Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
In 1962 a film was released with little expectation, and a meagre budget (United Artists allowed the project $1 million to be exact). But, to the credit of the producers, every penny was reproduced on the screen. The film was called Dr. No, and what followed would change the whole face of cinema and cause endless sequels that defied the rule that a sequel had to be inferior when compared to the original.

The central character, James Bond, is Agent 007: an MI6 agent with a licence to kill. He goes around in a suit, yet he lets his Walther PPK do the talking; he wines and dines on fine foods, yet he is undoubtedly more hip than Austin Powers.

Bond was the brainchild of author Ian Fleming, a man whose own expertise in the espionage field was reflected in the character he created. Fleming’s novels placed Bond in numerous extravagant situations, with extravagant women, and against extravagant enemies.

The biggest choice faced by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was who to cast as Bond. Eventually, they decided to go with a relative nobody, a Scotsman by the name of Sean Connery. And luckily, the gamble paid off. To date, most Bondians regard Connery as the Bond, due to a number of factors, but mainly due to his suaveness and savvy.

And now, here is the chance to re-live the first 007 adventure on DVD...

Dr. No (James Bond)

The Film
This is where it all began - 007 stranded in Jamaica, with his assignment (laid down to him by his superior ‘M’) being the task of finding the mysterious Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) - a man whom is bent on destroying the US Space Program. As the countdown to disaster begins, Bond must travel to Jamaica where he encounters the beautiful Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) and then confronts the megalomaniacal villain in his massive headquarters.

Sean Connery, considering his cinematic experience was sparse, completely owns the role within the first 5 minutes of his screentime, and it is no wonder that decades on he is still not only working in films but can be considered as being firmly on the A-list. If any studio executives are reading - before letting me write and direct my own film (!) - remember that just because an actor isn’t famous, it doesn’t mean they’re not an actor. In fact, some may say quite the opposite…

The supporting actors are also made for their roles, whether you are looking at the incredibly sexy Ursula Andress (who can now finally speak English properly...her lines in Dr. No were dubbed!) or the decidedly creepy Joseph Wiseman (he was a renowned actor on Broadway before he landed the role) as the titular character.

I must also mention Terence Young, who directed the film in such a way that it feels like a multi-million dollar production, instead of a $1 million production. Whether Bond is engaging in an action sequence or sharing an intimate moment with a woman (as he frequently does), the direction remains solid throughout. The only gripe that I have with the presentation of the film - something that is probably due to the technological restrictions of the early ‘60s - is the fact that the rear-projection work in the film is shocking.

Dr. No (James Bond)

If you are a newbie to the Bond world, someone who has only indulged in the Brosnan contemporary offerings (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day), then do not hesitate to check out where the franchise kick-started into life. In fact, it is better than some of the later offerings, and shapes the character of James Bond excellently from the word go. And of course, any self-respecting fan of the Bond series should also not hesitate in revisiting Dr. No…and this DVD release provides ample opportunity for that.

Video
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. For a film made in 1962, the print is in remarkably good condition, and the very good transfer has replicated this quality. Crisp and clear throughout, aside from the odd blemish, MGM deserve a pat on the back for their work on adding a ‘remastered’ tag to this DVD release.

Audio
Dolby Digital Mono (English). Although the age issue didn’t affect the video quality, it has had a bit of an adverse effect on the audio. The dialogue may be clear, but during action sequences and music, more ambience is needed from the soundstage…something it can’t muster as there is no surround activity - instead a lacklustre single channel soundtrack. I also felt I had to adjust the volume constantly, since there was no regular level.

Dr. No (James Bond)

Extras
What looks like a nice selection of extras kick off with a very diverse audio commentary - numerous cast and crewmembers contribute their vocals and insight, namely director Terence Young. However, the one annoying quirk about the commentary is how a monotonous Yank introduces each person, therefore meaning this isn’t a completely ‘free-flowing’ and immersive commentary.

There are also two documentaries provided. The first, Inside Dr. No, is a 30 minute comprehensive look at the film, how it originated, how they casted the roles, and how the project evolved into the finished product. It is very insightful, and is engaging throughout. The second, Terence Young: Bond Vivant, is a look at the legendary director (who directed three of the Bond films including Dr. No), who sadly died in 1994. It features interviews from Young himself and the people who have worked with him over the years, and the documentary profiles him well.

A short featurette is also included, entitled Dr. No. It was made in 1963, and is shot in (incredibly poor quality) B&W, so fans get can a whiff of nostalgia…mind you, considering the breadth of the Bond franchise, many fans weren’t actually born in the ‘60s, let alone when the film was marketed! It contains footage from the film as well as an interview with Sean Connery.

Dr. No (James Bond)

There is a very comprehensive photo gallery, ranging from on-set stills to concept designs. Very good if you like that sort of thing, but scrolling through photo upon photo does get a tad tiresome!

If you think today’s trailers and TV spots are tacky, then take a look at those on this release...although they do give a good impression as to what marketing was like when the film was released. As well as visual PR materials, there are also six radio spots that are actually quite well done, and something that is rarely used nowadays, as they feature interviews with the main players, and since most people listen to the radio frequently (in the car, at work etc.) it is a good way to market a film. Finally, to round off the package, there is an 8-page booklet that contains detailed production notes and chapter listings. A nice touch.

The menus are animated well with music in the background and various animations playing on-screen. They are fairly easy to navigate.

Overall
Some viewers may think the first instalment in the Bond legacy has aged too much, but this is more to do with the fact that hallmarks of the series - the infamous credit sequence, the appearance of Q etc. - do not appear. But, forget these absences, and what you are left with is a very good film that started the career of a certain Mr Bond in style.

Under the watchful eye of helmer Terence Young and a supportive crew, suspense and excitement are rife, and they slot perfectly into the now famous Bond formula. Yes, there is humour, action, explosions, and suggestive moments thrown into the mix, and the mix is very tasty indeed.

Dr. No (James Bond)

Focusing on the DVD itself, it is very pleasing to see MGM serve up a corker considering the film is over 40 years old. Extras-wise it is strong, the video is good, and although the audio is lacking slightly it isn’t as bad as it could be.

Every journey has a first step, and the Bond journey began with this - and thankfully it is off to a good start. The same can hopefully be said of the Bond DVDs.


Links: