Ricky Church counts down to the release of Spectre with a retro review of James Bond’s first adventure, Dr. No…
In October of 1962, the world was introduced to its most famous international spy, James Bond 007 as played by Sean Connery in the film Dr. No. Based off the bestselling series of novels by Ian Fleming, James Bond travelled the world for MI6 to stop rival spy agencies, global catastrophes and would-be dictators, all the while meeting some of the world’s most beautiful women (who just happened to have the most ridiculous names imaginable). In the first film of the 53-year-old series, Bond is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British agent and his connection to American rocket tests as well as the mysterious Dr. No in Jamaica.
While Dr. No may not be the most exciting Bond movie compared to later entries, its one with a very strong story and emphasis on espionage over action. No fancy gadgets are utilized in this film; 007 relies solely on his skill and intelligence to prevail against his enemies. One notable scene shows Bond preparing to leave his hotel suite, but not before utilizing baby powder on his briefcase locks and a string of his own hair on the closet door to see if anyone will have searched his room. Even before that at Bond’s arrival in Jamaica, he quickly picked out a photographer in the crowd sent to take a photo of him. Bond’s skill is perfectly shown in just a couple, wordless scenes.
Sean Connery also displays all the charisma, intelligence and danger within Bond. While he’s a charmer for sure, Connery’s portrayal of Bond is quite cold as he shows no hesitation in killing people and emotionlessly executes someone when he could have simply taken them alive for further questioning (“That’s a Smith & Wesson. You’ve had your six” remains one of the best lines in any Bond movie). Unlike some of the other actors who have portrayed Bond throughout the years, Connery’s is one of the few that closely mirrors Bond’s depiction in Fleming’s novels.
Not to be forgotten, of course, are Bond’s infamous womanizing habits. He’s with no less than three women in Dr. No, but its Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder who is Bond’s main squeeze. Ryder is actually a very strong and independent character for a woman in a 60s Bond film. While her first appearance is rising from the ocean in a scantly clad bikini, she shows no hesitation threatening Bond or any other character when she feels in danger. She also has her own motivation for going after Dr. No and a tragic back story, one that also shows the strength of her character.
The supporting cast is also great. Joseph Wiseman makes a memorable and intimidating appearance as the title villain. My only complaint is the film could have used more of Dr. No himself since he has such little screen time. Jack Lord and John Kitzmiller round out the cast as Bond’s allies, forming good chemistry with Connery. While this was the first and only time Lord played CIA operative Felix Leiter, the character would go on to be one of the most important recurring characters throughout the series.
It would be a crime not to mention the outstanding production design. From the sets to the costumes to locations, Dr. No is a beautiful looking film, one that would not only inspire future entries in the Bond series, but several other movies and television series in the spy genre. Dr. No also put in place several of the characteristics and clichés found in the franchise: over-the-top villains, car chases, hidden lairs, and, most importantly, the threat of SPECTRE. Though these elements were introduced in the novels, they were raised exponentially in the films.
With an interesting story, great characterization, a focus on espionage and many memorable factors that would become staples for 007, Dr. No is a strong introduction to everyone’s favourite gentleman spy. It is without a doubt one of the best entries in the franchise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★