You Only Live Twice - Bond 50 Box Set Blu-ray Review
Another Lowry restoration and this time it helps to show off the sublime and evocative cinematography of Oscar-winning Freddie Young with an AVC hi-def sheen. The 2.35:1 image looks fantastic. The print is in fine shape – with only a couple of very small blemishes and the faint appearance of a vertical line during Bond’s and Suzuki’s climb up the volcano to catch the eye - and the clean-up job superlative. Whatever other nicks and pops, tears and splotches where there have been painstakingly ironed-away. The picture retains its grain, and although it has been lessened in intensity the process has not robbed the image of any of its originaltexture or detail. Some effects shots and one or two of the darker frames can appear grainier and rougher, but this is down to the source.
Some of the Connery transfers have been quite bruised in terms of their aesthetic, looking a touch dark and grubby to some people. I don’t think this is the case with You Only Live Twice. This is colourful, bright and warm and brings out the richness of the exotic locations without seeming boosted or primary-soaked. Given the sunny vistas that Bond is often operating in with this mission, you would expect the image to be a touch brighter, but then the slightly overcast hues that we get have been part and parcel of most versions of the film that I have seen before.
Contrast is consistent and the blacks are, once again, very good indeed. You will have seen deeper, but the shadow-play here is perfectly fine. When Bond and Tiger’s ninjas infiltrate Blofeld’s base, there grey combat suits stand out quite well from the darker elements of the frame. If the black levels had not been up to scratch, then they could well have merged with the greys flitting about in-between. There are no blooming high-lights to the whites or to skin-tones. The colour-coded attire of Blofeld’s men in the base pop quite reassuringly and the plentiful explosions that ensure during the mass-assault are decently, though not quite proudly reproduced with thick orange fireballs that don’t possess the intensity that I expected. In fact, much of the final battle looks a little “dry” to me, losing some of the vibrancy that the image had been promoting throughout. Nothing to get worked up about, but there is something of a downturn during some of the running battles.
Detail, on the whole, is terrific. Those close-ups of Connery’s face are amazingly textured. I’m no longer sure if this simply down to the transfer, or whether Connery just has a face that is so full of cracks, pores and features that it can probably be seen in as much clarity from the dark side of the Moon! Computer readouts are sharp and clear. The foliage on the island and the gardens around Dicko Henderson’s place, the pebbles on the beach and the striations in the rock, and the assorted faces and costumes seen around the sumo wrestling championships are all good examples of both the finite attention to detail, and to the clarity of crowded shots and deep-focus reveals.
Finally, there is no issue with edge enhancing, and no aliasing to spoil the action. Banding and other digital anomalies don’t rear their ugly heads.
In short, this looks amazing.
Once again, the remix comes courtesy of a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, but happily the original mono track is also included. I stuck with the surround option, for the fuller, more exciting mix.
What we find here is a reasonably active and detailed mix that employs the rear speakers for some action-bleed in terms of gunfire and explosions, and widens the soundfield quite effectively. Unlike with Dr. No I had no problem with the dialogue, which was always well presented and even boasted some directionality as speakers moved across the frame, or spoke from off-camera positions. Some would say this probably doesn’t sound all that convincing, but I quite liked it.
The stereo spread across the front is quite wide, and there is some degree of depth afforded the track.
The clatter of those leather shoes across polished floors or metal gantries is like candy for my ears. I’ve always loved this uniquely 60’s detail, as heard in a lot of the Hammer films from the period, and this entry in Bond’s back-catalogue doesn’t disappoint. The sudden alarm going off when 007 breaks into Osato’s safe won’t exactly have the neighbours coming down the stairs with a baseball, but it might just make Blofeld’s cat jump off his lap. The big aerial battle between Little Nellie and the squadron of gunships has numerous bangs and crashes, and they dance about the speakers with credible aplomb. Again, there is nothing about the more dynamic moments in the track that will particularly wow you, but there is no doubting that the action sounds more involving because of the added width and the steerage. Bomb-blasts during the final siege are carried around the back, and the sub does occasionally get something to play with. There is detail to the shredding of the supposedly “impregnable” steel shutters.
And the score sounds fantastic. So often the main focus of these transfers, and certainly the most overt test of their clarity, range and power, John Barry’s expansive and sweeping music is warm and detailed, swirling and drifting across the soundscape with typical finesse. Nancy Sinatra’s coaxed and cajoled vocals during the lush title song betray no warbling evidence of the anxiety she felt at the responsibility. The more exotic instruments can clearly be heard, especially the marimba during the main ballad, and the flute, strings and shimmering piano of the space scenes. The action cues, with the more elegant rendition of 007 and the marvellously brazen James Bond Theme sounding crisp, jazzy and full of energy. Some of the more doom-laden chords are afforded a deep bass boost, which allows them to thrum quite nicely with the added power.
A fine job.
The supplements run the usual gamut of material. We’ve seen them before on the Ultimate Edition DVD. For the record, we have -
Audio Commentary with director Lewis Gilbert and members of the cast and crew.
Inside You Only Live Twice (30.24 mins) – another fine retrospective making-of.
Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond (52.23 mins)
Whicker’s World – Highlights from 1967 BBC Documentary (5.22 mins)
On Location with Ken Adam (13.59 mins)
Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles (23.34 mins)
Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence (1.38 mins)
Exotic Locations (4.06 mins)
Theatrical Trailers, TV Broadcasts, Radio Spots
Popular, fun and highly entertaining, You Only Live Twice falls some way behind the previous three movies. Dahl’s screenplay is contrived and fanciful and lacks bite in terms of the dialogue, which barely fizzes when it should positively sizzle. The exploits of 007 also seem to lack the panache and the raw excitement that we know he is capable of, despite the staging of the biggest and most impressive finale of the series so far.
But the film always looks amazing, and there is still plenty to admire and love about it.
Donald Pleasance makes an iconic super-villain out of Blofeld, that bald head and scar the stuff of pure comic-book excess. He does the role proud too, with a cleverly creepy performance that only Pleasance could achieve. “KILL BOND! NOW!!!”is a fabulous hissy-shriek of aggrieved impotence, and his little scuttling frame is a comical slant on somebody determined to cause mass murder.
The ladies are gorgeous, with the doomed Aki and the treacherous Helga being the standouts for me. And, of course, Little Nellie has her own attractive attributes too.
Connery doesn’t quite pass muster this time out. He always looks snappy in those crucial 60’s suits and he handles the physicality of Bond’s latest mission with superlative ease, flipping a gaggle of goons over with ease during the final act. But there is definitely something missing, and even if you didn’t already know that he was determined to bow-out of the franchise and leave the character behind at this point, you can plainly see how little enthusiasm he can summon.
The transfer is excellent. Lowry’s treatment allows Freddie Young’s gorgeous photography to shine, and the audio gives you the choice of the original mono, or the more exuberant surround mix. The supplements are quality, too.
You Only Live Twice is a fan-favourite, and it gets a splendid new lease of life on Blu-ray!
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