Dr. No - Bond 50 Box Set Blu-ray Review
We’ve seen this transfer of Dr. No before. And it’s a belter.
It turns up for duty with an AVC encode and a 1.66:1 image. One of the Lowry restorations, this was the hi-def upgrade that simply wowed almost everyone who laid eyes on it back when the first slew of Bond BD’s were released. Naturally, with it being the oldest of the series there was an assumption that it could have looked the worst. But with the care and attention that it has received, the image is vibrant, detailed, clean and sharp without too much in the way of egregious digital manipulation spoiling things. Edges aren't enhanced, and there's no aliasing taking place.
DNR has been used … and necessarily so. But not to any level of detriment to the original texture of the print. Grain remains but is taken down to an even layer that remains steadfastly unobtrusive. Fine detail remains throughout. The Bond films - especially the Connery ones - always seem to boast a lot of facial intensity. They wore a fair bit of makeup in those days, I know, but faces do tend to appear quite dark and swarthy, and many of them – Connery, Lee, Dawson’s Professor Dent – are possessed of such fascinating crags, lines and character that the background scenery can just as well disappear into a blurred soup for all the attention you’ll be paying to it. Thankfully, of course, there are traces of any blurred soup here. The Jamaican environs are resplendently presented with colour, warmth and clarity. It is true that these Connery films tend to look a little darker than they have appeared before, a touch earthier, with deeper blacks, a harder contrast and a ruddier, heavier palette. But I would hesitate before condemning them, Dr. No and Thunderball in particular, as being “grubby” – a tag that I’ve encountered from a few people.
Shadows may not be as exactingly refined as those in newer transfers, but they are certainly rewarding enough for me, offering up some fine mystery and menace, such as when Dent is presented with the tarantula in that incredible Ken Adams set with the vast oval grate in the ceiling, and helping to deliver a good sense of visual depth. Fidelity is bright and smartly saturated. Before its arrival on BD, Dr. No had never looked so colourful or so vivid. The primaries are thick and deep and thrust from the image without any hint of smearing or banding. Sylvia Trench’s red dress, Bond’s blue shirt and pants combo – the sort of kit you need when go infiltrating enemy strongholds – the oriental garb that Honey slithers into and the glaring red shirt that Quarrel wears all pop with the sort of visual energy that makes the film look brilliantly lively. Splashes of blood and flames are also sharp and clean, with the exploding hearse and the spitting fire from Dr. No’s Dragon-vehicle looking quite delightfully intense. The greens and blues of the island setting are often gorgeous to behold. Whilst the swamp area in which Quarrel gets “fired” and Bond and Honey are captured looks murky and unpleasant, the beach idyll and the glen surround Dunns River Falls look very appealing. The blue skies look more uniform and the foliage has more life and vigour to it. Skin-tones? Well, just look at Honey Ryder’s glistening body. No complaints here. And, of course, we can see the snug little bathing costume that she is wearing during the radiation-cleansing process a touch more clearly now, too. Curses!
There might be a couple of tiny little frame-skips here and there, but the print is in terrific condition and there is consistency to its visual appearance and restoration. There are no sections when the quality seems to dip.
Now half a century old, Dr. No has scrubbed-up very nicely for Bond’s big birthday boxset.
Well, as far as I am concerned, Dr. No was never going to sound amazing despite the clean-up job on the audio and the mix being presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Although the film was audacious and inventive in terms of its sound design – both the music and the effects – the audio is understandably restricted by its mono elements. Now, whilst some discrete effects have been reasonably stretched out to reach the surrounds, such as the hearse carrying the Three Blind Mice assassins careering down the side of the mountain and going up in flames, which thunders over to the rear-right, and a couple of explosions as Dr. No’s base blows up which have an impact in the rears, this is a respectful mix that doesn’t over-embellish things needlessly.
Gunshots don’t have all that much bite. Some of them are silenced, of course, but even the machinegun sweeps that the gunner on Dr. No’s patrol boat makes, stitching along the sand-ridge that Bond and Honey and Quarrel are hiding behind, lack much in the way of impact. Some attempt has been made to add some surround to this, but I wouldn’t say that it was particularly effective. The sudden electric shock that Bond gets from the grill in his cell is quite good, though – really sparking with finger-melting intensity from the mix. The resulting clangs when Bond is able to punch or kick these grills away from their moorings sound lacklustre, however. But the big “blaster-beam” like effect that rips through the shaft Bond is climbing along comes with appropriate depth and a finely rendered SF snap.
What I will say though is that I found several instances when dialogue seemed to drop. I don’t recall this from the previous disc that was released, and nobody I know who has this set has commented upon it, so it may just be confined to my disc for some unknown reason. But even beyond this possibly limited anomaly, I found that I had to crank the volume up a fair bit more than is usual the case to reach a comfortable level. There is an odd little moment of dislocation and reverb to some speech from Professor Dent but dialogue, on the whole though, is nicely presented and even if it sounds a little tinny and hollow offers a welcome degree of character and nuance.
By far the best element of the mix is the score. The James Bond Theme really sizzles with energy and width, energetically arranged and delightfully upfront and bold. The many source cues have vibrancy and warmth, but the overall sense of ambience in the more crowded locations is only vaguely developed.
This edition does not contain the original mono mix that was present on the previous standalone release, which may cause some consternation.
Q Branch outfits us with a familiar range of extras. I will simply list what is on offer because I’m sure that most people have been through them all by now.
Audio Commentary with director Terence Young and members of the cast and crew.
007 Licence to Restore – Lowry Digital Images Rejuvenates James Bond (11.55 mins)
The Guns of James Bond (5.07 mins)
Premier Bond – Opening Night (5.07 mins)
Inside Dr. No (42.05 mins) Excellent stuff!
Terence Young – Bond Vivent (17.55 mins)
Dr. No 1963 featurette (8.40 mins)
TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers and Radio Spots
Stills Gallery Image Database
A very proud and exciting beginning to one of the most popular and enduring movie franchises in Cinema history, Dr. No starts the ball rolling in considerable style.
Sean Connery takes the character of James Bond by the scruff of the neck and hauls him from the pages of Ian Fleming’s bestsellers with passion and gusto. Aided immeasurably by director Terence Young, who moulded this unique interpretation so perfectly that it became the template for the rest of the series, and even won over its literary creator who had been initially dismissive of Connery’s live-action take.
Iconic with Ursula Andress’ glistening arrival like a goddess from the sea, and fascinating with the ruthless predatory guile of Connery’s unstoppable 007, the film hardly even seems to have dated. Oh, the fashions, the equipment, the weaponry and the effects may be pure 60’s, but the sheer panache and pop-culture ensnaring bravado remains just as sizzlingly captivating and awesome as ever.
The film also benefits from having a proper story and a sense of mystery and threat. Bond reveals some vital everyday skills for having survived as an agent for MI6, and we get, in a glorious economy of skill and absolute class, just who this guy is and how he operates. All the elements are present and correct and traditional “classic” Bond was born.
Quite simply the cinematic world would never be the same again.
An outstanding film in the series, Dr. No is unquestionably one of the Best of Bond. And a great restored transfer and an interesting array of supplements seal the deal.
Bond has been returning for fifty years since this smash-hit debut, and there is no reason why he can’t keep doing so for another fifty. As long as there are women to fall for his deadly charms and blokes to envy his confident bravado and sheer machismo – and bad guys to keep challenging him – Bond will go on.
Typically awesome and just as hugely entertaining now as it ever was, Dr. No is the first bolt of lightning caught in a bottle that has been stuffed to the gills with them ever since.
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