Dr. No

Dr. No (1962)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bernard Lee, Joseph Wiseman
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Interactive Guide, Image Gallery, Trailers

The James Bond titles have been some of the most stellar and memorable DVD releases in the past and eagerly, of course, we were awaiting the first of the films to appear on Blu-Ray. The first of the Broccoli-produced movies, the 1962 classic "Dr. No" is among the first titles selected for Blu-Ray release, making it the perfect candidate to see how it has turned out, since it is the film that started it all. James Bond graced the silver screen for the first time and introduced the world to the British secret agent, masterfully played by Scotsman Sean Connery. Director Terence Young created a vision for the film that was very stylish, tasteful and dynamic, a mix that we would later find repeated in every single installment of the series, even the inofficial 1967 spoof "Casino Royale." Not knowing what impact his film would have, Young managed to create a blend of erotic sensuality, exotic locations, upper class style, superb action, gripping thrills and a memorable adversary for the agent with the license to kill.

James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent to investigate a case in Jamaica, where one of the secret service people, Dr. Strangways, has vanished. Upon investigation, Bond finds out that Strangways had been examining the vicinity of a remote island that lies off the shore of Kingston. It is owned by "Dr. No" a man no one seems to know anything about. Bond finds traces of radioactivity that lead to the island. One night he sneaks up to the island in order to find out what "Dr. No" is up to and meets the beautiful seashell collector Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), who knows her way around the island.

I wasn't sure what to expect form the high definition transfer of this movie but it was immediately obvious to me that I was in for a treat. The 1080p transfer that MGM is dishing out here looks like a million bucks. With incredible detail the movie looks wonderfully sharp and brings to life all the textures of the production design to the point that you can count the threads on Dr. No's suit, for example. The transfer is very sharp for the most part, although some of the action sequences are a bit soft – a result of the limitations of the film stock used during the movie's production. Apart from those few shots you will be breathlessly observing all the intricate details in the picture and the incredible depth it has as a result of the deep black levels and wonderful contrast. Quite simply put, "Dr. No" is not only living up to expectations, it quite easily exceeds them.

To add to the experience, the release comes with a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track that adds sonic depth and width to the presentation also. While some of the sound elements – mostly certain dialog elements – still exhibit some harshness due to a limited frequency response, the overall presentation is very pleasant and makes good use of the surround channels. In addition, the film's original mono track is included also to satisfy the purists. The tracks have been cleaned up nicely and you won't find any hiss or background noise in the track.

Like the previous special edition releases of the film, this Blu-Ray version is filled to the brim with cool bonus features and a very cool menu. First up is the commentary track by director Terence Young and a huge number of cast and crew members, which had previously been released on the DVD version. Presented as a series of edited interviews in which the contributors to this track share thoughts, memories and anecdotes about the production of the film, this is not exactly a running commentary as you have come to expect but more of a random anthology of stories about the movie, mostly out of context with what you see on the screen. Nonetheless it is very exciting to hear what all these people have to say about the production, remembering many details vividly even after all these years.

The track is complemented by a series of featurettes covering a large array of aspects of the movie and the Bond franchise as a whole. It is a system that has worked exceedingly well on DVD and has been carried over here to the high definition version as bonus materials across all the films mesh and mingle to create a complete, almost encyclopedic, overview over the James Bond movies as a whole.

"The Guns of James Bond," for example covers the weapons Bond has put to use throughout the years. "Inside Dr. No" is a 42-minute documentary that was part fo the DVD release, featuring a large number of new interviews with the people associated with the film, including Sean Connery, as well as classic interviews and images. It explains the origins of the James Bond character and how it eventually found its way to the silver screen. Featuring a lot of interesting information, this documentary is not to be missed if you are a serious Bond fan, as it mentions many behind-the-scenes details about how the film became what it ultimately is.

Also taken from the DVD is the 22-minute documentary about director Terence Young called "Bond Vivant." Many of the director's collaborators share their thoughts and stories about the director in a refreshing featurette that shows how Young actually fashioned James Bond for the big screen.

The original 1963 black and white featurette that was used to promoted the movie's theatrical start on television is also part of this release. What is truly interesting about this piece is that it shows how the filmmakers and United Artists tried to create an image for James Bond so that people knew what to expect from the movie and bought into it. Although the footage is badly worn and in rather poor shape, this featurette is an addition to the disc that should not be missed.

You will also be treated to a featurette on the film's opening nights on the release, and you will go behind the scenes in a short featurette about the movie's restoration.
The disc also contains "007 Mission Control," an interactive guide into the world of Dr. No as well as an Image Gallery and an assortment of the movie's theatrical trailers, television and radio spots.

Just like it's DVD versions before, this Blu-Ray Disc incarnation of "Dr. No" is simply breathtaking. The Bond franchise are the crown jewels of MGM's film library and I am glad they keep treating it with the utmost respect every single time they create a new release for any of these films. While you may have seen it countless times, trust me, "Dr. No" is definitely worth the upgrade because never has it looked so staggeringly beautiful. Another, well earned "Gold Seal Of Excellence" goes to this release of the first James Bond movie.