Review for You Only Live Twice
Bargains can be expensive. Right now, you can have all of the James Bond movies on Blu-ray for less than £60 in a boxset. It was finding a handful of Bond movies in a pound store, part of the Twentieth Century Fox stock liquidation that got me on a secret agent kick these last few months. Once that supply was tapped out, I succumbed to the allure of an online bargain store which had been sharing the stock with the high street outlet, but charging just a pound or so more to account for postage. That left a few gaps in my Bond collection, and by this point, it was a collection that I really want to complete. Those discs will probably cost me a little less than half the RRP, rather than the handful of coins that I was paying before. And when I will finally add all this up, I bet you it costs me way more than £60 to buy the Bond movies. On the bright side, I won’t have Dire Another Day in my collection. Incidentally, with Amazon now having bought MGM, expect to see the Bond movies re-released on yet another label in due course, as well as find a new streaming home. Anyway this time, I’m partaking of You Only Live Twice, perhaps the archetypal Bond movie as we have come to know them.
Someone is attacking manned space launches. Both Russian space capsules and US space capsules have been targeted, and the two sides are heating up their rhetoric. The UK counsels caution, as the unidentified vessel responsible has been tracked to Japan. James Bond would be the perfect agent to investigate, but the problem is that he’s become a little too well known. If he’s going to go in undercover, he’ll have to die first. But time’s running out, as the US has another launch scheduled soon, and if it is interfered with, they’ll take it as an act of war, and that’s exactly what some people want.
You Only Live Twice gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and you have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, DD 2.0 Mono English, DD 5.1 Spanish and Portuguese, and DTS 5.1 French and German, with subtitles in these languages plus Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The image is clear and sharp, with nice detail, and rich and vivid colours, although You Only Live Twice does seem to have had more than its fair share of post processing, with the image feeling more than a little colour graded, with something of an orange feel. The surround is pretty decent, giving the film some space and making something of the action, but the original mono track on this film is the best that I have heard so far, when it comes to the rare Bond discs that get original audio. There is still just a little harshness at the highest end, but generally the mono has a degree of warmth that is very watchable. But I certainly appreciate the amazing production design, and big budget cinematography that this fifth Bond movie got, a major step-up compared to what had come before.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, with a UV code within. The disc boots to an animated menu, and there are plenty of extras with the film.
There is an audio commentary featuring director Lewis Gilbert, and from members of the cast and crew. It’s one of those patchwork affairs.
In Declassified: MI6 Vault, you’ll find the period specific content.
Welcome to Japan, Mr Bond (52:23)
Whicker’s World – Highlights from 1967 BBC Documentary (5:22)
On Location With Ken Adam (13:59)
The first is a fun, promotional movie that reunites some members of the film cast, and an un-credited Kate O’Mara to celebrate the series thus far.
In Mission Dossier you’ll find the modern era extras looking back on the film.
Inside You Only Live Twice (30:24)
Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles (23:24)
Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence (1:38)
Exotic Locations (4:06)
In Ministry of Propaganda you’ll find three Theatrical Trailers, one TV Spot, and 7 Radio Spots.
The Image Database offers 15 categories of image.
From Dr No onwards, each subsequent James Bond movie added to the franchise, established characters and tropes, the elements that we would come to expect from each new movie as a matter of course. All of that came together in You Only Live Twice to set what became the dictionary definition of a Bond movie that lasted for nigh on forty years and more, only really being rewritten once Daniel Craig donned the dinner suit. You Only Live Twice is where we got the megalomaniacal villain with an apocalyptic scheme, operating from a secret lair that will ultimately face an explosive climax. Just as every other Star Trek movie since has been trying to remake The Wrath of Khan, most of the Bond movies that came after wanted to recapture the lavish glory of You Only Live Twice. By the time Moonraker came around, I was done with this particular formula, but You Only Live Twice, penned by none other than Roald Dahl did it first. It should be good, right?
It really is. Sean Connery owns the character at this point, bringing his brand of suave brutality to the role, while the sense of humour was still sardonic rather than goofy. Made at the height of the space race, You Only Live Twice partakes of the zeitgeist with its tale of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. being paid by a third nation to provoke a war between the US and the USSR by attacking their respective space exploration projects. James Bond is up against the clock to uncover the truth, before the next rocket launch, with the only clue that the mysterious space ship landed somewhere in Japan.
The James Bond movies were travelogues, and I can imagine just how exotic and fantastic its whistle-stop tour of Japan was back in 1967, the up and coming world economy that was already blending the new with the traditional. It’s colourful and positive in a way that many movies set in post-war Japan to that point weren’t. You Only Live Twice is almost a two-hander on a par with From Russia With Love, as Bond has to work with Japan’s counterpart to M on the investigation, although Tiger Tanaka is a more hands on field-agent of an intelligence agency head. Once again, the Bond movies are pushing the envelope when it comes to stunts and action, and there are some great sequences in You Only Live Twice, not least with the gadget equipped gyrocopter Little Nellie.
Ultimately, what really stands out in You Only Live Twice is its climax, the villainous Blofeld in his volcano lair; a brilliant and character defining turn from Donald Pleasence, and one of the most amazing studio sets ever constructed. They actually built a volcano in Pinewood to make this movie! They had a monorail in there and helicopters were actually landing and taking off from within. This was the film that established the clichés. Who needs sharks with lasers on their heads when you have piranhas?
Just like I did with From Russia With Love, I went into You Only Live Twice expecting to have soured on the experience because of the clichés that have been parodied to death at this point, but I still enjoyed the film, ironically it still felt fresh and original. The only thing that feels off now is when James Bond gets ‘transformed’ into a native Japanese man. It may not have been tonally off-putting back in 1967, but it certainly is now, besides, even in 1967 it should have been obvious that it is impossible to de-Sean Connery Sean Connery. The Blu-ray is certainly very watchable, and loaded with extra features, but this is one film where the post-processing for HD presentation seems to have worked to the film’s detriment. It certainly doesn’t look as good as it should.