"World domination. That same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they're Napoleon...or God." —James Bond, Dr. No
The landscape of action cinema changed forever in 1962, with the release of Dr. No. Adapted from Ian Fleming's 1958 novel, the film introduced to screen audiences superspy James Bond, a "double-oh" agent with a license to kill. Producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman proved to be geniuses in their choices, particularly Sean Connery as 007, Ursula Andress as initial "Bond girl" Honey Ryder, and Terence Young as director (Connery would return for five more official Bond outings, Young for two).
The Bond series developed a winning formula, and this prototypical adventure featured many elements that stuck: a stylish title sequence by Maurice Binder (including the traveling ellipses becoming a view down the barrel of a gun), Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme," sexy Bond girls, a "shaken not stirred" vodka martini, a Walther PPK sidearm, a tuxedoed Bond in a casino (the first time we see him, introducing himself as "Bond, James Bond"), Bond's CIA counterpart Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), lethal action, an exotic locale, and a climax in the secret compound of a strange supervillain. The story is named for said supervillain, a handless Eurasian spy (and card-carrying member of SPECTRE) intent on sabotaging the U.S. rocket program. Joseph Wiseman played said "yellow menace," whose urbane charm tempered Fleming's tribute to Fu Manchu. (Bond's Jamaican ally Quarrel, played by John Kitzmiller, offered a bit of friendlier diversity.)
Great location work in Jamaica highlights the first Bond outing, shot on a thrifty $1 million budget. Production designer Ken Adam set the bar high with his memorable set designs, and editor Peter Hunt began his own long run with the series. The screenplay by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkley Mather effortlessly established the series' verbal patterns: the villain's velvety civility, Bond's playful "repartée" with MI6 boss "M" (Bernard Lee) and his personal secretary Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), and Bond's quippy suaveness in the field (replete with double entendres like "Tell me, Miss Trench, do you play any other games?"). Connery cuts a dashing figure: cool under pressure and fierce in action. The action in Dr. No is rudimentary (in one of the film's lesser fights, Hunt resorts to sped-up film to sell a Connery judo throw), but it's a start.
More importantly, Dr. No didn't back off of Fleming's sexual adventurousness. Bond beds three women in well under two hours, establishing the character's predatory, loveless sexuality. While women swooned for Connery, the buxom Andress set men's hearts, and other organs, aflutter while rising from the deep in a clingy bikini. It's perhaps the most indelible image in a film full of them. Broccoli and Saltzman couldn't suspect the degree to which they were making film history, but Dr. No successfully launched screen's most enduring franchise, with twenty-two outings and counting.
Part of the new Blu-ray wave of Bond releases, Dr. No looks stunning in a full-HD transfer of the Lowry Digital restoration, along with the full suite of extras from the recent DVD Ultimate Edition (with two key featurettes kicked up to full HD!). The transfer comes fully endorsed by restoration/home theater expert Robert A. Harris, and he's right: without sacrificing the filmmaker's original intent, the decades-old film looks good as new. A frame-by-frame process leaves Dr. No looking spotless, colorful, tight, and gloriously detailed. As remastered in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio, the film's soundtrack has never sounded so good on home video. Fox deserves kudos for including not only a creative 5.1 mix but the film's original mono track, so purists can make up their own mind as they view and review this old favorite.
As with all of the Bond titles, Dr. No comes with a staggering array of bonus features. The audio commentary narrated by Bond historian John Cork gathers comments (recorded separately) by 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 VP marketing Jerry Juroe, production designer Ken Adam, former UA executive David Picker, associate producer Stanley Sopel, location manager Chris Blackwell, photographer Bunny Yeager, stuntmen Richard Graydon, Bert Luxford and George Leech, and producer's wife Dana Broccoli. This masterful film-history track gives the full story behind the launching of the Bond franchise and the film itself, including the location shoot in Jamaica, the low budget, the cast and crew, the music, the editing, and more.
"007: Licence to Restore" (11:55) gives the lowdown on the Bond restoration and new hi-def transfers, with MGM vice president of technical services Scott Grossman, MGM director of technical services James Owsley, Lowry Digital Images president Michael Inchalik, LDI founder and CEO John Lowry (who gives us the grand tour), chief color scientist Price Pethel, and project managers Ryan Gomez, Patrick Cooper, Andrea Avila, Jackie Lopez and Stephanie Middler.
Declassified: MI6 Vault delivers "The Guns of James Bond" (5:07), a featurette created during the shoot for Goldfinger. Sean Connery introduces us to gun expert Jeffrey Boothroyd, the inspiration for Major Boothroyd, who explains the background on Bond's firearms. Also here: "Premiere Bond: Opening Nights" (13:08), in which Bond series producer Michael G. Wilson narrates photos and footage of various Bond premieres up through Die Another Day. The 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide comprises "007," "Women," "Allies," "Villains," "Mission Combat Manual," "Q Branch," and "Exotic Locations." Here we get the opening credits without text (2:40), while “Locations” (2:35) also supplies a set of clips narrated by Maud Adams.
Mission Dossier kicks off with "Into the World of Dr. No" (42:10 in HD). This documentary covers the origins of the Bond series as well as the film's production. Picker, Dana Broccoli, Wilson, Young, Sopel, Connery, Adam, Blackwell, Hunt, Maxwell, Gayson, Andress, Lewars, Moxon, Norman, Cain, Wanstall, co-producer Harry Saltzman’s son Steven, clothier Simon Hobbs, and composer John Barry are those interviewed. "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" (17:57 in HD) focuses on the director of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Participants include Graydon, Wilson, Andress, Hunt, Adam, Leech, Cain, Picker, Maxwell, Stears, Young’s daughter Juliet Nissen, and actors Mollie Peters, Desmond Llewelyn, Luciana Paluzzi, and Martine Beswick.
The vintage, black-and-white "Dr. No 1963 Featurette" (8:40) gives an insight into the film's promotion, as do several pieces filed under Ministry of Propaganda: four Theatrical Trailers (two for the original release of Dr. No, two from double-feature re-releases), two TV Spots, and six Radio Spots. The Image Database includes about 160 shots in eight categories.
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