Bond 50: Dr. No
- Street Date:
- September 25th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Joshua Zyber
- Review Date: 1
- October 1st, 2012
- Movie Release Year:
- MGM Home Entertainment
- 110 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
On September 25th, 2012, MGM Home Entertainment released the 'Bond 50' collection, a box set that contains no less than 22 films from the James Bond franchise's first 50 years. In order to provide the most comprehensive coverage, High-Def Digest will review each of the discs in this package separately. For the index of all reviews in this series, as well as details regarding bonus content exclusive to the box set, see our 'Bond 50' hub review.
'Dr. No' was previously released on Blu-ray in 2008. Portions of this article first appeared in our original review of that disc. However, the audio and video technical sections have been freshly updated.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
"World domination, that same old dream."
A legend begins here. Still going strong after five decades (thus far), James Bond is one of cinema's most enduring characters. The reasons for that are plentiful. Among other things, the world's most impossibly perfect secret agent is brave, strong, resourceful, ingenious, debonair, seductive and ruthlessly skilled at his job. That job just happens to be saving the world, time and again, an act that he achieves with unflappable determination. The six actors who've portrayed the character to date have all brought their own qualities to the role to craft the right James Bond for their eras. Nonetheless, for most fans, Sean Connery remains the one true James Bond, the measure against which all who follow in his footsteps must be compared. Even in his first outing, 1962's 'Dr. No', it was clear that an icon had just arisen on screen, fully formed.
When one of Her Majesty's undercover assets goes missing, secret agent 007 is sent to Jamaica to investigate. Once there, he teams up with CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jack Lord, later of 'Hawaii Five-O' fame), beats up some baddies, seduces some ladies and ferrets out a nefarious scheme by the title villain. The half-Chinese/half-German Dr. No operates out of a fabulous underwater lair where he plans to destroy the American space program with a nuclear-powered interference weapon of some sort – which he will do just as soon as he explains the whole diabolical plot to our hero – unless, of course, Bond can stop him.
As the first James Bond film, 'Dr. No' set the template for many of the franchise's recurring themes. It has intrigue and suspense, exotic locales, beautiful women falling over themselves to be with the hero and a larger-than-life villain with a world domination complex. In addition to Bond, we're introduced to his superior M (Bernard Lee) and M's faithful secretary Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), with whom Bond shares an unrequited flirtation. Maurice Binder's eye-catching animated titles sequence plays over the legendary "James Bond Theme" by Monty Norman and John Barry. (The series wouldn't get its first opening theme song until 'Goldfinger'.) Not yet part of the formula are weapons master Q or his crazy gadgets. Instead, the MI6 armorer Maj. Boothroyd provides Bond with the Walther PPK pistol, soon to be an indelible part of the 007 mythos.
Unlike many of its follow-ups, 'Dr. No' is primarily a mystery and suspense film with a tropical backdrop. Although Connery engages in some brawny fight scenes, other than a single car chase and a doozy of an explosion at the end, the picture doesn't feature the sort of over-the-top action heroics that fans would later associate with the franchise. It does, however, have a pretty strong script, stylish direction and the iconic image of Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) walking out of the ocean in a white bikini. Nearly 50 years and over 20 sequels later, it's still an enormously entertaining movie.
Aside from the physical labeling and artwork, the copy of 'Dr. No' in the 'Bond 50' box set is identical to the Blu-ray released in 2008. It has the same menus, the same audio and subtitle options, the same everything. For fans who don't care to (or aren't able to) purchase the whole box set, MGM Home Entertainment has also released a standalone reissue of this movie in its own separate keepcase.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
When I last reviewed 'Dr. No' four years ago, I gave the Blu-ray a stellar rating. In the meantime, I've upgraded much of my home theater gear, and I think it's fair to say that my standards and expectations have also risen. What was considered a top-quality disc in 2008 may not rate so highly today. Further, a small group of… I would call them home theater extremists… have nit-picked most of the James Bond discs to pieces on Blu-ray discussion forums over the past few years. In revisiting the Blu-ray today, I had to question whether I would still find it impressive.
I'm very relieved to say that 'Dr. No' still looks great. Terrific, in fact.
Derived from a 4k scan and digital frame-by-frame restoration performed by Lowry Digital, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is vividly bright and colorful, with frequently stunning levels of detail. Textures in the cast's wardrobe that have never previously been visible on home video are clearly resolved. The rich black levels and excellent contrast range also lend the picture a strong sense of depth. Honestly, I doubt that even the original 35mm theatrical prints could have looked anywhere near this good. Watching this disc feels like stepping directly back into the past.
The image is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with small pillarbox bars on the sides of the frame. A light presence of film grain appropriately maintains a pleasing film-like quality.
Yes, the disc has some flaws, but I honestly consider them minor. A scene here or there will have a small touch of edge ringing, but that's rare. Around the 1-hour mark, three or four shots are affected by a very strange crosshatch artifact that covers most of the screen. I don't know how that got through quality control. Nevertheless, these are infrequent problems and easily forgiven in light of how much age-related damage and deterioration Lowry Digital had to clean up. On the whole, 'Dr. No' still looks amazing.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
My feelings about the audio on the Blu-ray are also consistent with my original review. The movie's soundtrack is offered in two formats: a 5.1 remix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or the original mono mix in lossy Dolby Digital. Both have their share of issues.
I'm not a big fan of remixing mono tracks into 5.1 in general, and this disc is a good example of why. The surround tinkering sounds very artificial. It has hollow ambience, boomy low end and gimmicky directional pans. Dialogue is quite weak, and the high end of the signal has been rolled off too much, which results in a dull tonality.
The mono track, on the other hand, is often shrill and bright, with quite a lot of noisy analog hiss. Whatever noise reduction and re-equalization were performed on the 5.1 remix clearly weren't applied here. Regardless, I still found the mono preferable overall. Dialogue is sharper and better balanced, and the focused directionality is more pleasing to my ears.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
The bonus features on the Blu-ray first appeared on the Ultimate Edition DVD released in 2006. There's a lot of worthwhile content in here.
- MI6 Commentary – Disc producer John Cork hosts this assemblage of (mostly vintage) audio interviews featuring director Terence Young and most of the cast and crew. Many interesting production stories are relayed.
- Inside Dr. No (HD, 42 min.) – The highlight of the disc is this engrossing documentary narrated by Patrick Macnee. The piece moves at a rapid pace and is packed with information about the genesis of the Bond franchise and how the movie came together.
- 007: Licence to Restore (SD, 12 min.) – The folks at Lowry Digital provide a look at the comprehensive restoration process, which included scanning the original camera negatives at 4k resolution and digitally cleansing each frame of dirt and age-related damage.
- The Guns of James Bond (SD, 5 min.) – A vintage promo hosted by Sean Connery that shows off the character's weaponry.
- Premiere Bond: Opening Nights (SD, 13 min.) – Franchise producer Michael G. Wilson narrates this overview of the splashy red carpet premieres for every James Bond movie from 'Dr. No' to 'Die Another Day'. Given that most of the premieres were held at the same theater (the Leicester Square Cinema in London) and many of the same celebrities tended to show up each time (Charles and Diana made several appearances), the piece grows a little repetitive after a while.
- Terence Young: Bond Vivant (HD/SD, 18 min.) – A biography of the first 007 director, who is largely credited with setting the style for the franchise and dictating Bond's taste for the finer things in life.
- Dr. No 1963 Featurette (SD, 9 min.) – A black & white promotional ad designed to sell (then-unknown) Sean Connery as the ideal choice to embody Ian Fleming's popular character. Obviously, it worked.
- 007 Mission Control – The disc packaging describes this feature as an "interactive guide into the world of Dr. No," which is a fancy way of saying that it's a simple Scene Selections menu to chapters from the feature arranged by theme (guns, women, locations, etc.). The only item of note I found was a textless version of the opening credits.
- Theatrical Archive (HD/SD, 10 min.) – A collection of four vintage trailers for this "strange adventure of intrigue, treachery, and love." Connery narrates the main trailer as Bond. The last two ads promote double-bill screenings with 'From Russia with Love' and 'Goldfinger' respectively.
- TV Broadcasts (SD, 2 min.) – Two TV spots for a double-bill screening of 'Dr. No' and 'Goldfinger'.
- Radio Communication – Six audio-only ads for "Dr. No, in Color." In one, we learn that James Bond "makes Mickey Spillane look like a grandmother."
- Image Database – A "retro photo gallery" of publicity stills, behind-the-scenes shots, and poster art. Most of the images are quite small, unfortunately.
- Disc Credits (SD, 2 min.)
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
The disc has no Blu-ray exclusive features.
The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the Blu-ray?
Way back in 1991, the Criterion Collection released 'Dr. No' on Laserdisc with an exclusive audio commentary by director Terence Young, writer Richard Maibaum, editor Peter Hunt and production designer Ken Adam. Due to some controversial comments, the movie's producers objected to the track and demanded that Criterion recall the disc. Criterion later reissued the title without the commentary, which has never appeared on disc again. Copies of that first pressing remain a collector's item.
The staggering 22-film 'Bond 50' box set is an outstanding collection of one of cinema's most enduringly popular franchises. More than just the start of what would become a cinematic phenomenon, the first Bond film 'Dr. No' remains a very entertaining movie in its own right. Even though the Blu-ray is a simple reissue of a disc first released in 2008, it has an incredible video transfer that still looks excellent and a satisfying assortment of bonus features.
Whether on its own or as part of the 'Bond 50' package, 'Dr. No' comes highly recommended.
James Bond will return.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region A Locked
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English Dolby Digital Mono
- Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Audio Commentary
- Publicity Archive
- Still Galleries
- 007 Mission Control
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