By Steve Vivona
Sean Connery was tired of playing James Bond by the time "You Only Live Twice" came around. He could no longer stand the crush of the press and felt the Bond role was limiting his opportunities for more diverse parts. He announced his intention to resign during the filming of "You Only Live Twice in Japan," where he was harassed intensely by Japanese fans and press.
We all know that this was not Connery's last Bond film. He would return for "Diamonds are Forever" four years later and in 1983 he would play the role one final time in the "renegade" Bond film, "Never Say Never Again."
American and Soviet space craft are mysteriously disappearing and both nations are blaming each other. Hoping to avert nuclear war Bond is assigned to the case by MI6. He soon suspects a third party is orchestrating the conflict. He teams up with the head of the Japanese secret service and soon discovers SPECTRE is behind the missing capsules.
Bond infiltrates SPECTRE's massive volcanic lair and for the first time comes face to face with the insidious Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), who informs him he has just launched another rocket which he hopes will be the catalyst for World War III. Bond and his allies launch a full-scale assault on SPECTRE in the hopes of averting this disaster.
If Connery was tired of the role it doesnt show in his performance. He delivers his usual solid performance as the suave super agent. His version of Bond remains the quintessential portrayal. Connery infused him with just the right amount of danger and humor. His Bond is savvy, cultured and fearsome and in this film he even displays a certain degree of tenderness towards the fairer sex.
"You Only Live Twice" relies heavily on gadgetry (which also annoyed Connery) to the point where it starts to detract from the story. However this entry in the Bond series is filled with classic moments, especially the assault on the SPECTRE hideout, which is one of the most incredible setpieces in film history. The film also benefits from the wonderful exotic locales of the East, which had never been showcased in a Bond film before.
MGM has served up another terrific entry in their series of James Bond DVD's. The film has been lovingly remastered. Colors are strong and lush and the widescreen image is razor-sharp (not bad for a 30-plus year old film). MGM has made sure that the older Bond films receive the treatment they deserve and all of them have come out looking better than they did when they first premiered.
The documentary about the films production details the crush of publicity that surrounded the filming and its easy to see why Connery exited the role at this time. As usual it provides an exhaustive amount of behind the scenes details. Rare footage of the location scouting and aerial photography is provided as well. Another great documentary discusses the classic main title sequences designed by Maurice Binder. Also included are an animated storyboard sequence, trailers and radio spots.