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Dr. No Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 October 2008
ImageThe mighty oak that is the James Bond series grew from this acorn, but looking back, 'Dr. No' is not so little. 'Dr. No' is sharp, focused and well-paced, an excellent introduction to the series--and a note should be made about that very concept. In 1962, the only movie series still going on were the Hammer 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' movies, a few comedy entries and the occasional Tarzan title (in fact, Sean Connery went from the set of a Tarzan movie, where he was a secondary villain, to that of 'Dr. No'). Series aimed at the general audience just did not exist, but producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman realized there was room for one.

Although 'Dr. No' was not the first 007 novel from Ian Fleming (Casino Royale was and would never be produced by Broccoli and company due to a rights dispute) it was a good place to start as it had almost all the ingredients that became foundations of the series that followed. Exotic locales, gorgeous women aplenty, Bond's ingenuity and skill at escaping death traps, and a super villain with an ambitious scheme for world domination.

James Bond (Connery, of course), British secret agent 007 with a license to kill, is sent to Jamaica to follow up on the murder of another secret agent. He touches bases with Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) his opposite number from the CIA, and learns the villain is blowing up U.S. missiles being launched from Florida. This villain turns out to be the half-Chinese, half-German criminal genius Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), who has mechanical hands and a supercilious attitude. All the best Bond villains woefully underestimate our hero, and the good doctor is no exception. Wiseman is fine, but he's not one of the most memorable Bond villains--but as Honey Rider, who emerges from the sea in a bathing suit the color of her skin, Ursula Andress not only has the best entrance for a heroine in any thriller, she remains the single most memorable and most beautiful Bond girl. She's one of the two elements of the film that people remember the most clearly, the other being Bond's icy comment to would-be assassin Anthony Dawson after Dawson has shot Bond's bed full of holes: "That's a Smith & Wesson; you've had your six," Bond says cooly before he shoots the unarmed man dead. Another character trait which audiences had never seen from a hero, until Bond.

Although the budget would prevent genius production designer Ken Adam from creating anything as wonderful as he did later in the series, his work here is still outstanding; 'Dr. No''s interrogation room, his lair and his lab are all handsome pieces of work. Monty Norman wasn't brought back to score later Bond movies, but his "James Bond Theme" is still the piece of music that people most identify with Bond--and with good reason: it's heard as the opening of every credit sequence, and recurs in each film as underscore.

[Written by AVRev] [START]
MGM has done a marvelous job at restoring the film for this Blu-ray release.  The AVC at 29 Mbps gives the viewer great detail.  The release looks to be a high definition re-release of the master that was used for the Ultimate DVD edition a couple of years ago.  The original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 has been maintained on the Blu-ray, yielding a slight side letterbox effect.  The black levels are fairly accurate, and impressive for the age of the film.  The colors are muted, giving a vintage look.  The details are very good.  You can see many fine lines.  The image does suffer from overblown whites and hot temperature colors.  The boosted contrast is a large contributing factor.  There is a presence of film grain present throughout the film, which is to be expected.  Edge enhancement does not seem to be an issue with the image.  A very nice video presentation of a 1962 film.

This Blu-ray release contains the original mono audio track, presented in Dolby, and a new DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track.  Sadly, neither audio track is good enough as a standalone audio track.  The original mono track has a better dialogue presentation.  It is clearer and fits into the original sound design.  The dialogue in the new 5.1 mix is a bit dull, and the new 5.1 mix results in weird echoes in the dialogue.  There is really nothing present in the surround tracks.  All attempts at creating a surround sound atmosphere result in a muted and only subtle envelope.  The LFE channel is basically non-existent.  I recommend the original mono track as the track to listen to.  The overall mono track has a stronger presence to it.

The bonus materials on this Blu-ray disc are decent.  There is an audio commentary with director Terence Young and other cast and crew members.  This is a great treat for Bond films and fairly interesting.  "007: License to Restore" is a featurette that talks about the restoration process of the film.  "The Guns of James Bond" is a featurette is a vintage video introduced by Sean Connery.  "Premiere Bond: Opening Nights" discusses openings of other Bond movies.  "007 Mission Control" is an interactive that is divided into seven parts.  The Mission Dossier section contains three featurettes that are much more appealing.  "Inside 'Dr. No'" looks at the pre-production of the first Bond film.  "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" gives us an inside look at the director of the film.  "'Dr. No' 1963" gives us a rough look at the marketing of the Bond film.  Finally, there are several theatrical trailers and TV and radio spots.

"Dr. No" is one of the few pivotal films in motion picture history.  MGM's treatment of it on Blu-ray is exceptional.  While not the the best in quality, it is superior to any of the presentation formats that are currently in release.  The importance of this film earns it a place in your collection.  [END]

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