arrives at the coast line of a volcanic fishing island. As he flies several attack helicopters appear and try to shoot him down. After disposing of the attack choppers Bond deduces that something is up with the island.
Meanwhile the Russians launch their space capsule that is also devoured by the foreign object. The foreign object is actually a SPECTRE missile that returns to earth in the hollowed out volcano that Bond was investigating that day. In the cover of night the SPECTRE rocket lands inside the volcano to which the false lake bed recovers up the hidden base. In his apartment Blofeld threatens the Chinese government officials with his man eating piranhas demanding more money. When they refuse Blofeld brings in Osato and Brandt asking them why they didn’t kill Bond when the had the chance. Using his trap bridge Blofeld drops Brandt into the piranha pool killing her.
Bond shows up at Tanaka’s castle where he shows off his ninja army and training facilities to Bond. Tanaka tells Bond that in order to get on the island he will have to become Japanese and have a fake wedding. With the cosmetics finished Bond returns to bed with Aki. In the night a ninja assassin attempts to kill Bond but kills Aki by accident.
The next day Bond marries Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama) and heads off to the island as an average fisherman looking for work. Once on the island Kissy takes Bond to her house and explains that their marriage is nothing more than a job and that they will be sleeping separately. That night Tanaka tells Bond that the Americans have moved up their launch date and that the countdown has already began. Worried that he won’t have time Bond complains that nothing happens on the island, Kissy explains that just the other day a girl fisherman went near a cave on the island and reappeared dead.
The gas cave
In the morning Bond and Kissy sail to the cave and swim in only find it full of poisonous gas. They swim out to safety and begin to climb the volcano. On their way Bond witness a helicopter descending into the volcano. While Bond crests the volcano to find the helicopter gone the Americans launch their rocket. By night fall Bond makes it to the false lake in the volcano and tells Kissy to get Tanaka and his army while he sneaks into SPECTRE’s base on his own. As SPECTRE prepares to launch their own rocket Bond finds his way to the kidnapped astronauts.
Together Bond and the astronauts attempt to sneaks aboard SPECTRE’s rocket but Blofeld notices and has Bond brought to the main control center and proceeds with the launch with the original astronauts. As the rocket leaves Tanaka’s army shows up at SPECTRE’s hideout and proceed to assault it. Inside Bond con’s his way to getting his cigarette rocket gun and is able to kill a scientist before being caught again.
The ninja assault of the SPECTRE base
As Tanaka’s ninja army continues the assault Blofeld makes his escape with Bond as a hostage. Before Blofeld can make his escape Bond escapes and makes his way back to the control room in an attempt to shut down SPECTRE’s rocket before it can devour the American capsule. After a quick fight with Blofelds main guardian Bond is able to activate the self destruct of the SPECTRE rocket at the last second. Meanwhile Blofeld activates the self destruct of the entire volcano base. Just in time Tanaka, his army, Kissy and Bond swim out of the complex through a side tunnel to safety.
Ian Fleming in Japan
In 1962 Ian Fleming visited Japan after a heart attack to research his next James Bond book You Only Live Twice. The book was released in 1964 amongst the release of the film Goldfinger and saw immediate success. And it was since Goldfinger did Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli want to do the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but with the opportunity to do Thunderball and the absence of any good winter locations the project kept being delayed.
Eventually the decision was made to do You Only Live Twice and new director Lewis Gilbert was offered the job. At first the director of Alfie declined but was soon convinced by Broccoli to direct the film. With Gilbert came award winning cinematographer Freddy Young. Ready to go Broccoli, Satlman, Gilbert and Young, along with designer Ken Adams went to Japan for location scouting. While there Broccoli ran in to franchise editor Peter Hunt and offered him the chance to direct the second unit on the film.
Searching for locations
The biggest problem during location scouting was that they could not find a castle that was by the see. They hired a pilot who was an ex kamikazi pilot to fly them for several weeks across most of Japan looking for just the right place to film. It wasn’t until they discovered that no castles were actually built by the see did they find the volcano location eventually used in the film. It was then decided that the villain would use a dormant volcano as his hide out. From there the rest of the story was created.
Pressure quickly built on the producers. The film already had a release date and Sean Connery’s contract was running up and yet there was still no finished script. Initially Harold Jack Bloom was hired to write the script but he soon left leaving the producers turning to short story writer Roald Dahl. Although Dahl was a friend of Flemings he was not fond of the running themes of the Bond franchise but took the job anyway.
Ken Adams original sketch for the SPECTRE base
Much of the script took place in the hollowed out volcano leaving designer Ken Adams with a massive undertaking. Ken Adams welcomed the challenge and was fascinated with building a set that looked like the interior of a volcano. After finished the initial sketches Adams approached the producers with his idea. After being asked by Broccoli how much it would cost to create the set Adams said flat out, “a million dollars” which was the entire production cost of Dr. No. Broccoli gave the go ahead without hesitation leaving Adams to construct the set.
Tetsurou Tanba was a famous action star at the time and was cast for the role of Tiger Tanaka. Director Lewis Gilbert had actually worked on a previous film with Tanba and had taught him English which was a great help for You Only Live Twice. Once again the casting of the female leads proved much more difficult. Models and actresses from across Europe auditioned for the part of Helga Brandt. At first they were looking for a tall German actress for the role but instead went with Karin Dor. To make her fit the part a little more they made her wear very high heels and dyed her hair to make her a little bit more blonde if they could.
Mie Hama in make up
In order for the production to shoot in Japan the Japanese government was very insistent that the female roles actually be played by Japanese girls. During the search they discovered that not a single Japanese actress they were auditioning spoke a word of English. Finally they were able to narrow it down to Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama. The two girls were then shipped to England and given a crash course on how to speak English. Ms. Wakabayashi picked up on the new language very quickly however Ms. Hama was not. Gilbert turned to Tanba and told him to take her out to dinner and tell Hama that she would have to go back to the Japan and lose the part. The next day Tanba told Gilbert that she said that she would commit suicide if she lost the part. Gilbert took this very seriously and went to the producers who agreed to keep her on the film. Since the part of Aki had more speaking lines the actresses swapped parts giving Hama the part of Kissy Suzuki who didn’t have as many lines.
Ken Wallis and his gyrocopter
The most recognizable gadget in You Only Live Twice is Little Nellie, a personal helicopter, which was found by Ken Adams. Ken Wallis was the inventor of the gyrocopter and was contacted by Ken Adams to be in the new Bond film. By the time Wallis finished his demonstration for Adams and the producers Broccoli stated he wanted Wallis and the helicopter in Japan within six weeks. Adams took the small chopper and redesigned it as a war machine.
July the 4th 1966 shooting for You Only Live Twice began with the death of James Bond. Shooting continued with legendary stuntman Bob Simmons cordinating the Osato office fight scene. With much care every move is carefully planned out.
Broccoli fending off the reporters
At the end of July the production team begins to move to Japan were Sean Connery announces that You Only Live Twice would be his last James Bond film. Quickly Broccoli and Saltman try to renegotiate with Connery for future Bond films but are unable to come to an agreement. The press begins to speculate that the franchise has no future with out Sean Connery as the title role. Arriving in Japan Connery is mobbed by reporters and has to be hidden from the public while the producers attempt to fend them off. A special security team was hired for the rest of the shoot to keep Connery safe.
On July 31st the team moves to a remote village named Akine. The cast had to be flown in by helicopter since it was a three hour drive but this didn’t stop fans and reporters from showing up trying to find Sean Connery. Local police are forced to intervene and set up road blocks for miles and yet the reporters still find ways around them. With the crew under stress from the nagging reporters and summer temperatures over a hundred degrees producer Cubby Broccoli continues to do his best to keep everyone happy.
The actresses who couldn't swim
When some of the actresses are in capable of swimming in the strong currents Connery’s then wife Diana Cilento stepped in to help the production. She was a very athletic person who was a strong swimmer and double for nearly all of the swimming scenes.
For the helicopter fight sequence pilot and inventor Ken Wallis had to take off and land on some very dangerous roads which nearly cost him his life on several occasions. In the end Wallis achieved eighty five take offs and landings and four six hours in the air for the entire sequence. Johnny Jordon was the ariel camera man for the sequence and he had to be practically strapped to the side of a helicopter to film the scene. Struggling with changing air currents at low altitudes a helicopter got to close to the camera helicopter and the rotors sliced through Jordon’s foot. With Jordon injured and the helicopter damaged the ex-kamikazi pilot that helped scout locations landed the helicopter safely. Quickly they fixed the helicopter and flew Jordon to a nearby by convention of surgeons who succesfully put Jordon’s foot back on.
Building the mammoth set
As filming continued in Japan Ken Adams team was hard at work building the SPECTRE hide out location. Everyone was in awe of the massive construction project that could have actually full sized helicopters lift off and land within it. However in order to shoot the scenes the set had to be lit which by many was considered an impossible feat. However Freddy Young felt that he could do it and had to take every light the studio had to light the set.
John Weddick as Blofeld
While filming on the set the first scenes with the mysterious Ernst Blofeld was set to shoot. Saltzman hired John Weddick who didn’t look menacing in the least and neither director Lewis Gilbert or Cubby Broccoli had seen him until the day of shooting. Both men were unsatisfied with Saltzman’s choice but decided to shoot for the day any way in hopes it would work out. For five days they shoot the scenes with Weddick but decided to recast. The part then goes to Donald Pleasance. Even though many of the Japanese martial artists that were used earlier in the film were brought in for the final assault one hundred stuntmen still had to be brought in for the repelling scenes.
Like the films in the franchise before it You Only Live Twice experienced great financial success and was the first premiered attended by the Queen. Through the years however there is a mild contention about the quality of the film. Some complain about it’s reliance on gadgets and ridiculous ending while others praise You Only Live Twice for pushing the edge of what a Bond film can do.