Dr. No [DVD]
Director : Terence Young
Screenplay : Richard Maibaum & Johanna Harwood & Berkely Mather (based on the novel by Ian Fleming)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 1962
Stars : Sean Connery (James Bond), Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder), Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No), Jack Lord (Felix Leiter), Bernard Lee (M), Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent), Zena Marshall (Miss Taro), John Kitzmiller (Quarrel), Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny)
Dr. No is primal James Bond. Having not yet fully developed the techno-wizard gadgetry, ironic quips, and increasingly outlandish action that would come to define what has become the cinema’s most successful and longest running movie franchise, the original Bond film has an aura of simplicity and directness that is surprisingly fresh more than 40 years later. Its portrayal of Bond as a ruthless, cold, and exacting secret agent, who at one point guns down an unarmed man in cold blood, is testament to the anxieties of the Cold War. Bond’s sophisticated veneer is just that: a thin façade for a brutal instrument.
Dr. No was actually the sixth of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, which he proficiently kicked out at the pace of roughly one per year starting with 1953’s Casino Royale until his death in 1964. Thus, by the time Dr. No reached the screen and became an international hit, James Bond was already an iconic pop-culture hero (Fleming’s novels were supposedly John Kennedy’s favorite bedside reading). In fact, Bond had already appeared on-screen--the small screen, that is--in a largely forgotten 1954 TV episode of the CBS live anthology series Climax! based on Casino Royale, which turned Bond into an American named “Jimmy.”
As embodied by Sean Connery, who already had a semi-successful movie career by the time he first donned the tuxedo of Her Majesty’s favorite secret agent, Bond is a cynical, yet still mythical hero. He is first introduced in Dr. No at a high-stakes poker table, his full on-screen revelation slyly delayed until he can utter his immortal introductory words: “Bond, James Bond.” From the moment the words exited Connery’s lips, a cigarette casually dangling from the corner of his mouth, he owned the role. It is of little surprise that every actor who has stepped into Bond’s shoes since then has inevitably been compared to Connery. It is not just that he originated the role on-screen, but rather that he so completely embodied it.
The narrative in Dr. No is quite straightforward, especially when compared to the increasingly convoluted narratives that would come to define the series. Bond is sent to the island of Jamaica to investigate why another British agent was murdered, and in the process uncovers the secret lair of Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a half-Chinese, half-German international criminal hellbent on (what else?) taking over the world. There are a few twists here and there, but much of the story unfolds as a mystery interspersed with moments of suspense. In the film’s best moment, Bond wakes up to find a tarantula crawling up his arm; the way in which director Terence Young (who would go on to direct Connery as Bond twice more in From Russia With Love and Thunderball) squeezes every bit of suspense out of cutting back and forth between Connery’s increasing sweaty face and the creeping spider is worthy of the best of Hitchcock. The film contains only a few outright action scenes, including a fiery finale that was added late in the game at the behest of U.S. distributor United Artists, who knew that U.S. viewers would want something a little more explosive.
As the first official James Bond film, Dr. No established a number of iconic elements that would appear again and again throughout the series. Although slightly different in its presentation, the opening shot of Bond walking across the screen from the vantage point of a gun barrel and then unexpectedly turning and firing at the audience opens the film, although Monty Norman’s unforgettable theme music is slightly delayed and juxtaposed with an oddly jaunty bit of music that precedes it. Dr. No also establishes the idea of a showy opening credits sequence, albeit in slightly more primitive fashion and with a tendency to switch music unexpectedly, as if someone were fiddling with a radio dial.
The traits of Bond himself are all there, including his tendency to throw out ironic quips (just a few here, but still unmistakable), his flirtatious relationship with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), his humorously tense relationship with his boss M (Bernard Lee), and his propensity for gambling, fine couture, vodka martinis, and bedding multiple women before the final reels. The appearance of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder emerging from the Caribbean in a white bikini and a hunting knife established the fundamental traits of the “Bond girl”: a mix of outlandish sexuality and fiery independence that nevertheless still requires Bond to rescue her in the end. The fact that the film is named after the villain suggests the increasingly important nature of a showy bad guy, especially one with some kind of physical quirk (for Dr. No, it is his metal hands) and a ridiculously complex lair.
Still, Dr. No is hardly a perfect template for things to come, and in that respect it stands apart from the films that followed in its wake. The character of Q, the master of gadgets and gizmos, was yet to be introduced, and as a result Bond has to reply primarily on his wits to survive (at one point he and several others resort to using hollow reeds as breathing tubes to escape detection in a river). The globe-trotting nature of the Bond cannon is also truncated, as it gives us a steamy, exotic locale in Jamaica, but keeps all the action situated there. It wouldn’t be until 1964’s Goldfinger, the third entry in the series, that all the pieces would come together to form what became known over the ensuing decades as a “Bond film.” But, even without everything firmly in place, Dr. No is a fascinating and intriguing spy yarn, one that illustrates without a doubt that more is not always more.
|Dr. No Ultimate Edition Two-DVD Set|
|The Ultimate Edition of Dr. No is available exclusively as part of “The James Bond Ultimate Edition: Volume 4” box set, which also includes completely remastered two-disc DVD sets of You Only Live Twice, Octopussy, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Moonraker.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Thai|
|Distributor||Metro Goldwyn Mayer|
|SRP||$89.98 (box set)|
|Release Date||December 12, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|For the new “Ultimate Edition” box set, MGM commissioned Lowry Digital Images to go back to the original camera negatives, scan them in 4K, and then digitally restore the films frame-by-frame. The result is nothing short of superb, far exceeding the previously available Bond DVDs. Dr. No, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, looks incredible. The image looks pristine, with not a hint to suggest that the film is more than four decades old. Colors are bright and natural looking, and detail level is outstanding. It is literally like seeing the film for the first time. The soundtrack options include newly mixed DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, as well as the original monaural track for purists. The two surround tracks are both clean and strong, with excellent fidelity and a good sense of spaciousness. Some of the remixed surround effects feel a bit forced at times, but that is nearly unavoidable when expanding one track into six.|
|The supplements on this disc include an intriguing mixture of the new and the old. The audio commentary is held together by Bond expert John Cork (who also produced and directed most of the other supplements) and mixes in clips from interviews done with key members of the film’s cast and crew over many years. Those interviewed include 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 vice president of marketing Jerry Juroe; production designer Ken Adam; former United Artists executive David Picker; associate producer Stanley Sopel; location manager Chris Blackwell; photographer Bunny Yeager; stuntmen Richard Graydon, Bert Luxford, and George Leech; and Dana Broccoli, wife of producer Albert R. Broccoli. From that list alone you can get a sense of how comprehensive this commentary is, in terms of discussing both Dr. No and the James Bond series as a whole. |
The second disc opens with an 11-minute featurette titled “007: License to Restore,” which focuses on what Lowry Digital Images did to scan and restore not only Dr. No, but the other films in the series, as well. There are brief interviews with key personnel and before-and-after examples of how the films were cleaned up. “The Guns of James Bond” is an odd bit from the BBC archives: a promotional featurette dating from the mid-1960s in which a Scottish gun expert discusses the guns used in the James Bond films and then personally demonstrates the differences between what a Beretta, a Walther PPK, and a .44 Magnum will do to a can of tomato juice. “Premier Bond” is an 11-minute featurette narrated by producer Michael Wilson that takes us through the world premieres of every official Bond film using film and video footage and still images.
The “007 Mission Control” is a rather pointless section that simply offers clips from the film. It is organized into seven main sections: 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations. The last of these is actually somewhat interesting because it is hosted by Octopussy herself, Maud Adams, and offers information about Jamaica beyond just film clips. “Inside Dr. No,” an in-depth 42-minute documentary about the making of the film, is infinitely better, even if it’s not anamorphic (it previously appeared on the 2000 Special Edition DVD). It covers not only the making of the film, but how the Bond franchise was started. “Terence Young: Bond Vivant” is a 17-minute featurette about the director who established the style of the Bond films. Numerous people with whom he worked wax poetic about what a great and innovative director he was (not to mention a stylish and fun man), although they curiously fail to mention that he helmed the great disaster that was Inchon (1982).
In addition to the “Guns of James Bond” featurette, there is also another circa-1963 promotional film. Running about eight minutes in length and presented in scratchy black and white, it features Albert R. Broccoli talking about how James Bond was brought to life on the screen, with special emphasis on the importance of Sean Connery (they were clearly trying to sell the audience on the actor). There are also an assortment of theatrical trailers for Dr. No, two of which are for double features with From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, as well as some TV and radio spots. An extensive set of stills galleries give us plenty of behind-the-scenes photos, international poster art, and a few shots of a “lost” scene in which Honey was supposed to be attacked by crabs.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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