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Lewis Gilbert
Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tamba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn
Writing Credits:
Ian Fleming (novel), Roald Dahl, Harold Jack Bloom (additional story)

Welcome to Tokyo, Mr. Bond.

Sean Connery returns as Agent 007 in You Only Live Twice. With the Soviet Union and the United States blaming each other for mysteriously missing space capsules, nuclear warfare between the two superpowers seems imminent. However, Her Majesty's Secret Service suspects the rockets are being held in the Sea of Japan and assigns James Bond to fake his death in order to go undercover. Believed to be dead by the public at large, Bond travels to Japan to track down the missing U.S. and Russian space capsules. Racing against the nuclear clock, 007 discovers that the maniacal Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), the luscious Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), and their terrorist organization SPECTRE have planned to incite a full-scale global war. With the help of Japanese agents Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), and a slew of ninjas, Bond must once again save the world from nuclear obliteration.

Box Office:
$9.5 million.
Domestic Gross
$43.100 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 5/16/2000

• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Lewis Gilbert, Actors Tsai Chin, Lois Maxwell, Karin Dor, Michael Chow, and Desmond Llewelyn, Singer Nancy Sinatra, Composer John Barry, Supervising Editor/Second Unit Director Peter Hunt, Production Designer Ken Adam, Special Effects Supervisors John Stears and Ken Wallace, Assistant Director William Cartlidge, Stuntman Richard Graydon, Publicist Jerry Juroe, Former United Artists President David Picker, Matte Artist Cliff Culley, Dubbing Editor Norman Wanstall, Set Decorator Peter Lamont, Production Buyer Ron Quelch, and Frequent Bond Writer/Producer Michael Wilson
• "Inside You Only Live Twice" Documentary
• "Silhouettes – The James Bond Titles” Documentary
• Animated Storyboard Sequence
• Original TV Ads
• Radio Spots
• Booklet
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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You Only Live Twice (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 13, 2006)

After achieving tremendous success with the four prior Bond flicks, 1967's You Only Live Twice intended to mark the end of star Sean Connery's run as 007. Tired of the intrusive attention he received, Connery decided to hang up the Walther and move on with his career.

Or maybe not. Despite all of his complaints, Connery was back in the saddle a mere four years later for 1971's Diamonds Are Forever. And that wasn't it! Twelve years after that, Connery renewed his license to kill with the "unofficial" release of Never Say Never Again. I'll go out on a limb and state that Connery won't play Bond in any more movies, but who knows? It'd surprise me but it wouldn't shock me.

In any case, You Only Live Twice concluded Connery's "classic" run as Bond, but it doesn't do so in style. While Twice offers some good action and a generally decent program, it doesn’t compare with the four killers that preceded it. Each of those films rightly can be considered a classic, and one can argue that any of those four is the best of the series. 1962's Dr. No provides the weakest link, but it's still a very strong movie.

Twice, on the other hand, is merely okay. It's hard to say what's wrong with it at times, because it does have some strong moments. Director Lewis Gilbert brought a fine visual eye to the affair and he provided some of the series' best-staged action pieces to that point. For instance, the fight at the seaport looked very cool as the camera rises above the action. It was an unusual and inventive way to depict the battle, and it works well. The "Little Nellie" fight also seemed kinetic and compelling as Bond zooms through the skies.

Other than those scenes, however, the movie feels very ordinary. Connery looks and acts tired throughout the film, and though he still possesses that aura of cool that works so well for him, he doesn't provide as much spark as expected.

It doesn't help that the story subjects him to possibly the silliest plot device in Bond history. I'm more than happy to suspend disbelief for this sort of film, but when make-up is used to "turn him Japanese", my eyes reflexively roll. It's a very dopey bit that almost harpoons the last act of the movie.

That part of the picture also suffers from an absurdly overblown climax. The end battle to Twice just goes on and on, and it's simply too much. The action is so bloated that it becomes tedious. Unfortunately, someone must have liked that sort of set piece since it was imitated many times in later Bonds. These battles never worked for me, however.

One positive aspect of Twice stems from the fact this was the first Bond that used mostly non-white Bond girls. The fact that most of 007's romantic liaisons in Twice are Asian is quite impressive.

Too bad the characters are less than scintillating. Aki (Akiko Wakbayashi) isn't a bad role, and she provides some spark, but she still seems fairly weak. She comes across better than her subsequent replacement, Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), who basically just follows Bond around and does little other than look hot in a bathing suit.

Twice also lacks strong villains for most of its running time. Although we eventually discover frequent Bond baddie Blofeld (here played by Donald Pleasence) is at work, he's almost a non-entity for much of the film. The threats to 007 come from anemic and unthreatening Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada) and sexy but also lackluster Helga Brandt (Karin Dor). She feels like a rip-off of Thunderball's Fiona Volpe but she lacks any of that character's menace and fire. As such, although Brandt puts Bond in some tight spots, she never seems like a real threat.

1964's Goldfinger started the trend toward outrageous adventure in Bond films, and 1965's Thunderball carried this concept to a much larger and more intricate level. You Only Live Twice continues the idea and makes it even more ludicrous and overblown. The film still works fairly well and provides some fun and thrills - the oversized action wouldn't get truly absurd for another couple of movies - but Twice marks the first clear decline in the Bond franchise.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

You Only Live Twice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film looked quite erratic and went from gorgeous to unattractive quite rapidly on many occasions.

Sharpness generally appeared solid. The picture largely seemed clear and crisp with few distinct instances of softness. However, some murkiness did occur, and occasionally the image looked less accurate than it should. Moiré effects and jagged edges weren’t a concern but I noticed some edge enhancement.

Colors often appeared very lovely, with many scenes offering lush and sumptuous hues. The shots of Tokyo's neon look very bold, and other segments also depict bright and clean colors. Black levels tended to be slightly muddy and sometimes lacked the depth they need. Shadow detail reflected this quality as low-light scenes seemed vaguely blotchy at times. "Day for night" photography also caused concerns toward the end of the film, as those scenes looked excessively dark and impenetrable.

The major issue here was print flaws. Twice presents a surprisingly high level of defects, from grain and small hairs to black grit and white speckles. Some scenes are flaw-intensive for obvious reasons. For example, the process shots tend to display more defects due to the two generations of film involved. Had the flaws been limited to those segments, I'd have been more forgiving, but since they appear quite frequently and under many different circumstances, there are no logical explanations for them other than a dirty print.

It's too bad, as Twice presented a fair number of scenes that looked quite good. However, the combination of some minor sharpness and black level concerns with a high level of print flaws knocked the picture down to a "C-".

Also fairly mediocre was the monaural soundtrack of You Only Live Twice. The major concern here was distortion, which often reared its ugly head. Dialogue appeared slightly stiff and bland but was usually clear and easily intelligible, although some edginess marred the quality of the speech. Music seemed like it was recorded at a modestly too high volume level. It often appeared to burst at the seams and came very close to displaying real distortion. It never did so, but it rested upon that precipice and seemed generally clear but a little too loud.

Effects showed the most problems. Many - if not most - of them came across as relatively clear and accurate, but a lot of louder effects - such as explosions, jet or helicopter noise, and gunfire - betrayed very distinct distortion. It never got truly bad but the audio appeared too edgy through much of the film. I also detected a light layer of tape hiss at times.

On the positive side, the soundtrack featured surprisingly strong bass response. While the low end won't rattle the china, it was relatively deep and rich at times when one considers the age of the material. During the wedding ceremony, we hear both the ringing of a bell and the beating of drums, both of which offered some effective depth. Ultimately, even with all of its flaws, the soundtrack of Twice seemed fairly average for its era. However, when it's a Bond film, "average" is disappointing, as I expect higher production values for those pieces.

As with all of the other Bond DVDs, we find a nice complement of supplements, starting with an audio commentary from various members of the cast and crew. Edited together from separate interviews, Bond historian David Cork hosts the piece and it features statements from director Lewis Gilbert, actors Tsai Chin, Lois Maxwell, Karin Dor, Michael Chow, and Desmond Llewelyn, singer Nancy Sinatra, composer John Barry, supervising editor/second unit director Peter Hunt, production designer Ken Adam, special effects supervisors John Stears and Ken Wallace, assistant director William Cartlidge, stuntman Richard Graydon, publicist Charles Juroe, former United Artists president David Picker, matte artist Cliff Culley, dubbing editor Norman Wanstall, set decorator Peter Lamont, production buyer Ron Quelch, and frequent Bond writer/producer Michael Wilson.

As usual, this commentary provides a fun and interesting overview of the creation of the film. The participant offer a wealth of information, most of which is given in anecdotal form. We hear of Sinatra's fears prior to recording the title song, plus Dor's initial lack of interest in Connery, problems related to an on-the-set soccer game, and why hairy guys should go to Japanese co-ed bath houses. (I'm on the next plane!) It's a good piece that made the movie more enjoyable.

The same effect resulted from the first of two video programs on this DVD. Inside You Only Live Twice is a 30-minute and 15-second documentary that nicely covers the basics of the film's production. We get the usual melange of contemporary interview snippets from cast and crew – generally the same folks we heard from during the commentary, though there are a few differences, such as the presence of actor Burt Kwouk - intermixed with film clips, production photos, and some archival material.

The latter is one of the best parts of this show, since we get a lot of good film footage from the set. Actually, it looks like there may have been a featurette completed for Twice during the movie's original release; though the DVD doesn't document this possibility, we do find some excellent clips from it that involve us more directly in the film's creation. As with the commentary, the focus remains largely anecdotal, but the show complements that track nicely, as both cover some common ground but not a lot. It's another fine Bond documentary.

Also very interesting is the other video piece. The 23-minute and 20-second program called Silhouettes - the James Bond Titles pays tribute to the men who created those famous credit sequences that set the tone for each Bond adventure. For the most part, the focus is on longtime - and legendary - title designer Maurice Binder, who did the credits for most of the Bonds. We get a quick overview of his life and find out a lot of interesting tidbits about his working style. We also learn a little about the methods used by Danny Kleinman, the guy who did the credits for some more recent Bonds. It's a solid program that only lacks one thing: uncensored outtakes from Binder's nude model shoots. Nonetheless, I liked the show and enjoyed being able to glean more info about this process.

The DVD provides one scene depicted through an Animated Storyboard Sequence. The segment in question, "The Plane Crash", is presented as a video piece; the storyboards were filmed in this one minute and 40 second program. I'm not a big fan of boards and didn't think much of these, though they're more interesting than most since the storyboarded sequence differs from the one actually shot. When the boards end, the DVD gives you the chance to immediately jump to the filmed scene, which is a nice touch.

You Only Live Twice concludes with a slew of advertising materials. Two trailers for the original release of the film appear. Actually, they're the same clip, but they use different narration; one's for the US, and the other's for the UK. We also find a trailer for a double-bill of Twice and Thunderball. This section provides one TV ad as well; it also touts the aforementioned double feature.

In a different area we find seven radio spots. These are more fun than the trailers, since their style more evocatively reflects the era in which they were created. Four of the radio ads are for the original release of Twice, while the other three shill for the double-bill re-release with Thunderball.

Lastly, the DVD includes a nice eight-page booklet. As with all the other Bond packages, this piece contributes some good notes about the production and the series as a whole and also features a few pictures.

Because of my fondness for the Bond films of Sean Connery, You Only Live Twice is a movie I wish I liked more than I do. While it offers intermittent fun, it lacks the spark and fun of the prior four releases and generally falls a little flat. The DVD provides largely average picture and sound, though each suffer from some significant flaws. The package of extras lives up to the high standards of previous DVDs and is sure to please.

I recommend You Only Live Twice for Bond fans and it'll fit in nicely with the other 19 (!) DVDs, but those who are less intensely wild about 007 may want to pursue some of the better films in the series before they consider this one. It's good but never remotely approaches the best the franchise has to offer.

To rate this film visit the Ultimate Edition review of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main