Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: Dr. No. There is something funny going on in Jamaica, James. Our man Strangways has been found dead, along with his secretary. He was in the area looking for possible interference with the American space rockets. It is your mission to find out what happened to him and continue the investigation where he left off.
The first in the series, the Dr. No title sequence is just as inventive and stunning. After a fantastic practice in the use of dots, the usual silhouettes that have become common practice today are seen here dancing over top of one another than can only be explained as 60s. It then moves on to the “Three Blind Mice” and transitions right into the story in Kingston, Jamaica with these same three men. The song to accompany it? It could be none other than John Barry and the James Bond Theme. But, in a unique manner, the theme song is joined by two other songs during the title sequence: “Underneath the Mango Tree” and “Three Blind Mice”. The local song adds a nice flair to the proceedings and is a good indicator of where the story may be going and the traditional song tells us exactly where it is going as it transitions into the film.
Bond films are often known for exotic locations and the first of the series starts off in beautiful, tropical Kingston Jamaica.
Bernard Lee is famous for his role as Bond’s boss, M. The time on screen for M here is short and to the point: there is a problem in Jamaica and Bond must solve it immediately. But there is also M’s secretary, the ever so elegant Miss Moneypenny. The relationship starts for the audience here, but it is evident that their flirtation has gone on for some time. Mostly fueled by Bond, the relationship is based on what never was, as the two always reminisce about things that never happened. The banter back and forth is always satisfying and always makes you wanting them to actually get together in the end, though they never do.
Once we get to Jamaica, Bond finds a few friends, principally the American CIA agent Felix Leiter. Now famous for being played by Jeffrey Wright, here it is Jack Lord. Leiter has been working in cooperation with the British in finding the maniac responsible for plotting against the US Space Program. After a brief tussle to begin the relationship, they realize they are on the same team and work together to find the evil Dr. No. Felix is a cool guy, but let’s be honest, James does all the work here and Felix is just there to keep up the diplomacy.
Quarrel is the local man called in to help with Bond and his hunt for Dr. No and his island fortress at Crab Key. At first we are led to believe this man may be harmful, but we soon learn that his aid may be invaluable as he knows the area in and out, except Crab Key, of course, for that place is haunted and off limits to all that value life. He tells a story of a few friends that went fishing there and never came back.
The first and quintessential Bond girl, Honey is a girl who lives in danger and loves to sing. We meet her on Crab Key, singing “Underneath the Mango Tree” and collecting seashells for money. Her father was a Marine Biologist who was reportedly killed by Dr. No. Played by Ursula Andress, Honey Ryder is the definition of sexy, daring, and smart: my favorite kind of Bond girl.
Dr. Julius No
Oddly there is only one true villain in this Bond flick and it is the title character played by Joseph Wiseman. The great thing about Wiseman’s performance is his posture. Menacingly straight, No’s posture tells you somehow that there is something crooked with him. He works for SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence,Terrorism, Revenge & Extortion). SPECTRE is the criminal organization that is trying to take over the world through their masterminds, one of which is Dr. No.
Professor R.J. Dent
We know little about Dent. He is a professor at some university and we soon learn he is also under the employment of the evil Dr. No as well. Not the best criminal, he is merely an pawn in Dr. No’s game of terror.
Well technically there is no Desmond Llewelyn until Goldfinger in 1964, but James still gets outfitted. We are introduced to James and he sports a Beretta hand gun, which he gets scolded for by M and the weapons specialist who comes in to outfit him with his new, now renown Walther PPK hand gun. We never see him get outfitted apart from the new handgun, but in this instance Bond uses fingerprint powder and some of his own hair to track those that track him. He also has a Geiger counter to do something brilliant that I don’t quiet understand. Some neat things for 1962, but nothing special just yet.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the James Bond films are the women. Good or bad they are also sexy, and in the end, are always undressed by our man James. What is astounding is Bond’s promiscuity and his ability to hold no connection whatsoever to any woman he meets. But at the same time I wonder how a man in his job position may react. No room for love, for a relationship, but still that attraction. For this reason I do not blame him for his actions. At the same time, James is one of the smoothest, most dashing men to hit the big screen. He has moves like Itzhak Perlman can play the violin.
Miss Taro, played by Zena Marshall is just one of three women in this film with whom James shares a bed. Miss Taro is a secretary at the British consulate in Kingston, but she is also a spy for Dr. No as it so happens. A beautiful, but evil, woman, she just cannot resist James’ moves. What it interesting in this case is the fact that Bond takes her to bed even after learning that she was trying to have him killed. This hearkens back to my earlier discussion of his promiscuity. What would drive a man to do something like this? Again, it is one of my favorite aspects of the Bond character.
Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson, is the dashing beauty we meet at the same time we are introduced for the first time to James himself. She is the opponent of the famous Mr. Bond in one of his favorite pastimes: cards. She is losing to Bond, but is determined to beat him. But little does she know she has come under the charm of James and cannot resist him, meeting him back in his hotel room for a little late night “golf” before James has to fly off to Jamaica. And of course I have already discussed Honey Ryder.
The Car & the Chase
Not much is explained about the car that James requests once he arrives in Kingston, but from the looks of it, it is a sleek Aston Martin. Aston Martin will of course soon become the car of choice for our man James, but this one is a nice silver convertible. We only see it during the principle chase scene however. There is a minor chase scene earlier in the film, but this one includes just Bond in the Aston Martin and a following car. They rip around the mountains just outside of town and it ends in a flaming heap of metal for the men chasing after Bond. He is too good of a driver to let them catch him. The backdrop for the chase is fairly obvious and fairly fake. Sometimes that can be a detriment, and it kind of is here. It is not a horrible chase scene, but with the high energy action films of today, this one comes off quaint, though still enjoyable.
Dr. No has always been one of my favorites of the series as it marks the beginning. It is the alpha, if you will, of the series and without it you could not have all the marvelous films that followed. There was so much innovation going on here, at least in my mind. The story seems fresh and unique, the locations, the women; everything thing that reminds you why you love Bond is here, but imagine seeing it for the first time back in 1962. Wow, that must have been something! And the theme! Oh my goodness the theme. What might seem old sounding now, though I am immune to time when it comes to music, imagine that classic tune and hearing it for the first time in 1962! That must have been an experience. And the theme must have been remade hundreds of times over the course of the series but non compares to the original by John Barry. It is just classic. Everything is here to indicate a trendsetting film, an important film in the course of action cinema.
The production design is something that always sticks out in my mind in any Bond film. The places he goes are amazing, but the buildings, and the villain hide outs and fortresses are always interesting and different. Dr. No’s lair is amazing. The room in which the Professor receives the tarantula is stunning. And the dining room and stay rooms for Honey and James are so upscale, yet so futuristic too. I love it. Think of the costume design as well. Someone has to make James look so handsome and irresistible. Someone has to make the women the most beautiful and sexy women on the planet. The classic tux is always classy, but what sticks out here is Honey Ryder’s classic white bikini.
Sean Connery is the original Bond, but I will not delve into a discussion of who my favorite Bond is and why and all that mumbo jumbo. Sean is classic, like the film, he set the standard for how Bond should walk, talk, kill, and woo the women. He seems perfect for the role in the manner in which Ian Fleming intended and in the manner in which director Terence Young intended. Terence Young is a great director. I have not seen any of his work outside of the Bond series, but here he has a steady hand and great vision that comes to life on screen. The idea is simple and does not need to be flashy, the action and storyline will carry the majority of the story, but everyone seems to be in the right place and just the right angle seems to be used to create an otherwise pretty darn good looking film.
With that being said, some of the acting and editing is very 60s and by that I mean it is not perfection. I am not lambasting the entire decade of the sixties, I am merely saying that they could be somewhat careless with these things back then and get away with it. That being said, the rest of the film is just great fun. Is it “high-octane”? Well, I do not know about that, but if the rest of the films in the series are as good as this, then I will be in for a treat!
James Bond will return in….
From Russia with Love