32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2007
Ah, it is a tough call, trying to rate a movie as fun as this. Holding such an iconic status as it does, how do you keep your bias in check and look at the movie without those nostalgic rose coloured specs?
As witness for the defence, I would like to call Ken Adams - creator of the 1 million dollar volcano set, this action sequence at the end of the movie set a standard for Bond movies for a very long time... so much so that it is recreated in different guises in `The Spy who loved me', and `Moonraker'. It is certainly the most spectacular set and largest scale action sequence in a Bond movie yet.
Next witness - Sean Connery - yes, he seems a little more weary in the role than he did in Thunderball, but while not at his peak, he is still fit and charming enough to be the definitive James Bond (at least when not wearing insanely unconvincing Japanese prosthetics).
John Barry - who produces another great and imaginative score here, one of the last to sound truly original.
And then I call Little Nellie - the signature gadget for the film, a weapon loaded gyrocopter, is a great success, not just for the aerial action sequence, but also for getting `Q' out of the office and into the field for a change!
But then comes the witnesses for the prosecution... If I call Blofeld to the stand, then you will find what at first appears to be brilliant casting, turns out to be too little too late in the movie. Donald Pleasance as just the right creepiness for the role, but never truly brings the character to life, and demasking Blofeld only seems to tarnish some of the mythos that had been built up around him.
The same holds true if I call Bond's ladies to the stand. Helga Brandt may have a healthy chest, but is a pale pale imitation of the evil Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. And the Japanese ladies have a novelty value, but never appear to truly have an impact on Bond.
Then there is the screenplay. Roald Dahl is a genius, but somewhere between the story, the screenplay of the story and the screen, some magic has been left out. When I watched this with an audience, a third of them were sleeping through the middle sagging part of the movie.
Part of the joy, and also part of the problem is that some of the international flair has been left out of this movie to concentrate on one location - Japan. The location is therefore well explored in both culture and geography, but a certain variety and roving nature to Bond's exploits is missing.
I call the effects to the stand... Bond always worked best when the stories were timeless. By using a space age plot, the plot device, effects, and concept are all immediately dated. Bear in mind this movie was conceived long before man walked on the moon.
And then I'd like to call Little Nellie. Yes, the same Little Nellie called by the defence. Is it used craftily integrated into the plot? No, we see a scene where he is attacked predictably by helicopters, and goes through the gadgets one by one until they are all used and he goes home. It's just not as clever as say, the tear gas in the case from `From Russia with Love'.
Critically, there is the myth of Bond himself. Where in previous Bond movies he was a spy who through tradecraft and hard work (and occasionally seducing beautiful women) would find his way to the evil masterminds lair, here it is as if the character stumbles from one situation to the next, rather than driving events. This was to hold true for Bond for many years to come, with the exception of `On Her Majesty's Secret Service'.
The verdict? A hung jury... It is a movie that perhaps tries too hard to go bigger and better in many respects. And so we have a movie with two hats - It introduces some fun ideas, such as M and Moneypenny having a mobile office in a submarine - the first of many mobile offices for M, and seeing Bond in naval uniform for the first time. But it also fails to achieve the characterisation that had gone before and relies on the goodwill from previous movies a little too hard. Thus, we all love You Only Live Twice, but have to be honest, it is harmless fun, but not a classic. Majority verdict in favour of the defence.
What does the Ultimate Edition have to offer to persuade you to part with your cash? Truth be told, this is where it gets interesting. The picture is flawless, yes, but it is the sound that really becomes 3 dimensional in the dts mix, giving the rockets shooting into space much more realism and depth than the on screen effects do. Even background noises are clearer and dialogue sparkling, thanks to some nifty digital remastering.
All the extras from the Special Edition are present and correct, and everyone should watch the superb (as usual) half hour documentary `Inside You Only Live Twice'. Also included for the first time though are three items. Firstly, some of Ken Adams home video footage of location scouting and then shooting of the movie, which is great fun to watch to see both the construction of the set and Sean Connery clowning around at every opportunity. Then there is a short segment from Whickers World, which is an entertaining period fluff piece promoting the movie - while still acknowledging its campness and humour make it an antidote for the times. Finally an oddity, a one hour special `Welcome to Japan, Mr Bond' which uses MoneyPenny and Q in specially shot scenes to frame a selection of clips from the movies to this point. Interesting for fans of Q especially, this purports to be Moneypenny musing over who it can be that James Bond will marry.
All in all, I can only recommend this DVD as a worthwhile watch, while acknowledging it is just not as finely crafted as its predecessors. This Ultimate Edition series once again proves to be the best and most comprehensive way to see the movie.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE contained elements of espionage, action, thrills, adventure and science fiction. Looking back it somehow worked loosely when put together yet till this day I can not determine what the cohesive element was. Looking at it closely the film is a real dichotomy of styles. The first hour is excellently filmed and works very well. We get to see James Bond the spy, working with recognition codes, breaking into safes, going under cover and the like. There is an excellently choreographed fight scene between Bond and a sumo wrestler. This is also the first time he developed a good working relationship with a fellow intelligence head, Tiger Tanaka, similar to that of Kerim Bey in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. We also see that "M" has absolute confidence in his man. "This is the big one," he tells Bond knowing that 007 is the only one capable of pulling off this assignment. There is also quite a bit of very witty dialog in the first hour of this film. In the first hour the pace is deliberate, but never boring or unentertaining. It ends with Bond flying "Little Nellie," delivered by "Q," into an aerial dogfight with four helicopters. As it moves into the second hour more of the science fiction and fantasy elements start to take center stage. The film starts to look untidy and meanders along till it gets to the excellently filmed battle between Tanaka's ninjas and Blofeld's private army in his Volcano lair. It's not a bad Bond film, but it should have been a lot better. I think the culprit was the editing. Russian and American manned space capsules were being snatched out of orbit by an "intruder missile." Bond had to find the location and the identity of those responsible before World War III breaks out. The filmmakers decided not to surprise us at the end of the film, but instead show us, not Bond, that this "intruder missile" is in fact owned by SPECTRE and is being launched from Blofeld's Volcano lair in Japan. That comes a little past the hour mark. That being the case there was a good opportunity to develop suspense, as Bond has to locate the launch site. When Bond finally does find the volcano he has very little reaction to his discovery. He in fact seems to have come prepared with suction cup kneepads, which he uses to climb upside down and into the volcano. Tanaka shows up with his men, the battle ensues and Bond saves the day. It just could have been done much better considering how well the first half of the film was handled. The massive sets designed by Ken Adam were highly innovative and stylized and are probably the best of the entire series. M's office aboard the submarine, M-1, was also pretty innovative incorporating furniture and decorations from his office from the Ministry of Defense back in London. John Barry wrote a brilliant score. His music for the "Capsule in Space" was eerily ominous. He also incorporated sections of the "James Bond Theme" very effectively subsequent to Henderson's death and the fight in Osato's office. Barry's "Mountains and Sunset" went beautifully with Freddie Young's Cinematography. This and his score for ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE were the last to contain his best action pieces for the series. These were little snippets here and there written to give the action a little more punch. I thought Sean Connery gave some his best performances as James Bond in this film. Bond's scene with Henderson was very good. His repartee with Moneypenney was one of his best. Sean Connery did return as James Bond in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER but one era had already ended with ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and a new one would begin with his return.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 1999
I love this picture. The previous reviewers had problems with it. It has everything a Bond picture should have. The scenery is magnificent, the gadgets are up to standard, the production quality is as good as the previous Bond efforts, the villain is a typical jerk, and the title song sung by Nancy Sinatra is the best I've ever heard in a Bond picture.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2008
After James Bond (Sean Connery) has participated in faking his own murder in Hong Kong, to give him "more elbow room" in the words of his superior, M (Bernard Lee), he is dispatched to Japan to investigate the mysterious disappearance of both American and Soviet space crafts which threatens to spark World War III.
Working together with Japanese secret service leader Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), he meets beautiful Japanese agent Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), who helps Bond through several close shaves.
Working with a Japanese Secret Service Ninja force, he locates the sabotage to the shadowy organization SPECTRE, led by the sinister Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence).
After Aki is murdered by SPECTRE agents (She dies after ingesting poison dropped into the bed she shares with Bond), Bond teams up, in a faked marriage with the attractive Kissy Suzuki Mie Hama).
Together with the Ninja force they penetrate Blofeld's massive headquarters, hidden in a volcano, where the final battle ensues.
Before Blofeld tries to kill Bond, he reminds him "You Only Live Twice", referring to his earlier faked death.
The chemistry between Bond and the exquisite Aki is perfect, and in the scene where a marriage is proposed and Bond thinks it is Aki, Aki's face lights up.
No less stunning is Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki, an expert swimmer and fighter, and one of the sexiest Bond girl ever.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2000
This film is best appreciated if you put yourself in the seat of a viewer at the time the film was released. At that time, the film (1) featured an original spy plot (confused antagonists threaten each other on basis of acts of interloper -- a space craft-eating space craft,) and (2) introduced the idea that Japan is technologically advanced and has some cultural personality that is distinct from the U.S. I can't remember an earlier mainstream U.S. film that had ninjas or suggested that Japan could potentially launch a space craft. There is plenty of action, including an interesting if somewhat low budget looking helicopter dog fight. Finally, the sound track is excellent. The film was original and entertaining when released. You can't beat that.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Yes, it's the one with the hollowed out volcano and what a fun ride it is too. It should come as no surprise to anyone that for me (who ranks the earily similar plot-wise TSWLM at #2 of Bond movies and is a fan of Roger Moore's portrayal) that "You Only Live Twice" is high on my list of favorite Connery movies.
It's fun and zany and like a Godzilla movie on steroids Bond is plunged into a kinetic, energized Japan. A country that is reeling from an identity crisis following a humiliating defeat in WWII for the traditional nation and the onslaught of 1960s pop culture of which the Bond phenomenon was a major part.
Connery for his part looks bored and tired with the role and so the film makers understandably have loaded this movie with special effects, martial arts fighting, gimmicks and yes, a hollowed out volcano. All in the hopes that Connery will get lost in the mix and his lack of enthusiasm for the part less evident as the viewers senses are assaulted by a vibrant concoction composed of all the spectacle and wonder that screenwriter Dahl and director Lewis Gilbert could conceive.
The mission seems ripped from the headlines to use an old cliché. The time is the late 1960s and with the US and USSR locked in a race for the dominance of space, the two nations are both having capsules hijacked by some unknown power. Of course in the hyperactive paranoia of the Cold War - each blames the other. But Britain, in its infinite wisdom, stands by their claim that their tracking placed the object (that seized an American rocket) land somewhere in the sea of Japan.
The movie begins with one of my all-time favorite pre-credits sequences. Bond is in bed with an attractive Chinese girl. In what appears to be a double-cross however she pushes a button that sends the bed into the wall before letting a couple of assassins in who pepper the bed with bullet holes. Having the hero "killed off" at the beginning of the movie is a gimmick that has been copied often (and in fact first echos the opening of "From Russia With Love." But Gilbert crafts it expertly.
A solid entry in the Bond series - too light for some, but certainly a lot of fun throughout.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2012
I have been a fan of James Bond for years, and was very excited about the first blu-ray releses of the James Bond films, and for the most part they are spectacular, but then found out a handful of them were being held for future release. One of these being held was "You Only Live Twice" which is one of my favorite Sean Connery films as James Bond. Although I don't believe it is his very best Bond film, it is still very enjoyable and fun film to watch. By now Connery was deep into his role and played it beautifully tongue and cheek. But while he was filming this he decided he was getting tired of playing Bond and he stated this would be his final goround to his producer Albert Broccoli. The story has Bond going to Japan to find out who is sabotaging American and Russian space ships, and we see the debut of Ernst Blofeld here played by Donald Pleasance. I was so happy when they announced the final group of James Bond films would be released on Blu-Ray. As far as the quality goes, this movie looks in a word, "Fantastic". It trumps over the previous Dvd versions by hoops and bounds. It is in wide screen so there are black bars on top and bottom but this is normal. Picture is super sharp, and super clean, not a scratch or blemish to be seen. Colors are perfect, you can see every detail, it is like watching a new film. For a 45 year old film, this is absolutely beautiful to look at. The sound quality is spectacular as well, Dts. hd 5.1 surround sound is clear and enveloping. The music score also sounds wonderful. The Blu-ray has the same bonus features as the previous dvd, and unfortunately nothing really new there, but this is definitely worth the double dipping. Can't wait to see the other James Bond blu-rays that have just been released. I highly recommend this blu-ray.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2008
"You Only Live Twice" seems to often go overlooked by many fans. To me it still ranks somewhat with the best of the early Connery reign. The films many attributes include outstanding action, spectacular sets and Sean Connery. Yes, Sean Connery (albeit slightly disenchanted with the role) still keeps us immersed in his "serious" approach to Bond. Granted, his disappointment with the producers was a major issue in what may seem, at times, to be an uneven performance but there are other factors to consider as well. Script, direction and editing (in this case, add a couple of wardrobe mistakes) also play an important part in almost any performance. It just so happens that this project, especially toward the end, was rushed to meet a deadline and, let's face it, Connery himself was just not as fit, groomed, or inspired as he was in his previous outings as Bond.
The major flaw with YOLT is that it is too long. This was also the case with "Thunderball". After the success of the first three installments, especially "Goldfinger", the producers had so much more money to play with that they wanted it all on the screen. The pacing of these two films suffers as a result. Whereas Connery's terrific performance in "Thunderball" helped that film immensely, YOLT, out of necessity, must rely on its sets and action to boost its entertainment value. A telltale snippet of dialogue is when Bond, having just experienced an array of awesome Ninja warriors, wryly asks Tanaka, "What about ME ?"
Personally, I have long held the notion that the producers, were they so inclined, could probably offer us superior versions of both "You Only Live Twice" and "Thunderball" by intelligently re-editing and deleting about 5 to 10 minutes of each film. The "theft of the warheads" and "wedding" scenes come to mind immediately.
Nevertheless, YOLT is a superior entry in the series. In addition to the aforementioned facts, it contains great cinematography work and yet another excellent music score by John Barry. It is, in many ways, the Bond version of "Alice in Wonderland" and is certainly far better than ANY of the Roger Moore films. By the way, this latest remastered version (the same as the Ultimate 2-disc package) is the one to get.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Other than the title and Japanese locale, Roald Dahl's screenplay for "You Only Live Twice" completely disregards the novel, surprising since it was Ian Fleming's second to last effort and a best-seller only two years before. Everything about the film is big, from the huge set constructed for the volcano that is the setting for a memorable climax, to the plot which finds James Bond in Japan where SPECTRE is slyly attempting to incite the major world powers to declare war on each other by kidnapping their spacecraft.
The film, directed by Lewis Gilbert of "Alfie" fame, is a delight to the eyes and ears, with Ken Adam's sets among the most amazing yet constructed, and John Barry's haunting score, topped by Nancy Sinatra's rendition of the bittersweet title song, tied with his work for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" as the best of the series.
Unfortunately, the celebrated Dahl lets us down with a script lacking the imagination to which we have become accustomed. 007 relies on pure luck one time too many when finding himself in a bind, and the most publicized aspect of the film, the first appearance of arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is anti-climactic thanks to the miscasting of Donald Pleasance (a last minute substitute for an ailing actor).
But "You Only Live Twice" is still fun. Sean Connery, in what was supposed to be his last go-round as Bond, still looks engaged by the character, and since this film entered release only two months after the disastrous "Casino Royale," the black sheep Bond film made from the one title not owned by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman's EON productions, in which everyone but Connery played 007, that was enough to make "You Only Live Twice" the second biggest hit of 1967 (trailing "The Dirty Dozen" by a half million or so).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
"You Only Live Twice" is the fifth entry of the James Bond series produced by Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli and of course Sean Connery starring as the sauve secret agent. After the incredible box office success of "Thunderball", the producers were understandably worried about how the next film could top it. The response was to place Bond in a larger than life setting on a mission with the highest stakes.
The story opens with a US spacecraft in earth orbit when suddenly it is captured by a second spacecraft of unknown origins. This being the height of the Cold War, the American government assumes that Russia is at fault, which Russian officials deny. If anything happens to the next spacecraft, it will mean nuclear war. However, the British are certain that Russia is not at fault and that in fact the rocket that capture the US spacecraft has landed near Japan. The British will send their best agent to discover the true agents of this provocation, the only problem is that agent, James Bond, has just been killed by hitmen in Hong Kong...
The production pulls out all the stops in this Bond adventure. Nearly all of "You Only Live Twice" is set in 1960's Japan and in fact the setting is actually considered a character in the plot with its blend of ancient and modern cultures. The cast is also a blend of European and Japanese actors. Tetsuro Tamba was an inspired choice for the role of JSS Head Tiger Tanaka and Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama were excellent as the Bond girls in this outing. Karin Dor was good as the female villian Helga Brandt but Donald Pleasance and Teru Shimada were slightly disappointing in their roles of Blofeld and the Japanese industrialist Osato. Of course the regular cast of characters M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny (played by Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, and Lois Maxwell) put in their usual fine performances. In addition to the generally fine cast, the film also boast one of the largest and at that time one of the most expensive sets in film history.
"Your Only Live Twice" seems to have all the right ingredients: James Bond on a mission of a lifetime, set in an exotic land, with an excellent title sequence and a beautiful title song, several great car and air chases, great fights, the largest and perhaps best firefights ever in the Bond series. Yet, during its initial release in 1967, "You Only Live Twice" seem to have disappointed critics despite box office receipts that nearly matched that of "Thunderball". Many critics felt that Sean Connery was tired of the role and it showed on film. In later years, once moviegoers had seen some substandard Bond films, the opinion about "You Only Live Twice" had improved greatly.
This reviewer believes that "You Only Live Twice" is an excellent Bond movie but it is not as good as the previous three outings (From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball". The main problem is the concept of using the setting of Japan as a character in the story. Although the scenes that acquaint viewers with Japan and its culture are very good, they unfortunately tend to slow the story down at times. In addition, Pleasence's Blofeld is not the same character we would expect from earlier Bond stories and it is a shame that of Blofeld's henchman Hans and the beautiful Helga Brandt did not have bigger roles in the script. Today's audiences may find the outer space special effects very primitive. But, all in all, it is still an enjoyable movie to watch.
The MGM Special Edition DVD contains an excellent widescreen print of the film and lots of extra features. The two documentaries, one on the making of the film and the other about the Bond film titles which spotlights Maurice Binder are interesting to watch and very informative. If you have only seen this film on TV, it is highly recommended that you see the widescreen version, preferably with this DVD on a large screen TV. Once you do, you will never want to see it any other way again.
Although "You Only With Twice" was not Sean Connery's best effort as James Bond, it is still a very good one and one you should not miss.