Dr. No (1962)
001 for 007
James! Where have you been? I've been searching all over London for you - Miss Moneypenny
One of the most surprising things about the James Bond franchise is most of the movies run to a similar formula, 007 called in for a special mission which puts him in danger, meets an attractive female or two and takes on an evil genius. The first movie in the long running series pretty much set the template as it saw Bond heading to Jamaica to find out who killed and agent and ends up with him taking on the evil Dr. No and his plans of world domination. What is different about this first movie is not only the fact the jokey tone which infiltrated the series is missing but so are all the gadgets, in fact a piece of hair and some talcum powder is as gadgetry as it gets. In many ways "Dr. No" feels like the bare bones of the later movies without any bells and wheels just a hero who saves the day but it works.
After a British agent goes missing on a Jamaican island, Britain's top spy James Bond (Sean Connery - Darby O'Gill and the Little People) is dispatched to the island to investigate what is happening. He soon discovers his arrival doesn't go unnoticed as he has to deal with various attempts on his life whilst finding help from CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and local Quarrel (John Kitzmiller). But their investigations lead them to a restricted island where he not only does Bond meet the sexy Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress - Fun in Acapulco) but also the evil genius Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) who is part of SPECTRE and has plans for world domination.
So as already mentioned "Dr. No" is essentially the same as so many James Bond movies with are heroic British spy heading to Jamaica to uncover what happened to the previous spy and taking on an evil genius. I suppose for those who were lucky enough to see "Dr. No" before any of the others will enjoy the story more because whilst not the first adaptation of Ian Fleming's James Bond it was the start of this long running franchise. But for those like me whose childhood was dominated by the Bond of Roger Moore and the repeats on TV will recognize that the essence of the storyline is no different to many of the others.
What is very different is that "Dr. No" fees stripped back, missing so many of the elements which would later dominate the series. We may get the suave Bond who can get any woman he wants but he has none of the fancy gadgets which became so important to the later Bond movies. Yet in a way this lack of gadgets isn't an issue as we have the clever survival skills to replace it, the single hair across a door to see whether it has been tampered with is brilliant as is the light dusting of talcum powder on his brief case. It makes the Bond in "Dr. No" a very real agent, a man who is cunning and deadly with the aid of a gun.
But whilst Bond may feel more realistic the way the storyline evolves is as fanciful as any of the later Bond movies as we have him taking on the evil genius of Dr. No in his underground lair where he has a Nuclear reactor. By sheer nature "Dr. No" builds to an outlandish ending which not only places Bond in peril but sees him defeat his nemesis in explosive style but of course tie explosive and Nuclear reactor together and you don't get realism. But again it doesn't matter as it is exciting even if it isn't as elaborate as later Bond movies with most of the drama coming from Bond escaping from a metal cell.
Now whilst "Dr. No" is of course known as being the first Bond from the main franchise it is of course the one with gave us Sean Connery as James Bond who for many is the best Bond. Well he certainly does a good job of making Bond his own here creating this blend of dangerous action hero and sexy charmer, but more importantly with this feeling like a bare bones Bond movie it is Connery who makes it captivating because of that element of danger. Actually it's not just Connery who makes "Dr. No" works as whilst we get Joseph Wiseman doing a nice bit of evil genius work as Dr. Julius No we of course get Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in that bikini as Honey Ryder. Honey Ryder may only be the good girl love interest who ends up in danger but what an impact Andress makes.
What this all boils down to is that "Dr. No" is in many ways no different to so many of the Bond movies which would follow it. But it does feel like its stripped back to the main storyline and those elements such as the humour and the gadgets are no where to be seen. For me it's not the best Bond movie but it is certainly a good one which established such a successful and long running franchise.
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