Dr. No (1962)

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edited July 2012 in Reviews Posts: 15,728
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  • St_GeorgeSt_George Hopping into the escape pod with XXX
    edited August 2012 Posts: 1,589
    <font size=4>Dr No</font>


    by @St_George

    Directed by: Terence Young; Produced by: Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli; Screenplay by: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather – adapted from the novel by Ian Fleming (1958); Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, John Kitzmiller, Zena Marshall, Eunice Gayson and Lois Maxwell; Certificate: PG; Country: UK/ USA; Running time: 109 minutes; Colour; Released: October 5 1962; Worldwide box-office: $59.6m (inflation adjusted: $440.8m ~ 18/24*)

    * denotes worldwide box-office ranking out of all 24 Bond films (inflation adjusted), according to 007james.com


    Plot ~ 8/10

    In this, the very first Eon Bond film, the plot sees the villain of the piece jamming radio signals of US space rockets and deliberately sending them off course. Not particularly bad, you might think, but this is 1962 and it’s the height of the Cold War. The antogonist aims to stoke up serious tensions between the Yanks and the Ruskkies then, all for the selfish gain of his evil overlord Ernst Stavro Blofeld – not referenced by name in this film – who’s the head of criminal organisation SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). It’s fantasy for sure, but with the Cuban Missile Crisis just days away after Dr No opened, the tensions were very much real. Our man Bond is hot on the trail after the murders of two UK civil servants, who’d learnt more than was good for them, brings him to Jamaica, the villain’s locale of choice.


    Bond ~ 9/10

    Make no mistake, the big screen Bond was born here; Sean Connery’s opening portrayal set the template for all others to come. And enthusiasts of latest 007 Daniel Craig’s take on the role, will find much that’s familiar here. Bond’s an oh-so confident, consummate professional Brit abroad, better dressed than everyone else, showing fast wits and possessing an air of danger and heaps of masculine allure. And, later, he turns out to be both a sympathetic gentleman when it comes to a damsel-in-distress and a ruthless killer when needs must. Connery’s first Bond means business with bells on; it’s his straightest, hardest performance – and it’s rarely been topped in the series.


    Girls ~ 7/10

    An utter icon, Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder can not only lay claim to being the first of the great Bond Girls, but also delivering the most well recalled moment of the entire movie when she emerges Venus-like from the sea wearing that bikini. Her mixture of enormous sex appeal and sweet naïveté is hard to resist and she makes a decent companion for Bond, despite lacking the sass and smarts of later hook-ups. The film’s other girls number only two, though – Zena Marshall’s duplicitous sexy secretary Miss Taro and, the first Bond Girl of them all, Eunice Gayson’s Sylvia Trench, whom it’s suggested possesses just as big an appetite for sex as she does for playing golf indoors. Fore!


    Villains ~ 7/10

    If ever there’s a Bond film that’s front-loaded – or, rather, er, back-loaded – when it comes to villains, then it’s Dr No. The titular character’s minions are useless. Professor Dent is a cowardly underling (the tarantula he leaves in Bond’s bed offers far more menace) while Miss Taro offers such an obvious honey trap she deservedly suffers true Bond villain ignominy – she gets arrested. But, although stretching until the film’s last third, the wait for Dr No himself is well worth it. So impressive is Joseph Wiseman’s villain, he was the total prototype for the majority of Bond baddies to come. Sporting a physical deformity (metal hands), outlining a barmy scheme, boasting an incredible lair, admonishing 007 (“You’re just a stupid policeman”), wearing a beige nehru jacket (a Blofeld favourite) and laying on lashings of hubris… it’s all here.


    Action ~ 5/10

    Action isn’t exactly Dr No's forte. Aside from Bond’s all too brief confrontation with the villain, the former beating up a would-be assassin and a car chase (which features – surely even in the ’60s – some very dodgy back-projection and results in the pursuing vehicle rolling down a hill and inexplicably exploding), the most memorable action comes in the slightly bizarre but intriguing sequence when 007 escapes from his cell in Dr No’s lair via ventilation tubes and goes through hell – burning heat, gushing water and disorientation owing to, er, weird noises. In this respect, Dr No is very much the cinematic Bond in gestation – and it shows.


    Humour ~ 7/10

    One of the Bond movie memes most successfully established in Dr No is the 007 one-liner following a potentially distasteful murder or death: a bunch of baddies fatally crash their hearse (‘They were on their way to a funeral”); a chap notices a cyanide pill-popping goon lying dead in the back of a car (“Make sure he doesn’t get away”). Dr No also scores in the humour stakes thanks to Bond’s sardonic wit, not least in his chiding the villain (“Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really make up for having no hands?”), and the visual gag of him discovering Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington – it had famously been stolen from the National Gallery the previous year – is top stuff (see image above). However, the reliance on Cayman Islander sidekick Quarrel as light-relief thanks to racial stereotyping sits uneasily nowadays, to say the least. Thankfully, such casual racism would rarely be seen again in the series.


    Music ~ 7/10

    On the one hand, you could say Dr No's score suffers because it’s mostly old-fashioned, underwhelming fare put together by composer Monty Norman; on the other hand, you could say its music is a crucial touchstone in film scoring for introducing the stone-cold classic James Bond Theme to an unsuspecting world – the tune that, like 007 himself, would leave it shaken and stirred forever after. Co-written by Norman and rising jazz musician John Barry (who would go on to fight over its legal ownership for decades), the theme features prominently, underscoring our hero’s cool-as-a-frozen-solid-cucumber persona. Mind you, credit should go to Norman for his deft choice of using Jamaican music scene-inspired tunes, including Kingston Calypso, Under The Mango Tree and the fine Jamaican Rock to add to the overall atmosphere.


    Locations ~ 7/10

    As far as Bond film locations go, it doesn’t get much more Fleming – or, if you prefer, ‘pure’ – than Jamaica. After all, this was the setting of three of his novels (Dr No itself, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun) and where he lived for half the year while he wrote all the novels. Given this is the early ’60s too, the Jamaica Dr No delivers is old-school; colonialism happily holds sway and Bond (for all his unflappability) constantly fans himself and complains about mosquitoes. What it does lack, though, is what would become a near prerequisite of future series settings: glamour – the exoticism comes from the grubbiness of locals’ locales (ally Puss-Feller’s bar, for instance) rather than a gorgeous vista that makes the viewer green with envy.


    Gadgets ~ 5/10

    Q, the legendary gadget supplier, isn’t Q here, he’s Major Boothroyd – and M doesn’t even refer to him by name (merely as ‘armourer’). Indeed, the most important of the gadgets – if you can call it one – which ‘armourer’ supplies 007 with in this film is the Walther PPK pistol. Why? Because, with its delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window, this would become Bond’s signature gun. The only ‘other’ gadget of note in this movie is a geiger counter that 007 uses to verify whether rocks supposedly found on the island of Crab Key (the site of Dr No’s lair) are radioactive and, thus, the possible location for the nuclear-fuelled missile ‘toppling’ that’s going on. Clunky and box-shaped, it’s not a very sexy thing – unlike today’s geiger counters, which look like iPods.


    Style ~ 8/10

    With Connery’s oh-so confident incarnation kicking-off here, so too does the iconic look of Bond – the tuxedo in the casino, the perfectly fitted Saville Row suit and the sipping a vodka Martini. And its augmenting by the original and still best arrangement of The James Bond Theme makes for a simple, yet unbeatable combo of cool. Almost as important in the style stakes, the fantastical, nay fantastic look of the interiors (which, again, would quickly become a series staple) starts here with Ken Adams’ sets for Dr No’s lair, including the eerie, cell-like conference room (see image above) and the villain’s private quarters – they’re like a how-the-hell-does-that-work? happy marriage of Mid-Century Modern and surrealism.


    Adjuster: +5

    Bond movies are notorious for their thrills and spills, but as outlined above, Dr No's hardly loaded with the latter (nor is it high in the gadget quotient); its much better at delivering the thrills. Essentially a detective story set in the colourful Caribbean and with an explosive ending, it’s one of the tightest, simplest and, in many ways, most effective entries in the series.


    <font size=4>Overall: 74/100</font>


    Best bit and best line: Bond’s introduction ~ “I admire your courage, Miss?”/ “Trench, Sylvia Trench”/ “I admire your luck, Mr?”/ “Bond, James Bond”


    Get the full treatment of my 'Bondathon' reviews here
  • royale65royale65 Caustic misanthrope reporting for duty.
    Posts: 3,809
    Dr. No

    Ian Fleming's James Bond novels had become a literary phenomenon, translating that to the big screen, however, would prove difficult, to say to the least.

    Canadian, Harry Saltzman, was a circus showman, born to entertain. He had success in the 1950's, with the “Kitchen sink dramas”. Despite the critical achievement of his movies, they were not financially viable. Saltzman, then, was keen for a commercial success, and he saw Fleming's novels as an ideal vehicle, so he bought the rights to produce them, on a six month option, in December 1960.

    Saltzman was bullish about his chances, but he had not found a backer, and his six month option was fast running out. Unfortunately major studios proved reluctant to back Bond; some common objections included that the novels were too violent, too sexual and too British.

    All that was about to change however; enter “Cubby” Broccoli. American, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli is one of the most famous and legendary producers of all time. He, too, was also interested in the Bond novels.

    Wolf Mankowitz who knew both Broccoli and Saltzman, introduced them. The rest, as they say, is history. It was an unusual partnership; Saltzman's incredible energy, was tempered by Broccoli's calmness. Their partnership would change the cinema landscape forever.

    Step in United Artist. Arthur Krim and David Picker were very interested in the Bond deal; Picker was an avid fan of Fleming's novels. Kerim met Broccoli and Saltzman, and thrashed out a deal, to finance, for $1 million, the first Bond movie; the date, 21st of June, 1961.

    Before Bond, Broccoli had success with Warwick Pictures, a boy's own, adventure type movies. So he called upon the architect's of Warwick Pictures success’s; namely Terence Young to direct; Peter Hunt to edit; Richard Maibaum, writer; Ken Adam, set designer and Ted Moore, the cinematographer. Most of these would work on the Bond pictures for years to come.

    Once the crew had been selected, the attention turned to finding a man who could play James Bond. He had to be suave, sophisticated, dangerous, and in the words of Ian Fleming, neither Bond or M, 007's superior, should be particularly likeable; they were, after all, cold and professional characters.

    Broccoli's close friend, Cary Grant, was approached, but it would be for a one-time deal; he had never made a sequel before, so the producers would be left with a headache, trying to find a Bond, all over again.

    Roger Moore was also mooted, but he was busy with television, besides Broccoli was concerned that Moore's “baby face” would not add enough “gravitas” to the role.

    In a marvellous coincidence both Broccoli and Saltzman came to the same person, quite independently; Peter Hunt, editor on On The Fiddle, noticed an actor, and suggested the actor to Saltzman. Meanwhile Broccoli remembered the same actor, when Lana Turner reintroduced them. Broccoli arranged a screening of Darby O' Gill and the Little People, in which the actor had stared. With him was his wife, Dana Broccoli, so he asked her what she thought. Her reply; “that's our Bond”. The actor's name; Connery, Sean Connery.

    Born on the 25th of August, 1930 and raised in the impoverished area of Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Connery's early life was so frugal he slept in the bottom drawer of his parent's wardrobe. To help pay the rent Connery delivered milk to the local schools, including Fettes, where a James Bond was schooled. Connery himself received no formal schooling.

    In 1952, after being discharged from the Navy, with stomach ulcers, Connery travelled to London to compete in the Mr Universe contest, where he placed third. Acting on a friends suggestion, he tried out for a role in the chorus of, “South Pacific”. Thus the young Scot had his first brush with acting.

    Connery studied theatre in London. He found shelter in the local library, catching up on the reading, that he was denied as a child. By 1956 the hard work had paid off, as Connery was rewarded with the lead in several T.V dramas, for which he won critical acclaim. In fact his name was so well known, that he appeared in the Daily Express, on a list of people in the running to play 007.

    Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman arranged to meet Connery, and in those rare master-strokes of casting, found the ideal man to portray James Bond. Harry liked the way Connery moved, like “a big jungle cat”. Cubby had found a perfect mix between Fleming's 007, and his own requirements, namely a combination of humour and machismo.

    Director Terence Young, himself an erudite and sophisticated man, took Connery and knocked him into shape. The alliance of Young and Connery proved irresistible; Young turned the rough diamond Connery, into a ruthlessly elegant bon vivant, which embodied all the hallmarks of Fleming's 007; charming, yet very lethal.

    Connery himself had a natural strength and aggression, which Cubby so admired, tempered with a calm authority, great grace and elegant poise. In addition to his smooth, sexual magnetism and wry charm, Connery's Bond was underpinned by a real sense of danger; his was a Bond, like the novels, that had earned his 00-prefix, and this was a key development in translating Bond to the masses.

    Fleming infused Bond with his own views and opinions; Bond was his mouthpiece, thus Bond seemed rather snobbish, an upper-class man, born into wealth.

    Incidentally the literary Bond, like Connery, had none of this. Connery was a blue collar man, and he had earned his opinions, something crucial to Bond appealing to the masses; the man on the street could identify with Connery's 007.

    Young later commented that three things made made Dr No so memorable; “Connery, Connery, Connery”. Although Connery commands the screen with his presence and charm, Young is being too modest. In fact it should read, “Connery, Connery and Young”.

    Young delivers a film that is loaded with bags of style and sophistication and is detailed and pacy. Young worked closely with Peter Hunt, editor on Dr No and four films after, to give the film a unique sense of movement, an internal energy, that is the trademark of all early Bond films. Hunt was adamant that Bond was decisive and he wanted his editing to reflect that.

    Young also introduced a dark, dry humour, something that Connery approved of; both Young and Connery found Fleming's 007 to not have a sense of humour about the situations that he found himself in.

    Most of all, Young is trying to tell a story, something that's often lost in future Bond films, where the story is often sacrificed for spectacle.

    For example, M is briefing 007, on his upcoming mission. Realising that he's run out off matches, M stands up, ignoring the lighter that Bond has proffered, and picks up a new box of matches from the mantelpiece, and proceeds to light his pipe.

    It is a small thing, but one which reminds the audience how the film-makers cared for this movie. For the readers off the Bond novels, it's gratifying to see this; M was always running out off matches when he had a “bee in his bonnet”.

    Special mention then, has to go to the screenwriters, Richard Maibaum, Joanna Harwood, Berkeley Mather and Wolf Mankowitz for translating such a superb novel, in their screenplay.

    However it wasn't always this way; in their original script, they had Dr No as the villains' monkey and had nothing to do with the source novel. Cubby was outraged by this development and told the writers to keep in line with Fleming's book; a wise choice.

    The writers changed a few details nonetheless; new characters; increased sex quotient; Felix Leiter, a character from Fleming's novels and they made Dr No an agent of SPECTRE, as opposed to the Russians'. The producers were intent on keeping the Bond movies apolitical.

    When presented with the final script, Mankowitz demanded that his name being taken out of the credits.

    The changes were relatively minor, and Dr No remains one of the most faithful adaptations.

    Ian Fleming created two of his most iconic characters; the titular Dr No and the gorgeous “Girl Friday”, Honey Ryder. For the former, the producers went for noted stage actor, Joseph Wiseman, and for the latter, the amazingly beautiful Ursula Andress.

    Honey Ryder began the cult of the “Bond Girl”; sexy, brave and resourceful. Fleming described Honey as the “elegant Venus” and Andress stepping out of the sea, in that bikini, started the sexual revolution. There is an air of seduction that surrounds Dr No, no more apparent than in the scenes that Connery and Andress shared together; they have an unbelievable sexual chemistry.

    They say that a great hero is only matched by his villain; no wonder, then, that Broccoli was enraged by the monkey débâcle. Joseph Wiseman is a detached and perverted menace as Dr No, the first in a long line of egotistical maniacs to pit their wits against 007. Wiseman is immense as the genius Doctor, whose delayed introduction to the audience, only adds to his notoriety.

    Connery was lucky to have Andress and Wiseman, two actors who were the living embodiments of their literary characters, in his maiden outing.

    Other important castings were Jack Lord as Felix Leiter, John Kitzmuller as Bond's local contact, Quarrel and, finally, Bernard Lee as Bond's chief, M.

    Lord impresses as Leiter; he's cool and softly spoken, although he lacked the Texan charm that Fleming infused in his literary counterpart. Nevertheless, Lord ranks amongst the best on-screen Leiter's. Infuriatingly the producers had a range of different actors to portray Leiter's, with mixed results.

    Kitzmuller brings charm as the native fisherman. In fact Kitzmuller does such a good job as Quarrel, you're left with an acute sense of loss when Quarrel dies. Bond's reaction is poignant and touching, and when Bond swears revenge, one believes him.

    Lee is prefect as M, the head of British Intelligence. Bond and M have a subtle dynamic of son/father to their relationship; M disapproves of Bond's womanising, but Bond is such an extraordinary agent, that M tolerates it. Bond, in turn, is totally loyal to M. Lee and Connery play their roles superbly; so subtle, so understated.

    One final bit of casting that needs mentioning in Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny. The flirtatious banter between the two of them, would become a staple of the series.

    Dr No premièred on October the 26th, 1962, to rave reviews. Plus the fact that it was condemned by the far left, the Vatican (sadist and morally bankrupt) and by the Soviets (decadent and corrupt), prompted people to go and see it.

    With a towering performance by Sean Connery; the visual flair provided by Terence Young's stylish direction; Ken Adam's futuristic sets and Ted Moore's exotic and sumptuous photography, Dr No was a breath of fresh air when it was released.

    Dr No is a marvellous film, which belies it's modest budget of $1 million, thanks largely to the contributions from Young, Moore and Adam. It feels and looks like a much bigger, expensive film, reflecting Cubby and Harry's determination to put every penny up on the screen.

    The only thing disappointing about Dr No, is the musical score, provided by Monty Norman; it has a feel of a 1930's stage show. Still Norman gets the Jamaican flavours down pat, and he gives us the immortal, electrifying James Bond Theme, orchestrated by the inimitable John Barry.

    Dr No introduced a new type of anti-hero, and enthusiastic fans clamoured for more; little did Ian Fleming know they would be clamouring for 007 over half a century later.





  • Posts: 4
    In 1962 a film was released that introduced the character of James Bond to the world. Dr.no was that film, and it popularized one of the greatest screen icons the world has ever known, inspired more clichés and catchphrases then anybody could ever count. This is the first real James Bond movie and it’s still one of the best. In 1961 Harry Saltzman and Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli joined together to form Eon Productions, seemingly with sole intention to produce a few films based on the James Bond novels, the rights to which Saltzman had acquired several years earlier. It was a smash hit charming critics and moviegoers. And it made a lot of money for Eon, Connery, United Artists, and author Ian Fleming. Nobody had ever seen anything quite like James Bond. The spy genre was nothing new, of course. But the Bond films were different. He was cold, ruthless, and brutal. The world it created and the character it featured had the perfect amount of realism and over the top theatrics. Over the course of 23 films the series has become more action packed and cartoonish, so some people might find this one a bit talky, slow paced, and light on over the top set pieces the series is now iconic for. The story is actually very simple. A British agent named Strangways goes missing in Jamaica, so MI6 agent James Bond codenamed "007”, is sent in to investigate. He meets with Strangway's friends, canvases the neighborhood, and back-tracks the man's movements. Don’t be fooled into thinking this movie is boring because the procedural work is there to show that Bond is a smart, capable, agent, and to make the action set pieces stand out and feel more exciting. Along the way he kills a lot of people trying to hinder his investigation, makes love to some of the most beautiful women you've ever seen, fights a dragon, and solves the puzzle that leads him to the secret base of criminal mastermind, Dr. No. This film didn't just introduce us to James Bond, of course, but to most of the recurring characters in the series. This was the first film to feature M, the head of British Intelligence, played by Bernard Lee. This was the first film to feature M's secretary, Miss Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell. The flirtatious repartee between Bond and Moneypenny was established here and has since become a staple of the series. We also have the first and only appearance by Jack Lord as Felix Lieter, a CIA agent, virtually, our countries equivalent of James Bond. The character has appeared many times since, but Jack Lord's portrayal of the character is the definitive one, in my opinion. Because he is as suave and as cool as James Bond, and seemed like a very capable agent in his own right. The film also introduced us to the James Bond villain, in the form of Dr. No. The villain had to be incredibly intimidating, have a mad scheme to take over the world, a team of henchmen tasked with taking out Bond in the most savage and cruel ways imaginable. All orchestrated from a secret lair that defies the imagination. Anyway, Dr. No is great character with a great plan and some good lines. Which balances out the fact that actor Joesph Wisemen can be kind of boring. He wasn't my favorite Bond villain, but he was scary enough. Then there's Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, one of the first and best Bond Girls. Bond Girls are the love love interest of James Bond in a film. They're always beautiful and almost always awkwardly inserted into the plot. Bond finds Honey Ryder looking for seashells on the beach outside of Dr. No's secret lair. James Bond is played by Sean Connery. Did James Bond make Sean Connery famous or did Sean Connery make James Bond Famous? Who can say? All I can say is that he is absolutely incredible in the role. Giving one of the most suave, sexy, and entertaining performances in film history. Connery was the first actor to play James Bond, and far from the last. But most people agree that he was the best. He defined the role for every other actor, who played Sean Connery as much as they did James Bond. I think that if any other actor had taken on the role, the series wouldn't have gone on to such great success and span over 20 films that spanned almost 6 decades. Dr. No is just one of those rare, perfect movies where everything comes together to create something magical. There was the brilliant character envisioned by Ian Fleming, the production work by Saltzman and Broccoli, the inspired casting of everybody in the entire film, the wonderful, exciting script by Richard Maibaum, and the direction and insight by Terrance Young. All of this added up to create not just the first James Bond film, but probably the best of the whole series.

    Overall Rating 10/10
  • Posts: 219
    Dr. No

    While quite tame by today's standards, it was criticized back in 1962 for excessive sex and violence. It was, however, a commercial success which would make Sean Connery a household name and give James Bond the potential to be a giant franchise. Over time, it became more apparent just how significant Dr. No was for its time, even though other later Bond films may have been better technologically.

    Lots of the tropes and motifs that would define James Bond, like his one-liners and catch phrases all started here. Though Dr. No wasn't Fleming's first book, it was the most suitable to shot on the relatively low budget Eon had. Speaking of low-budget, that tank was no dragon. Despite the action in this movie being minimal, its grounded nature is one of its strengths. Sometimes simple is better.

    The viewer is treated to a lot of beautiful scenery in Jamaica. Rather than ruining it with lots of bombast and tech, the viewer is allowed to simply enjoy it unaltered. In some ways, it's dated (the subservient portrayal of women and the whole "white man's burden" attitude toward Jamaicans), but as a movie on the whole, it was far ahead of its time.

    The last third of movie, when Bond and Ryder are trapped within the steel walls of Dr. No's lair. That feeling of helpless and cold isolation really cemented it for me, as well as the final bit of action where Bond saves the day. Unfortunately, the first half of the movie drags and has its share of filler. It makes me wish more time was spent on Dr. No himself and less time was spent on some of the other trivial things. Overall, it aged gracefully (though not perfectly) and holds up quite well today.

    Theme Song: De tree blind mice! De tree blind mice! Okay, seriously, it did establish the main theme of the entire series. Props on that.
    "Bond Girl": Honey Ryder is gorgeous. She has some very good moments, but otherwise is pretty much just a sex object.
    The Villain: (Dr. No) An excellent villain who was unfortunately underused. Only two scenes. Neither wholly western nor wholly eastern, he found Spectre as an outlet for his talents.
    One-Liners: "Bond. James Bond" started right here. Also, "That's a Smith and Wesson. You've had your six" stands out.

    Overall Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)



  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited January 2017 Posts: 28,232
    Dr. No (1962): A Review in Two Parts

    I.
    ACTOR & CHARACTER ELEMENTS


    Bond Actor & Performance:

    When it comes to rating and ranking Bond performances, there are not many that could even hope to match the work that Sean Connery provides us with in his debut role as 007.

    It’s this kind of performance work that not only makes him a legend on the cinemascape, but more importantly, the greatest and most iconic James Bond. So much of what makes Dr. No a roaring success and why Sean’s performance in it is so fascinating to watch is due to the fact that the film is a perfect mix of an espionage thriller and a mystery that spews intrigue and deceit between its characters and adds a palpable atmosphere to the story. In fact, when Bond and Honey finally meet, she tells him she’s never met a detective before, because for lack of a better word, that’s exactly the kind of role Bond fills here. He does just as much sleuthing as he does spying, and that fascinating blend of roles for Bond’s character makes Dr. No unforgettable.

    Because of this amalgam of roles, Sean’s Bond in this film is the perfect blend of smooth spy and noir private dick. 007 is constantly faced with a series of unique characters (many of which are lying through their teeth to him), and how he navigates through the thick fog of mystery and fear surrounding the words “Crab Key” and the name “Dr. No” reveals to us what is one of the all time unbeatable Bond performances of all time, and quite possibly Sean’s most interesting to view, even in comparison to From Russia With Love.

    When it comes to Sean’s performance in Dr. No, every movement, every gaze, every slight gesture, sway of the body and shift of the eyes he gives the audience means something. Watching Sean play in this film is like watching the greatest of thespians losing themselves in a role on the London stage. He packs so much meaning and resonance into Bond’s character without even speaking, and it’s truly impossible to overestimate his iconic talent. Each scene Sean plays is a masterwork and blueprint for how the role is meant to be played, who Bond should be and how he should act.

    The mix of embarrassment and shame visible in his eyes as M scornfully chides him on still carrying his Beretta that reveals the respect and intimidation he feels towards his boss as lucid as a pool of water. The animalistic way he preys around Jamaica, laying traps in his hotel room to catch those who may he trying to slay or survey him. The subtle yet forceful way he grabs Miss Taro by the bottom of her tied up hair, flashing his distrust of her, then later on as he jerks her towards him by tugging hard on the towel tangled across her neck, like a noose. The predatory demeanor his body carries as he plays cards of all things while waiting for Dent to show at Taro’s and fall for his trap, then the cold and intense resentment visible in his eyes as he silences the shyster. The visible anger and fury boiling just under the surface as he listens to Dr. No pontificate from the head of the dinner table, his strong jawline steeling itself from his billowing rage as he promises to avenge Quarrel and Strangways. The passion and carnal desire he expresses as he wraps Honey in his arms at the end of the film, literally getting lost with her on the open seas.

    To put it simply, Connery’s performance here is like an onion, it is so layered in complexities. We see so many of the different faces Bond wears here through Sean’s performance, from his passion as a lover, his coldness as a killer, his style as a man of fine dress, his finesse at detective work and counter-espionage, and his unshakable loyalty to his country and allies. You would run out of adjectives trying to sum up what Sean expresses about Bond through his performance in this film, adjectives that came to define his portrayal. Brutal, dangerous, animalistic, magnetic, blunt, eloquent, sophisticated, fearless, fearsome, sharp-witted, iron clad, silver tongued, the list goes on, and on and on.

    In this film and in all his other classic Bond films, Sean delivers to us a captivating mix of traits that makes Bond as a man and agent truly unforgettable and like no other. He’s a man always 12 steps ahead. A man who looks death in the face and dares to crack a grin. A man who cuts through the bureaucratic red tape to get the results he demands of himself to meet.

    Doesn’t get much better than this, and it all started here with Sean.

    Bond Girl & Performance:

    Honey Ryder- It was Fleming’s intention with the character of Honeychile Rider to embody the passion and aroma of sexuality that Venus would have evoked had she materialized on the beach in front of James Bond, and with the casting of Ursula Andress, this effect was achieved, and then some (which is funny, because Andress would go on after the movie to play Aphrodite in Clash of the Titans). Honey rising from the ocean is a moment that will continue to live on in the history of cinema forever. Her seductive, twisting hips, her natural and perfect form, the droplets of water glistening on her face, her features so perfect it’s like they were chiseled by a prized artisan, and with a voice so melodious you imagine birds would stop to chirp along with her in harmony.

    It’s a wonderful composition of images to see a beautiful and natural woman in an equally natural and beautiful environment, especially since, like the biblical Eve, Fleming’s Honey was stark naked when Bond comes upon her. In such a short amount of screen time, only a bit before Dr. No’s big reveal, Andress makes up for the deficit and writes herself into history.

    Largely, I think Honey is a fascinating character for her contradictions. She’s a woman who has faced abuse and carries a great feeling of innocence about her, but she can just as easily be the abuser and enter a dark and malevolent headspace to obstruct those she deems unpleasant. She’s a woman who has taken to roaming and over time, has seen the world, but is perfectly capable of making a home for herself anywhere, with sharp wits about her and a hand always clasped around that knife of hers. Just looking at her, you wouldn’t believe she was capable of unleashing a deadly black widow spider on a man, but such is the depth and contrarian nature of her character. She’s a beautiful face with a curved figure that masks sharp edges and a rugged core balled up underneath. The surprise at what kind of woman she is, the strength of her character and the danger of her revenge are hidden extras you have to dig below the surface to truly unearth, and it makes for a fascinating journey.

    Her naïve nature when faced with the cold cruelty of Dr. No adds another fascinating layer. For all see has experienced from hard and cruel men, she doesn’t know Bond’s world and is very much at the mercy of Dr. No and his followers as their scheme unfolds. Chained and left to drown, Honey becomes the troubled and broken-winged bird Bond inevitably finds himself falling towards, as if by a gravitational pull. While she’s far from an absolute favorite of mine, Honey feels like a real woman in every sense, an innocent unintentionally caught up in Bond’s mission. Unlike much of today’s movie climate, it was clear that the filmmakers refused to wrestle consciously with the notion of Honey being a female character who would be Bond’s equal, an idea that can often obstruct the characterization of our Bond girls and make them feel artificial and disingenuous as an end result. Instead, they had Ursula play it straight down the middle in a performance that delivered on the essentials sans any showy stuff, and I think her character is all the better for it. All Honey needed to be was real and raw, and boy does Andress deliver, body and soul.

    A special and significant mention must be given to Nikki van der Zyl here, who provides the lovely voice to accompany Andress’s performance. Van der Zyl realizes verbally what Andress expressed physically, giving Honey’s voice a great melody and innocence while also revealing the dark past and vengeful nature of the woman in her intonations during her private talk with Bond. Deliveries on Van der Zyl’s part with lines like, “Did I do wrong?” in the scene where Honey confesses to a murder make the character feel like an innocent child of nature, as if she is completely oblivious to the depravity and dark reality of the action she took with that dreaded black widow all those years ago.

    Bond Henchmen & Performance:

    Professor Dent & Mr. Jones- For this entry, I’m including Professor Dent AND Mr. Jones, simply because I love the chauffeur and what he unconsciously represents in the film, for however briefly.

    Starting with Professor Dent, Anthony Dawson’s talent for character roles is widely visible here as he takes on this understated but absolutely crucial role in Dr. No. In a layered performance not unlike Connery’s, Dawson gave Dent the perfect mix of the intellect of a scientist, the two-faced nature of a schemer obstructing Bond, and the crippling fear of a man who is in way over his head while working underneath Dr. No and SPECTRE.

    Professor Dent is an important character in this film because through his eyes, we see the power and influence and fear Dr. No commands to his underlings. His meek and fearful demeanor as he enters the anteroom and hears No’s booming and robotic voice is telling, as is his anxiety-racked face as he is forced to pick up the tarantula cage. He’s the perfect example of a pawn in a greater organization, a lower-level operative of SPECTRE who knows his place all too well, and we get a good sense that the anxiety of the job has more than worn on him by the time he and Bond cross paths. What makes Dent enter the Bond history books forever, however, is the famous “You’ve had your six” scene. Two Walther shots to the torso after being duped by Bond is a fitting and slightly comical end to Dent, as he is fundamentally a man so used to taking orders that he lacks the stomach and strategy to mount his own schemes, especially when the man he plans to ensnare is as capable a force as what Bond represents. Dent tried to play Bond’s game, which was his first and last mistake when dealing with this particular 00 agent, who authored the playbook.

    I wanted to include Mr. Jones here for a brief moment too, because in the nascent days of Bond’s cinematic history that Dr. No represents, he’s about the closest thing to a henchman we’ve got in this adventure. And though his time on screen is fleeting, the actor Reginald Carter makes good use of it. I love how Bond spots the trap laid by Jones and makes a call to the MI6 affiliate in Jamaica to confirm his suspicions. What I love more is the confidence Bond carries as he jumps willingly into the car with Jones and acts as his passenger, though he knows that any moment death could come to him. The ensuing dialogue (“I’m a very nervous passenger”) and Bob Simmons’ debut action sequence in the Bond series makes for engrossing cinema.

    My favorite aspect of Jones’ character, however, is how he tricks Bond into giving him one last request of a cigarette, which Bond respectfully allows him to have, unaware that it’s laced with cyanide. Jones is vital and interesting in the plot of Dr. No because he is the first unconscious sign Bond meets in Jamaica of the overwhelming conspiracy he’s entangling himself in by investigating the mysterious murder of Strangways. Jones’ desire to do anything, even face death itself to escape questioning and the wrath of his master is Bond’s first sign of many that point to the fear and power that Dr. No is capable of spreading amongst his foot soldiers. Though he is a small part of a larger puzzle, Jones’ demise and fear builds up the mythic quality of the man who has a grip on Crab Key, the surrounding landmasses and the people that populate them.

    Bond Villain & Performance:

    Dr. No- The biggie, the one that started it all. It’s amazing to look back on the history of James Bond in cinema, and see its beginning here in Dr. No. It’s just as amazing to note the massive ripple effect actor Joseph Wiseman had as the very first baddie of them all in setting the stage for what it means to be a James Bond villain. It’s funny to learn of Wiseman’s nervousness at taking the part and the feeling he had at the time that the role would be nothing more than a “grade-B Charlie Chan mystery.” And yet, in his final on screen performance as Dr. No, none of the anxiety, reluctance or uncertainty Wiseman experienced on set is visible. What is visible, however, is an iconic performance that brought the baddie to life and sparked a vast and colorful tradition of great villains in the franchise forever past him.

    If science were a man, Dr. No is the form it would take, and this idea is visible in Wiseman’s performance, through which he gave the man a frigid demeanor, a booming and robotic tone, and a delicate, near paper thin ego that he leaves vulnerable for Bond’s puncturing. Wiseman’s No also set the stage for the now iconic interactions between Bond and his villains that we have come to expect from the franchise. Instead of shooting each other on sight or wrestling in sudden death on the floor until a victor was named, No and Bond put aside their differences and numerous attempts to foil each other’s plans to have a respectable dinner.

    The true majesty of No’s character is in how he treats Bond different from all the rest of the Bond villains, even just in the Connery era. He saps the radiation from Bond and his friend (that sounds weird), provides them with a nice room of ultra comfortable means, fresh sets of clothes in their exact sizes and even a spot to wash up at. Most of all, however, while Red Grant gets a sick pleasure out of making Bond beg for mercy, Goldfinger relishes nearly bisecting him and Largo has a visible and intense sense of distaste for Bond through his fake pleasantries, it is Dr. No and only Dr. No who puts aside his differences with Bond to-if you can believe it-recruit the agent for a position in SPECTRE while sharing a five-star meal with the man. What makes Dr. No so amazing as a character is the fact that he is willing to forgive the employees, finances and operations of his that Bond has maimed, burnt and foiled irrevocably, treating them instead as quasi-training exercises or initiations that proved to him Bond had what it took to join his organization as a promising partner. It’s a delight, then, to watch Bond throw the recruitment back into his face coldly as the calm relations between the two crumble to ash as Honey is whisked away and Bond makes a move to either stab his way out or use the bottle of Dom Pérignon 55 as a temporary blunt instrument.

    Lastly, I love how dispassionate No is to the causes of the world, and how he’s turned his back on working for nations entirely-calling them all just points on the compass-to work above it all in SPECTRE, where he calls his own shots and is valued for the skills the west and east turned their backs on. It’s important that No is the first SPECTRE agent we see in the Bond films, because his personality and what kind of people the organization seeks to employ gives us a great idea about just what Blofeld dreamed for it to grow into as its acting figurehead: to become a collective of powerful men beyond the control of nations and flags, a group without land, country or loyalty to anyone but their inner circle, working in secret to exert their force, a shadow in the dark of the night.

    Supporting Cast Performances:

    M- In a brief but stunning appearance, Bernard Lee commands the screen as the epitome of just what the perfect M should be. What we don’t know of the character in his speech and demeanor we learn of through the amazing office set express from Ken Adam. We spot M’s worldly anxiety signified in the form of the globe standing behind him and the feeling he elicits of a man who must always be on top of dangerous affairs broiling all across the planet. The painting of a ship recalls his Navy past, and the interior office walls of a smooth and rich wood speak to his traditional nature and adds a strength and indescribable “Britishness” to his professional space. It feels like an office Churchill would inhabit while strategizing against the German blitz, visually linking M to a long history of stern leadership.

    The greatest moments of Lee’s time on screen is when his M scolds Bond for not following his orders regarding the Beretta, then later the hint of annoyance and exhaustion he displays in tone and demeanor as he orders Bond to dispense with the flirtations towards Ms. Moneypenny. The image of Bernard Lee in his debut as the character here, with his hunchback posture and the austere gaze he places on the important files before him perfectly characterize M as a stubborn bulldog with an upper lip so stiff it’d make Churchill himself blush.


    Moneypenny- As always, Lois Maxwell is a delight, and the chemistry she and Sean carried remains the greatest, as their interactions in their debuts here exemplify. She’s great with Lazenby and Moore, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something so special about the magic that erupted on screen when she and Sean were in a room together.

    Dr. No is full of some of the greatest moments we’ve seen acted out with these characters. How Sean rests on Moneypenny's office chair, taking her hands in his and dancing with her from that position, humming with charm, and how she attentively accepts his flirtations and pecks of kisses around her face. It’s apparent from the start just how well the two get on, and how much they care for one another. I best relate the interactions between Sean’s Bond and Maxwell’s Moneypenny to two rascals out on the schoolyard, as it reminds me of the fun immaturities kids express to one another when they are playing. When I see Bond pause to make sure Moneypenny is there before he tosses his hat to impress her, it’s not hard to view him as a school kid on the playground trying to get the attention of a popular girl he fancies. Bond and Moneypenny in this film exude a beautiful sense of youthful vigor in their interactions together and from the beginning the significance of these little moments they share during each film becomes clear. When Bond enters her office, which represents the fleeting peace between the outside word of dangerous intrigue and M’s office of reprimand, he feels like a kid again to me, and it’s always lovely to see Lois and Sean play into those roles to share a youthful and fun interaction of a quality that only they could create.

    The care, playful friendship and warmth Sean and Lois exhibit in character to one another never feels artificial, and every time Moneypenny watches Bond leave the office to go off to another mission, you know she’s saying a breathless chain of prayers for Bond’s safety so that they can continue their special ritual of flirtation the next time he comes around again.


    Quarrel- When it comes time to give out accolades to Bond’s best allies, it’s hard to image an outcome where John Kitzmiller’s Quarrel is left out. Second only to Kerim in the Connery era for me, Quarrel makes for a fascinating and admirable character. The introduction to him is great, as he and Bond rub the wrong way and ultimately end up in a bit of a brawl that could have gone sideways fast. It shows a lot about Quarrel’s character (and Puss Feller’s too) that he holds no ill will against Bond for getting roughed up in the shack, and becomes fast allies with him despite their shared distrust at the beginning.

    Quarrel proves to be a reliable force of good on Bond’s side, offering his expertise in any way he can, even if it puts his own tail on the line. One of my favorite moments of the film is where Quarrel talks fearfully of the dragon of Crab Key and refuses to take Bond there, but when he sees how much Bond is counting on him, he concedes and honorably volunteers himself, despite that fear.

    Quarrel isn’t the most capable or the brightest Bond has worked alongside, but his loyalty and overall strength of character make him worthy of being remembered in the upper echelons of the Bond canon. A shining moment for Quarrel in my eyes is when “Freelance” breaks that camera bulb against the table and scratches it across his face in an attempt to hurt him. All Quarrel does, however, is wipe his face and look at the blood with indifference before he carries on with his work. His later death, and Bond’s anger at losing an ally such as him further underscores Quarrel’s value as a friend and ally to 007 in Jamaica. When Bond tells No that he’d be interested in joining the Revenge department of SPECTRE so that he could unleash himself on Quarrel’s killer, his statement sends a clear message: “You don’t mess with my friends.”


    Felix Leiter- Not much to say here about Jack Lord’s Leiter, I’m afraid. He blends in well, too well in some ways, and neither disappoints or adequately impresses. He just kind of exists there, helping Bond where he can. Lord does leave a mark though, in two great scenes at the start of Dr. No. First, we are introduced to him unconsciously as we see him spying on Bond in the airport. It’s hard to tell on first watch if he’s an enemy or friend, which adds a nice bit of mystery to the story as Bond himself is questioning who to trust after just landing in Jamaica. The second scene, and superior moment, is the image of Bond being held up at gunpoint by Leiter the very first time they meet, which I find cool and interesting. It really clicked hard for me in this viewing how startling it is that the cinematic Bond and Leiter first meet at the very beginning of their partnership (if you treat each era as interconnected canon) with their guns drawn. If Bond or Leiter made a bad move in that shack, the whole moment could’ve turned sour and their friendship never would’ve been jumpstarted. The moment is ripe with tension as we see Bond beaten and forced to hand over his gun, a rare moment of complete surrender on his part. A great relief and feeling of excitement is felt as Bond and Felix realize they are on the same side, and become fast friends.

    Out of all the Connery era Leiters, I do feel Lord’s was the one I wanted to see replicated consistently throughout the series. Lord and Connery both looked firm and in command here, like they could really handle the dangers of the job and deal out any of the knocks they took, so it’s very easy to see Leiter and Bond in Dr. No as being doppelgängers of each other, separated only by a “pond,” flag and agency, as it were. Essentially, Lord’s Felix feels like the CIA’s James Bond more than any other Felix we’ve had.


    Ms. Taro- I had to make a special mention of one of my all time favorite minor players in the Bond series, brought to life by the exotic beauty of Zena Marshall. Ms. Taro carries a real femme fatale mystique about her in this film, and that works to her favor. Like Honey, she has a beautiful face that masks a certain sense of danger and the propensity for malevolence she can exert when she needs to.

    The moment where she attempts to put Bond into a trap as he drives to her home is one of my all time favorite sections of any Bond film ever. I adore the look of surprise Ms. Taro displays at seeing Bond alive, knowing The Three Blind Mice must be dead, a look that Bond spots and exploits. The scene shifts inside her home as Bond clues in to the scheme that was laid for him, and gives her hair a forceful, violent tug that masks itself as sexual foreplay. It’s fascinating to watch Bond and Taro both dance with each other here, as we know what game each are playing, and the cards they have in their deck. The bedroom scene that follows after the pair make love is a bit of a veiled verbal chess game between Bond and Taro as they battle for supremacy. She wants to stay put with him in the room to stall so that Dent can come and kill him, while he knows the trap is laid and wants to get out of there. The scene develops with a beautiful chain of small but impressive moments of scheming and mystery that build up between them, ending of course with Bond having the last laugh and tricking Taro into the hands of the Jamaican police. Immaculate.


    The Three Blind Mice- It’s funny to think that out of the entire history of James Bond, with its gadgets, Bond girls, villains, suits and cars, it all started with three faux blind hitmen walking down a Jamaican street Abbey Road-style seven years before The Beatles so much as thought of it.

    One of Fleming’s greatest creations are this trio of trained killers who deflect attention by playing handicapped, which is just a brilliant, brilliant idea. Add to that the fact that they’re driving a hearse when they first appear, and they are symbolically represented as true to form death-dealers. It’s a perfect example of Fleming blending the fantastical with the ordinary in a compelling way, creating a sense of escapism and wonder with this mysterious trio. It’s great fun to see The Three Blind Men trek around Jamaica in chase after Bond, only just brushing shoulders with him until the charming back projection chase sequence that leads to their demise, accompanied by that great one-liner from Bond.


    Strangways- Strangways is a unique character because we learn more about the other characters who are reacting to his demise than we ever do about the man himself. It’s evident that he’s a good British agent-he is willing to take risks with Crab Key and look into dirty dealings and keeps a consistent check-in with MI6-but it’s his death that acts as the causation of all the action, suspense and thrills to come.

    At the very beginning of the film, Dr. No feels more akin to a mystery than an espionage thriller in part because of Strangways. From the opening titles we’re propelled to Jamaica, where we see the peculiar but compelling image of The Three Blind Mice, and we meet Strangways for mere seconds before he’s shot fatally and whisked away. After that point, his death marks the big moment of plot propulsion where the murder victim’s demise triggers the detective (Bond in this case) to come out of the shadows and solve the crime.

    It could even be argued that Strangways has a greater effect after his death in an off screen presence than he does whenever he’s on screen. Through his death we learn of the danger of Dr. No, who at that point is a mystery to us as the viewer. And through Bond’s reaction to the man’s death, we see the first signs of the cinematic Bond’s dutiful nature and the conviction and passion with which he seeks to avenge the murder of his colleagues, because he won’t allow a soldier of the realm to be left without justice in death.


    Sylvia Trench- A woman with the distinction of being the first Bond girl, Eunice Gayson in body and Nikki van der Zyl in voice brought an allure to Trench visible from the very first moment we see her. She seems to be a well-off gal, willing to bet even more money against Bond in a game of baccarat she’s bound to lose, which shows a great sense of determination and lively spirit. She also slips into Bond’s place easy as can be, so she’s got to be resourceful.

    In addition, Trench’s main purpose beyond her beauty is to characterize Bond as a hedonist and man of travel. She drives Bond to have a quick shag before heading out to Jamaica, coloring him as the journeyman of the female form, and as we will see through her reappearance in From Russia With Love, Trench will forever represent the kind of woman Bond enjoys for a while at home base before the dangers, intrigue and excitement of foreign lands pull him away to greater duties and deadlier company on yet another mission.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited January 2017 Posts: 28,232
    II.
    BONDIAN ELEMENTS

    Gun barrel sequence-
    What more can be said? Binder writes himself into history with the gun barrel to begin them all. I love the noise that cues up before the lead in to the gun barrel. It sounds like the noise a radio signal would make, as if the film is announcing to audiences that a change in cinematic history is arriving with James Bond’s big screen debut. The booming, ear-shattering blast from the gun as Simmons finishes his walk concludes the sequence nicely. Although his movements feel a little forced, overly staged and unnatural, it gets the job done. The only drawback here is that it’s not Sean doing the walk and shoot, and we don’t get that pleasure until 1965.

    Locations-
    There’s a great sense of atmosphere visible in this film, and that’s all down to the amazing location shooting we get here. Everything in Jamaica feels alive, and for those of us viewing our Blu-ray copies of this movie, it’s like being there right with Bond. The filmmakers strove to show off a lot of the great culture of the place, opening up a real window into what it’s like to be in Jamaica. You see the very tropical designs of the interiors to homes, hotels and offices, the palms frolicking in the wind everywhere, the jumping, feverish dancers at the clubs, and of course the beautiful greenery and sands of the beaches. Everything we see feels lived in, and it is very much like watching a visual travelogue of the location that is genuine and exotic all at once.

    Gadgets-
    There’ a lack of gadgets here, but I prefer it actually, because it means Bond must think on his feet more than anything and put his wits to use to face the threats waiting from him in Jamaica. The absence of gadgets really makes this feel like a straight up espionage thriller with no frills, and it’s all in Dr. No’s favor, as it also makes it feel more Flemingesque on top of it all. Armed with nothing but his brain and PPK, it’s game time for Bond.

    Action-
    While Dr. No isn’t as action packed as entries in the series would eventually grow to be, what we’ve got here does the job and feels in touch with the world Bond exists in, as the fights are rough and messy. We get a small taste of action with the short but sweet fight and flip Bond gives Mr. Jones, the back projection car chase, and then the many series of close-quarters fights Bond has with Dr. and his agents after he puts the nuclear reactor in overload mode. It’s not the best action or stunt work we’ll see in the rest of the franchise and it’s beat out easily by just its immediate sequel, but the stripped down, no frills action does the job, and the rough and tumble fights we see accurately characterize Bond and his enemies as men who pull no punches and fight to kill.

    Humor- Dr. No contains my favorite kinds of humor, which is both black humor and physical humor. Bond’s sarcastic, dark wit carries throughout the film, and the deliveries are at their best when 007 is faced with peril or conflict and chooses to sardonically laugh in the face of it all. My favorites instances of this in the film are these:

    <font size=1>James Bond: Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?

    James Bond: For me, Crab Key's going to be a gentle relaxation.
    Felix Leiter: From what? Dames?
    James Bond: No, from being a clay pigeon.

    [Bond pulls up to the front of Government House with a dead man sitting up in the backseat]
    James Bond: Sergeant, make sure he doesn't get away.

    [Bond picks up a bottle, prepared to use it as a weapon]
    Dr. No: That's a Dom Perignon '55, it would be a pity to break it.
    James Bond: I prefer the '53 myself...</font>

    And of course, there’s other moments that make me laugh or smile where Bond is being more of a flatterer:

    <font size=1>Miss Moneypenny: Me, given an ounce of encouragement. You've never taken me to dinner looking like this. You've never taken me to dinner...
    James Bond: I would, you know. Only "M" would have me court-martialed for... illegal use of government property.

    Honey Ryder: What are you doing here? Are you looking for shells?
    James Bond: No, I'm just looking.

    Miss Taro: What should I say to an invitation from a strange gentleman?
    James Bond: You should say yes.</font>

    As is the case with many Bond films, especially the Craig era, I laugh or grin in moments where Bond gives a mere look that says everything about how he’s feeling. Such is the case here with this film. Sean’s expressions during the dinner with Dr. No and his obvious boredom at hearing the droning arrogance of the man are delicious, as is his awkward discomfort and surprise when Honey tells him she has killed a man. Moments of humor dot the film, but it’s never silly or cheesy, and always perfectly in touch with the kind of dark world Bond exists in, and the equally dark humor he’d need to get through it.

    Plot plausibility-
    Overall, like any good mystery, Dr. No’s plot is extremely well-constructed and overall, believable, especially for the Bond series. This film, like From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball after it most especially felt Flemingesque because, for all their style, sensational frills and escapism, they felt rooted in some sort of reality. The story of Dr. No unfolds like a mystery would, with Bond uncovering hints of a greater conspiracy gradually over time with twists thrown in between, until all the puzzle pieces align and Dr. No is exposed when his veil is torn away.

    The only aspect of the plot that doesn’t hold up is the idea that a simple paste and a bit of liquid bathing could wash away the radiation Bond and Honey were exposed to out in Crab Key, radiation they came into contact with sans the protective outfits all of Dr. No’s men are wearing. I suspend my disbelief and just deal with the silliness. Bond is too much of a man to get killed by something as wimpy as radiation anyway, right?

    Villain's scheme- At the time of Dr. No’s release, the worldwide space race was very much a reality, ushered on by president Kennedy in America, who gave the movement a charming face. The idea of Dr. No manipulating shuttle launches and foiling American attempts at getting into space, then, feels extremely relevant to that time period and not too “out there” to believe.

    No’s scheme is fascinating, because it gives us a great introduction to just what SPECTRE’s ultimate aims are, ie., manipulating other nations and obstructing the progress of nations they see as threats or deserving of a little agony. Why No is doing this scheme is up to us to imagine, but that’s also what makes his character so fascinating. The toppling of the American shuttles could be a mission Blofeld specifically assigned to No to drum up discontent in America and maybe get them paranoid that the Russians, not SPECTRE, were ruining their launches to get a war going between the world powers that they could profit off of (as in the later You Only Live Twice). Or, much more interestingly, maybe Dr. No was toppling shuttles just because he had the technological capabilities to do so, and instead of taking money or power as payment for it, this personal mission of his was a nice middle finger from him to the Americans for turning his genius down in the past. Either way, I love the scheme, and I love Dr. No for orchestrating it.


    FILM ELEMENTS

    Direction-
    When considering all the directors of the Bond films, it’s hard not to see Terence Young as the maestro of them all. Young was a true character himself, and had such a dramatic hand in forming the image of the cinematic James Bond as we know him, it’s impossible to underestimate his contributions. He worked with Maibaum to bring Fleming’s creation to life and trained Sean Connery in ways of gentlemanly etiquette, taking him to Savile Row and out to dinner to ensure he would know how a man such as Bond would look and act in a variety of settings.

    In many ways, Terence Young is the Michelangelo of Bond directors. He took a film and character that was nothing more than a blank, expressionless block and carefully chiseled every angle of it into a perfectly realized and statuesque creation. The iconography and greatness of Bond was trapped inside that block, and Young led the charge to coax it out for all audiences to see. If Dr. No was a block of granite, then, and Young was the chiseler, I imagine the statue he’d coaxed from the angles would be that of Sean’s Bond down low on one knee, his left arm and hand drawn out, his right hand pointing his trusty PPK at the viewer. In a word, he chiseled the cinematic Bond to its every feature.

    Opening title design-
    For such a simple, nascent title design, this one is actually extremely meticulous in execution and structure. In many ways, the opening title design of Dr. No is a study in transitions. We lead directly from the gun barrel into the titles without pause as the Bond theme iconically takes over as sequences of dots and what look like strips of film feverishly flash before us. The mix of the vibrant color palette and the shifting, rhythmic blinking of the graphics create a fun sensation that makes me bop my head along with it all.

    Over time, the design introduces us to the silhouettes of gyrating bodies feverishly moving to the calypso beat that starts itself up. The colors of the silhouettes shift from warm hues to cool ones, a nice visual for the Jamaican climate, and The Three Blind Mice tune “Kingston Calypso” kicks in to finish the sequence off. This is probably my favorite section of the titles because it has a lot of thematic resonance to the rest of the movie. The song is a great flip on the script, and depicts a predator/prey relationship shifted. Instead of the cat holding the power over the mice, the mice are the ones banding together to “knife” the cat for killing a rat.

    If you view the song as symbolic of the coming film, Strangways is the sly cat who’s messed up things for the Mice and Dr. No, so now the three hitmen have set off to get their payback. Carrying that symbolism through even further, if we take the song literally, the blind mice would be walking around searching for the cat until their dying days with no sight to locate the fiend, no matter how much they might have wanted to get their revenge. The song, then, is a nice little metaphor for Bond’s world as well, and its dangers. You go into missions blind, and at times that lack of sight or insight makes it a struggle to know who to trust, and it's often impossible to track down those you want dead. “Kingston Calypso” in relation to the Bond film it accompanies delivers a clear message with its blind mice going on a bloodthirsty hunt for a cat: revenge, more often than not, will allude you in the end.

    In addition to its lyric’s thematic nature, the sound of “Kingston Calypso” is beautiful in its contradictions. It’s a song about a group of mice premeditating murder, yet its tune is so light and fun. The nature of the tune as a relaxed and tropical sounding calypso beat collides wonderfully with the dark brutality of what The Three Blind Mice are plotting to do to Strangways.

    Eventually, the opening titles beautifully continues its genius transitions as, just like the gun barrel directly led into them, the titles hand off to the very first scene of the movie as we follow the Three Blind Mice as they travel off to kill Strangways in real time. On the whole, it’s a beautifully constructed sequence from beginning to end, and artfully crafted though on the face of it, it seems so simple and ordinary.

    Script-
    When it comes to Bond scripts, it seldom gets better than Dr. No. As I haven’t read the novel, I can’t accurately comment on how well Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather realized Fleming’s vision, but what I can comment on is the amazing structure and pacing of the script.

    As I stated previously, Dr. No, out of all the Bond films, feels more like a detective novel than anything, and that is what makes it so engrossing. The writers take us down a twisty mystery with Bond as the private dick getting entangled in all the duplicity. For reasons we won’t understand until a long while later, a man named Strangways is shot in cold blood along with his secretary by three men faking blindness, and two files are taken from his Jamaican office by the trio. With no questions answered and nothing in our heads but the strange images we’ve just witnessed, we head to London where we are gradually introduced to an equally mysterious and intriguing man in the form of James Bond, who, over the course of the next few scenes, takes on the case to uncover just what trouble is brewing in Jamaica. This is when things really get interesting.

    Put simply, the entire script of Dr. No is a study of essentials. Not one moment, or one line is wasted or worthy of being tossed. Maibaum and co. give us all we need in ample proportions, and structure the film through a series of character interactions that tells us things we wouldn’t know otherwise about each character through the accompanying performances of the actors and their slight mannerisms. Bond and M’s discussion in the MI6 office underscores M’s intimidating figure and control as a head of the department, and we see Bond bend at the knee to his orders as a son would a father, M being the only man he is willing to do that for. As we hit Jamaica, the scenes between Bond and Quarrel, then Bond and Felix, then Bond and Felix and Quarrel, Bond and Dent, Bond and Taro, and on and on slowly build up the mythic nature of Crab Key and Dr. No in an artful way that can’t be underestimated. With each new scene, the mystery behind the toppling shuttles, Strangway’s murder and the radioactive rocks become more intense as Bond navigates his way through an endless line of liars and conspirators, out maneuvering their many attempts to snuff him until he’s silenced or tricked them all with devastating precision.

    And, for all the marvelous, intricate scenes the script delivers us, my favorite moments often happen to be the quieter ones. I’m on the edge of my seat, fully engrossed in a scene where we just get Bond alone in a hotel room, as he plucks a hair from his head, lathers it in saliva and sticks it in between the shutters of his closet or peppers powder over the knobs of his suitcase all with the ultimate goal of finding out if he and his room are being inspected and surveyed by outside forces. Scenes like this, and others where Bond sniffs a bottle of alcohol, questions its contents and chooses another he’s assured is safe to drink display his intellect as well as his nature for always being 12 steps ahead of his enemies, like a true detective would need to be. Moments such as these build up Bond to monolithic proportions, and he soon feels like a man who would be impossible to defeat, he’s so on top of things and prepared for every single eventuality.

    On the whole, for the little moments and the big ones, the loud sequences and the quiet ones, Dr. No’s script is something for the ages.

    Cinematography-
    When I think of the cinematography of Dr. No, the adjectives “vibrant” and “wide” come to mind. The colors of the film are gorgeous to look at, and give a great life and vitality to the shots we see. Reds and blues dominate, and everything pops.

    As far as shot composition goes, so much of what we see on screen feels large because Ted Moore’s composition takes us farther back from the action unfolding than you’d expect. This film’s camera isn’t zoomed in or scrunched up to Bond and his allies in scenes where they talk, refusing to get in close to their faces. Character moments are shot such that we either see the actors cut off only to the knees in the frame, giving us a great picture of them in the scene, or in other instances, the camera pulls all the way out and we see the actors in full form navigating the sets or interacting as they play the scenes out. I love the moments where the camera pans far out to give us these kinds of distant perspectives on the action, like when Bond is following Quarrel to Puss Feller’s, or when he’s infiltrating Dr. No’s lab where the reactor is housed and navigating through all the workers, trying his best to blend in.

    Another favorite is near the end when Bond is racing to evacuate Dr. No’s facility, at which point the pulled out camera with its wide perspective on the action makes us feel the dramatic chaos of all the frantic bodies running around like their heads are cut off. As Bond and Honey move outside the lair as the place gradually goes up in flames, with workers diving past the frame and into the water below, the hysteria is magnetic and visceral, finished off by a great bit of stunt work by Simmons as Bond jumps with Honey to a boat, fights the two men on it, and they race off.

    I read a reviewer once comment that Dr. No is shot like a stage play, and I completely get that viewpoint. It's very much a movie that is shot like a stage performance, and because it doesn't rely on some of the heavy close-ups or shaky camera movements that run rampant in the films of our day, it's a real pleasure to be able to watch a film where you know how and why everything is going on because you see it all unfold lucidly in a clear and wide cinematic image.

    Music-
    John Barry makes cinematic history forever with his iconic arrangement and orchestration of the music that Monty Norman desired to become the Bond theme. What we hear in the beginning half of the opening titles can’t be underestimated for its genius, as Barry’s handling of the tune changed everything and introduced what we still call the “James Bond sound” to this day. In arranging the theme for Dr. No, Barry dipped his toes into the water of James Bond score composition. With From Russia with Love onward, he dived in and gave us an unforgettable catalogue of Bond music with a legacy as strong as the character’s. More Barry love will be coming in the very near future, of course.

    Monty Norman, though often forgotten, also makes great contributions here. His music gives a great life to the Jamaican surroundings, and he incorporates the Bond theme to make it sound more tropical and natively in touch with the climate. Of course, Norman also had great versatility and his compositions that play when Dent is grabbing the tarantula cage and later, when Bond confronts the tarantula and maneuvers his way towards killing it add an uneasy sense of peril with their notes that make those moments beyond visceral.

    My favorite contributions Norman makes to the film, however, are his original songs like “Kingston Calypso,” “Jump Up” and “Underneath the Mango Tree.” “Kingston Calypso” introduces the brilliant image of the Mice and“Jump Up” provides a bopping, frenzied feeling to the club scene where Bond and Quarrel meet “Freelance.” It’s “Underneath the Mango Tree” that makes it into the history books, however, as it’s impossible to forget the moment that the first real-deal Bond girl is introduced as Honey hums the tune as she rises from the ocean, which Bond then joins her in singing. When I think of Dr. No, the first image that comes to mind is Bond and Honey on that beach, and a lot of that is owed to Norman’s music.

    Editing-
    This film features the birth of the jump cut as we know it. Peter Hunt’s work in Dr. No adds a sense of increasing drama to each scene he holds dominion over cutting. Fast jumps in mid-action like in the scene depicting the murder of Strangways’ secretary are brilliant to watch as the camera quickly moves in on each of the Three Blind Mice as they storm and pillage the place. Hunt also amped-up the sound for these kinds of scenes, giving all the action we witness a visceral punch. While at the time it was editorial blasphemy to make a cut while the camera was still moving, Hunt dared to be different in this work here and made history because of it. Pays to be a maverick.

    Costume Design-
    When it comes to the costume design of Dr. No, as with so many elements involving the production, simplicity wins out in the end. The thought was that Bond should look good and sophisticated in a British sense, but like any good spy, he should never attract too much attention to himself in his outer style.

    For this reason, Bond’s suits express from Anthony Sinclair are kept simple yet gorgeous, with Sean shifting from suits of blacks, blues and grays throughout, which he pulls off to perfect effect. Because the suits are so simple in color and style, they were destined to always remain in fashion, while a flashier ensemble would’ve been in danger of feeling passé in just a few decades. That’s why, over fifty years later, you could replicate Bond’s style exactly as it’s depicted on screen in Dr. No and you would be dressing just as fashionable as Sean was way back in ’62.

    The suits Bond wears in Dr. No not only look good, they are sensible for the climate. Many of the suits he wears once he’s in Jamaica are composed of lighter fabrics with suit coats and pants that would be comfortable to wear in that climate and that would allow for the range of movement Bond would require as a man of action. The details of the suits connect to this idea of sensibility and comfort across the board, even down to the Daks tops on Bond’s trousers that allowed the spy to comfortably adjust the pants with just buttons and elastic, making them more comfortable to wear since they wouldn’t require a fussy belt. The ensembles are finished off with immaculate navy grenadine ties, which would become a staple of Connery’s Bond style.

    While suits are what makes the Bond films style time capsules, a very special mention must also be made to the magic that the Jamaican born actress and fashion designer Tessa Prendergast brought to Dr. No. Prendergast was a woman of exquisite beauty, so much so that she could’ve easily been a Bond girl herself, and her Jamaican roots meant she knew how to look and dress sensibly in that climate. She made film history when she was hired by the production to give Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder a wardrobe of clothes to wear in the film. It was Prendergast who worked with Andress to develop the now classic ivory bikini the actress wore while coming out of the ocean, an ensemble that showed off her feminine beauty without making her look indecent or revealing too much. What came after Dr. No’s release was a revolution in women’s swimwear that propelled Andress into the stratosphere, providing the James Bond series with one of its most unforgettable scenes and pieces of wardrobe we’ve ever seen. Many thanks, Ms. Prendergast.

    Other honorable mentions in the costume design department include Bond’s unforgettable tuxedo that he wears in his big debut and Dr. No’s iconic ensemble, where Wiseman is seen wearing a Nehru suit long before it was cool (looking at you, Blofeld). I guess now we know where SPECTRE’s No. 1 got his fashion sense from.

    Sets-
    Like Terence Young and Peter Hunt before him, Ken Adam had no idea just what he was helping to create when he signed on as production designer for Dr. No. Just as Barry gave Bond his sound over time, Ken Adam is as responsible as anyone for giving Bond a look and atmosphere.

    Adam’s sets live in history because they are at once perfectly geometric, yet askew and off-kilter. So much of his pieces are constructed in shapes of circles or squares realized in metals or rock, which give them an earthy feel. Adam said that he wanted to create “space” with his sets, and that’s exactly what he accomplishes here. Like no other set designer, he makes the characters feel small and in over their heads through his compositions of rooms, a perfect visual metaphor for the dangerous landscape of spy craft Bond finds himself operating inside. Adam was a master manipulator of proportion, material, light and shadow, and knew how to construct sets that would best serve the atmosphere and overall feeling the film needed, and had a keen sense about what designs would be most visually engrossing when put on celluloid.

    Adam’s work in this film may be best represented by the anteroom, where No reprimands Dent and orders him to take the tarantula. We’ve got that stunning big circle that overtakes the ceiling of the set with bars across it that casts a dramatic shadow, cutting right into Dent. Adam plays with space, making the set large to underscore how insignificant Dent is in the face of Dr. No and the job ahead of him.

    Adam’s set work in the rest of the film, namely at Dr. No’s headquarters on Crab Key, is just as masterful. No’s lair gives off a suitably earthy feel, as so much of it looks carved with rock, stone, metal and wood. Adam tricks you into thinking that he really burrowed underneath the ground and built his sets right into the rock of the seabed, the designs are so magnificent. His sets also tell us much about No as a character and feed directly into the script itself, like his use of a magnifying glass that gives a larger view of the sea life out in Crab Key’s waters that underscores the villain's desire to impress people, while for Bond, it represents how No purports to be a whale, while in reality he’s only a minnow. My favorite aspect of Adam’s set work in No’s lair, however, is the frequent usage of those big metal doors he adds to transition the sets from room to room. Every time Bond and Honey are escorted to a new area and one of Dr. No’s aids twists those thick, wheeled doors shut behind him, you wonder how they’ll ever get out alive. Adam’s design in this instance helped to transmit to the audience just how inescapable Crab Key may be for Bond, and how much he may have fatally underestimated Dr. No’s power.

    Honorable mentions must also go to Adam’s design of the regal and elegant casino where Bond makes his debut, as well as M’s office, which I praised earlier in my analysis of the character himself. We have Adam to thank for single-handedly creating the blueprint for just what M’s office should look and feel like, and what its particular atmosphere should relate to us as viewers. His use of strong wood for the walls and the items hinting at M’s naval service and overall “Britishness” are immaculate.

    And he did all this amazing work, for the first time out, on a ridiculously measly budget. That’s true genius, right there.

    I don't do quantitative ratings on a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 scale as a principle of mine, but Dr. No is definite top 10 material, and has always made it high in my rankings since the first time I watched it.

    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. This final work was so immense, so impressive that it seems impossible to imagine that the crew hadn't been working with one another for decades, their dynamic 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 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 of the secret agent, 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..."
  • St_GeorgeSt_George Hopping into the escape pod with XXX
    edited September 2018 Posts: 1,589
    St_George's Great 007 DVD-athon

    1/24: Dr No


    So, I'm trialing my (latest) Bondathon's reviews (with the one for Dr No) on here, taken from their natural home on my blog, to see whether they work on the forum. And whether anyone will read them here, let alone get a kick out of them.

    Warning: they're ridiculously long-winded. ;)

    Anyway, here goes nothing...



    Pre-film

    So, what is ‘The Great 007 DVD-athon’? It’s a marathon viewing over several, er, years of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. Following this 'Pre-film' preamble are notes compiled by yours truly while watching the movie in question and then, following that ('In-film') section, a 'Post-film' review, in addition to ratings/ scores according to Eon series-relevant categories and (from FRWL onwards) a ranking based on an overall score.

    Note: in my last Bondathon, I ranked Dr No 11th of the then 23 official Bond films, noting that “essentially [it’s] a detective story set in the colourful Caribbean and with an explosive ending [and] it’s one of the tightest, simplest and … most effective entries in the series”.



    In-film

    Watched: 31/12/15–1/1/16

    Refreshments: Two glasses of Chilean red wine

    Nibbles: A bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk



    0.07 (Yes, 0.07!): Those groovy beeps always surprise me. So’60s futuristic and sci-fi-y.

    0.17: … And then the very first gunbarrel and the James Bond Theme over the first ever titles. What an opening for a Bond film. So pure. So cool.

    0.58: Connery’s name not before of the film’s title. Feels odd.

    2.05: The Bond film titles may be in genesis, but Maurice Binder’s work’s still awesome.

    3.08: The opening scene of the first Bond film starts with a card game and gambling – even if Bond’s not in it. Nice.

    5.20: The killing in Jamaica to the MI6(/7?) Communications room to the chap ordered to meet Bond at the Le Cercle casino. Beautiful storytelling. And easily one of the greatest sequences in the entire series. Not even adapted from Fleming!

    7.39: Bond’s introduction – better than sex?

    8.35: “Tell me, Miss Trench, do you play any other games? I mean, besides chemin de fer?” Ladies and gentlemen, James Bond’s first innuendo. Thousands more to come. As it were.

    9.00: Nobody hands over a business card like James Bond.

    12.00: M’s alternative line: “You’re not the Major Boothroyd I ordered!”

    14.07: “Ciao”. That’s the way to exit a room, all right.

    14.46: “There, now you’ve made me miss it”. That’s the way to enter a room, all right.

    15.25: Eunice Gayson’s eyebrows are crazy. Roger Moore crazy. Ludicrously sexy too, though.

    20.28: Bond wins his first fight without even taking his hat off!

    23.43: Mmm, first vodka Martini. Although, those are some really high-waisted trousers Connery’s wearing there.

    24.28: Who needs gadgets when you’ve got talcum powder and a full head of hair?

    28.11: Quarrel. Legend.

    29.07: “Book ’em, Dano!”

    37.47: Ken Adam enters… The bit when Dr No gets really gets interesting. That eerie cell set. That disembodied voice. That tarantula in that cage.

    42.15: Is that a big hairy spider or just chest hair?

    42.36: Whack! Whack! Whack-Whack-Whack! John Barry’s orchestra really goes for it in time with that slipper, doesn’t it? (In the novel, Bond’s sick at that point; in the movie, Connery merely feels his stomach and goes into the bathroom as we fade-out – this ain’t a Craig Bond film).

    46.09: The street-smart Quarrel getting his ‘navigational directions’ from his nose, his ears, his instincts? Less legendary. As is him being spooked by tales of dragons. It’s the early ’60s, I guess.

    49.41: Miss Taro opens the door – !@#”! He’s still alive!

    56.22: “That’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six” – very film noir. Although I don’t recall any of Bogie’s detective heroes killing anyone in cold blood. Bond the assassin – just like Craig’s – right here.

    58.41: Bond and Quarrel row into Crab Key – and Dr No goes all Swallows and Amazons. Gotta love this almost minimalist section until the Dragon turns up.

    59.51: Botticelli’s Venus. In a bikini, sadly…

    1.00.17: … And then Connery starts singing. Erm? Have we stepped back into Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

    1.02.10: “You promise you won’t steal my shells”/ “I promise”. Don’t worry, Honey; Bond clearly couldn’t give more of a crap about your shells.

    1.04.04: Quarrel: Holy !@#”! That crab’s scarier than the baddies’ boat with the machine gun!

    1.04.40: “Listen, both of you, there’s no such thing as drrrragans” – Connery schools his students.

    1.05.16: “Fetch my shoes”. And then the look back at Quarrel. Cringe…

    1.07.06: Who needs gadgets when you’ve got reeds to breathe through? Clever, clever, 007.

    1.11.13: Honey’s character development – Ursula Andress looks terrific and ain’t bad at all, but credit to Nikki van der Zyl’s voice-over for sure.

    1.12.28: Yeah, that doesn’t look much like a dragon, let’s be honest.

    1.13.29: Quarrel’s demise really is grisly!

    1.17.30: Bond goes spy-fi for the first time here – Ken Adam’s ace subterranean rocky walled-tunnel daubed in pink light and giant bronzed submarine-like door.

    1.17.45: Ah, Sister Rose and Sister Lily. Love it. The soft treatment – a ‘mink-lined prison’. Disorientating for Bond and Honey – and for the audience too.

    1.20.34: Enter Dr No. Sort of. Those steel hands! Who is this feller?

    1.23.40: Dr No’s living quarters – now, that’s what you call a set!

    1.27.18: “I prefer the ’53 myself”. A reference to Casino Royale’s year of publication perhaps? (à la the casino chip number in 2006’s Casino Royale?).

    1.27.54: “I’m a member of SPECTRE”/ “SPECTRE?”/ “SPECTRE”. And so it begins…

    1.30.10: Ken Adam ‘triangulates’ his set design to make even a prison cell look cool.

    1.33.25: Bond in the tunnel – to be fair, it did look like he needed a shower.

    1.35.02: More cracking spy-fi – those radiation suits look like something out of a ’50s space B-movie. But still very cool. The funky, synthy soundtrack at this point adds to the atmos enormously too.

    1.36.54: “Fuel elements? Fuel elements? Where’s Chang…? Chang! What are you doing there? Get on the gantry!”. Dr No’s anger and Bond’s mimed response always makes me titter. Gives the impression Chang’s always b*ggering about.

    1.40.24: Cracking death for Dr No.

    1.41.33: “Where’s the girl I came in with?”/ “I dunno”. Connery knocks him out – that’s how you deal with goons who don’t give you the answer you want!

    1.41.52: Appealingly elaborate, if pointless, torture-to-death for Honey there.

    1.42.47: And the villain’s lair goes boom! I’ve the oddest feeling we’ll be seeing that again in the series…



    Post-film

    The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang & wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.



    Blighty's finest

    In his first starring role of considerable note, it’s impressive how well Connery steps up to the plate – he displays unmistakeable confidence as Dr No’s lead, as well as a big dollop of thesp talent. To watch him here is to watch an actor becoming a movie star; plain and simple. His Bond too is arguably the most like Fleming’s until Craig would earn his ‘00’ stripes 44 years later; nuanced, conceivable, ruthlessly efficient, oozing machismo and, yes, sex. This Bond isn’t so much a lady-killer but an assassin with a killer smile. He’s tall, dark, terribly handsome, capable as hell and very dangerous. In short, almost perfect.

    Score: 007 +2



    Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its

    It’s hard to fault Joseph Wiseman’s big-bad; despite relatively little screen-time, he’s a hell of a baddie, emitting intelligent evil, menace and cruelty – he sets the standard for all the villains to come. Even more iconic is Ursula Andress as Honey, of course; if Dr No made Connery, it (and her white bikini) did exactly the same for her. Yet, she’s not quite as compelling or invested a character as she might be. Conversely, as the lesser ‘good girl’ and ‘bad girl’ respectively, Trench and Taro are excellent but, despite his terrific death, Professor Dent’s far from a shark, more a wet fish.

    Score: 007 +1



    Crash, bang & wallop

    From a Bond film formula perspective, action is Dr No’s weak point. The most satisfying bit is when Bond’s gorgeous Sunbeam Alpine rental’s pursued by goons in a hearse along Jamaica’s winding hill roads, only for the latter to explode into flames and end up at the bottom of a mountain. But why does it actually explode? There’s also Bond’s first ever fight with a baddie, who’s posing as a Government House-employed driver, but he basically just beats him up, and 007 and Quarrel shooting at Dr No’s rather pants dragon-tank. Not to forget too the superb sequence of our man escaping his cell in the villain’s HQ and enduring an arduous time in ventilation shafts, but that’s more a torture sequence really.

    Score: 007 -2



    Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?

    Humour in this film’s derived from wit and usually understated. But that’s far from a bad thing. From 007’s quips-following-killings (“Don’t let him get away”/ “I think they were on their way to a funeral”) to Bond and Sylvia’s sexual innuendo-fuelled encounter in his flat to the former’s pause when Honey asks him if he has ‘a woman of his own’, it’s good stuff. Less belly laughs; more satisfying chuckle-inducers.

    Score: 007



    Cool look or Phuyuck?

    While Dr No’s far from the most aspirational-by-look Bond film (Jamaica of the early ’60s offers something of a rustic, nay impoverished beauty that’s very appealing if you’re into early post-colonialism; certainly if you’re a fan of Fleming), it does however give us our first glimpse of what set designer extraordinaire Ken Adam could and would go on to do. The above cell/ waiting room in Dr No’s base is the best example – mid-modernist minimalism meets eerily-angled gigantism (note the use of shadow created thanks to fantastic film lighting). The shape of things to come – if you’ll excuse the pun.

    Score: 007 +1



    Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?

    The basis for a spat that persists to this day, the first Bond movie’s music gets two up-ticks thanks to its introduction and prominent use (straight off the bat over Maurice Binder’s starkly dynamic opening titles) of the iconic James Bond Theme. It was derived and originally penned by Monty Norman, based on a tune he’d created for a quickly forgotten stage musical. Yet its brilliance is down to John Barry’s re-arrangement, reliant on brass, a bit of jazz and a rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. The rest of Dr No’s sound – dependent on Norman’s use of Caribbean-esque themes – is far less memorable.

    Score: 007 +1



    Quality-ometer

    More than just the Bond film in genesis, Dr No is a strong, compelling, entertaining movie in its own right. No question. Yes, it lays the groundwork for the escapades to come (the incredibly appealing if enigmatic hero; sexy main heroine; OTT nemesis; lesser good and bad girls; exotic setting; ‘PG’-sex and explosive ending), but it takes the absolute best from the Fleming source novel and, although toning down some of its fantasy, introduces an irresistible spy-fi vibe in the last third. A good brew then, blending film noir and fantastical technology into an otherwise fairly straight espionage thriller.

    Score: 007 +2



    Bond bonus points: +8

    1. 007’s introduction (‘Bond, James Bond’)
    2. Honey Ryder emerging from the sea
    3. Bond shooting Dent
    4. The James Bond Theme over the opening credits
    5. The ‘Strangways radio in Jamaica-British Intelligence communications room in London-finding Bond at the casino’ sequence
    7. 007 and No verbally spar over dinner
    8. Ken Adam’s first spy-fi-Bond film set
    9. Bond catches Sylvia playing golf in his apartment, leading to a whole new ball-game


    Overall score:
    62 points



    Now, for the full experience (including flashy visuals and what not, if I say so myself), why not view the reviews as nature intended them to be on my blog...?

    https://georgesjournal.org/the-great-007-dvd-athon/
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,686
    Excellent stuff @St_George .
  • St_GeorgeSt_George Hopping into the escape pod with XXX
    Posts: 1,589
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Excellent stuff @St_George .

    Thanks, @Birdleson; much appreciated. :)
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