For the past 46-years, one film series has performed consistently and delivered box-office busting films. Portrayed by six different actors over the course of the series, author Ian Fleming's creation of secret agent James Bond has become ingrained in pop culture and is a part of cinematic history. The film series started with 1962's Dr. No, which introduced James Bond to the big screen (Casino Royale was the first time Bond was adapted, for a television play back in the 1950s), played by Sean Connery. The film follows Bond as he investigates the death of a fellow British agent in Jamaica, and uncovers the reclusive Dr. No's (Joseph Wiseman) plan to disrupt the USA's rocket tests. With the help of the CIA's Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) as well as island locals Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) and Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Bond manages to infiltrate and destroy Dr. No's secret operation on Crab Key island, as well as learning about the global terrorist organization that will provide plenty of friction over the next few Bond films, SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).
Released numerous times on home video, Dr. No was meticulously restored from the original camera negative for new "Ultimate Editions" that were released on DVD back in 2006. Lowry Digital, known for their work restoring such films as Star Wars and Citizen Kane, worked on the clean-up process, and high definition transfers were made, though they weren't coming out - until now. Dr. No is part of the first "wave" of James Bond releases to hit Blu-ray, along with five other Bond films (all in anticipation of the newest adventure, Quantum of Solace). The movie looks and sounds the best it ever has, and is packed to the gills with extras.
Video: The high definition 1080p image is presented in a windowboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio, giving us more image on the top-and-bottom than the previous 2000 DVD release. Film grain feels natural and there is no gate weave or shake at all - it's a rock solid image. Colors are vibrant and flesh tones are natural. Much of the film was shot on-location in Jamaica, and there is a great amount of detail to be found in the HD image, and textures (skin, clothing, etc.) feel more life-like than before - I can't say that I've ever seen Dr. No look so good. The downside with such a great image is that some of the rear-projection work feels a bit faker than I'd prefer. But it's still a phenomenal image.
Audio: Released in a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio remix, the audio on Dr. No is rather front-heavy, with dialogue centered and occasional nice use of the left and right speakers. Sound effects are used sparingly in the rears, and Monty Norman's music is also positioned in the front primarily. The original mono track is also included, for archival purposes in Dolby Digital 2.0.
Supplements: This is certainly an "ultimate edition" of Dr. No - all of the extras from the past two DVD releases are included here! The menu is broken down into a few "thematic" sections, so I'll address them here individually.
MI6 Commentary: Hosted by Ian Fleming foundation member John Cork, the commentary track features director Terence Young as well as many of the principle members of the cast and crew from previous recordings. It's a well assembled commentary, providing a wealth of information on the development and adaptation of the film, as well as some interesting anecdotal stories. (Side note: still missing is the original Criterion Collection commentary done for the Dr. No laserdisc, which was hosted by journalist Bruce Eder, and featured director Terence Young, editor Peter Hunt, production designer Ken Adam, and screenwriter Richard Maibaum.)
Top Level Access: Only one featurette here, "007: License to Restore" (SD, 16x9). This 12-minute featurette explores the work that Lowry Digital did to restore the Bond films. It's a very informative doc, and with numerous examples of the types of fixes they did, it gives you new appreciation for the work done to clean up the Bond films.
Declassified: MI6 Vault: Two featurettes live here. "The Guns of James Bond" (SD) is a 5-minute archival BBC piece demonstrating some of the guns used in the early Bond films. "Premiere Bond: Opening Nights" (SD) runs 13-minutes, and has producer Michael Wilson talking about the various Bond premieres using archival footage and photographs. "Credits" (SD, 16x9) just gives us the video credits for the extras.
007 Mission Control: This unique "interactive" listing lets you view your favorite moments from the film, organized by category: "007", "Women", "Allies", "Villains", "Mission Combat Manual", and "Q Branch". In the "007" section, you can even view the opening title sequence from Dr. No without the text titles - pretty slick! "Exotic Locations" (HD) runs 2.5-minutes, narrated by Maud Adams (Octopussy), and takes a look (using the film's footage) of the various world locations that the movie was shot in. In this case, most of the locations are in and around Jamaica.
Mission Dossier: Narrated by Patrick McNee (A View to a Kill), the 42-minute long "Inside Dr. No" was originally included on the 2000 DVD, but has been re-done here in HD. As such, all of the still photographs and artwork looks even better! Interviews were done in SD, so they are presented "windowboxed". This featurette takes a good look at the first film in the Bond series, how it came to the screen, and some of the production aspects. Interviews with many of the key players, including Sean Connery and Ursula Andress, are also included. "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" (HD) is an 18-min look at the first director of the Bond films, and how he helped set the style of the subsequent chapters in the series. It's a great tribute. Finally, the archival "Dr. No 1963 featurette" (SD) is included, running 8.5-minutes. The quality is grainy, dirty and scratchy, but it's novel to see how EPKs were handled nearly 50-years ago.
Ministry of Propoganda: The "Theatrical Archive" (11-min) includes the "Theatrical Trailer" (HD), "Introducing Mr. Bond" (SD), "James Bond is Back to Back in Dr. No and From Russia with Love" (SD), and "James Bond is Back to Back in Dr. No and Goldfinger" (SD). It's too bad they couldn't include these in HD (aside from the theatrical trailer) but I suppose it was just easier to go to the video sources already transferred previously instead of digging back into the vault. Oh well! 1.5-minutes of "TV Broadcasts" includes two television spots for the Dr. No / Goldfinger double-feature, and 6.5-minutes of "Radio Communication" includes six radio spots for Dr. No.
Image Database: An extensive still-frame image database is included in HD, although the photos don't seem to take up more room than a SD feature would have. Broken down into "The Filmmakers", "Portraits", "Jamaica", "Pinewood", "The Lost Scene", "Ian Fleming - Jamaica", "Ian Fleming - Pinewood" and "Around the World with 007" (posters), the highlight is "The Lost Scene", which shows stills from an abandoned scene involving Honey Ryder being assaulted by crabs.
James Bond finally makes a triumphant debut in High Definition with Dr. No. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent, and the film has never looked or sounded better. There's a wealth of extras that includes everything that has been released on home video previously (except the Criterion commentary) so this is truly the "Ultimate" edition of the film. A must-have for any Bond enthusiast.
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