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You Only Live Twice(1967)
After a mysterious rocketship seizes manned space missions from Earth's orbit, suspicions mount and the world superpowers are hurled toward the brink of war. Their only hope rests with James Bond (Agent 007), who races to stop the space-jackings' true mastermind, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, chief of the evil SPECTRE organization. Blofeld is bent on instigating global warfare from his massive headquarters nestled in an inactive volcano located in a Japanese island. As the countdown begins, Bond joins forces with the gorgeous Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki and scores of Ninja warriors, to mount a daring raid on Blofeld's lair and prevent a calamitous world war.
For more about You Only Live Twice and the You Only Live Twice Blu-ray release, see You Only Live Twice Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 5, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Donald Pleasence, Tetsurō Tamba, Teru Shimada
Director: Lewis Gilbert
» See full cast & crew
You Only Live Twice Blu-ray Review
Connery says "sayonara" to the series...temporarily.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 5, 2012
The gadgets. The guns. The girls. The exotic locales and sexy cars. The white-knuckle action sequences. The suave flirting and cheeky double entendres. He's been played by six actors—Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig—but there's only one Bond, James Bond. Every man wants to be him, and every woman wants to be with him. (Some men too, I'm sure.) He's the epitome of super-spy cool, and for fifty years now—fifty years!—he's been an indelible part of our pop-culture consciousness. In terms of universal recognition, Bond is right up there with Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader and Superman. Everyone knows his name, knows he likes his martinis "shaken, not stirred," and knows his favorite pistol is the compact Walther PPK. You're probably even humming or whistling the iconic 007 theme song to yourself right now, and if you aren't, I guarantee it'll worm its way into your brain sometime in the next five minutes. (Instantly, more like. Admit it, it's playing on a loop in your head right now.) Bond isn't just a franchise, it's a revered institution. Yes, there have been a few duds along the way, but over the span of twenty-two films—soon to be twenty-three, with the upcoming Skyfall—the series has defined the international espionage sub-genre, all the while reflecting the cultural and political changes of its times. Sure, in one sense, these are just action movies—popcorn entertainments—but for their fans, these films are the height of cinematic escapism.
The fifth Bond film, You Only Live Twice, gets its share of criticism, and we'll get it out of the way immediately, because I don't think it amounts to much. Detractors say the film is bloated, epically oversized, with a ridiculous last act that goes way over the top. Bloated, sure, I'll give them. The film could stand to lose fifteen minutes or so. But over the top? I personally put that one in the "plus" category, as it's precisely why You Only Live Twice is so enjoyable. And of all the Sean Connery entries, it's undeniably the coolest, with 007 traipsing around swinging 1960s Japan as a gaijin Tokyo Drifter of sorts. He goes to a sumo match! Gets bathed by sexy submissive girls in pink bikinis! Trains as a ninja! Goes undercover in "yellow-face" as small-town fisherman! Is the film brimming with semi-offensive cultural stereotypes? Sure. Is it a hell of a lot of fun? Absolutely.
When an American spacecraft goes missing in orbit—we see it swallowed by a much larger, more menacing-looking ship—Bond is dispatched to the Land of the Rising Sun to investigate possible Japanese involvement and forestall an impending Cold War crisis between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In Tokyo, he teams up with secret service leader "Tiger" Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba) and his female assistant Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), who falls for 007 and delivers one of the series' best one-liner innuendos: "I think I will enjoy very much serving under you." Initial investigation of a chemical manufacturing company leads Bond to the discovery that—surprise, surprise—the nefarious SPECTRE organization is actually behind the disappearance of the orbiter. For the first time in the series, we get to see the face of the megalomaniacal leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance), the cat-stroking, Nehru jacket-wearing super-villain who would one day inspire Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers movies.
The plot, as usual for the franchise, is one big MacGuffin, an inherently pointless series of complications that really only serve to put Bond in ever- intriguing scenarios and exotic settings. To that end, though, it more than succeeds. You Only Live Twice essentially takes us on a tour of southwestern Japan—from Tokyo to Himeji Castle, from Kobe to Kagoshima—and we definitely get to see Bond in some heretofore unseen situations, like when he dons a bad wig and a spray tan to blend in as a local, marrying "Kissy" Suzuki (Mie Hama) in a Shinto ceremony to avoid suspicion. Or when Q (Desmond Llewelyn) shows up to present 007 with a missile-armed mini-copter called "Little Nellie." Or, in the intro, when he fakes his own death and is buried at sea, only to be pulled up from the ocean's depths to meet with M (Bernard Lee) aboard a submarine in secret. And yes, the finale is deliciously absurd, with Bond infiltrating the busy SPECTRE base, which is located inside the crater of a volcano. You Only Live Twice is something of a precursor to the outer-space kookiness of Moonraker, but it's a much better film overall, and maybe—maybe—my own personal favorite Bond movie.
You Only Live Twice Blu-ray, Video Quality
New to Blu-ray, You Only Live Twice has been given a gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, one that presents a significant upgrade from the DVD edition of yore. No worries about egregious DNR or edge enhancement or compression issues here; the film's high definition debut seems true to source and intent, preserving the anamorphic 35mm grain structure and 2.35:1 aspect ratio. If any noise reduction has been used, it's been done sparingly and unobtrusively. (Grain spikes naturally during darker sequences and layered effect shots.) Clarity is drastically improved from prior standard definition editions; Connery's craggy facial features, the cloth and patterns of summer kimonos, the wide architectural details and the close-ups of guns and gadgets—everything is more tightly resolved. The film's color palette is faithfully reproduced as well, with rich, characteristically Japanese tones in the first half eventually giving way to the bold, primary-colored jumpsuits and silver structures inside the hidden Spectre volcano base. Black levels are sufficiently dense and contrast seems perfect. I honestly didn't spot anything out of place here; You Only Live Twice looks beautiful.
You Only Live Twice Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like the other Bond films, You Only Live Twice has been given the full, lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound treatment on Blu-ray, subtly expanding the original elements into a modern multi-channel mix. The real standout here is John Barry's magnificent score, which is one of the best in the entire series, using "oriental" elements alongside layered strings, piano, and French horns. The main theme is especially memorable, with lyrics sung by Nancy Sinatra. The music is fleshed out wonderfully here, sounding rich and full and often occupying every speaker at once. Additionally, the rear channels are often quietly but effectively used for ambience and effects. The ship and water sounds of a port. Humming crickets and tweeting birds. Helicopter rotor blades chopping through the air. Of course, none of this has the directional realism or dynamic impact of anything you'll hear in Quantum of Solace, say, but for a forty-five-year-old film it sounds fantastic. No hisses, pops, or crackles, and dialogue is always clean and easily understood. The disc includes several dub and subtitle options; see above for details.
You Only Live Twice Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
M16 Commentary: John Cork, of the Ian Fleming Foundation, introduces this cobbled together commentary featuring interviews with director Gilbert Lewis and many members of the cast and crew, from bit players to stars.
Declassified: M16 Vault
You Only Live Twice Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's hard to pick a favorite among Sean Connery's Bond films, but You Only Live Twice definitely sits close to the top of my own personal list. Yes, the story is muddled, and the scope is perhaps a bit too epic for its own good—the final act really is ridiculous in a way that wouldn't again be matched until Moonraker—but watching 007 flirt and fight his way through the swinging 1960s Japan of Tokyo Drifter is simply too cool a prospect to pass up. If you're a fan, the film's Blu-ray release is hard to resist too. You Only Live Twice looks gorgeous in high definition, and John Barry's memorable score—one of the franchise's best—sounds wonderful by way of the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix included here. The bonus features remain the same, but I'd say the overall upgrade from DVD is easily worth the price. The film is available in the Bond 50 set, but if you want the standalone release you'll have to track it down at Best Buy, where it will be available from October 23rd as a timed exclusive. Highly recommended!
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