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James Bond 007 Ultimate Edition – You Only Live Twice

Genre: , ,

Cast: Sean Connery, Donald Pleasence, Lois Maxwell, Tetsuro Tamba

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Rated: PG

Review By:
Rocco Passafuime

SUNY Purchase '05

"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore

Release Date: December 12th, 2006
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Overall Grade: B

James Bond 007 Ultimate Edition – You Only Live Twice

Review By: Rocco Passafuime

You Only Live Twice

By the middle of the 1960's, Bondmania had reached a fever pitch internationally with the fourth 007 film Thunderball. Despite the flaws that had been inherent with that film, it continued to set the bar high for the level of action and production associated with the series.

With this in mind, series producer Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli positioned possibly the most exotic story of the original Ian Fleming novels for the most grand-scale Bond film ever. The end result is You Only Live Twice, now available on DVD.

In space, American and Russian spaceships begin disappearing by a mysterious spacecraft, with each country suspecting the other, causing the world to be on the brink of another global war. Meanwhile, secret agent 007 James Bond (Sean Connery), while on assignment in China, is seemingly killed, but reveals to have faked his death in order to prevent his enemies from being on his tail.

With the media believing his dead, his next mission is to travel to the nation of Japan to uncover whose behind the spacecraft, when the only clue emerges is where on the Earth the ship lands. After meeting up with a mysterious woman named Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), she leads Bond to Japanese secret service agent Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), who he teams up.

After investigating a Japanese chemical corporation, he discovers that the man who runs the facility, Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), is not only tied to SPECTRE, but that the criminal organization itself is behind the whole scheme, with agent Number 11, Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), assisting him.

Tanaka soon devises that Bond must be trained in the Japanese ways to infiltrate a hollowed-out volcano, which was a cover for a hidden SPECTRE base. The secret agent does this by learning ninjitsu and to keep him in hiding, he assumes the guise of a poor Japanese fisherman, married to a woman, Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), who is actually an agent serving under Tanaka.

As Bond and Kissy infiltrate the SPECTRE lair, he finally comes face-to-face with the longtime cat-wielding mysterious head of SPECTRE known as Number 1, revealed to be the power-hungry Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance). After Blofeld reveals that he plans to have SPECTRE rise out of the ashes of a global war to establish a new world order on Earth, Bond must use every trick in his arsenal to stop him.

You Only Live Twice was a major turning point in the 007 film series. Directed by Alfie director Lewis Gilbert and penned by famed children's author Roald Dahl, this entry completely cemented the increasingly transformation of the Bond film series from a dark-humored, gritty spy thriller to a completely tongue-in-cheek action spectacle.

Director Gilbert sets the bar for production values in the series to impressively lavish new heights, which would only be broken by his subsequent Bond entries The Spy Who

Loved Me and Moonraker. On the other hand, Roald Dahl's script, while providing plenty of the series' trademark bang-slam action and witty dialogue, is surprisingly disappointing due to its seemingly pedestrian nature and loose adaptation of the much darker and outlandish original novel.

While Sean Connery is undoubtedly an actor of incredible talent and charm, here his performance also is noticeably pedestrian, which soon was fairly obvious as he would end his tenure as James Bond after this film. Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama, two of Japan's most popular film actresses of the era, have undoubtedly great screen presence as the film's Bond girls, but their delivery of English dialogue is noticeably stiff.

Despite the pedestrian story and flat characters found in the script, the film has one saving grace besides its lavish production that has sealed it among the pantheon of signature Bond films. This is the brief, but memorably wicked performance of Donald Pleasance as SPECTRE villain Blofeld, which would set the pattern for all action super-villains for decades to come, including Austin Powers villain Dr. Evil, which was clearly parodied off the portrayal of him in this film.

The DVD's picture quality is presented in the 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. The special feature on the first disc is an audio commentary by director Lewis Gilbert and various cast and crew members.

The audio commentary here is obviously cut and pasted from numerous archived video and audio. However, the different perspectives of Gilbert and many of the actors and crew members does manage to provide a great wealth of information for how the film was conceived and produced.

All in all, You Only Live Twice completes the evolution of the Bond films from its assets being its grit, story, and characters to its production values, humor, and action. However, its presence here and only here has a freshness to it and the movie still can rank among the most signature of Bond films due to the remaining presence of Sean Connery, its lavish style, and its sinister villain.

Movie Grade:
DVD Features Grade: B-
Overall Grade: B

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