Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Jack Lord, Anthony Dawson, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Zena Marshall, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Music: Monty Norman
James Bond theme played by John Barry
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming
I don’t think I am giving too much away when I say that I am a child of the seventies and eighties. The first Bond film I saw was The Spy Who Loved Me, and I absolutely loved it. Soon after, I started on a quest to try and watch all of the James Bond films. It wasn’t so easy back then. There were no video tapes, let alone DVDs. Basically all I could do was wait until a Bond film showed up on network TV, Over the years I ticked off each of the films as they were shown, but Dr. No remained steadfastly hidden from view. It wasn’t until the video age swept the world in the mid eighties that I finally got to see the first Bond film. And as a teenager, I must admit I wasn’t too impressed. It wasn’t like the other films. The start was different; where was the pre-title sequence? And where were the one-liners and double entendres?
But still, it was a Bond film and almost religiously I would watch it once a year. And now here it is twenty (plus) years later and you know what? I have truly grown to love this film. I think it is one of the best of the series. Anyway, that’s enough reminiscing; let’s look at the film!
There are conflicting opening dates for the first Bond film. The James Bond Interactive Dossier lists it as October 5,1962, but Raymond Benson in The James Bond Beside Companion writes that the film opened on the 7th. Either way Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond 007 made his first big screen appearance. By this I mean cinematic appearance. James Bond had appeared before in an American TV movie of Casino Royale in 1954, but to most people, that doesn’t count. Dr. No was the first official James Bond movie made by EON productions, the company most people associate with the Bond franchise.
For the part of James Bond, Ian Fleming wanted David Niven or even Roger Moore, but he was contracted to the television series The Saint. The Studio’s wanted Cary Grant but he would only agree to do two films. Finally they settled on little known actor Sean Connery and the rest, as they say, is history.
Despite it’s age, Dr No is one of the most violent Bond movies. From full-blooded fist fights, cold- blooded killings, flash-cubes being thrust into the head, this films depiction of violence is more realistic, and less stylised than later films in the series. Towards the end, after Bond has been given the ‘treatment’ by Dr No’s henchmen and struggled through an obstacle course, he is pretty badly beaten up and not the suave, unruffled hero we are used to.
In it’s day Dr. No was quite blatant in its depiction of sex. These days it would be considered quite mild and even teen films like Agent Cody Banks and If Looks Could Kill are almost on par with the shenanigans that go on. But still, there are quite a few conquests for Bond along the way. Firstly, Eunice Gayson’s character, Sylvia Trench (the girl Bond picks up at the Casino at the beginning). Originally the character was intended to appear in every film but the idea was dropped after From Russia With Love. It is alluded to that Bond beds her before heading off on his mission.
Next is Zena Marshall, who as Miss Taro is the most ruthless and conniving of the ladies Bond beds. She deliberately lures Bond to her cabin in the mountains for a romantic interlude. All the while it is a trap, where a team of assassins in a hearse try to run Bond’s vehicle of the road. After the assassins fail, she arranges for Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) to finish the job. He is not too successful either.
Last but not least, is Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, who was cast after the producers saw a picture of her in a wet T-shirt. She is the first real Bond girl. Her emergence from the water, wearing a white bikini with a belt and knife at her hip, is one of the most famous and lampooned sequences in modern cinema history. Incidentally, Ursula Andress’ voice was completely re-dubbed for the films release.
The movie primarily set in Jamaica, starts with the assassination of Strangways, the top M.I.7* operative in the Caribbean, and his secretary, by three hoods working for Dr No. Strangways was investigating some destructive radio signals emanating from the Caribbean. These signals were toppling (sending off course) American missiles.
Bond is sent to Jamaica to follow up, and from the instant he arrives, he is up to his armpits with henchmen and women trying to divert him from his mission. And naturally enough, this all leads to Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman). Dr. No, like many criminal masterminds, has a physical impediment. He has metal hands. He also works for an evil criminal organisation called S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which stands for Special Executive for Counter Terrorism Revenge and Extrortion.
I think that the true Bond fans love Dr. No. Maybe callow youth (hey, I was one once) and tourists to the series may not rate it too highly, but this is a bloody great film, and without it, we wouldn’t have the Bond series as we know it today.
*In Dr. No, ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) refers to his department as M.I.7. Only in later films in the series does it revert to M.I.6. But funnily enough, in vintage advertising material, ‘M’ says M.I.6. If you look carefully at the film, you can see the Lee has looped his dialogue. His lips read ‘six’, but his voice says ‘seven’.