Dr. No appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer made the 47-year-old flick look awfully good.
My only minor concerns related to sharpness. While most of the movie seemed crisp and distinctive, a few wide shots displayed a smidgen of softness. These instances stayed minor, though, and caused no real distractions. Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and only light edge haloes ever appeared. Source flaws amounted to nothing, as the movie looked wonderfully clean.
Colors also excelled. With its vibrant Jamaican setting, the film boasted a broad palette, and the Blu-ray made those hues shine. The tones always seemed lively and dynamic. Blacks were deep and taut, while most shadows showed good delineation. Some “day for not” shots came across as somewhat opaque – poor Quarrel can barely be seen – but that problem was unavoidable. Overall, the flick presented really fine visuals.
While not quite as impressive, the audio of Dr. No also fared well for a film of this one’s vintage. In addition to the film’s original monaural track, we got a DTS-HA MA 5.1 remix. The expanded soundfield offered the most impressive aspects of the track. It didn’t suffer from excessive ambition, as it managed to open up matters but not stretch the source material to its breaking point. Effects usually went with general ambience, and that worked nicely, especially in crowd sequences. These used the back speakers to form a good sense of the setting but they didn’t come across as too busy or showy. Occasional localized elements popped up in the front, and vehicles demonstrated nice movement.
The track featured a fair amount of well placed dialogue in the side speakers, but music was less successful. Except for the dynamic rendering of the theme in the opening credits, the score and songs sounded like broad mono to me. They spread to the side speakers but failed to demonstrate clear stereo imaging. I also thought they featured a little too much reverb and lacked the depth I’d like.
Audio quality was fine given the movie’s age but didn’t match up with the decent expansion of the 5.1 soundfields. Speech sounded a bit stiff and reedy, though the lines were always readily intelligible and lacked edginess. As I mentioned, music packed a punch only when we heard the main theme. Otherwise the score was clear but a bit flat. Effects worked a bit better. They never suffered from notable distortion, and they occasionally displayed solid bass response; some explosions and louder elements offered very good use of the LFE channel. I liked the remix and felt it was a thoughtful expansion of the source elements.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the Ultimate Edition from 2006? I thought the soundtracks were virtually identical, and the visuals clearly came from the same transfer. This meant the Blu-ray offered the usual improvements in terms of greater resolution; it didn’t blow away the very satisfying DVD, but it gave us a nice rendition of the film.
This Blu-ray contains everything found on the “Ultimate Edition”. First up is an excellent audio commentary from a wide variety of participants. Narrated by Bond historian John Cork, this edited piece presents 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.
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.
Plenty of featurettes also appear. We open with 007: Licence to Restore. The 11-minute and 55-second program examines the processes used for the new Bond transfers. We see examples of these methods and find remarks from MGM vice president of technical services Scott Grossman, MGM director of technical services James Owsley, Lowry Digital Images president Michael Inchalik, LDI founder and CEO John Lowry, chief color scientist Price Pethel, and project managers Ryan Gomez, Patrick Cooper, Andrea Avila, Jackie Lopez and Stephanie Middler. Lowry takes us through a tour of his company and then we learn about specifics related to the Bond restorations.
I often find this sort of program to come across as self-congratulatory, and that tone does occur here. “Restore” also occasionally feels like an ad for LDI. That said, we do discover some intriguing facts about the technical elements at work, so if the subject interests you, this piece deserves a look.
Two elements appear under Declassified: MI6 Vault. We find The Guns of James Bond, a five-minute and seven-second featurette. Created during the shoot for Goldfinger, Sean Connery introduces us to gun expert Jeffrey Boothroyd, the inspiration for Major Boothroyd. The program looks at various aspects of 007’s firearms. It offers a fun archival piece that’s a blast to see.
Premiere Bond: Opening Nights goes for 13 minutes, eight seconds as it comes with narration from Bond series producer Michael G. Wilson. He leads us through photos and footage of various Bond premieres. It’s an interesting view of how each flick through Die Another Day debuted.
With that we head to the 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:58). “Locations” (2:37) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside Dr. No and it runs for 42 minutes, five seconds. 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. This list includes Picker, Dana Broccoli, Wilson, Young, Sopel, Connery, Adam, Blackwell, Hunt, Maxwell, Gayson, Andress, Lewars, Moxon, Norman, Cain, Wanstall, co-producer Harry Saltzman’s son Steven, clothier Simon Hobbs, and composer John Barry. We also witness a lot of film clips and production shots.
As with the commentary, “Inside” takes a wide overview of the production. The show begins with a look at Bond’s path to the big screen before it digs into casting, locations, Young’s impact on the series, and other aspects of the shoot. We find great notes about all these areas. 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 17 minutes, 55 seconds and focuses on Young, the director of Dr. No and two of the three subsequent Bonds, From Russia With Love and Thunderball. We find remarks from Graydon, Wilson, Andress, Hunt, Adam, Leech, Cain, Picker, Maxwell, Stears, Young’s daughter Juliet Nissen, and actors Mollie Peters, Desmond Llewelyn, Luciana Paluzzi, and Martine Beswick. 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 40-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. Under Ministry of Propaganda, 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.
In the Image Database, Dr. No features a nice collection of still galleries. It includes about 160 shots across the eight 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.
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 Blu-ray itself provides excellent visuals, solid audio and a fine roster of extras. This is a must have film and a strong Blu-ray.
Should folks who already own the Ultimate Edition DVD pursue this Blu-ray? I think big-time Bond buffs will probably want to get it, but the DVD remains very satisfactory. I really like the Blu-ray, but I don’t think it improves on the UE DVD enough to be a great upgrade, especially with its $34.98 retail cost.
To rate this film visit the original review of DR. NO