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Monty Norman deserves special praise. Is there another theme that is similarly iconic, instantly recognisable, has stood the test of time and has lived on that long?
Sure, there is Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the Star Trek themes etc. but James Bond is the best of them all for sure.
For now that's enough, as we will discuss the film in detail in the forthcoming days.
What I will do for each movie is provide the links to Switzerland. Cinematic James Bond and Switzerland have a long tradition and it already started with the first film Dr. No
James Bond and Switzerland Part I: Dr. No
Ursula Andress was born in 1936 in Ostermundigen, in the Swiss canton of Berne.
She helped define the Bond girl as an icon of cinema. To this day she is still viewed as the ultimate Bond girl by many. The way she is walking out of the sea has written cinematic history and must be one of the most recognisable scenes ever.
She became a worldwide phenomenon after Dr. No even if her complete performance was overdubbed by a voiceover artist, as her Swiss/German accent was too strong.
A shame really that her seductive deep voice wasn't heard in Bond, but I guess her accent would have hurt her otherwise impeccable appearance.
A quote from Ursula: It's a mystery. All I did was wear this bikini in Dr. No (1962) - not even a small one - and whoosh! Overnight, I made it.
And another one: What I look for in a man isn't printable! I wouldn't want to shatter my cool Swiss image.
1. From Russia With Love
2. Casino Royale
3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
6. The Living Daylights
9. The Spy Who Loved Me
10. Live and Let Die
11. You Only Live Twice
12. Tomorrow Never Dies
13. Dr. No
14. The World Is Not Enough
15. Quantum of Solace
17. Licence To Kill
18. For Your Eyes Only
19. The Man With The Golden Gun
21. Die Another Day
22. A View To A Kill
24. Diamonds Are Forever
I also put DR.NO into the player last night. I had seen it from the halfway point for the first time in a couple of years about two weeks ago on TV so it was nice to watch it the whole way through again. It's a very stylish little thriller with an impeccably cool Connery performance at the heart of it all. It obviously lacks certain production values in certain areas due to the smaller budget but thankfully the magnificent use of location scenery that the series would go on to become famous for is right there to make up for it.
A good start.
What more could be said about this particular Bond film that hasn't already been mentioned? No matter how much it marvels us every time we put it in, I think perhaps the biggest shock to the system it has to deliver is when you realize that a group of talented folks came together for the first time in 1962, and against all odds delivered a final product and behemoth of direction, action, set design, cinematography, music and style that made it impossible to image that the crew hadn't been working with one another for decades, their teamwork was so fluid and on the ball. If I was shown Dr. No blindly, I'd never guess it was the first Bond film. So much of what we love the franchise for, the danger, the intrigue, the style, the eloquence, the glamour, the grace...it's all on screen in plentiful form here, right from the very beginning of Bond's historic takeover of the big screen.
The thing of it is that Dr. No has no right to be as good as it is. We've got a Scotsman with barely a name to himself playing an Englishman in a role he has to deliver with no less than 100% of his greatest effort, a team who were forced to work with a budget that equates to scraps when you consider the budgets of the films these days, and if one element waned, if just a few areas of the film didn't meet expectation and the film failed to recoup investments, everything we know of Bond on screen here and now would have been in the can.
But, by some miracle, that disastrous outcome didn't happen. That amateur Scotsman I was talking about? Turns out he actually proved from the very beginning why he was destined for the part, and in just his debut picture alone, he'd already set the blueprint other actors would follow for 50 years onwards. That scrap budget? Turns out that with a little ingenuity, talents like Terence Young and Ken Adam problem solved and pulled some of the greatest cinematic sequences and film sets out of their nether regions, and somehow didn't resort to magic to do it.
Perhaps one of Dr. No's greatest appeals is that it was the first one through the door, the lone crusader on the prairie of the cinemascape. There was no such thing as a James Bond franchise in early 1962, not even in March of that year when filming was over and post-production was in full effect. I think what makes Dr. No so special then, amongst the endless reasons, is that the filmmakers didn't have to worry about topping the last set of films that had come before it. There was no From Russia with Love or Goldfinger to beat out in ambition or thrills, so instead, they simply focused all their energies on making a solid film for audiences, and nothing more. And somehow, out of that manic production with unpredictable challenges, crazy luck, ingenious problem solving, reluctant casting and a collective ignorance on the part of everyone as to what history they were creating, the James Bond franchise was born.
To quote Ms. Trench in one of the film's opening scenes, "I admire your courage..."
I will say, however, that it finished at number 9 in my previous ranking, so a solid Top Ten movie. I'll be surprised if it's not still in my top 10 at the end of this Bondathon.
1. Dr No
1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. On Her Majestys Secret Service
3. Casino Royale
4. From Russia With Love
9. Dr No
10. The Living Daylights
12. Live And Let Die
13. Licence To Kill
14. A View To A Kill
15. For Your Eyes Only
18. Quantum Of Solace
19. Diamonds Are Forever
20. Tomorrow Never Dies
21. You Only Live Twice
22. The Man With The Golden Gun
23. Die Another Day
24. The World Is Not Enough
I hadn't seen this one since earlier this year and so decided to partake, even though I was concerned that it might be overkill. No need to worry. Connery saw to that from his legendary opening scene and onwards throughout its short (for a Bond film) running time of 110 minutes. I have commented many times on this classic, and rather than repeat myself I will just mention what stood out this time.
As others have duly noted, this film is beautiful to look at on blu ray, and that's what really caught my attention on this viewing. The colours are extremely vivid and saturated (I love that in a Bond film) and Lowry's restoration work renders Jamaica incredibly crisp (one can see leaves and hair follicles quite clearly in some instances). The fact that it mostly takes place in one location adds to the holiday feeling, which is again something I really enjoy in some of Connery's films.
Connery, as we all know, owns the role from the instance he appears on screen. That first scene with Eunice Grayson's classy Trench is a textbook definition of supremely confident 'cool' which I have yet to see duplicated in a film. You can't teach that kind of acting. It must come from within. One either has it or one doesn't, and Connery naturally exudes it from every pore.
Some of the dated commentary towards employees and people of colour did stand out this time around . Namely: "Fetch my shoes" and the dismissive "Johnny what have you done with it?". It doesn't bother me, but I noticed it.
I also picked up on a piece of sublime stuntman/woman replacement that I hadn't noticed before. Towards the end of the film there is one long tracking shot where Connery and Andress are running on the pier and then climb down a set of stairs onto the boat to escape. There is a small part where they pass behind a set of barrels and that is where they are expertly replaced by the stuntman/woman. I have to confess that I was admiring the lady's physique and her dexterity at unmooring the boat, and that's what made me realize that a switch had been made, and so I went back to find it.
Additionally, I noticed several similarities with QoS in this film. Apart from the striking colours, there is the opening Aston car chase, which is similar to the Sunbeam Alpine chase in DN, just more visceral. Also, the short, stripped down and like a bullet mission focused running time is a feature of both films.
This was an excellent experience, although I found the latter half of the film on Crab Key dragged on a bit on this viewing. Not enough to knock DN out of my top 10, but perhaps enough to knock it down below GE to #7 in my Bond rankings. Still a benchmark film imho.
It was a tough decision I must say.
Objectively it belongs in any Top 10.
Personally I have it on spot 18 in my official 2016 ranking. But don't think too much of it, it just happens there are 17 films that I like a little bit more.
Honey appears after 62 minutes into the film.
Dr No appears after 90 minutes into the film.
Incredible, isn't it? And it all works perfectly.
Yet people constantly moan about how Blofeld appears 90 minutes into SPECTRE.
You're back at it. Why am I here?
1.) Dr. No
In my pre-Bondathon ranking, Dr. No owns the fourth spot just behind CR, FRWL and TB, followed by QoS at #5. I honestly don't see that fluctuating that much, and it may even take over TB this time around, as that film is so similar to DN (a perfect mystery and thriller mix fixed in largely one location), just amped up to an even more ambitious degree. I am always wrestling between whether DN or TB deserve the second place spot in the best of the Connery era behind FRWL, so this is never a surprise.
What will always remain is the feeling that Connery's early films do things that no other Bond films have managed to since. They've always been the most special to me in the whole catalogue. That is why the next three weeks after this point will probably be my favorite of this entire event, until we get to the Craig films once we're into 2017. These movies are the biggest reason why I'm here.
There are probably two key scenes that cement Connery as Bond. One is the introduction scene in Les Ambassadeurs. Connery was apparently very nervous about this scene, but you wouldn't know it. He wears the beautiful dinner jacket with the shawl lapel as if born in it. He carries himself as well as any male actor in cinema history (and this is so important). He looks cool, dangerous, classy.
The second scene is the dinner with Dr No where they trade barbs and the very black humour of the film comes through. Connery delivers the put downs so superbly it's difficult to imagine that this is his first major leading role.
And yet he isn't perfect. (I've never said that before!)
His Glaswegian accent comes prominently through on a couple of occasions ("I'm a very nervous passenger") which is ok if it was consistent.
In the same sequence he pushes his hat back on his head which is more Mickey Spillane than Ian Fleming, and out of sinc with the Bond he had given us to that point.
Lastly, in the scene where he, Quarrel and Leiter sit in Puss'Fella's bar his urgent slightly aggressive questioning is again out of character. It's a trait you don't see again in Connery's time as Bond.
But he is magnificent, and the gently way he protects Honey (who is out of her depth, which Bond recognises) is quite moving.
Ursula Andress is absolutely beautiful as Honey. She set the template for Bond girls, as much as Connery did for Bond. Even when she runs she runs in a beautiful way.
Joseph Wiseman has little time to make his mark, but he does. Wiseman cleverly exposes Dr No as nothing more than a spoilt brat who does what he does simply because none of the World's Governments would take him seriously. His look of pouty indignation is wonderful. Bond sees the weakness and exposes it leading to the inevitable 'softening up' of Bond.
It's a terrific turn, and I could have watched that dinner sequence all evening. I never tire of it.
Secondary villains come and go - Three blind mice, Professor Dent, Miss Taro (veee-ery sexiful), the camera girl and the driver - all of them come a cropper when they cross Bond.
Bond's support are M, Moneypenny (how good is that crackling dialogue in their scene?), Felix and 'armourer' played by Peter Burton, pre Desmond Llewellyn.
Also Sylvia earmarked as a regular without it quite working out and poor Quarrel who falls foul of Crab Key's dragon.
It's a very good cast, well acted (apart from the construction worker who speaks to Bond when the hearse goes over the cliff. He had four words to speak and it was clear he was a local given his big break).
Now to disypher my notes to write about the 'elements' of the Bond film...
1) Licence To Kill
2) The Living Daylights
5) On Her Majesty's Secret Service
6) The Spy Who Loved Me
7) From Russia With Love
8) The World Is Not Enough
12) You Only Live Twice
13) Casino Royale
15) Die Another Day
16) Tomorrow Never Dies
17) Live And Let Die
18) Dr No
19) For Your Eyes Only
20) A View To A Kill
22) Diamonds Are Forever
23) The Man With The Golden Gun
24) Quantum Of Solace
I'll watch DN tomorrow night. Should be interesting as I've never been a big fan. It's a film that I admire a lot but never really enjoy, which is why I've done the unthinkable and actually put DAD above it in my rankings (I'm looking forward to explaining my stance on that one).
OMG you are perfect. Will you marry me?