NINJAS

Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

Stealthy black-suited Japanese warriors featured in You Only Live Twice. Skilled in the arts of concealment and surprise, the commando-like ninjas are trained by Tiger Tanaka of the Japanese Secret Service at the famous Himeji Castle, and they participate in the climactic attack on SPECTRE’s secret rocket base. A hundred of their number swarm into the crater of the extinct volcano like ants, avoid the machine gun fire of the automated guns, tie their ropes to the roof superstructure, and glide to the concrete floor like mountaineers. Led by Bond (Sean Connery) and Tiger, they eventually overwhelm the SPECTRE garrison and destroy the base.

To film this sequence inside the enormous rocket base set that production designer Ken Adam built at Pinewood Studios, practically every stuntman in England was summoned and trained, under the guidance of Bob Simmons and George Leech. Rappeling from the roof of the volcano base was a particularly dangerous stunt. Several of the men were required to ride down with one hand and fire a submachine gun with the other. Their progress on the rope was controlled by a mountaineering device: a piece of rubber hose that was squeezed to slow down their progress. Once a stuntman hit the ground, he had to move quickly, because a comrade was coming down right behind him.

You Only Live Twice,” recalled Leech, “was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. There were too many headaches, especially in getting more than a hundred stuntmen ready for the battle sequences. The worst thing was having to tell certain men that they weren’t needed for the rope sequences. When the master shots were completed, we needed only forty men, and neither Bob nor I wanted to tell anyone to go home. Needless to say, the rejected ones weren’t too happy, especially when the pay on the close-up stunts was very good.

“For the battle sequences, we used a number of new techniques to give the action a spectacular feel. About twelve of our best men were used on the trampoline. It was an interesting form of trampolining. It wasn’t your expertise in tumbles and perfect somersaults that mattered. You just had to look as if you were being blown up—no pointed toes or classic positions. You went off screaming, with your arms and legs flailing every which way. You landed into a made-up bed about twenty feet away. The special effects team timed their real explosions to your jump.”[1]


[1] George Leech, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 23, 1977.

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