Bonding with Bond, Day 6: You Only Live Twice

Community Manager Ryan Fujitani is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

After a quick detour into spoof territory with 1967's Casino Royale, I jump right back into the regular Bond films with You Only Live Twice.

You Only Live Twice

Because I was told by others in the office that there was one particular Bond movie that took place in Japan, when I realized You Only Live Twice was that movie I was prepared for the silliness to return. I could only imagine what a late 60s portrayal of Japanese culture would yield. Interestingly enough, I found that this 5th official Bond film was overall another serious installment, and a pretty decent one at that.

A couple of things I immediately noticed as early as the opening credits: there is actually someone employed in the department of "Continuity." I've never seen this in any other film, though it might be a common assignment, and I thought it was quite appropriate that the first time I noticed it was in an early James Bond movie, where one might consider continuity to be of secondary importance.

Secondly, the screenplay was written by who? Roald Dahl? What? The guy who wrote "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach?" I'm a huge fan of Dahl, including his more adult stories, so this was an incredibly novel (and utterly random) surprise for me. Throughout the movie, I paid special attention to see if I could detect any of Dahl's fingerprints, but a Bond script is so far removed from what I know of his writing - and I've read a lot of it - that I came up empty.

Now, while I did write above that the movie maintained a fairly serious tone, I have to point out what I'm sure everyone is expecting me to mention: Bond's "transformation" into a Japanese man to go undercover in a fishing village. They go to the trouble of laying Sean Connery out on what appears to be an operating table, Face/Off style, with half a dozen Japanese girls applying makeup, implanting a new head of hair, and shaving his chest. When the newly converted 007 emerges, we see that the agent has magically become... Sean Connery in a kimono and a bowl-cut hairpiece. Shocking, positively shocking. He looks like the father of Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, or a cross between George W. Bush and a Vulcan (see pic above).

Oh, but it gets better. Not only are there ninjas on Bond's side (YES! Ninjas!), but Bond is also trained to become one! There are a couple of scenes depicting his training regime, but, as you might imagine, they're far from impressive. And you know, it really makes sense when you see the ninjas in action later: they might just be the worst ninjas ever captured on celluloid. Foregoing the traditional practice of operating in small groups, if not solo, and maintaining invisibility through stealth, the ninjas of You Only Live Twice travel by the hundreds, carry machine guns, and storm enemy bases head on. They're more like commandos in blue pajamas.

The payoff at the end is that we finally get to see the face of the elusive Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who captures Bond and introduces himself to him. It's also apparent why Blofeld never shows his face, as the right side of it looks like an unfinished claymation mold. His mere introduction, however, tells me that we're closing in on the villain. Blofeld apparently figures heavily into the story for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which is my next viewing, but since Bond will be played by George Lazenby instead of Sean Connery, I'll be sad if Bond finally defeats Blofeld in that film. Connery at least deserves to get a little freaky with Blofeld's mistress, whoever that may be, after all Blofeld has put him through.

It was refreshing to return to the real franchise after wading through the nonsense of Casino Royale. The movie was absolutely focused on telling its story, so the women were mostly forgettable, and it rarely veered off into unnecessary tangents. In this way, it felt more to me like From Russia With Love than the other installments, except that it wasn't quite as good, in my opinion. I enjoyed it overall, but unless I wanted to amass a comprehensive Bond collection, I don't think I could see myself wanting to own it, unlike, say Dr. No, which will probably have a lot of replay value for me.

My favorite line: "Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?" I've often wondered the same thing, Mr. Bond.

My favorite moment: Early on, Bond assumes the identity of a defeated Japanese assassin by donning his trenchcoat, hat, and shoes and convincing the getaway driver he's injured. The getaway driver carries Bond into the enemy's headquarters without so much as a thought as to why his buddy suddenly grew a foot and gained 35 pounds.

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inactive user

Jared King

Okay RT-Ryan, this is the film you've mentioned more than once, and, I'll see it whenever it's on tv or I got room on Netflix. Go Blofeld go! Thanks Willy Wonka creator.

Oct 26 - 07:09 PM


Brandon R

Austin Powers spoofed more from this film than any other. The underground volcano lair, Blofeld and his cat vs. Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth.

I am anxiously awaiting your reaction to On Her Majesty's Secret Service. That Bond film has polarized fans more than any other. I personally think its among the best, but there's just as good a chance you'll hate it.

Oct 26 - 07:24 PM

inactive user

Jared King

On Her Majesty's Secret Service my Dad saw and said I should skip. But I'd still see it, I'd be willing to give all (official) James Bond movies a chance. Like this, which is sounds good.

Oct 26 - 07:33 PM


Raymond Hopkin

You just made my wife think there was something wrong with me after I burst out laughing - father of Lloyd Christmas!!!!

Surprised you didn't talk about the beginning, which was ace!

I'm having so much fun reading these!! ( My wife is now shacking her head in disbelief!!!)

Oct 26 - 07:43 PM

Zombies happen.

Serpent T Rainbow

Man are you in for a disappointment when Blofeld finally gets it.

Oct 26 - 08:12 PM

Wayward Sean

Sean Gebhart

It's really refreshing to read an educated perspective of these movies as you see them in order for the first time. Your reviews are great fun to read, and you pick up on so many things about the bond series that I love! Keep up the good work, and have fun watching the rest of 'em. And Blofeld's messed up eye is just the beginning, considering many bond villains are known for having some deformation.

Oct 26 - 08:14 PM


Craig Smith

Easily my favorite bond, the whole specter sucking up space shuttles was awesome, and as mentioned the ninja attack!

Oct 26 - 09:08 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Now I really want to see it. Thanks Ryan, but if I don't like it I'll blame you. :) Kidding, great article.

Oct 26 - 09:12 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Now I really want to see it. Thanks Ryan, but if I don't like it I'll blame you. :) Kidding, great article. Ninja's! And Lloyd Christmas Sean Connery hybrid.

Oct 26 - 09:14 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I have to confess. I rated a film I hadn't seen and I feel bad about it. Please don't ban me but know I had to unburden myself, and I won't do it again. Sorry bout that, but some kid who looks at the community and says "I thought everyone liked it, but one bad man rated it lower." Sorry.

Oct 26 - 09:31 PM


Afrika welang

Why does Sean Connery look like a clown in that picture? is that sean? if that's not Sean then I'm the clown... comment on the "Chinese girls" and "taste" remark. I am not even Chinese but I find it borderline offensive. But then again, I've been known to be somewhat sensitive so disregard my input if you don't feel the same way.

Oct 26 - 10:05 PM


Craig Smith

wordweaver12, that's his make over he gets to look Japanese. Laughably bad!

Oct 26 - 11:41 PM

Keith E.

Keith Edgerley

Actually, he's not supposed to look Japanese. He is supposed, with his height and large hands and feet, to try to pass for a Korean immigrant miner from a particular Korean people that has those characteristics. This is made quite clear in the novel.

Oct 31 - 01:31 PM


Mike Greenblatt

The next one is by far the saddest bond film. It is not that bad, just not that good.

Oct 27 - 12:38 AM


Ryan Fujitani

ledawg, no problem. I think people do that rating thing all the time without realizing it. Not a big deal; just go watch the movie you rated and then give it a fair number. ;-) Oh, and if you don't end up liking it, sure, I'll take the blame.

indiefilmfan2, yes, I did notice how much more of Dr. Evil was based on Blofeld and this movie in particular than anything else thus far. Puts that franchise in a whole new perspective.

Boyo and Wayward Sean, thanks! Glad to know you are enjoying them so far. I'm wondering if I'll run out of steam at some point, but there's so much to say about these films that I highly doubt it.

wordweaver12, yes, as Comment mentioned, the pic at the top is indeed Sean Connery, after he's gone through his little transformation to look "Japanese." As for the "Chinese girls" comment, I apologize if you found it offensive. The context it was used in was innocent, but if anything, I included it to demonstrate how dated the movies worldviews were and also to highlight precisely how ridiculous a comment it was. It took me quite by surprise when Bond said it.

It seems OHMSS is certainly a polarizing Bond film, so it'll be interesting to see how you all receive my take on it tomorrow (or today, as the case may be).

Oct 27 - 01:34 AM


Bill A

Still my favorite Connery Bond film. Call it a guilty pleasure; I first saw it when I was a child. Love the subject matter; the soundtrack; the opening title montage...

I love the the idea of a rocket-eating space craft, also used in one of the original 'Lost in Space' episodes; inspired by Pinnochio's whale perhaps. The spectacular ending, with ninjas sliding down ropes onto the launch pad is echoed in the climax of 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes'; I vaguely remember hearing of Roald Dahl doctoring the Apes script, but can't find a mention of it anywhere, so maybe I imagined it.

Aside from Blofeld's overstated makeup, the film has other technical problems that bug me as an adult: The American and Russian rocket launch footage are mixed up! Why on earth have they left it that way for 4 decades? Those whacky British.

Another problem is that the thrusters under Blofeld's rocket curl up, as opposed to shooting straight out of the bottom. An easy fix for this would have been to use red flood lamps underneath, & add the effects later; or, use a model and a miniature set, all positioned & photographed upside down, so that the flame and smoke would jet out appropriately.

These issues are redeemed by one of the coolest gadgets in any Bond flick: Nellie! If you haven't seen the film yet, here's some images:

Oct 27 - 05:05 AM

Tiffany T.

Tiffany Taylor

I didn't know that Roald Dahl wrote this screenplay. I just did some searching, and interestingly enough, he wrote only two screenplays (other than the one for his own "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"): "You Only Live Twice" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" -- both of which were written by Ian Fleming. Further searching reveals that Dahl and Fleming both operated in the same ring of British spies during WWII. Ryan, I'm learning all sorts of things as a result of you watching Bond films!

Oct 27 - 05:57 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Thanks, I'll watch it. Even though it looks God awful.

Oct 27 - 08:45 AM

inactive user

Jared King

I mean the movie I falsely rated, not Bond.

Oct 27 - 08:46 AM


Chris Moore

Of the official Bond movies, this one ranks as one of my 5 worst (along w/ Die Another Day, A View To A Kill, Octopussy, & Man With The Golden Gun).

Still, I recently learned that The Rock's grandfather, Peter Maivia, is in this movie somewhere, so I'll have to watch it again and try to spot him.

Oct 27 - 11:50 AM


Greg Guro

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

. . . was Dahl schizophrenic?

Oct 27 - 11:55 AM

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