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. Across the board, this was a terrific transfer.
Sharpness appeared solid. The picture largely seemed clear and crisp with only a few minor instances of softness due to some mild edge haloes. The vast majority of the flick appeared concise and detailed, though. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and source flaws were totally absent. This was an exceptionally clean presentation.
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. 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 the best-looking of the Connery Bond flicks and it just fell short of an “A” rating.
Similar thoughts greeted the excellent audio of Twice. In addition to the film’s original monaural mix, we found Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Other than the fact the DTS version was a little louder than the Dolby edition, I thought both sounded very similar.
And both 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 soundfields definitely 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 very pleased with these remixes.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 special edition? Both presented significant improvements. The sound was livelier and more dynamic, while the visuals appeared cleaner, crisper and more distinctive.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from various members of the cast and crew. 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.
When we move to DVD Two, the Declassified: MI6 Vault presents three elements. These open with *Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond, a 52-minute and eight-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, 21 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 58-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.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:43). “Locations” (4:04) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside You Only Live Twice is a 30-minute and 21-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.
Also very interesting is the other video piece. The 23-minute and 22-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 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 97-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.
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.
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 excellent picture and audio, while 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.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Definitely. It doesn’t add a slew of new extras, but the exclusives are interesting, and the UE presents substantial improvements in terms of picture and audio quality. This edition blows away its predecessor in those areas and is a must have for Bond fanatics.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of You Only Live Twice can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Four”. This five-movie set also includes Dr. No, Moonraker, Octopussy, and Tomorrow Never Dies.