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Premiere & Press

12th June 2017

Take a look back at the world premiere and reception for You Only Live Twice as it celebrates 50 years

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Ahead of the film's opening, the publicity campaign for 'You Only Live Twice' was facing opposition with the unofficial spoof version of Casino Royale also opening the same year. United Artists ensured Bond was on top with a stunning billboard that spanned an entire block in New York City above the Astor and Victoria theatres in December 1966.

Shortly before its release, two television specials were broadcast to hype Sean Connery's fifth outing as 007. BBC 1 in the UK aired a special edition of "Whicker's World" with a behind-the-scenes look at the film, and NBC in the USA broadcast "Welcome To Japan, Mr Bond", a special featuring skits by M, Q and Moneypenny. Both can now be found on the Ultimate Edition DVD.

You Only Live Twice billboard New York City
Above: The banner stretched across the Astor and Victoria theatres in New York City. The billboard measured 260 feet wide by 60 feet high.

On the night of June 12th 1967, the World premiere of 'You Only Live Twice' took place at the Odeon Cinema in London's Leicester Square, sponsored by the Variety Club of Great Britain in aid of the YMCA and Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

As with previous Bond premieres and blockbusters of the time, the crowds began to gather outside the Odeon early in preparation for the big event hoping to get a glimpse of the stars that would be attending. What made the premiere of the film all that more special was the appearance of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip. The event would be their first James Bond premiere and paved the way to future attendances.

Amongst the many cast and crew members, Sean Connery and wife Diana Cilento were the star attraction, especially as it was Connery's first British 007 premiere since 'From Russia With Love'. Connery looked very un-Bond-like as he sported a bushy moustache and did not don his usual toupee.

Along with the usual press entourage were household names such as Jerry Lewis, Phil Silvers and Dick Van Dyke, as well as members of the production crew such as screenwriter Roald Dahl and producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Guy Hamilton, who had previously directed 'Goldfinger', was also in attendance.

Above: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is introduced to Sean Connery, standing next to his wife Diane Cilento (left), at the premiere.

You Only Live Twice broke the opening day record at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, and instantly became the number one film in the USA when it opened the following day. It took a total of over $600,000 in Balitmore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia over its first weekend, and scooped almost $7m across 161 venues nationwide in its first three weeks.

Although slightly down on the box-office phenomenon of Thunderball, You Only Live Twice was still a highly successful film taking $43.1m in the USA, and a global box office haul of over $111m. With a production cost of less than $10m, the profit margins were staggering compared to other films of its time. The competition for 'Twice' comprised of renowned classics such as "Cool Hand Luke", "The Graduate" and "The Dirty Dozen" - the latter being the only film that out-grossed 'Twice' during 1967.

What The Critics Said...

Sean Connery plays 007 with his usual finesse. Rest of cast in the $9.5 million film is strictly secondary, although Akiko Wakabayashi and Tetsuro Tamba register well as Bond's Japanese cohorts. Donald Pleasence makes a suitably menacing German heavy who appears in film's final scenes.
-- Variety

A great deal of money was spent on the fifth Bond epic in an attempt to duplicate this mystique, but in You Only Live Twice the formula fails to work its magic.
-- Chicago Sunday Times

Above: Two women stoop to get a better perspective of Bond in the You Only Live Twice banner at the Astor Theatre.

Really no better and no worse than its predecessors, the fifth James Bond is rather less enjoyable mainly because the formula has become so completely mechanical (and Bond himself so predictably indestructible) without any compensation in other directions.
-- BFI

The outer-space sequences would be more appropriate in a grade school educational short entitled Our Amazing Universe, and the volcanic climax is a series of clumsy process shots that no one took the trouble to fix. Even Connery seems uncomfortable and fatigued, as if he meant it when he said that this would be his last Bond film. It may just be an off year for 007
-- Time

Although there's a lot more science-fiction than there is first-vintage James Bond in You Only Live Twice, the fifth in a series of veritable Bond films with Sean Connery, there's enough of the bright and bland bravado of the popular British super-sleuth mixed into this melee of rocket-launching to make it a bag of good Bond fun.
-- New York Times

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