MGM // 1962 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // May 4th, 2000
You are just a stupid policeman...whose time has run out.
It was 1962 and for the first time the world would hear the question asked, "And you are?."
Like a shot across the bow Bond, James Bond would take the world by storm. The brainchild of author Ian Fleming, agent 007, license to kill, would define manhood for more than one generation.
The gadgets would come later but the style, courtesy of Director Terence Young, was present from the very beginning.
For his first adventure 007 is sent to Jamaica to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a MI6 operative.
From the moment Bond steps off the plane he finds himself followed and attacked. Eventually Bond meets CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord of Hawaii 5-0 fame) and a local fisherman named Quarrel (John Kitzmiller). Together the three of them start putting together the pieces. Their investigation leads them to one Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) who it turns out is under the employ of one Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman). The late MI6 operative had the Professor examine some ore samples from private property owned by Dr. No. Turns out these samples are very radioactive. It is the radioactive nature of the samples that has the US government concerned, for they fear it will affect a missile launch that is scheduled for the following day. Bond and Quarrel set out to investigate Dr. No's Island under cover of night.
After reaching the island the pair meet a young girl named Honey Rider (Ursula Andress), who is hunting for seashells.
Being the unlucky three, they are found by Dr. No's men and Quarrel is killed. Captured and placed in a decontamination procedure Bond and Rider are brought to No's underground lair.
What follows is expected. Bond and No meet. There is civil discourse while No explains his plan and sends Bond away to his presumed death. Bond escapes, frees the girl, kills the villain, saves the world and gets some well deserved attention from the beautiful woman. Roll credits and see you next time. Nice to know some things don't change, isn't it?
It was quite the experience watching The World Is Not Enough one day and then going back to Dr. No the next. Besides getting the overwhelming sense of little things have really changed, its amazing to look at Dr. No and realize just how well the original holds up.
Because of the efforts of Young, editor Peter Hunt, composer Monty Norman and production designer Ken Adam Dr. No is an exercise in masculine and muscular style. Together the group, including producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, gave the world a film that is timeless in the best sense of the word, while also serving as a templet for what has turned into a multimillion dollar industry.
As James Bond, Sean Connery would make his mark on the role so thoroughly that comparisons are still made to this day. Connery's Bond is cold, cruel, sexy and funny. His 007 could just as easily bed down a woman one moment and coldly do away with her the next. It is one of those performances where the audience is left wondering, where does the character begin and where does the actor end?
As the first "Bond" woman Ursula Andress is the ultimate alpha male fantasy. The blonde amazon who makes her first appearance rising out of the water, tanned and wet. Innocent because of the seashells in her hands but with a sense of danger, because of the knife at her side. She does indeed look like her name, Honey. There would be better actresses that would follow but none that would have the raw sexuality of Andress.
As Bond's adversary, Joseph Wiseman brings a silent sense of danger to his portrayal of Dr. No. A genius who has seen fit to use his power for evil rather than for good, No is quiet and calm, masking a rage that is always below the surface. Wiseman plays the character with a sense of restraint that makes the character truly dangerous. It is also the kind of restraint that has been absent too often in subsequent films. It's a solid performance.
MGM has seen fit to present Dr. No in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with an anamorphic transfer. This is the same transfer that was on the original release of the disc back in 1997 and as before, it rarely shows its age. While I did find the image to be a little soft in spots, its still a strong picture. Colors were surprisingly bright and lush with virtually no enhancement noticeable. All of the blacks and shadows used in the film were solid with no bleed but again, there was a certain degree of detail missing. There are some problems to be expected from a print that is almost 40 years old, but bothersome things like scratches and the like were kept to a bare minimum.
Another surprise was how well the disc sounded. For a sound track that is Dolby Digital mono, what is heard is clear and dynamic. Monty Norman's jazzy score is heard to very good effect and dialogue, for the most part, is clear and distortion free. I can't imagine the disc sounding or looking any better than it does now.
For a great movie MGM has pulled out the stops with a great special edition for Dr. No. The highlight of the extras is the making of documentary "Inside Dr. No." At 43 minutes it is informative and entertaining. It provides a very good run down on the planning and work that went into getting the film produced in the first place. Between this and the other documentary "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" the true extent of Terence Young's contribution to the Bond mythos is revealed. Both are two of the best examples of what supplemental material can do for a DVD release and why so many of us jumped into the DVD pool.
There is also a semi-scene specific commentary track hosted by John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation. It is an edited track that features over 20 people. While informative in spots, I found it sometimes slow and difficult going.
Rounding out the package is another featurette done around the time of the film's release and it is funny in a dated kind of way. There are also two trailers for Dr. No as well as trailers for the double bills of Dr. No/From Russia With Love and Goldfinger/Dr. No. All of the trailers are presented in full-frame looking old and worn out. In addition you've got the original television ads and radio spots. To close out this section I just want to mention the work MGM has put into the menus for this second wave of Bond films. They are fantastic, being both pleasing to the eye and true to the film. Thanks very much MGM.
I can't really think of anything negative to say about either the film or the disc. Unlike some Bond films that would follow, I never found Dr. No boring or dated. If you are not a fan of this genre, I can't see Dr. No making you one.
Putting the film in some degree of historical context, Dr. No was one of the first pieces of popular entertainment that would dig so deep into our culture that it became its own sub-genre. Okay. That was my bid for the arthouse crowd.
For the rest of you, what more do you need to know? It's Sean Connery as Bond. It's Ursula Andress as über-babe Honey Rider. M and Moneypenny are there. It's even got Steve MacGarrett himself in some of the most whacked out looking shades I've ever seen.
The disc looks and sounds better than it has in 38 years. It has a wealth of extra goodies. So the only question is, what are you reading this for? Pop this baby in, shake but don't stir a martini, kick back and enjoy the retro-ride.
Far be it for this judge to argue with 38 years and 19 films worth of success. Mr. Bond and company are released to save the world further. MGM is once again thanked for the royal treatment they have afforded their number one cash cow, however I would like them to meet me in my chambers for a discussion of the non-anamorphic status of The Princess Bride. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2000 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Audio Commentary Featuring Director Terence Young, The Cast And Crew
* "Inside Dr. No" Documentary
* "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" Documentary
* Still Gallery
* Original TV Ads
* Radio Spots
* Original Theatrical Trailers
* Official Site