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You Only Live Twice: Ultimate Edition

You Only Live Twice (1967) opens with a corker: James Bond (Sean Connery) is in bed with a woman (natch) and then is mowed down by machine guns and pronounced dead. Of course, the numerous sequels — and 110 minutes of film that follow — make it a sure bet that this is simply a ruse (even secret agents can be too well known), but the matter-of-factness is refreshing. Shortly thereafter the credits begin, with the Maurice Binder-designed opening promising that this will be a Japanese-themed Bond. And for this effort, the filmmakers tried to class up the place by getting director Lewis Gilbert (Alfie) and author Roald Dahl as the screenwriter. But perhaps Bond can't be classed up, only made tightly and efficiently, because — though the movie is of some merits — that's not what either accomplish. With "Bond in Japan" the meta-text, Bond partners with Japanese Secret Serviceman "Tiger" Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), has two Japanese girlfriends in Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), and visits the sites of Tokyo in good tourist-y fashion. But what he's really after is the spaceship that has stolen an American space shuttle, and he targets a local business as a front. This leads him to Helga Brant (Karin Bor), a busty redhead who sleeps with Bond and then traps him in a plane and jumps out. The people behind the space theft are, of course, SPECTRE, with front man Ernst Stavro Blofeld finally given a face in Donald Pleasance. And becauseYou Only Live Twice introduced Bond's most nefarious adversary, it should be no surprise that he is given the ne plus ultra version of the evil lair: His hideout is in the middle of a volcano. There he also has a lake with piranha fish that he feeds meat and the occasional incompetent henchman. To storm this impossible front, Tiger offers Bond use of his well trained ninjas — yep, You Only Live Twice features ninjas vs. a volcano. Bond also has to "become Japanese," which involves shaving his chest hair, getting a Moe haircut, and marrying an island woman. A loose and travelogue-y Bond, You Only Live Twice has way too many classic Bond moments to be considered a failure, but what it delivers in spectacle it lacks in a compelling plot. That said, two of the greatest pleasures of the 007 franchise have long been John Barry's scores and the production design by Ken Adam, and both deliver the goods here. MGM/Fox two-disc "Ultimate Edition" presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and original monaural audio. Extras on Disc One features a commentary by director Lewis Gilbert and members of the cast and crew, while Disc Two features the period British TV "Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond" (52 min.) and "Whicker's World" excerpts (5 min.), featurettes "On Location with Ken Adam" (14 min.), "Inside You Only Live Twice" (30 min.), "Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles" (23 min.), and animated storyboards for the plane crash sequence (2 min.) Also on board are three theatrical trailers, a TV spot, seven radio spots, a stills gallery, and "007 Mission Control," which offers highlights of the franchise's repeated trademarks. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case. Available in MGM's "James Bond Collection: Volume 4."

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