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Terrence Young
Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall
Richard Maibaum & Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

His name is Bond; James Bond.

Dr. No is the film that started it all, the first installment of a phenomenon that's still going strong. Sean Connery puts in his first appearance as James Bond in a spy thriller that relies a lot less on gadgets and more on ingenuity than many of the 007 films that follow. The plot follows Bond as he's called to the Caribbean to find a fellow spy who has disappeared. After several attempts on his life, he teams up with an American agent and travels to a remote island, where he meets the mysterious Dr. No.
Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 5/16/2000

• Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young, Editor Peter Hunt, Composer Monty Norman, Actors Lois Maxwell, Ursula Andress, Eunice Gayson, Marguerite Lewars, Zena Marshall and Timothy Moxon, Sound Effects Editor Norman Wanstall, Special Effects Supervisor John Stears, Art Director Syd Cain, Production Buyer Ron Quelch, Eon Productions Former VP Marketing Jerry Juroe, Production Designer Ken Adam, Former UA Executive David Picker, Associate Producer Stanley Sopel, Location Manager Chris Blackwell, Photographer Bunny Yeager, Stuntmen Richard Graydon, Bert Luxford and George Leech, and Producer's Wife Dana Broccoli
• "Inside Dr. No" Documentary
• "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" Documentary
• Still Galleries
• TV Ads
• Radio Spots
• Booklet
• Trailers

James Bond Collection

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Dr. No (1962)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 11, 2006)

Something I'd love to know: did anyone associated with Dr. No back in 1962 have the slightest idea they'd still be making Bond films in the 21st century? Did any of those people even think there was much chance folks in this day and age would remember their film, much less revere it as the first in the longest-running movie series of all-time?

I don't presume to speak for these people, but I seriously doubt anyone had the foresight to anticipate the longevity of the Bond franchise. Look at it this way: if we reverse the 44 years between the first Bond and the latest – 2006’s Casino Royale - we end up back in 1918, before color movies or those with sound. That's a wide space in film history, and while the pictures of today more closely resemble those of 1962 than the latter correspond to the movies of 1918, the breadth of that span remains remarkable. Hey, some of us weren't even born yet in 1962! (You know you're getting old when you use the age of the Bond series to try to make yourself feel young. Beats my Dad, at least; he has to claim he was born before Sinatra became a star to get his jollies.)

At this juncture in history, Dr. No would earn a place in film lore just due to the fact it was the first Bond; the quality of the picture has become absolutely irrelevant. Happily, however, the movie remains a taut and exciting Bond adventure. While it lacks the extravagant spark of some of the later entries, it does enough right to continue to entertain viewers.

One rather startling aspect of Dr. No comes from how many of the "Bond staples" all seem well in place. Nuances like Sean Connery's bemused facial gestures, his gently antagonistic relationship with boss "M" (Bernard Lee) and his flirtatious repartee with secretary Moneypenny all appear here. The naturalism of the interactions seems remarkable considering the newness of the series. I noticed the same thing when I watched early episodes of Star Trek; the key members of that crew appeared to mesh and gel almost effortlessly. I guess when the sparks fly, they make everything look easier, and the chemistry among the group we see in Dr. No gives one the impression this is their fifth outing, not their first.

Even back then, it was clear Connery was the man as Bond. It's tough to watch the movie and filter out all that's come since that time, but I think his dominating and spry presence seems clear, and he pretty much had the part down cold right out of the box. I've enjoyed the work of some later Bonds - especially Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig sure seems to have the goods - but it seems likely no one will ever compare to Connery. I grew up as a Roger Moore fan, since he was the first Bond I knew from my own theatrical experience - I never saw a Bond picture on the big screen until Moonraker in 1979 - but I long ago recognized the supremacy of Connery. He remains absolutely perfect for the role.

Dr. No isn't a perfect film, and its pace can seem a bit slow compared to later Bonds, but it still offers enough fun to be worth viewing for reasons other than nostalgia or curiosity. The story is prototypical Bond, with then-exotic locations and a brilliant and unusual madman who creates a bizarre plot to wreak havoc. Dr. No himself (Joseph Wiseman) makes for a great villain. He appears in little of the film - we don't even see him until late in the story - but this is not the handicap it could have been. The plot offers enough suspense and mystery that we don't really feel the absence of a strong protagonist. It also helps that No is such a strong villain; when we finally meet him, he's worth the wait, and Wiseman plays him wonderfully. He makes No appropriately mysterious and threatening but refrains from the usual movie-villain histrionics.

Ursula Andress forever set the standard for the "Bond girl" with her appearance as Honey Ryder, a beach-combing babe Bond discovers late in the film. She's not the first woman to experience Bond's lust in the movie – he actually bags two other women prior to her - but she's the only one that clearly matches our current ideas of the "Bond girl". To be frank, I never thought much of Andress; many subsequent Bond actresses have been much more beautiful, and most are better actresses as well. However, it's likely that none made such a strong impact. For better or for worse, Andress set the tone for all Bond actresses to follow.

Although Dr. No fits in well with the rest of the series, some components we'd get to know and love don't appear. There's no fascination with wild gadgets, and as such, there's no "Q". Actually, "Q" does make a semi-appearance in the form of Major Boothroyd, the equipment officer who would mutate into "Q" by the third Bond, Goldfinger. However, Boothroyd has little to do here - he just gives Bond a new gun - and he's not played by long-time "Q" Desmond Llewelyn; Peter Burton takes the role here. Llewelyn would perform as Boothroyd in the sequel, From Russia With Love and would finally receive his single-initial moniker in Goldfinger.

Other than that, the cast and basic stage are set in Dr. No, and the formula was created for a terrific series of action movies. Not all Bonds have been great, but I've yet to see one I'd call bad; even the worst are still fun on some levels. Dr. No doesn't remotely approach the bottom of the Bond barrel; even after more than 40 years, it remains an exciting and well-made piece of work.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio C- / Bonus B+

Dr. No appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a consistently problematic transfer.

Some of those concerns related to definition. Though parts of the movie offered reasonably good definition, much of it seemed rough. More than a few scenes came across as fuzzy and soft, partly due to some noticeable edge enhancement. No real issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but print flaws were prominent. The movie often looked awfully grainy, and I also noticed frequent examples of specks, marks, nicks, blotches and blemishes. This was a rather dirty print.

Colors were also inconsistent. The film tended to appear too brown, so while some of the outdoors Jamaican scenes showed nice hues, much of the flick seemed murky and lacked vibrant tones. Black levels were acceptably deep and dark, but shadow detail was a concern. The worst problems with that aspect occurred during some "day for night" scenes on Dr. No's island; as is typical of these kinds of shots, the filtering makes everything far too dark and it's quite difficult to make out the action. Other than those, shadow detail looked decent but tended to still conceal too much of the picture. Overall, this transfer was a disappointment.

I also felt somewhat displeased with the monaural soundtrack of Dr. No. Distortion was the main culprit. For the most part, audio seemed relatively clear and crisp. Dialogue was decently natural and warm and usually was easily intelligible, though some brittleness interfered at times. Softer examples of music and effects were clean and sharp. One audio warning: don't turn up the volume on your receiver until after the extremely loud - and annoyingly unskippable - MGM promo that appears right after you start the DVD. This thing has scared many an unwary viewer – and probably blown a speaker or two - so be warned. Message to MGM: turn down the volume and let us skip these stupid things!

As we shift to the supplements, first up is an excellent audio commentary from a wide variety of participants. Unlike the traditional style, many of the Bond commentaries combine separate interview snippets from a large number of cast and crew members, and this piece perfectly matches that formula. Narrated by Bond historian John Cork, Dr. No presents

This track is a bit different from other Bonds in that it provides much more general information than usual. This means that while we certainly learn a lot about Dr. No in particular, we also get a lot of details about the beginnings and the origins of the series in general. We learn about the editing style, shooting in Jamaica, sets and budgetary restrictions, music, reflections on various cast and crew, and many filming specifics. The commentary aptly mixes general information about the series’ launch with details exclusive to No. This adds up to a strong track that should be very compelling for Bond fans; it’s one of the better Bond commentaries.

Next we get some video programs. The first piece is called Inside Dr. No and it runs for 42 minutes. A bit of a companion to the audio commentary - which duplicates a few of the interview statements - this is a fine documentary that both conveys information on the creation of the Bond series and gives us details of the film's production. We hear from a nice variety of participants, most of whom appear in 1990s interviews but some come from archival footage. We also witness a lot of film clips and production shots. It's a very entertaining and informative piece that works well.

A second program called Terence Young: Bond Vivant also appears. This documentary lasts for almost 18 minutes (not the 22 minutes indicated on the DVD) and focuses on Young, the director of Dr. No and two of the three subsequent Bonds, From Russia With Love and Thunderball. The show examines Young's career and his effect on the Bond franchise, and we hear from a wide variety of folks with whom he worked. It's a nice little tribute to the man.

A final video piece appears as well. This is an eight minute and 45 second featurette from 1963. While clearly promotional in purpose, this program is quite entertaining just because it's now so quaint. It serves to inform us about the details of Bond, and it does so in a typically-geeky early-Sixties manner. The black and white quality's not so hot, but it's a fun program nonetheless.

Dr. No features quite a few other promotional materials as well. We find four theatrical trailers; two of these are for the original release of Dr. No, while the other two come from double-feature re-releases of the film. The first preview is the most fun, mainly because of the voiceover from Connery.

Two TV ads appear. Both of these were used to promote the Dr. No/Goldfinger double-feature re-release. They're rather redundant and not all that compelling.

Finally, the ads finish with six radio spots. These are charming and fun, as is usually the case with this kind of promotion; radio ads can't rely on the visual flash so they need to be more creative in other ways. None of these are as cool as the one from Goldfinger in which a female Bond fan paints herself in gold to the delight of her husband, but they're interesting nonetheless.

As is typical of the Bond catalog titles, Dr. No features a nice gallery of production stills and promotional photos. It includes about 160 across the different sections. All of them are worth a look, but I was especially fond of the "Jamaica" area, which includes the most pictures by far and also provides easily the most interesting shots. In that area, we find a tremendous number of casual pictures of the stars, and these are simply wonderful to see. I'm not usually a fan of photo galleries, but this one is a definite winner.

Lastly, the DVD features a terrific booklet. As is the case with most MGM titles, the text offers a lot of good details about the production and doesn't just rehash the same material from the DVD itself (though inevitably some facts are repeated). MGM have a lot of faults as a DVD studio, but they do produce by far the best booklets in the business.

The first Bond isn't the best, but Dr. No remains a very good film that nicely introduces the series that would become so famed. The DVD itself provides good extras but suffers from substandard picture and audio. This is a worthwhile movie to own, but the quality of the presentation causes problems.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2848 Stars Number of Votes: 172
10 3:
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