James Bond
Doctor No

Starring: Sean Connery
16160DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

Agent James Bond travels to Jamaica to investigate the sabotage of US space rocket tests, and finds himself battling against an enigmatic megalomaniac called Dr. No...

I have to confess, I wasn't going to buy the Bonds on DVD. I already owned them all, barring The World is Not Enough, on widescreen VHS, and so I was loathe to part with my hard-earned cash to buy the same films over again, despite the promised extras. But then I figured I might as well get TWINE on DVD. There was an offer on at the video store, and so I bought Dr. No as well... Then I was hooked, and it wasn't long before I was collecting the whole darned lot. Curse you, MGM, for making these special-edition DVDs so irresistible!

Each release features at least two "making of" documentaries - one covering the specific movie, the other on a more general theme. In the case of Dr. No, the second doco deals with director Terence Young, who also oversaw From Russia with Love and Thunderball. Young is revealed to be a veritable James Bond himself, with a taste for the finer things in life, whose contribution to the series, in particular the smoothing out of Sean Connery's rough edges, is frequently underestimated.

Each movie can also be played with at least one audio commentary. With the earlier films, these are usually spliced together from various interviews, both old and new, rather than being the specially recorded reminiscences of members of the production team. The former is the case here, but I happen to prefer this type, as it can often prove more informative than the latter, being less dependent on the fading memories of the commentators. Vintage publicity material has also been dug up and dusted off (though not cleaned up half as well as the main movie has been). These goodies include trailers, radio adverts and a crackly black-and-white American featurette from 1963. Watch out for the presenter reading quite obviously from an autocue!

With so many features to play with, the film itself seems almost incidental. However, the documentaries help to rekindle one's interest even if, like me, you've seen the film many times before. What appears in retrospect to be comparatively cheap-and-cheerful by Bond movie standards is put into historical context. One is reminded that there had never been a movie like this before, certainly not a British one, and it is fascinating to see 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, who was cast on location, and the extra who gunned him down on screen just happened to be his dentist!

Although the famous Bond gadgets do not make an appearance, 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 Ken Adam sets, and even in the fast-cut editing style of Peter Hunt. Say "yes" to Dr. No!

Richard McGinlay.