You Only Live Twice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad presentation, but it seemed more mediocre than I’d like.
Sharpness was good most of the time. Occasional instances of softness interfered, however, and edge haloes created distractions. While overall definition appeared positive, the movie lacked the consistency I’d expect. I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and print flaws created no distractions.
Colors varied. Some shots offered bold tones, but others seemed flat and dull. The hues had the potential to be more dynamic than this; while they weren’t poor, they lacked the consistent vivacity they should’ve shown. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and well-developed. Even the usually troublesome “day for night” shots failed to present significant murkiness. This was a disappointing image.
On the other hand, I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Twice sounded terrific. Audio quality was surprisingly strong given the film’s age and origins. Music fared especially well, as the score was dynamic and robust at all times.
Effects also worked quite nicely. A little distortion came with some explosions and gunfire, but I usually found the effects to seem more than acceptably clear and accurate. Speech was also free from edginess and reasonably natural. The dialogue showed its age at times but usually sounded better than average for its era.
The remixed soundfield opened up matters in a satisfying manner. Music showed excellent stereo imaging – no more of the “broad mono” that accompanied the first three Bonds – and effects spread across the spectrum in an involving manner. Most of these remained oriented toward the front channels, but a variety of scenes utilized the surrounds in an active way. Aerial sequences and the action finale all made positive use of the back speakers. Overall, I felt pleased with the remix.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Ultimate Edition? Audio was a bit peppier and livelier. Visuals, on the other hand, showed more modest improvements than I’d expect. Yes, sharpness worked better, but not by as much as I’d like, and colors weren’t quite as vivid. The Blu-ray topped the DVD in terms of picture quality but it wasn’t the anticipated slam-dunk; the movie could use a new transfer.
The Blu-ray includes most of the DVD’s extras, and we start with an audio commentary from various members of the cast and crew. We hear from 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 participants 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.
Declassified: MI6 Vault presents three elements. These open with Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond, a 52-minute and 23-second documentary. Created in 1967 to promote Twice, it operates on a goofy premise that surrounds a scheming actress who plans to marry Bond, and others in his world speculate on the possibility of his matrimony. The program comes packed with many film clips from that flick and its four predecessors.
That’s at least 90 percent of what you’ll see here, a fact that may tempt one to view it as a waste of time. Why watch cropped, poor quality film clips when you already own the movies from which they come?
However, the shots exclusive to this show make it very entertaining. I could live without the snippets from the actress, but we get fun bits from Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn in character as Moneypenny and “Q”, respectively. Heck, we ever see Moneypenny make what I believe to be her only visit to “Q”’s lab. Keep your remote handy to fast-forward through the film clips and you’ll be more likely to enjoy this valuable piece of Bond history.
Next comes Whicker’s World – Highlights from 1967 BBC Documentary. This segment goes for five minutes, 22 seconds. Introduced by producer Michael Wilson, these snippets come from an old British TV show. It consists of black and white footage from the Twice set and other spots connected to the production. We also get some quick comments from Gilbert, producer Cubby Broccoli, and 2nd unit director Peter Hunt. Short but sweet, we get a nice little glimpse of the production here.
One question that arose as I watched the excerpts: was the fact that Connery wore a hairpiece well known at the time? I wonder about this since this piece shows a few shots of him in his natural balding state. It seems odd that the production machine would allow these images to be seen if anyone worried about Connery’s “secret”, but it also would surprise me to learn that a major star would so freely admit his need for a hairpiece, at least at that stage in the actor’s career.
“Declassified” ends with the 13-minute and 59-second On Location with Ken Adam. The production designer narrates “home movies” of his location scouts and sets. We’ve seen similar features elsewhere, and this one matches up with those. It provides a fine look at these behind the scenes elements, and Adam’s commentary fleshes out what we see.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside You Only Live Twice, a 30-minute and 24-second documentary that nicely covers the basics of the film's production. We get interviews intermixed with film clips, production photos, and some archival material. We find notes from Adam, Gilbert, Hunt, Dor, Cartlidge, Wanstall, Chin, Lamont, Graydon, stuntman Vic Armstrong, producer’s wife Dana Broccoli, writer Roald Dahl and wife Patricia Neal, inventor/pilot Wing Commander Ken Wallis, and actor Burt Kwouk.
The archival elements stand out since we get a lot of good film footage from the set. We 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.
The 23-minute and 24-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. It presents notes from Adam, Hunt, Culley, Wilson, title designers Maurice Binder and Danny Kleinman, producer’s kids Hillary and Steven Saltzman, editor John Grover, Institute of Contemporary Arts director Philip Dodd, Binder’s friends Alyce Faye and Roz Jacobs, still photographer Keith Hamshere, former assistant to Harry Saltzman Sue St. John, 2nd unit director Arthur Wooster, composers Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti, singer Sheena Easton, executive producer/associate producer Tom Pevsner, UIP former executive VP of marketing Hy Smith, director John Glen and actor Roger Moore.
For the most part, the focus is on longtime - and legendary - title designer 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 disc 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 98-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.
Exotic Locations (4:06) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. This becomes a nice overview.
Under Ministry of Propaganda, You Only Live Twice includes 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.
When we enter the Image Database, we locate a collection of still galleries. Each of the 14 sections presents between two and 19 images for a total of 89 shots. Some interesting photos appear here.
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 Blu-ray gives us very good audio and supplements but presents an erratic, often mediocre transfer. This isn’t a bad release, but it’s not as positive a representation of the source as I’d expect.
To rate this film, visit the Deluxe DVD review of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE