In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the "James Bond" franchise, the 1967 spy flick "You Only Live Twice," the fifth film in the series and the first to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, comes out on a single-disc Blu-ray package. This standalone edition serves as an alternative to the Bond 50 box set that contains all the 007 films released right before the 2012 outing "Skyfall." This disc offering showcases another charming turn by the inestimable Sean Connery in his fifth appearance as the original James Bond. It also stars Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Donald Pleasence, Tetsuro Tamba, and Teru Shimada.
This tale is loosely based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel of the same title with a screenplay written by literary legend Roald Dahl. It is the first in the Bond canon to discard most of Fleming's plot and it only uses a few characters and locations from the book as the background for its new story. The story continues the action streak of the infamous MI6 agent as he goes to Japan in a mission to stop an evil plot involving the onset of a nuclear war between Americans and Russians.
The epic scale of the picture is best remembered for its many scenic locations of the Japanese countryside and its large and elaborate volcano scenes. The film does an effective job of staging action sequences even though most shots disregard plausible science or even basic physics. Grain spikes naturally in darker sequences and special effects shots. The color balance sometimes yields toward a more bluish tone or a slightly pink tinge. Nevertheless, the mostly exotic visuals showcase great-looking details without egregious digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, or compression issues to contend with.
The disc hosts a five-channel lossless soundtrack, as well as an alternative mono track. A couple of dubbed options, all of which are five-channel mixes, are also available in Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese. The repurposed mix seems more preferable than the narrow quality of the dated mono offering. This surround material subtly expands the movie's original elements to make it a more modern multi-channel piece. It provides a pleasingly rich stereo presence with directional effects that are skillfully integrated into the track without sounding too gimmicky.
The pumped up volume and bass sometimes leave the track's dynamic range unbalanced. But more often than not, the mix sounds decently rich and full with no annoying pops, hisses, and crackles to note. Music is also fleshed out wonderfully from start to end
The disc offers a wealth of supplements including the "M16 Commentary" that features interviews with the director and the cast and crew, documentaries, retrospective offerings, the title design featurette "Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles," a location featurrette, a variety of TV and radio broadcasts and theatrical trailers, an animated storyboard sequence, and an image database filled with a fine collection of stills and promo shots. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, Danish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Norwegian, and Swedish.
"You Only Live Twice" is not a bad 007 movie, but it is slightly weaker than the previous ones in the series. Its scope is perhaps a bit too epic for its own good that some scenes tend to get heavily reliant on goofy humor and bad puns. Yet, it is also worth noting that this movie still offers some classic moments that puts a good amount of entertainment value to the presentation. For the quality of this particular Blu-ray release, the overall upgrade makes it hard to resist and it clearly remains a solid recommendation for any 007 fan.