You Only Live Twice’s 55th: Mixed legacy

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Updated and expanded from a 2017 post.

The 55th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, but it also created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seemingly endless number of extras was available when needed.

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted the contract they had with the star. But their inducements were not enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by the acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained. Some fans even refer those changes as among the worst moves Eon ever made. CLICK HERE for a sampling.  One example: “What led the producers to discard the Fleming trilogy (the biggest single gaffe in the series´ history) is inexplicable.”

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

4 Responses

  1. Despite some faults, YOLT in my top 5. Love the action, sets and the final battle. The music is great as well.

  2. I loved the plot of Fleming’s YOLT, which I’d read serialized in Playboy, and was NOT amused to see it replaced by the kind of OTT scifi nonsense that later torpedoed most of Roger Moore’s movies. Also, Connery looked bored to tears, and downright embarrassed at the “wedding” scene. The score, however, is one of my favorites.

  3. Expecting a loyal adaptation of Fleming’s novel would not have been reasonable demand but You Only Live Twice could have been a lot better. The whole ridiculous scenario of Connery masquerading as a Japanese native needed to be remove. Yes, Bond did the same in the book but the entire tone of that novel was different and it ultimately paid off at the end of Bond’s adventure. The same episode in the film kills the movie’s momentum. The film isn’t a major slog unlike Thunderball but it definitely needed work.

  4. It was impossible to top Thunderball. But still a great movie. The set piece at the end of the movie is probably still one of the biggest https://psychedelicwizard.wordpress.com/2022/04/18/%e2%ad%90%ef%b8%8fsean-connery-james-bond-movie-reviews%e2%ad%90%ef%b8%8f/

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