A British spy, James Bond (Sean Connery, The Man Who Would Be King), travels to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of another agent and his secretary. During the course of his investigation, Bond encounters a mad genius, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman, Detective Story), who is determined to put a stop to the USA space program.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Dr. No, written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather, and directed by Terence Young (Wait Until Dark), is the first Bond movie, and like most trend-setting films, this movie is economical, straightforward, and very effective. It is a surprisingly gritty espionage tale that manages to establish the blue print for an endless series of movies that in years to come, despite the fact that this is a very British franchise, will become very much part of the American culture.
Being the first means that this is still a work in progress. There is no punchy title song, no crazy gadgets, and no “Q” (M16’s Quartermaster). We do get to see title designer Maurice Binder’s kooky work accompanied by Monty Norman’s legendary “Bond Theme” (rumors that John Barry wrote the melody have persisted, but these rumors seem unfounded).
Interestingly, Dr. No dares to question USA’s conflict with the Soviets right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even more fascinating is how the movie almost mocks the ideals behind the Cold War — it makes a brave effort to show how ineffective American Intelligence is, a very hot topic in the post-911 world. These are concerns from the ’60s that are still valid today.
Dr. No is full of memorable moments: Bond’s introduction, Ursula Andress (The Blue Max and Clash of the Titans) coming out of the water, the confrontation between our hero and his nemesis, etc. The budget of the film is relatively low, but it all looks so polished, so elegant — legendary production designer Ken Adam’s (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Barry Lyndon) sets are fantastic! The producers proved with this movie that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to create a credible adventure tale.
The acting is great. Connery is excellent in the role that made him a star. He is dashing, charismatic and witty; he is the perfect hero. Connery makes us believe that he can both seduce the beautiful dames and destroy the powerful villains. Personally, I had forgotten how mean Connery’s Bond is — he seems to enjoy killing people in cold blood!
Wiseman is a wonderfully creepy bad guy and super-beauty Andress is still one of the best “Bond Girls” (too bad they dubbed her voice because I like her natural sultry accent). Jack Lord (TV’s Hawaii Five-O) is fine as Bond’s CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell play “M” and Miss Moneypenny respectively.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Dr. No has lost none of its original appeal. It’s great pulpy entertainment that has stood the test of time. It’s really a fun movie. The first adventure is still one of the best. Color, 110 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return
From Russia with Love (1963)