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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Dr. No - in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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Make no mistake. Dr. No was a film made on a tiny budget, which it outshines at virtually every turn.

I've heard numerous tales about precisely how the Bond series got its start, and the one that I believe came from a UA exec who delivered the news to Mr. Broccoli and Mr. Saltzman.

After meetings at UA, the pair were ensconced in their Manhattan luxury hotel, and on a particularly hot day, the air conditioning had gone down. When the exec arrived, he found the pair in their suite, nervously pacing in their shorts.

The word from UA was positive. They were going to finance their film.

And they were going to allow them to shoot...

in color.

From these inauspicious beginnings came probably the greatest financial blockbuster of all motion picture series, now hitting number 22.

I'll say it again. Dr. No was an inexpensive film -- probably around one million or less. For those who have not seen the early films in the series, don't expect hundred million dollar extravaganzas. Just terrific filmmaking on a budget.

I presume that it was photographed on Eastman 5250, the same emulsion that was exposed by Freddie Young to capture Lawrence of Arabia, and like many popular films, the original negative saw its share of use.

M-G-M and Eon made a prudent move in permitting Lowry Digital to scan, digitize, and work their magic on the elements. A featurette produced several years ago describes the work performed as restoration, and while I'm not certain whether the actual work performed was restoration or digital cleanup, the final result on Blu-ray is nothing less than spectacular.

There is also something of major importance to the home theater community to be learned here that has measurably increased the carbon footprint of the web since the release of Patton and The Longest Day months ago. And that is a very simply fact regarding noise and grain reduction.

Noise and grain reduction are not, in and of themselves, bad things.

The correct post facility, using the correct (here Lowry's proprietary) techniques, can make a huge difference in the viewing pleasure of films from the last half of the twentieth century.

In this case, a film cropped to 1.66 and therefore enlarged for home video has an attractive sheen of delicate moving grain. Having worked with 5250 and 5251, this does not appear to be the original grain, but good, natural looking grain of a slightly later vintage. And the overall image is beautiful.

What does this mean?

Simple. It means that with the proper tools and the right people behind them, grain can be removed or reduced WITHOUT AFFECTING THE RESOLUTION, DETAIL OR HIGH FREQUENCY INFORMATION.

Dr. No, via the wizards at Lowry Digital, looks far better than it has any right to look. The overall viewing experience is superb. The disc arrives at a street price with a full list of extras of around $23.

The question that I raised earlier, as to whether this film is truly "restored" in the full sense of the word really doesn't come into play here. The single overriding fact is that the Blu-ray is as perfect as it can be. Any modifications to grain in moving toward the final resultant image are secondary, as unlike some of the other films which we consider classics, and which may actually depend upon the original grain structure, the Bond films are and always have been, pure visceral entertainment of the highest order -- more fashion than art, great story-telling, and as they moved from production to production, eventually produced on the grandest of budgetary scales.

This is merely my first look at the new Blu Bonds. I need to spend some quality time with them as I can find the time, and will report back with findings.

Suffice to say that the first episode, Dr. No, went well beyond my expectations. A very high quality disc representing the birth of a behemoth series.

Highly Recommended.

RAH
 

Chris S

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So glad to read your thoughts on Dr. No! I must say that I was more than a little worried that these films would not get the treatment they deserve especially considering the errors present in the last set of Bond DVDs. I'll be picking up the Connery films next week and can't wait to see them for myself.
 

Dave H

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Robert,

Great to hear those background details.

I have a question for you. You stated, "Having worked with 5250 and 5251, this does not appear to be the original grain, but good, natural looking grain of a slightly later vintage. And the overall image is beautiful."

When you say this appears not to be the original grain, but from a later vintage...I'm a bit lost at that comment. At first I thought maybe you were implying grain had been added artificially, but wasn't sure.
 

Robert Harris

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Grain, dependent upon the shot and processing, can be reduced or removed entirely. When the work is performed by the wrong post facility the results can be damaging. When done properly, and it can be done properly, one can get the benefit of a less grainy image, if that is what is desired.

Some films cannot be de-grained without doing major damage to the image, however the Bond films would not fit into that category.

It is sometimes easier to remove and replace with a different grain pattern, which is essentially granular noise, than to reduce. I'm not aware which function was performed here.

When I make note of the different emulsions, each had their own individual grain characteristics. 5251 had a slightly improved image structure over 5250. They could be intercut on productions, and were, although this was not a generally accepted concept during production.

Keep in mind that until Kodak released their family of OCN stocks beginning in the early 1980s, it was generally a single stock for all purposes, which necessitated exposure and processing manipulation, which would affect apparent grain.

If one is able to view an original negative print on Dr. No, they would find that quite a number of the shots have been pushed to a potentially unpleasant point. In all of the early Bond films, there are myriads of stock shots, process shots, less than stellar effects, etc., all of which can be digitally manipulated to some success for Blu-ray, which is of a high enough resolution to make them obvious -- which would not have been good.

Bottom line, Lowry has performed stellar work here in covering the flaws and production problems found in many of the films.

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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Since you gave it a Highly Recommended ranking, this release does have some bonus material on it? ;)
 

Ron Reda

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I just finished "Dr. No" and all I can say is WOW!!! While I grew up watching the Roger Moore films in the 70's, I never quite got around to seeing the 1st installment of the series. It actually wasn't until later on when I was growing up that I could truly appreciate Connery as the best Bond and started retracing my steps yet I still never caught Dr. No until tonight. What a great film and a kick start to the series. As for the Blu-ray, I agree with Mr. Harris, what an exquisite remaster/restore. This thing has gobs of detail and the color was astounding for a film as old as it is. The outdoor scenes and the scenes on the beach were particularly eye catching (in more ways than one, thank you Ms. Andress!). As for the audio, it's fantastic to get the original soundtrack ANDthe DTS MA-HD Master Audio. I had to crank the DTS track pretty high to get the dialogue sounding right (being that it's a "re-mix", it has sort of a diffused kind of sound to me), but that's to be expected on a film that's like 45 years old. While I'll never complain about having this track included, it was just OK for me. It was a bit strident at times, but there was some low-end going on with the explosions so that was a nice surprise.

I picked this Blu-ray up at a local retailer for $17 and I consider it an outright steal (not to mention the $10 in movie cash for "Quantum Of Solace"). I'm going right back tomorrow to pick up the few Moore titles I was on the fence about. My only regret (and it's a minor one) is that I want to watch them all in order, so after my other purchase from today has been viewed ("From Russia With Love"), I'll have to wait until "Goldfinger" is released to rewatch one of my favorites in glorious 1080P. Bravo for Bond done right, MGM, Fox and Lowry! :D
 

dannyboy104

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I agree with the above comments, superb transfer.I did notice at 24:14 there appeared to be a jumpcut in the frame? I don't know if that was on the standard dvd as I no longer own it.
 

jim_falconer

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I agree with the above comments, superb transfer.I did notice at 24:14 there appeared to be a jumpcut in the frame? I don't know if that was on the standard dvd as I no longer own it.
Bumping this old thread, as I just finished watching, with the commentary track on. I’m not sure exactly of the time in the film, but Peter Hunt mentioned that during editing, when the girl was taking photos of Bond in the night club, he inserted one bright white frame, right after her camera goes off. This was to emphasize the flash photography used at the time. I didn’t notice any other jump cuts on the BD, but to be honest, I was not looking for any either.
BTW, fantastic commentary track, one of the best I’ve ever listened to. Must be at least 20 different people involved with the making of the film, giving their thoughts and insights.
 

stevenHa

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A question regarding a comment from Robert Harris - what does it refer to when he says there was no loss of "high frequency" information" regarding grain manipulation ?
 

Worth

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A question regarding a comment from Robert Harris - what does it refer to when he says there was no loss of "high frequency" information" regarding grain manipulation ?
It means that fine detail in the image hasn't been scrubbed away along with the grain.
 

Sultanofcinema

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While speaking about Dr. No, I have seen the film so many times, but still do this day, am thrilled to see it again. It never tires for me. It is the first and of course, only the second James Bond adventure could be more exciting than the first! Mr. Harris was correct that Dr. No cost exactly one million dollars ( Austin Powers or Dr. No?" you were wondering what it cost?"). Cubby went to Columbia pictures and they would only advance 400,000.00 for Thunderball or Dr. No only. Who knew this series would still be running on Tuesday January 16, 1962 when they shot the first scene of Bond landing at the airport in Kingston. For the record, Dolores Keator, got the part of Mary Trueblood, who is killed at the beginning by "three blind mice" because she owned the home the scene was filmed in.
 

Dave H

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I bought this at a good price on BD last year and enjoyed it. I did stream one of the Moore Bond movies last year in 4K SDR via Amazon Prime and it looked quite good. I don't see Dr. No on there, as I was considering watching it. Was it ever available as a 4K stream?
 

jim_falconer

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Mr. Harris was correct that Dr. No cost exactly one million dollars ( Austin Powers or Dr. No?" you were wondering what it cost?").
It’s funny, on the commentary, they mention the film actually came in at 1.2 million…but that the producers were not unhappy at it being 200K over budget…as after viewing it, said it had the look of a 5 million dollar picture.
 

Worth

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I bought this at a good price on BD last year and enjoyed it. I did stream one of the Moore Bond movies last year in 4K SDR via Amazon Prime and it looked quite good. I don't see Dr. No on there, as I was considering watching it. Was it ever available as a 4K stream?
They’re all available for rent or purchase in 4K on iTunes.
 

Sultanofcinema

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It’s funny, on the commentary, they mention the film actually came in at 1.2 million…but that the producers were not unhappy at it being 200K over budget…as after viewing it, said it had the look of a 5 million dollar picture.
Jim, Dr. No went over budget by 46,434 pounds and Film Finances wanted to take over production of the picture for budget control purposes. Harry had a letter from Ken Adam about the costs of the sets he didn't share with Film Finances initially and Harry was put on notice.
 

Robert Harris

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When discussing budget, keep in mind that afaik Dr. No was originally set to be shot in black & white.
 

Sultanofcinema

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When discussing budget, keep in mind that afaik Dr. No was originally set to be shot in black & white.
That's right. One of the conditions of the agreement between the Producers and UA was that each picture shall be photographed in black and white unless UA approves that the picture be shot in Technicolor. UA approved Dr. No to be shot in color
 

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