Dr. No |
directed by Terence Young
(United Artists/MGM, 1962)
Pierce Brosnan is going a long way towards making the role of 007 his own. But, as good as he or other, future Bonds may be, and as good as modern screenwriting and special effects may become, there will always still be one man who personifies James Bond.
Connery made his first splash as the British superspy in 1962 when he faced up against the nefarious Dr. No. By modern standards, it's missing a lot of the elements that make modern Bond films like Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough. Action sequences were stilted, much of the acting was a little stiff, the soundtrack (by John Barry and Monty Norman) had highs and lows. The dialogue needed a little more polish. Bond was a little too frightened of an assassin tarantula. The mountainside car chase was a trifle uninspired and the "dragon" was just plain silly. They obviously didn't know a lot about radiation back then. Oh, and the first martini of the movie was "mixed," not shaken as Bond usually requests.
But it started an action-adventure dynasty that is still going strong after five Bonds and nearly 40 years, with no sign of stopping.
We get our first glimpse of Connery's Bond at a private London club, playing (and winning, of course) at the bacarrat table, his tuxedo immaculate and cigarette still managing to look suave. (It was, after all, 1962.) While many of the hairstyles, wardrobes and mannerisms look dated, Connery as Bond does not.
He's calm, resourceful and for the most part unbeatable. (OK, so the drugged coffee slipped by him, but he did pretty well, all things considered.) He's likewise arrogant, elitist and sexist, the character flaws that have defined Bond nearly as much as his heroics.
Dr. No also introduced the unflappable M (Bernard Lee) and the flirtatious Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). Bond traded in his trusty Barretta for the Walther PPK (not without protest) and, of course, managed to seduce the first woman he meets -- the very first Bond girl, Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) -- before his mission even began.
But then, he's off to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a British agent with the help of American CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord). With Miss Taro (Zena Marshall), Bond began his tradition of first seducing, then killing or arresting women in the employ of his foes. And then the Bond girl by which all Bond girls are still judged made her appearance -- Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, a tanned and bikini-clad seashell gatherer rising from the Caribbean surf.
(A bit of Bond trivia -- all of the female voices in this movie, with the exception of Moneypenny's, were dubbed by English actress Monica van der Syl.)
Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) set a standard for megalomaniac villains, polite to a fault and driven by a need to rule the world and explain his misdeeds instead of killing his opponents and getting on with his plots. He introduces SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), a reoccurring Bond society of villains. In this case, he wants to derail a U.S. moon launch, but of course Bond can't allow that to happen on his watch.
Yes, Dr. No is a flawed film, especially considering the heights some later movies in the Bond series achieved. But it's certainly not the worst of the series, either, and it gave the Bond tradition a fine beginning. Modern Bond fans should watch the earlier films once in a while, just to be reminded where and how it all began.
[ by Tom Knapp ]