A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.
- Annabel Chung - Photographeras Annabel Chung - Photographer
- (as Margaret Le Wars, Marguerite Lewars: end credits)
"Dr. No" is the first film in the franchise, released in 1962. It's the first film in the franchise, but it's based on the 6th book in the franchise (written by Ian Fleming), and one which received a lot of criticism as well. I haven't read the book, although I have read several Bond novels, but from what I've read review-wise, the film seems to mostly stick to the source material.
The plot: James Bond, agent 007 of the British secret service, is sent to find out what happened to a missing fellow agent, and the trail leads him to Jamaica, where he tangles with Dr. No, an evil scientist bent on disrupting an American space launch.
The story itself is interesting, though it probably could've moved along a little more quickly, but I did appreciate how much time was taken to really develop the story. That is an aspect of the earlier Bonds that's really nice, is how much story and layers of complexity there were to the plots, at least, the first few Connery films. The script was written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather. Richard Maibaum became a veteran writer for the Bond films, doing the scripts for the majority of the earlier ones, and he really is gifted. This film, and the others, are very well thought out and imaginative, and Maibaum and the others adapt the original book well for the screen. The plot does seem to stall at times, but overall there's a lot of plot that builds, and makes the climax more anticipated. This film came before the "Bond Formula" was fully realized, and all the nuances of it aren't present here, but this is definitely where it started.
Terence Young had an excellent directorial showing here, capably and effectively handling the action scenes and the character development. His style was very influential on future films in the series, and he is definitely one of, if not the, best directors to handle a James Bond film.
There are a few action sequences in this film, though, if you're an action junkie this might not be for you. The action comes only when necessary, and only as a device to move the plot along. Unlike many of the later Bond films, there aren't any overblown, extended scenes, and much of the action happens quickly. There's a brief fight scene between Bond and an assassin, the metal dragon scene on the beach, and the final fight scene. In between are a few short moments, and the movie is surprisingly violent for a film in 1962. Bond kills a man with a knife offscreen, a man is set on fire and dies, Bond shoots a man several times in cold blood (which became one of the most infamous and memorable kills in the series), etc. The violence isn't shocking by today's standards, but I was surprised at some of the blood and brutality present for the time, but the Bond films again were very ahead of their time in terms of action and violence, and the violence portrayed here still doesn't quite reach the levels of gritty and at times graphic violence seen in Ian Fleming's novels.
The film was even dismissed at the time by a lot of critics due to the violence, because as I said, the film was ahead of its time. The Vatican even took shots at the film, saying it was "a dangerous mixture of violence, vulgarity, sadism and sex", which probably isn't inaccurate, though this film is nowhere near as close to that template as some of the newer Bond films (the 1962 Vatican reviewer would've had a heart attack had he seen any of the Craig or Brosnan films). The film's reception at the time was generally mixed, but over time, it's been reappraised as one of the series' best entries, which is also accurate.
Many Bond tropes were instituted here, including, the diabolical villain with overblown plans, and the gorgeous female sidekick, known colloquially as "Bond girls". In this case, they are Dr. No, who is a very memorable villain, equal parts stoic and sadistic. He is cold and calculating, and he is brutal, either following through, or at least attempting, to torture Bond and his companion on different occasions. It's especially interesting how much of an impact he had on the Bond films and the action/spy genre in general, especially since he doesn't even appear in the film until about 2/3 of the way through. The girl is Honey Rider, one of the most memorable Bond girls, and probably one of the most developed, and she too doesn't appear until closer to the film's climax. Other institutions here are the villain's large base with many jump suit-clad henchmen, and the opening song and the iconic gun barrel opening, both very creative, which are just more testaments to how ahead of its time this film was. Oh, and "Bond, James Bond", one of the greatest film lines ever.
Sean Connery did very well, and he really is a great Bond. I've seen all the films by now and am still trying to decide my personal ranking of the actors, but it's pointless to get caught up in that debate. Regardless of his successors, Connery is still great, and put his stamp on the character here. He was the first, he made the character his own, and he gave a great performance. Ursula Andress was pretty good, though apparently Nikki van der Zyl did her lines, and she just mouthed them, I don't know why. Joseph Wiseman did an excellent job as Dr. No, and created a really iconic villain, and his cold glares and short lines were delivered well.
The character of James Bond here is very interesting, and really embodies the character imagined in Fleming's novels, equal parts cultured gentleman and badass trained killer. He is lighthearted and sardonic at times, and cold and ruthless at others, and Connery managed to balance these well, giving the character a subtle nuance. Three Bond regulars first appear here as well. The first is Q, called Mr Boothroyd here (played by Peter Burton), who supplies 007 with all of his gadgets and toys. The others are M (played by Bernard Lee), Bond's no nonsense superior, and Mrs. Moneypenny (played by Lois Maxwell), M's flirtatious and interesting secretary.
Overall, I thought it was great, and it did go on to spawn a 25 (26 if you count "Never Say Never Again") film series, all of which are entertaining. This was a fun movie, slow at times, and it's also pretty dated by today's standards, but that doesn't take away from how innovative and entertaining it is. I am a huge Bond fan, and I highly recommend this movie to fans, and if you're not a fan, you should still check it out. It's an essential piece of pop culture and film history, and well worth your time.
- Oct 16, 2019