Dr. No (1962)
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum,
Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather
Directed by Terence Young
My dad was a big fan of James Bond, specifically the Sean Connery films. At an early age, I had seen Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and Man With a Golden Gun several times over. Over the years, he made it a point to bring my brother and I to each and every Bond film in the cinema (with the strange exception of Never Say Never Again). In my own way, I have taken up the Bond mania. Recently I collected all of the 50th anniversary Blu-ray editions (with the exception of Die Another Day) and have been reviewing the cult films with added interest.
There are several outlets on the web that offer exhaustive investigation of the James Bond films, so that’s not exactly what I intend to do here. I will be composing quickfire reviews of the movies, often out of order, that are more in tune with my own experience and what these films mean to me.
It was many years after my association with the Bond franchise began that I first saw Dr. No. It is far removed from what I was used to, the gadget-happy Roger Moore movies or even the more imaginative Connery stories that followed. Dr. No lacks these qualities but in its place is pure charm and class.
I understand that Connery was not a popular choice with producer “Cubby” Broccoli (who was more convinced that David Niven was a natural Bond). A large burly fella, Connery was crafted into the gentleman secret agent by director Terrance Young who took the Scots actor and placed him in a custom tailored suit, made sure his manicure was immaculate and his charm bracelet perfect. It is through Young’s intervention that the character and look of Bond was so distinctive in these early films. But it was Connery who added that primal danger to the part, giving viewers the glimpse that beneath that lady-killing smile lay the heart of an assassin.
Dr. No is a great establishing story as viewers see the intricacies of MI-6 and the way in which Bond is an awkward fit within their organization. From his choice of firearm to his sledgehammer tactics, Bond has a problem with authority (strangely something that another first choice for Bond Patrick McGoohan’s shared as secret agent John Drake). It is also important in that it has such a strong central villain in Dr. No, something that would be expected in later films. As we learn the capabilities of Bond, we see the level of danger that he faces, a villain so deadly that he imbues fear of a kind unseen before.
As a Bond movie, the pacing is a bit slow and the action sparse, but there is so much style and character in this movie that I cannot help but adore it. The scenery is breathtaking and the Jamaican location is used with great aplomb. If you are a Bod fan and have not seen this one in a while, give it a chance but be sure to grab the Blu-ray edition. The retouched image and sound are astounding and the added features, including rare footage of Connery and a look into Bond’s arsenal.