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Dr. No [Blu-Ray Review]

Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, John Kitzmiller
Directed by: Terence Young

Running Time: 110 minutes

Back Cover

His name is Bond, James Bond. And here, in his explosive film debut, Ian Fleming’s immortal action hero blazes through one of his most spectacular adventures. Sean Connery embodies the suave yet lethal cool of agent 007 as he battles the mysterious Dr. No, a scientific genius bent on destroying the U.S. space programme.

Movie Review

Director Terence Young sets the stage for four and a half decades of Bond adventure in the film that started it all. Dr. No takes the style and directorial flair that Young honed on war films like 1953’s The Red Beret and ’58’s No Time to Die, and re-moulds it for a shadowy Cold-War battlefield rife with intrigue and assassination, rather than tanks and paratroopers. Young is the man responsible for taking the dire, hard-bitten MI6 agent of Ian Fleming’s novels and turning him into a dashing charmer with a homicidal bent. Now, this and five other films are available in high-definition for the first time in celebration of the latest Bond blockbuster, Quantum of Solace.

It can be hard to see movies like Dr. No as products of their times, rather than looking at them through the filters that 40-odd years of advancements in technology (and techniques) can lay across one’s eyes. The first-time viewer might see this film as a clichéd kamp-fest with badly synched dialogue and two-dollar effects. Lay those filters aside. The action sequences and car-chases are just as good as those of any other action film made in the mid-20th century; in fact, Young made a film that punches above its weight, for a film made on a miniscule budget and with an almost unknown Scotsman playing the lead role. If You’d have told Young then that he was launching one of the most successful film series of all time, he’d probably have laughed in your face. But umpteen films later, many of the choices made in that first little movie have become part of the James Bond mystique, and even of filmmaking’s visual language.

From the get-go, this film starts feeding us the themes and plot devices that would become Bond trademarks and spoof-fodder: The gun barrel sequence that has led off almost every film in the series opens onto three assassins walking down a street in Jamaica, the first of many, many exotic locales our hero will visit over the next (almost) five decades. The assassins work for a grotesque, stupendously-rich evil genius (an enduring archetype not only for subsequent Bond films, but for really any good adventure story), and Bond seduces a trainload of voluptuous beauties, one of whom shares his adventures, falls for him and ends the film lounging with him in a boat.

To be fair, most of the film is made up of excuses for moving Bond to the next exotic site or pretty girl’s bed, but draped on that shaky framework is layer upon layer of simply fabulous fun: Connery’s Bond hits the perfect balance of suave and sinister, and his coterie of helpers and colleagues is a cool, colourful mix of characters, some of whom veer perilously close to caricature. Joseph Wiseman is compelling as Dr. No, bringing a sense of danger to a character who could so easily have been a totally hilarious flop (I mean, come on: metal hands?), and even Ursula Andress nicely pulls off her role as a great-looking girl in a white bikini.

Crave Factor – 8
Primeval Bond fun.


For someone whose entire experience with these older Bond films has been made up of Saturday afternoon movies or DVD rentals, the restored and re-mastered presentation (1080p, 29 Mbps) represents a whole new world. The sharp lines and vibrant colours show Ken Adams’ innovative, wide-open production design in the best possible light. Since the lighting design leans to the naturalistic rather than the deeply dramatic, the razor-sharp image quality is a good thing; it means that the actors have to carry the scenes without the sometimes invasive lighting tricks that hobble some later action movies.

Also gone is the slight blurring that smoothed over smaller details during the entire video and DVD eras. The restored footage shows that yes, minute detail (like say, glistening water drops on skin) were a part of the classic cinema experience; in this case, bringing an old fave to today’s viewer with its original image quality intact. 

Crave Factor – 8
Restored footage brings the film’s original level of detail to a whole new generation.


Like the high-def imagery, the DTS 5.1 lossless audio track is simply amazing, especially when compared to previous video releases of 1960s-era films. The film cannot overcome the inherent shortcomings of mid-20th-century recording techniques or sound effects, but the re-mastered track makes great use of today’s 5.1 systems, spreading the sound effects around with a sensitive ear towards both directional sound and ambient noise. Additionally, tasteful use of the subwoofer keeps the sound from getting muddy, but still shakes things up when stuff starts to explode.

Crave Factor – 7
Slightly dated sfx are brought convincingly up-to-date.


The extras are simply transplanted from the DVD release. As such, they don’t enjoy the same high-def treatment as the feature. That being said, the features are still a worthy component of this edition, with the exception of the totally-pointless interactive guide.

Audio Commentary – Writer and Bond über-fan John Cork interviews Terence Young and some of the cast members, as well as hosting the general scene commentary.

007: License to Restore featurette – The pride and the process involved with giving Dr. No its new high-definition face. This short documentary is made up of interviews with MGM execs and the people behind Lowry Digital Images, the company that worked its magic on the Bonds films for the Blu-Ray release.

The Guns of James Bond featurette – A show-and-tell with Jeffrey Boothroyd, the man upon whom armourer Major Boothroyd is based. Boothroyd fires a series of guns and talks about their tech specs. It’s either fun or tasteless, deending on the viewer’s philosophies on firearms.

Inside Dr. No – A view of the events leading up to, and including, the film’s shooting and production. It’s a great companion piece that includes interviews and archival footage.

Terence Young: Bond Vivant featurette – An exposé of the man who put his personal stamp on Fleming’s immortal Agent 007 by modelling him after, well… himself.

The disc also includes two more featurettes, an interactive guide, an image database, theatrical trailers and TV and radio spots.

Crave Factor – 7
A truckload of extras for the Bond aficionado to enjoy.

Menu & Packaging

The disc’s pop-up menu (or “Smart Menu” in Fox terminology) is attractive and translucently unassuming; and scrolls smoothly through the menu item choices. The top menu is similarly slick and tasteful, with well-thought-out operation and smooth motion.

The six special-edition Bond films have all received a slick cover design overhaul.  The result is a design that is clean and modern, but which still harkens back to the classic Bond look. But in today’s atmosphere of tree-counting, carbon footprints and recycling, it is utterly mystifying that companies are still putting perfectly good, shrink-wrapped cases into matching cardboard sleeves.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts

The genesis of the Bond film phenomenon gets a slick, high-definition revamp, using the technology to its utmost to enhance the original, while not going overboard. This edition is a must-have for any Bond enthusiast, spy-genre lover or classic film buff. And the metric tonne of extras is good for hours of fun. Bonus: From Connery’s first utterance of the now-classic catchphrase “Bond, James Bond,” to the shaken martini, Dr No presents the blueprint of a fabulous spy, one that has been worked from ever since, by everyone from Roger Moore to Mike Myers.


Overall Crave Factor – 8

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