Most of my urges are dark, solemn secrets between me and my internet service provider. However, I had an urge the other day that I felt safe to expose to the light of day. I’ve decided to review every Bond film in chronological order, one a day, for 22 days. Why? Well, I recently got the complete set on Blu-ray and it’s the 50th anniversary of Bond this year, which is as good as an excuse as any. Let me address two things: 1) Yes, I probably do need a girlfriend or at least a night out with people once in a while and 2) I’m not going to do the two “unofficial” Bonds, namely 1967’s Bond parody Casino Royale and Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again because, above all other things, they’re shite. Let’s start at the beginning with Dr.No, shall we?
Dr. No (1962)
It’s tough to imagine what a cultural phenomenon James Bond was back in 1962. The books were already pretty famous, but the Dr.No film introduced him to the masses. In many ways, Bond was seen as an anti-hero, what with all the drinking, gambling, fighting and such. Still, this ain’t a history lesson. It’s hard to factor in ’60s popular culture when present popular culture has put the entire decade on a pedestal. This is a film review and I’m going to review it using my 2012 eyes (I’ve pre-ordered my 2013 eyes).
After being sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of fellow agent, Commander Strangways, James Bond (Sean Connery) discovers there’s a lot more than just a simple vanishing afoot, all of it having to do with the mysterious Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman). Along the way Bond also recruits local fisherman Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), CIA man Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and bikini-clad diver Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress). Many would argue that Connery is the quintessential Bond and it’s difficult to argue otherwise with his portrayal in Dr.No. He’s suave, sophisticated and slick. I always thought he played Bond a bit too self-satisfied for his own good. There are moments in the film that seem like he’s gliding through scenes on a cloud of pure smug. These are fleeting though and I personally love Connery’s take. Ursula Andress manages to do well with what she’s given. She somehow injects her role with a believable toughness and vulnerability in what is basically an eye candy part. I love Joseph Wiseman as the nefarious Doctor. He’s really quite cold and creepy. Some of my favourite bits of the entire film are when No and Bond are verbally squaring off against each other, especially when it becomes apparent that No is disappointed in Bond as an adversary and calls him “just a stupid policeman.”.
As a spy film it still works well. It’s a taut ’60s thriller with double-crosses and backstabs par for the course. There are some amazing moments, including Bond waking up in his bed to find a massive tarantula crawling up his body and the super famous Honey Ryder introduction where she emerges from the ocean in a bikini and hunting knife on her hip. Apparently, her intro alone struck so much of a chord with audiences that bikini sales massively increased after the film released. There’s a surprisingly dark moment as well, where Bond is lying in wait for Professor Dent, before confronting him and shooting the guy down in cold blood.
It’s crazy to see just how many of the classic Bond hallmarks started here at square one. We have the gunbarrel intro, exotic locations, the iconic theme, a kaleidoscopic title sequence as well as M, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter. There’s also a megalomaniacal villain with some sort of gimmick (in this case, motherfucking robot hands) and a big, science-y looking lair. There’s even a Bond quip or two. No title song though, just the Bond theme playing over some charmingly lo-fi titles with colourful dots, then some multi-coloured dancing woman silhouettes before finally and surreally morphing into a Calypso version of “Three Blind Mice”. Actually talking of music, having come to expect the famous theme to appear when Bond is doing something cool and Bondian, it’s strange to see its use here, usually popping up when Bond is doing something utterly mundane, like reading a document or simply walking across a room.
“That’s a Smith & Wesson, and you’ve had your six.“
So is it still good? Yeah. It’s entertaining and fun. If you can forgive the slightly hokey ’60s espionage stuff with the overdramatic judo moves and a vague understanding of science. That’s not to mention the casual racism.Quarrel is portrayed as rather simple, coming across as a superstitious native and a dogsbody, with Bond ordering Quarrel at one point to fetch his shoes. That aside, it’s a decent film with some genuine intrigue (if you haven’t seen it thousands of times on ITV over the years), action beats and a satisfying conclusion. It’s not difficult to see how this film started off one of the most popular and profitable film series ever.