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November 4, 2008
Dr. No Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
196212/11/2008FoxTerence Young
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGSean Connery

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Sean Connery in the very first James Bond movie.

Dr. No will be forever known for two things. The first being that this is the first James Bond movie, and the second being the stunning entrance of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder walking out of the water on the beach. If you're a James Bond fan you will know how important this movie was in setting up many of the key concepts including that brilliant line, "Bond, James Bond", his womanising ways, and love of gambling.

An agent of the British Secret Service, James Bond (007), is sent out to the West Indies in order to find out why another of his number was killed. His arrival is not welcomed by everyone, but it is not long before he is on the trail of the killer. The trail leads to a secretive scientist, Dr. No, but the discovery has wider implications...

It really is quite remarkable how this movie came to be, with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman joining forces to bring the Ian Fleming books to the silver screen. It was a massive risk, but the end product is one which capture imaginations, massive box office dollars and turn Sean Connery into a household name along the way. It's clear that he has plenty of charm, sex appeal and charisma to pull of the character of James Bond. Being the first movie in the franchise the budget was very limited (around $US1 million) so the sets and action sequences are rather limited.

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Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in Dr. No.
Having said that Dr. No remains an engrossing movie with a solid storyline surrounding assassinated agents, and some secret goings on at a very secure island. Almost like the recent Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig this is a very raw, gadgetless James Bond on show here, and it's all the better for it. It seems that the more fantastical, unbelievable the gadgets the movies seem to get. Here James Bond uses his wits and skills (and even his singing talent), and is pretty brutal too in places.

As the first in the James Bond franchise Dr. No is a fantastic movie, although it is certainly tamer then later titles and lack all the gadgets (which in our book isn't a bad thing anyway). This movie still contains the women, suspense, villains and the thrills to make this the great movie that we all know and love.

Dr. No comes to Blu-Ray in the rather unusual ratio of 1.66:1 which was the intended aspect ratio for the film in Europe upon release. What this means, is that on a HDTV you will notice small borders on the left and right of the image. The film has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec at 1080p and is free of compression artifacts.

Now over 46 years old you can't expect much from a movie like this on Blu-Ray can you? Well you can, and the quality of this movie is absolutely stunning. This transfer has come from the original camera negatives and has undergone significant restoration at Lowry's labs using the John Lowry process. Colours are rich and vibrant, small details and textures look wonderful, and there are no film artifacts at all.

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Dr No looks wonderful on Blu-Ray.
There were though a couple of issues. We did notice a couple of occasions where frames skipped. These are certainly cuts in the film rather then errors in the encoding, but it would have been nice for the filmmakers to go back and try to smooth these jumps with a couple of key frames - especially with today’s technology. We also felt that some of the blacks in the movie weren't as dark as we would have expected, but that's not a major issue. More disappointing though are the scenes in low light between 1:00:41 and 1:01:04 as James Bond is rowing towards the island. There are some very strange patterns in the skies which are quite visible and very distracting. Still given the age of the film, and the overall quality this is a minor blemish.

When Dr. No was released in cinemas it was presented with mono sound. This disc though includes audio in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which has seen the original soundtrack remixed to make use of surround sound channels and the sub woofer. This mix, while not as lively or accurate as today's blockbusters still sounds remarkably good for a movie pushing 50 years of age.

There was a point in the movie though, at 1:20:54 for a few minutes when James Bond and Honey Ryder enter Dr. No's underground buildings where the sound level seemed to drop back quite a bit. In fact, it's quite hard to hear Sister Lily when she first greets, and then continues to talk to them. Another disappointment I have with this disc is that the original English Mono soundtrack isn't included. Why would I want this when there is a wonderful DTS-HD Master Audio track included you ask? Well for the sake of history and historical accuracy. I would love to hear how this disc sounded in its original theatrical release. Surely a 1 channel soundtrack couldn’t have taken up too much space on this 50GB Dual layer disc - by our count perhaps 200MB or so.

Other languages on this disc include German and French DTS tracks encoded at 768kbps, and Spanish, Portuguese and Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 448kbps. Naturally as you go down in bitrate the quality seems to decrease slightly, however this isn't too noticeable on this disc due to the original source material. Subtitles are provided in over 20 different languages on this disc - for the main feature as well as the commentary. Sampling the English track demonstrated its accuracy to dialogue on screen.

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Time to get up Mr Bond...
All the extras on this disc have been seen on the Ultimate Edition DVD's, however some extras here, including the main featurettes have been upgraded to High Definition video.

Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young and Cast and Crew: As well as director Terence Young this commentary features John Cork from the Ian Fleming Foundation who introduces the person talking, and the topic being discussed. Well structured, and detailed this is a fascinating commentary which is a great listen.

007: License to Restore (11:56): This brilliant featurette looks at the restoration process that took place to prepare these films (it looks at many of them), scan them in at 4K, and clean up the prints in order to release them on DVD/Blu-Ray. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't encode this feature in HD to show the difference between the originals, the DVD and then the Blu-Ray versions. Still, well worth a look.

The Guns of James Bond (5:06): A look at the two weapons used by James Bond (Beretta and Walther PPK) in Dr No including the differences between them. The featurette was made around the same time as the movie and include clips with Sean Connery.

Premiere Bond: Opening Nights (13:09): A rather interesting look at the premieres that occurred for all the James Bond movies up to Die Another Day with plenty of still photos, and for later movies, video footage. It also lists the numerous charities that have benefitted from the premiere screenings. Sadly this feature doesn't include anything from the Daniel Craig James Bond era.

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James Bond wearing a dressing gown?!
Mission Control (HD): This interesting featurette allows you to pick a topic such as the women, locations or villains, and then a key word or scene and jump directly to that part of the movie to have a look.

Mission Dossier: Inside Dr. No (42:10/HD): Presented in High Definition this is a brilliant documentary which looks at the making of Dr No. This documentary covers the creation of James Bond, the lead up to the movies production, casting Sean Connery, filming the movie, adding the sound effects and its release.

Mission Dossier: Terence Young, Bond Vivant (17:57/HD): A great look at the first director of a James Bond movie who has led the way for generations for following directors. This documentary is a series of interviews from actors, other industry figures, and family about the director but also covers his life and filmmaking career. Interesting, but a little too praising at times.

Mission Dossier: Dr. No 1963 Featurette (8:40): While poor in quality this featurette is an original 1963 documentary to promote the film. A wonderful inclusion on this disc.

Ministry of Propaganda (11:07/HD): Three different theatrical promotions for Dr. No including a traditional trailer (in HD), and more 'infomercial' type advertisements (in SD). Two TV advertisements are provided as well, and also six radio commercials.

Image Database: The name says it all really with dozens of still images from the production of the movie split up into eight different categories. No audio or text to detail what you're seeing disappoints.

As the first movie in the now twenty two strong franchise this is an important release. Even today the movie holds up quite well, and the transfer to Blu-Ray is superb. An essential purchase for any James Bond fan.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.