Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released in the UK on October 6, 1962 and in the US on May 8, 1963
Directed by Terence Young
Written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather
Cast: Sean Connery, Joseph Wiseman, Ursula Andress, Jack Lord, Anthony Dawson, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Peter Burton, Eunice Gayson, Milton Reid, Nikki Van der Zyl (voice)
The hero of Ian Fleming’s popular spy novels makes the jump from the written page to the silver screen with Dr. No, the first of twenty-four films to feature the exploits of British Secret Service agent James Bond, who carries the 007 license-to-kill designation and isn’t afraid to use it. In this introductory story, Bond is sent to Jamaica to track down a missing MI6 station chief, who was working with the CIA to uncover the source of radio transmissions that are disrupting American rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. Soon Bond is going head-to-head with the man responsible, a nefarious member of the terrorist organization SPECTRE called Dr. No.
Though a little rough around the edges, Dr. No was still an entertaining and well-done entry in the Bond canon, and offered a more down-to-earth approach to what fans would come to expect from later offerings. For one thing, it was quite serious and brutal, and had a noticeable lack of the many gadgets, cheeky one-liners, and overboard stunts that would saturate some of the follow-up films. Also, the story was a bit more even-keeled, and played out like a realistic spy thriller instead of a typical ‘Bond’ action film; some credit for this should go to director Terence Young, who helped mold the Bond persona, and created some memorable shots and defining touches along the way.
And wearing the Walther PPK for the first time was Sean Connery, my favorite actor in the role and for my money the best and most accepted representation of the character in the series. Like his literary incarnation, this cinema version of Bond was tough, sophisticated, and coldly efficient at his job, and with Connery in the mix it also contained a welcome sense of low-key wit and a whole lot of cool, both of which the Fleming novel lacked. Other performances were first-rate as well: Joseph Wiseman as the quietly menacing Dr. No, a surprisingly acceptable Jack Lord as CIA man Felix Leiter, and the stunning Ursula Andress as the shell-collecting Honey, who handles a white bikini like it’s nobody’s business.
A solid first entry in the 007 series, with plenty of iconic and establishing moments, scenic location filming in Jamaica, and Connery making his mark as Bond…all of which make this installment necessary viewing if you’re new to the franchise (and even if you’re not, of course). And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite Bond Girls of all time, the lovely Eunice Gayson, who played Bond’s captivating side dish Sylvia Trench, and who would do so again in From Russia with Love. (9/10)