James Bond
Dr. No
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Sean Connery
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

His name is Bond, James Bond. In his explosive film debut, Ian Fleming's immortal action hero travels to Jamaica to investigate the assassination of an agent and his secretary. 007 meets the beautiful Honey Ryder and battles the mysterious Dr. No, a megalomaniac scientific genius intent on destroying the American space programme...

Some fans may be annoyed by the fact that the official Bond movies are being reissued on DVD - particularly if, like me, you already replaced your widescreen VHS collection when the previous batch of DVDs came out in 2000. However, there's plenty here to tempt 007 aficionados, especially those who have not yet forked out for all the DVD releases.

For example, the older films have been painstakingly restored frame by frame. The previous release of Dr. No looked pretty darned good to me, but technology has improved considerably over the years, and now it looks even better. Also, for the first time, all 20 movies now have DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. These processes are described in a brand-new featurette, Licence to Restore.

Thankfully (with the notable exception of Die Another Day), the special features from the previous releases have been retained on the new editions. In the case of Dr. No, these include the two fascinating "making of" documentaries: one covering the production of the movie, the other dealing with director Terence Young, who also oversaw From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Young is revealed to be a veritable James Bond himself, a debonair gentleman with a taste for the finer things in life, whose contribution to the series, in particular smoothing out Sean Connery's rough edges, is often overlooked.

The director, together with other members of the cast and crew, can also be heard on the audio commentary. With the early films, commentaries are usually spliced together from various interviews, both old and recent, rather than specially recorded reminiscences of members of the production team. The former is the case here, and I happen to prefer this type, as it can often prove more informative than the latter, being less dependent on the fading memories or cliquey comments of the speakers.

Vintage publicity material has also been dug up and dusted off (though not cleaned up as the main feature has been). These goodies include trailers, radio adverts and a crackly black-and-white American featurette from 1963. Watch out for the presenter quite obviously reading from an autocue! Newly discovered archive material, The Guns of James Bond and Premiere Bond, is also presented on DVD for the first time.

Though disc 2 was not available for review, the format of the special features is consistent across the series. The Mission Dossier section contains the documentaries from the previous DVD release. Declassified: MI6 Vault presents newly unearthed material. Ministry of Propaganda is where you will find theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots, while Image Database is (yes, you guessed it) the photo gallery.

007 Mission Control is less useful. Billed as an interactive guide to the world of James Bond, this is in fact essentially just a selection of themed clips on subjects such as 007, the Bond girls, allies, villains, action sequences, gadgets and locations. However, the "007" section usually contains a text-free version of the opening titles sequence, which is of some interest.

The series has sexy new menu screens, though the jury is still out as to the pros and cons of the new collection's consistent look versus the variety provided by the old series' menus.

With so many special features to play with, the movie itself seems almost incidental. However, the documentaries and commentary help to rekindle one's interest even if, like me, you've seen this film umpteen times before.

What may appear these days to be comparatively cheap and cheerful by Bond movie-making standards is put into historical context. One is reminded that there had never been a movie like this before, certainly not a British-made one, and it is fascinating to observe how the production team found ways to stretch their meagre budget to create a film that appears far more expensive than it actually was. For instance, the actor who played Strangways was a resident of Jamaica, cast on location, while the extra who gunned him down on screen was his dentist!

Although the famous Bond gadgets do not make an appearance here (apart from a Geiger counter) and the humour is not as apparent as in later films, Dr. No is far from humourless. Dark wit is present in the dialogue ("See that he doesn't get away," says Connery, referring to the corpse in his car), in the larger-than-life sets from production designer Ken Adam, and even in the fast-cutting style of editor Peter Hunt.

Best of all, the price is actually cheaper than that of the single-disc DVD in 2000! So it's still worth saying "yes" to Dr. No.

Richard McGinlay

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