Ranking the Bond Movies: #6 – Dr. No (1962)
The one that started it all.
You’d think that most people would want to rank Dr. No high on their lists because it’s the first one and that carries some sort of novelty weight to it. But honestly — this film more than holds its own without that. Without even considering that it’s the first one, this is a top ten Bond movie. There’s just something special about this one.
And honestly, I didn’t even need to play the “it was the first one” card here, since the film actually just made #6 on the list on its own. The most that “first one” card did was make me consider it as a potential #5. Which I probably should have, but, as you’ll see tomorrow, when a sentimental favorite is in play, that’s almost always the choice.
But this one — don’t overlook this one because it’s the first one and isn’t “fully” the Bond franchise. Sometimes the first one is the most pure.
We begin with the very first gun barrel sequence ever.
And then, instead of a cold opening, we get the credits, set to John Barry’s “James Bond Theme.”
Debatable. Barry arranged it, but it’s disputed whether it was Barry wrote it, or if Monty Norman did. Norman gets royalties, anyway.
(Mike Note: I operate under the assumption that Norman wrote the composition and Barry arranged and orchestrated it. and since he wrote the music for like, 15 of the films, Barry’s name goes on it.)
The credits actually go from the Bond theme to a calypso song about “three blind mice.” Or, since it’s Jamaica, “tree blind mice.”
And then we open on three blind guys, actually.
They sort of just wander around Jamaica until they get to a country club.
Where some white people are playing cards. Only –
That’s one hell of a cover.
Oh, no. This guy drives a Ford Anglia? I guess it’s cool that they shot him. Actually, that’s an early 60s Anglia in turquoise, which is the car that Harry and Ron fly to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets.
Meanwhile, the white guy’s secretary waits for him to show up for his usual call to London.
Good pussy is a terrible thing to waste.
What are they after?
The other end doesn’t know what happened, since the call didn’t go through. They call MI6.
An agent goes to the Ambassadors Club, looking for James Bond.
This is Miss Sylvia Trench.
She’s playing Chemin de Fer.
“I admire your courage, Miss—“
“Trench. Sylvia Trench.”
“I admire your luck, Mr. –”
Yeah! First time ever! And the theme starts playing as he says it. I can’t just watch this scene. I watch it two or three times every time I have Dr. No on, cause it’s just awesome.
She wants her money back.
Oh, this is Trench warfare.
(Mike Note: I can’t not think of a vagina with that name right now. Good job, franchise. You’ve done your job.)
Bond wins again.
Bond’s gotta go.
Oh, but she want the dick.
He makes a date with her, something we rarely see Bond do after this.
Slip the doorman a couple bills…
“Oh, Imma fuck him.”
Oh, you know what’s coming.
“You never take me to dinner looking like this, James. You never take me to dinner, period.”
“I would, only I’d be court-martialed for illegal use of government property.”
GREAT line. That’s what we call “the 60s.” Also, Lois Maxwell never looks better than this, so enjoy it, fellas. Take a look at Connery’s shawl lapel tuxedo. I like tuxedos, and Connery’s are the best in the franchise, followed by Craig in Casino Royale.
(Mike Note: The best is the tag they have on this line in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)
“Flattery’ll get you nowhere. But don’t stop trying.”
In to see –
“Good evening, sir.”
“It happens to be 3 am. When do you sleep, 007?”
“Never on the firm’s time, sir.”
Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance.
Before he goes –
M doesn’t like Bond’s Beretta. The armor guy (who is technically Q, but he’s never introduced as Q and is never given a name, so let’s assume he’s one of Q’s lackeys) implies it’s a woman’s gun.
Sadly, this is “Q”. He’s never referred to as Q, but he is in fact Major Boothroyd. The fact that Major Boothroyd and Q are the same isn’t known until The Spy Who Loved Me when Anya name drops, but it means that this is Q. I like to tell myself that he’s not really the same character yet, even though he is technically. It’s not Llewelyn, so it doesn’t count.
Bond says he’s used it for ten years and hasn’t missed with it yet. But it also jammed on him and led to him being in the hospital for six months. So…
Bond is given a new gun. A Walther PPK.
If you want something mechanical and reliable, do you go Italian or German? That’s a pretty easy question.
“Miss Moneypenny – forget the usual repartee, 007’s in a hurry.”
Oh, the tragedy that we don’t see.
Hey look, Bond has a home.
This is a disappointment, and an area that you can see is still not quite ironed out. The Bond of film was nothing like Ian Fleming’s creation, but his apartment seems to have retained a lot of the author’s vision. We see that later sets, like Dr. No’s apartment and lair, are strictly modern. This is the novel’s apartment all over.
I suppose that for Dr. No, we haven’t quite come to see what sort of a character Bond is — modern, minimalist, cosmopolitan, refined. But I always thought this would be a great opportunity for them to do something with that character development; they tried to differentiate Connery from Ian Fleming’s Bond in nearly every way, but instead of giving him an apartment that offers some insight into the character they’ve created, we’re left with this.
It just doesn’t fit at all, and knowing all that we do about Connery’s Bond, I can’t imagine him living here. I’ve mentioned it before, but Mitchell’s apartment in Quantum of Solace was the perfect example of architecture as revealing of character. A spartan place in the Barbican Centre, brutalist architecture and minimalist interior styling — nothing that might leave a clue about its inhabitant other than that he’s a mystery. Bond should have had something to that effect.
Wouldn’t that have been awesome, though?
It would be, even though The Green Hornet is still four years off.
Well hello, Miss Trench.
“I see you couldn’t wait to play with my balls. I’ve got to help you with your grip, though.”
Let’s talk about Sylvia Trench.
How can you not love Sylvia Trench? She gives Connery his first ever “Bond. James Bond,” and she shows up in his house uninvited, wearing only one of his shirts. This establishes two things about Bond. First, by the way he senses that something is wrong and sneaks in with his gun drawn, we can see that he’s a highly trained secret agent ready for anything. And then, because they’ve only just met and she’s scantily-clad in his place looking for sex, we’ve gathered that this franchise is all about Bond getting gorgeous, fast women.
Although she became the first recurring female character by making another appearance in From Russia With Love, Eunice Gayson was originally intended to be in the first six films as a running gag — she’d be with Bond, and he’d get called away to the mission just before they got busy. I can see that as being kind of fun. Also important to know is that Lois Maxwell was offered the part, but thought it too immodest, and took the role of Moneypenny instead.
Too bad Bond has to leave.
But not yet.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica…
Someone’s watching him.
Even just before this is a brief scene that we might find mundane now, but it was pretty important to establishing Bond’s character at the time. A Pan American Boeing 707 lands, and we see a man in a control tower say, “Hello New York. Your Pan Am 323 just landed, Kingston, Jamaica.” Most Americans in 1962 hadn’t left the country, or been in a jet. This was the advent of the jet age as we know it, so showing things like this really emphasizes that Bond is on the cutting edge of society, as a member of the Jet Set.
Shifty photo chick.
Isn’t it great how ‘shifty’ is our go-to word for….shifty people? This shifty photo chick is played by the woman who was Miss Jamaica at the time. The crew saw her at the Kingston Airport and just cast her.
And a driver all set to pick him up. It seems fishy. So Bond makes a phone call.
They never sent a car to pick him up.
I love that he gets in the car anyway. He tells the guy, “Just take me for a ride.”
They’re being followed.
Oh yes. It’s a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, so it’s a really nice car. You might recognize it (as a coupe, and a little more aggressively styled) as Ron Howard’s car in American Graffiti.
Make that cars.
And a 1961 Chevy Impala. It’s actually acceptable for it to be here, unlike the scores of Impalas and Bel Airs in that automotive hell of a movie, Live and Let Die.
Fun fact: Sean Connery’s eyebrows take up 3.4% of this entire frame.
So they lose the car, and…
The guy won’t talk.
That’s a hell of a way to pull up to the valet station.
Although it isn’t a Bond car in the strictest sense, this ’57 Chevy Bel Air Convertible has the honor of being the first car — or even the first vehicle — we see Bond drive.
“Sergeant, make sure he doesn’t get away.”
Bond wants to know who were the last people to see the dead guy (Strangways) alive.
So they go up to Strangways’ place.
In a Ford Consul. That’s a nothing vehicle, but I still appreciate the variety. It’s not all Ford or all Chevy. They were just making do with the cars they could find on the island to use.
The principles of detection tell me Strangways was involved with Professor Dent.
And a photo.
They’ll go check that out. Bond has more important things to do.
“One medium dry vodka martini, mixed like you said, sir. But not stirred.” (Interesting they didn’t put the line in there at all.)
It’s not as ubiquitous a line as you’d think. Dr. No uses it for the first time in the franchise, and Connery never says it til Goldfinger. And for all his years of playing Bond, Roger Moore never once orders a martini — although he’s given one in The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and Octopussy. It’s not something Bond says as often as we think, but it’s like a running gag, to the point where Valentin Zukovsky uses it as a punchline to a joke at Bond’s expense in GoldenEye. Surprisingly enough, Dalton and Brosnan are the only two Bonds who personally referenced (but not necessarily said) the line in all of their films. This particular martini has a slice of lime in it, perhaps for that Caribbean flavor.
This exact room layout they’d use again in Live and Let Die. (Apparently all Caribbean hotel rooms are the same.)
Nice. Way to check if someone’s fucking with your shit. Never trust the help. (Because you never know. Maybe you’re in a bungalow and you’re kind of high…)
Or if you’ve had about two gallons of mamajuana playing dominoes with a Dominican bike gang.
Put a hair in the closet – interesting how he never does this stuff ever again. (Or are we to just assume he does this all the time and because we saw it once, it’s implied?)
The setting up the room thing is pretty standard fare, it just gets a little higher tech. This gets replaced with the whole checking for bugs thing that we see in From Russia With Love and A View to a Kill. There’s also evidence to suggest that Bond starts using other things to tell if there’s been an intruder, like the tape recorder hidden in a book on the bedside table in Thunderball. I used to think this was so cool as a kid. Decidedly more covert than the strip of paper that Robert Redford uses in The Sting.
(Mike Note: Which is funny, because there’ it’s Assassination Attempt, Sex, and eventually, both.)
Anyway, Bond then goes to meet Strangways’ pals. He finds out that Strangways started going fishing a bunch recently with a man named Quarrel. (Quarrel!)
Bond goes out to meet him.
In an Austin Cambridge taxi, possibly the same one he offers to some female flight attendants (it’s 1962, they’re stewardesses) leaving the airport.
Quarrel don’t know nothing about anything.
Quarrel is pretty awesome, and my favorite thing about him is that he’s presented as a bad guy. Usually, it goes the other way, where a good guy goes bad, or you find out that the good and bad guys are backwards. But Quarrel is a total badass in this scene. He ain’t no snitch. A Cayman Islander affiliated with the CIA, Quarrel becomes Bond’s guide and helps him get to Dr. No’s place. But even before we get there, we get to see Quarrel be a boss, getting slashed in the face and not even flinching. Awesome. It was a shame that his so-called son sort of cheapened the character in Live and Let Die.
“Fancy seeing you here.”
I see you’ve played Knifey-Spoony before.
Well that’s not fair.
Some agent you are.
(P.S. What’s with the gay sunglasses?)
It’s Felix Leiter.
Notice that this is also the first time that Bond is recognized by his gun. Leiter asks him where he was “fitted” for the gun, and Bond makes another tailoring reference, “Savile Row.” Leiter says, “Mine’s a guy in Washington.” Cause you know, intelligence agencies, bespoke suitmakers, same thing. This is cool spy talk.
Oh, we’re friends now.
Later that night…
Shifty Photo Girl is there.
Felix explains the situation – they’re worried that someone will use radio jamming to fuck up the Cape Canaveral rocket launches.
“Get that bitch.”
That’s Freelance. Or at least, that’s what Bond calls her, and those are always the best names, when a character gives them that name and it sticks.
I like you raincoat.
Bitch, you can’t run! You can’t run!
Puss Feller (that is indeed his name) recognizes her.
Best reaction to being stabbed ever.
Right? This is what makes Quarrel so cool. He’s actually kind of sinister in this scene, the way he strong arms her over to the table, threatens to break her arm, takes a slash to the face without flinching and then smiles as he looks at the blood. Who IS this guy?
(Mike Note: And let’s not forget — he has kids.)
There’ll be a similar shot to this in the next film (in the series, not the articles), too.
Bond wants to know about this place called Crab Key, which is owned by a “mysterious Chinese fellow” named Dr. No and is strictly off limits. Three of Quarrel’s friends went over there looking for shells and were killed, and Strangways went over there with Quarrel for geological samples.
Gee, you think that’s the fucking place?
Back at the hotel…
Foiled by a passing car.
Asian secretary. (Well, she’s clearly white, but if you don’t pay too close attention, you can go with it.)
Bond meets Dent, who says that Strangways brought him some rocks, thinking thye were valuable. Bond asks if they could have come from Crab Key, and Dent says it’s geologically impossible.
I like that this is basically a procedural, with seeds of what the franchise will become.
Professor Dent then hurries down to the docks (in what seems to be a franchise go-to for a car in tropical places) to get down to Crab Key.
Is this a franchise go-to? This is a Vauxhall, the first we’ve seen so far.
Should we talk about him? Or is he not really worth it?
I love how all the villain hideouts are basically Grand Theft Auto levels waiting to happen.
So Dent is led to this room, which can never really lead to anything good.
Look at this set and how incredibly good it is. It makes no sense at all, but it magnifies the fear that Dent is feeling and makes Dr. No appear all the more frightening. We don’t know anything about this guy, but we’re already terrified of him.
Ken Adam really outdid himself here — I think this is one of the best sets in the entire franchise, and it works better for me than some of the most extravagant villain lairs. This is one of the reasons I love Dr. No as much as I do — you wouldn’t get this in most other Bond movies. I think it’s the fact that there were no conventions to work with that allowed stuff like this to get in the movie. It’s just a very good, early 60s spy film, not yet part of a larger franchise.
He is told by a mysterious voice that he was given orders to have Bond killed, and has failed. The voice doesn’t like failure. (I also like how it knows everything. Those are really the three keys to a good evil organization – Have people everywhere and know everything, be able to alter your plan immediately no matter what happens, and make sure they don’t know about you for as long as possible, and even when they do, make them have to work hard to find out about what you’re doing. Especially that last one. Because think about it – in the beginning of Thunderball, SPECTRE goes over all the shit they did. About six of the plans went through already, and Bond only manages to find out about and stop one of them.)
He also gives him that. (He forgot his birthday last month and felt bad.)
My favorite thing about this scene (which is saying a lot, considering how well they do it) is that, when Dent is given the spider, the only thing Dr. No says is, “Tonight.”
Wiseman’s voice is so incredibly creepy in this scene. How he tells Dent to “pick it up!” twice, and the second time is still really soft, but you can feel the urgency in the tone.
(Mike Note: Wiseman was dubbed, though, so it was someone else’s voice.)
Bond goes back to his hotel, and of course the receptionist wants the dick.
She also gives him the keys to his rental car, which counts as the first ever Bond car.
I’d say let’s play Assassination Attempt or Sex, but it’s pretty clear which one this is gonna be.
The hair’s gone.
The briefcase has been tampered with.
Might as well drink. (Drink!)
I can’t tell if he smells something fishy or if he’s just go some ultra-sensitive booze scent where he’s like, “This is three days past perfect fermentation.”
Either way, he’s got another bottle in the drawer. (Of course he does.)
What else do you do after a hard day of… meeting with a guy for twenty minutes?
I love how, when he rolls over, he instinctively wakes up enough to check that his gun is there.
What the fuck is that?
This is some Sergio Leone shit.
The score matches up with him hitting the tarantula, which I feel like is kind of rare in Bond. He hits it five times, and the music hits with it. The effect is spectacular.
“I think it’s time for another drink.”
Bond needs some information on Dr. No and Crab Key.
Oh, and apparently the Dr. No files are gone, and Strangways had them last. I’m sure it’s unrelated.
Bond also gets a care package from, presumably, Q.
“Could I get out that way?”
I bet you can.
The modern spy in the workplace.
She’s got the afternoon off. (You got that right, sugar.)
Bond’s present is a Geiger counter.
And sexy (pretend) Asian bitch wants to meet at her hotel.
She’s ostensibly Chinese, but we don’t really care about that. She’s played as a European.
Pretty sure this shot was made for TokyoRemix.
Ah yes. The fake Asian chick on the bed, juxtaposed over the small, convertible sports car. That’s one of my favorite kinds of pictures.
Our first ever Bond car is a Sunbeam Alpine Series II, the updated version of the car that Grace Kelly drove in To Catch a Thief. It’s a small convertible with a small engine, but it was a quick car for the day. It’s a classic British sports car, but it was also pretty much the only choice available. This car was borrowed from a local resident, since the crew apparently showed up in Jamaica without a car to use. It’s never going to be a truly GREAT Bond car, but it works.
I love rear projection.
So many things look fake to me in movies, and yet I’m willing to go along with rear projection every time. Maybe it’s because I love 40s movies, and it just reminds me of all those noirs.
There’s always a construction vehicle.
This whole thing got sort of redone in Quantum of Solace.
Well hello, Miss Taro.
I’m a big fan of Miss Taro. She’s a fake Asian who works as a secretary in the local government office who uses her position to leak information to Dr. No. She invites Bond up to her place in the mountains with the idea that the Three Blind Mice would kill him on the way. Now he’s here and she realizes she’s going to have to sleep with him. Take one for the team. And Bond knows she’s bad, but decides to go along with it, cause just look at her. Would you?
What ethnicity was she, again?
(Blink-182 Note: What’s My Race Again?)
Who cares, we’re going to Bangkok.
“I’ll just go and put some clothes on.”
“Don’t go to any trouble.”
The dick wants. (My favorite thing about this scene is thinking, “So she’s white – do you think she’s enough of a method actress to do the rape noises Japanese women make when she fucks him?”)
She’s supposedly Chinese. They don’t make those noises during sex, they’re making iPhones.
(Mike Note: I’m sorry, white women playing Asians all look alike to me.)
“Forgive me. I thought I was invited up here to admire the view.”
You never see Bond sniff his fingers, do you?
I LOVE this. “Yeah, what that smell like?”
They really should have avoided close-ups with her. In wide shots, you can sort of pretend she’s Asian, but not here. But we’ll just pretend that’s part of her SPECTRE cover. (Because simply saying, “Hollywood didn’t let Asians play Asians unless they had to until the late 60s (and even then)” isn’t fun. No one wants to turn these articles serious. So we’ll make some shit up. To me, she was brought up in a Japanese household and wasn’t told that she was white, and is terribly racist against white people.)
Even I’m not complaining about this. It’s the 60s, this is just how it works. I only complained in You Only Live Twice cause there were real Asians everywhere and they still threw in the fake one in that one scene. But this is fine by me. I actually kind of enjoy it.
“Bitch, I don’t think you understand. I’m gonna get this shit whether you want to or not.”
The sweat makes this much more erotic than it needs to be. I approve.
Where’s that hand going?
Another awesome moment that’s so Bond. She’s worried about him doing stuff behind her back, so he says, “Look. No hands.” And then he uses hands. Cause that’s what Bond does.
She has to reapply her slants.
(Note to Asia: I’m sorry.)
“I’m hungry. Let’s go out to eat.”
“I’ll make you a Chinese dinner here.”
“No. I’m feeling Italian and musical. Let’s go to the Mountain Grill.”
She doesn’t want to go. She wants to stay. He says, “Fuck it. I’m leaving.” He calls a “taxi.”
One more for the road.
“This isn’t a taxi!” (Also, why the fuck is she dressed to go out? Did he use the magic dick to… never mind.)
Bond tells him to watch out for her nails — I guess we’re supposed to think that her nail polish is poisonous and that’s how she was going to kill Bond.
(Mike Note: Or maybe he’s just being a dick, like, “Watch out, she just painted those. Wouldn’t want to fuck up her nails… in prison!” I like to think it was that reason.)
“I can’t berieve you did this.”
“Oh, but your dick is so magical…”
“Well, I guess it’s my house now.”
Drink the bitch’s booze.
And then he sets the place up to make like he’s there. (Since clearly someone’s coming to kill him.)
“You stupid motherfucker. Did you really think you were gonna get me that easily? You must be crazy.”
This might be a good time to talk about Dent —
(Mike Note: Well there ain’t gonna be much more time after this…)
— although there isn’t that much to say. He’s a geologist who’s working with Dr. No, and he arranged the hit on Strangways. He then tries to kill Bond with the tarantula and now he’s trying to kill Bond with his gun. That doesn’t work out so well, does it?
Bond says he’s been suspicious of him all along, since he was the only one at the club who’d seen Strangways’ new secretary, and when Bond asked about the samples, Dent never said they were radioactive.
Oh… gun’s empty.
“That’s a Smith and Wesson, and you’ve had your six.”
(Joker Note: Six!)
He actually did live long enough to see himself become the villain.
One of the coldest kills we’ve ever seen Bond carry out. The guy has an empty gun, presumably no other weapons, and he can be questioned further or turned in to the proper authorities. But instead, Connery makes a quip, raises his gun slowly and shoots the guy. Then, since he’s still alive, Connery — taking his sweet time — aims again and shoots him a second time in the back. He then leans back, unscrews the silencer and blows on it softly. Cause it’s Tuesday, and on Tuesdays we murder people.
(Mike Note: And on Wednesdays — black chicks.)
Time to go out to Crab Key.
And we fast forward to day, since a place like this is more interesting during the day.
Bond awakens to the sound of a woman singing, which – I bet his ears aren’t what woke him up first.
Here’s one of the most famous images in film history (that’s two for this movie so far).
Look at his face. I haven’t seen any other Bond this joyful from seeing a woman.
But think about it. You’re on a dangerous mission on an island that’s supposed to be deserted except for bad guys, and THIS just walks out of the ocean in randomly the exact spot you happen to be hiding looking like THAT? No wonder Bond wins at cards, this guy is the luckiest man alive.
He starts singing along with her to get her attention. (Because that’s creepy.)
“What are you doing here, looking for shells?”
“No. I’m tryinnna get my dick WET.”
His actual line is, “No, I’m just looking.” Excellent.
She’s Honey Ryder. And she’s our Bond girl.
Honey Ryder is the first main Bond girl, and she’s a great one. Ursula Andress coming out of the water in that bikini will always be an iconic Bond moment. She’s not a secret agent, nor is she affiliated with anyone. The only reason she’s caught up in this plot is that she happens to have been there and her boat was wrecked, making it impossible to get away.
She’s got more depth as a Bond girl than about ninety percent of the rest — we find out that she’s been abused and that Dr. No had her father killed. She hasn’t been to school, but she’s read up to S in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I think what I like about her most is that she doesn’t just go along with Bond’s methods at first, but eventually comes around. When she sees Bond kill a man, she asks why in a mournful tone, and Bond snaps back, “Because I had to.”
We don’t get many chances to build characters and relationships like this later in the franchise because everything is pretty much set in stone and it would feel weird. Honey Ryder is a very appealing character, both physically and character-wise. That’s why it felt so wrong thematically (though not visually) when Halle Berry copied Ursula Andress’ scene, coming out of the water in Die Another Day.
(Mike Note: Honestly, I felt Daniel Craig did a better job copying it in Casino Royale.)
She’s getting $50 a shell in Miami. (Someone’s gotta keep Bowser in stock.)
I love how she thinks he’s gonna take the shells, or tell someone she’s taking them. There’s an innocence about her that I like.
We got company.
And they actually start shooting at them.
One of Connery’s best line deliveries ever: “There are no such things as dragons.” Listen to how he says “dragons.” It’s incredible.
She takes a nice close-up.
Oh no, they put a hole in her boat. Guess she’ll have to come with you.
They go to hide somewhere.
Time to hide.
Uh oh. Random henchman coming.
He just shivved his timbers.
This is where she’s upset. Most other Bond girls see him kill men by the dozen and might be afraid, but they’re never upset with him for it.
So they go off to her hiding spot…
She swapped a bathing suit top for a see-through shirt. I like her style.
I don’t know if you guys should be… poking around.
Dr. No killed her father. He was looking for seashells and disappeared in this area.
Only Sean Connery can get away with the shit they make him wear in this movie – polos, short shorts, that hairpiece…
She tells a story about traveling around the world, living however she could, and how, this one guy took her on and helped her, then, one night he came up to her room, and, “Well, you know…”
Reaction shots are the key to comedy.
Then what did she do?
“I put a black widow spider under his mosquito net. A female, and they’re the worst. It took him a whole week to die.”
Reaction shots are the key to comedy.
“Did I do wrong?”
“Well it wouldn’t do to make a habit of it.”
“Do you have a woman of your own?” (Impeccable timing for a question like that. Truly impeccable.)
This is what I’m talking about. When do we get to have extended dialogue scenes building up character backgrounds and establishing relationships like this in most Bond movies? Even with Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, we just have Bond showing up that one time and then there’s a “they’re falling in love” montage during which she changes her mind about him. It’s not treated explicitly like this.
“Uhh… well you see… what had happened was…”
Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front…
“Einhalt zu gebieten! Schnell, schnell!”
Well that’s a game changer.
Bye bye, Quarrel.
Holy shit, it’s a fucking spaceman!
Some fight in her. I like that.
Well there’s a fucking surprise…
They’re then taken to the leader.
“So that’s what it feels like.”
They’re still too radioactive. They have to take off all their clothes. (I bet they do.)
It’s next to cleanness. (Look at a dictionary. It is.)
So that onesie isn’t radioactive? Also, how come we never see movie characters reaching to wash their balls in the shower? Not once does Connery scrub anything below his upper chest.
We’re not supposed to see that onesie. And you know that Connery doesn’t have to use his hands to scrub down there, the magic dick does it all for him.
(Mike Note: Well now I’ll be thinking of that windshield wiper image for the next ten minutes…)
Just like they do with the giant pandas.
Oh, so she’s allowed to be a real Asian?
This actress is a Japanese-Canadian. I was thrilled to see her. Finally a real Asian.
They have rooms all set up for them, and have breakfast ordered in the morning. That’s Asian efficiency, right there.
I love how they always have new clothes just waiting there. It’s always interesting to think about why they would, especially since they kill everyone who comes near the place. Or maybe they just take them in and nobody ever wants to leave.
“How can you eat at a time like this?”
“Because I’m hungry.”
Another exchange that shows her being new to this sort of thing and him being a badass.
They put it in the tea!
Or how about you just leave the door shut for like FOUR HOURS and keep pumping in some gas? I guess that’s more in line with Moonraker.
That’s twice he got knocked out in about an hour.
How scared of and creeped out by this guy are we now? The answer: VERY.
God, she looks good.
This is a great moment. She gets nervous and Bond sees it, so he gives her some of the dick magic:
And she just follows him.
God, look at that hallway.
Creepy looking elevator.
All hideouts look like this, apparently.
Bond’s apartment is seriously the only set in this movie that isn’t amazing. Look at how many surfaces we’ve got here. Hardwood, cement, plaster, bare rock, polished metal, a TREE. There’s several levels going on, which is modern, but the whole place is full of antique European furniture and Asian art. This place is great.
Seriously, if you had a hideout like this, why the fuck would you need world domination?
And Dr. No plays it off like it isn’t shit, too. Eh, I’ll just get another place. No! Keep it! Look at this room! This is all you ever need.
And there’s our villain. Dr. No.
1 hour and 27 minutes into the film. How’s that for building? We’ve got 22 minutes left in the movie and we’re only just meeting him. This is cool.
Let’s just assume it’s vitiligo.
He gets to say “Shaken not stirred.” Not Bond. Interesting. I also like how he knows Bond’s drink and is like, “Here, bitch. You can have wine,” without even mentioning her.
So they have dinner and talk. No talks about himself, not once mentioning why he doesn’t have hands.
Yeah he does. He says his work with radioactivity has come at a cost, and raises one of his hands. We’re to assume that he got some hand cancer or something from holding radioactive material too much.
(Mike Note: I was probably too busy picturing an awkward exchange with him going to shake with someone. Also, I was kind of hoping it was something crazy, like getting into a blood feud with a Samoan in a bar who happened to be wielding a machete.)
Dr. Julius No was the child of a Chinese girl and a German missionary (wow, we even know what position his parents used, that’s messed up) —
(Mike Note: The white is always on top.)
— who rose to become the treasurer of the most powerful criminal syndicate in China. After absconding with $10 million of their funds, No began experimenting with nuclear energy, offering his services and expertise to both the Americans and the Soviets. Upon being turned down by both sides (why?) he decided to join SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion) to get back at them. As the franchise’s first ever villain, he introduces us to the evil organization, but doesn’t mention Ernst Stavro Blofeld — even though it’s later confirmed that Blofeld was Dr. No’s superior.
No’s work with radioactivity has left him without hands, and instead he has bionic hands made of metal. We see that they’ve got some power, but they’re not good for fine movements. No’s a unique villain in that he’s built up for the whole film, but we don’t meet him until very late in the game. Bond does socialize with him, but only now as a captive. Bond repeatedly insults him and SPECTRE, prompting No to lose his cool just a bit. But he’s still a genius and even catches one of Bond’s little tricks.
He’s got an okay ending, where all his strength can’t help him. All in all, a pretty cool villain, and I almost enjoy the idea of him as his character is built up more than when we finally meet him.
I like that No tells Bond everything because he’s “the one man capable of appreciating” what he’s done. It’s a nice explanation for what’s become a trope of “why the fuck would you do that?”
Bond says that Honey has nothing to do with this and should be kept out of it. So No has her taken away.
“That’s a Dom Perignon ’55. It would be a pity to break it.”
“I prefer the ’53 myself.”
I love it – “You’re right, what the fuck am I doing? No woman is worth a good bottle of champagne.
Dr. No then explains that he’s a member of SPECTRE – Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Way to give up an organization nobody knows anything about. At least Quantum was only given up after some real good luck on Bond’s part.
He got that Strangelove hand.
Anyway, he says he admires that Bond wasn’t stupid and says he might have even offered him a place in SPECTRE, but sees Bond wouldn’t go for it, so he leaves to go finish his plan, while –
That’s right, he got knocked the fuck out again.
Time to get out of this place.
“Andy Dufresne crawled through a river of shit…”
This shit’s turning into Die Hard.
This is a pretty great sequence.
I really do enjoy this sequence, myself. They really took the time to let it play out and get you interested in where he’s going. It feels dangerous. You know that if this were Moore or Brosnan, they’d show him going into the pipe and just have him coming out again here. Moore would hop out and straighten his tie, most likely. Look at Connery here. He looks ragged.
Jesus, look at that command center.
Can we all just agree that this movie has some of the best sets in the whole franchise? I’ll put these sets up against the ice palace from Die Another Day anytime. I love this stuff, why can’t the 60s come back?
I like how easily they just forget about him and how easily he can walk in there and fuck up their plan.
And how nobody notices that the guy named “Chang” is suddenly 6’2½”. Even in the spacesuit thing, how are you not seeing that Connery is WAY taller than whatever Asian guy that’s supposed to be there?
Bubble Boy, what are you doing here?
These vertical support beams are great. How they just work right into the floor and break the command center into segments. I’d rather have great architecture than stuff like an indoor monorail. But that never hurts, either.
Nice job on the commentary, Mean Gene.
Just like the Terminator.
His big, strong, metal hands couldn’t grip the metal, so he drowns. I think that’s so cool.
Time to find Honey.
Stunt fall! (Not the usual one, but good enough.)
And of course, it’s all over but the fucking.
Oh, we all know that look. Nah, James, you don’t have to get down, you just stay right where you are. She’s ready.
Final Thoughts on Dr. No:
This isn’t number six for me. This is number four or five, and I’m really leaning towards four. Even until a year or so ago, I didn’t like this movie as much as I do now — I wouldn’t just put it on, because it didn’t excite me as much as some of the others. But as I started getting more and more into Bond, and more into movies, I began to recognize that this isn’t just a great Bond film, this is a great movie all on its own.
There’s really nothing to detract from this movie, so the only real excuse that people have to dislike it is that it’s not full Bond just yet. But the way I look at it is, think about what it must have been like to have been around in 1962 and to show up to the theater not knowing what to expect, and seeing this movie. This is one of those major milestone films like Star Wars that changed the way we look at movies entirely. That’s why to me, the mundane or slower parts of this film only accentuate the really thrilling parts. We don’t meet the villain right away, we don’t have Bond taking part in extended action sequences immediately. There’s a lot of care that went into developing the characters, the plot and the franchise’s overall tone. Sure, we don’t have a real Bond car yet, and Desmond Llewelyn hasn’t showed up just yet, but there’s a striking purity to this film that I really love. The films that followed were better because they didn’t have to establish everything from scratch; they got to hone the formula that was laid down here.
So let’s take stock very quickly. We’ve got Connery in rare form, a stunning Ursula Andress as one of the best Bond girls ever, Joseph Wiseman as one of the creepiest villains, and several allies like Felix and Quarrel, all framed by the Caribbean location and some of the best sets ever put in a Bond film.
All of that considered, I’m floored by the fact that they came up with this on their first time out, having only Ian Fleming’s novels to go by. This is a fantastic accomplishment, and even though it might not be as complete as the films in the top three, it’s hard to beat. Mike and I have talked about how the top three films are basically locked in, as are four through six. I agree with that entirely, I just put this film at the head of that second group based on personal taste.
My Final Thoughts:
This is a film that — when I watched it, I knew it would be top ten, but I kept saying to myself, “I’m just not as interested in what’s going on as I am with the other ones.” But after some time, the film grew on me. What I mean is, it lingered in my head more than some of the other ones. Not that it really affected my feelings on the film all that much. I always had it at #6, but originally it was a tentative #6. I thought I’d have to use the novelty of it being the first Bond film as rationalization. But after some time, it definitely belongs here. And, like TokyoRemix, you can easily consider this a top five Bond film. It does work that well.
I’m more comfortable with this at #6, but even so — the fact that it’s the first one does not hinder this one at all. Not even a little bit. Because you can see all of the elements that would be hallmarks of the series in it. And the plot is a procedural. I really like that aspect. Here’s a movie that could just be a regular movie. Take out Bond, and it could just be a spy movie. But it just feels more special because of that.
And like I said, the part that really makes me like it is the fact that, after all these movies, I’m still thinking about this one more than most of them. It holds up. I probably should have this at #5, but, like I said up top, the sentimental favorite does count for a lot. Though give it a little while — depending on what Skyfall does, I might use that as an excuse to bump this up to #5.
– – – – –
Official Bond Number: #1
Release Date: October 5, 1962 (London premiere)
May 8, 1963 (U.S. release)
Run Time: 110 minutes
Budget: $1 million
Box Office: $16.1 million domestically, $59.6 million worldwide
Title Song: “James Bond Theme,” by John Barry/Monty Norman
Music By: Monty Norman
Based On: “Dr. No,” by Ian Fleming
Director: Terence Young
Writer: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather
First Lines: “That’s it. Hundred honors and ninety below.”
Last Lines: “Ahoy, Mr. Bond! Ahoy, Mr. Bond!” “Well, well. What’s the matter? Do you need help?” “Quite sure you don’t.” “Well, now that you’re here, you’d better give us a tow.” “Throw us your line.”
– – – – –
– – – – –
- Dr. No
- Honey Ryder
Secondary Bond Girl:
- Sylvia Trench
Bond Villain Chick:
- Miss Taro
- Professor Dent
- Three Blind Mice
- Mr. Jones
- Felix Leiter
- Puss Feller
Other Important Characters:
- None, really.
– – – – –
– – – – –
- Chevrolet Bel Air convertible
- Chevrolet Impala sedan
- Vauxhall PA Cresta sedan
- Sunbeam Alpine 1961 Series II
– – – – –
- None, really.
– – – – –
- Broccoli and Saltzman used North by Northwest as a template for this film and other early Bond films. Lots of people turned down roles, like Cary Grant, who would only commit to one film, and James Mason, who would only commit to two. Eventually, six finalists for Bond were screen tested. But the man who won, Peter Anthony, was shown to be unable to handle the role. Connery met with Broccoli and Saltzman and showed up “scruffy.” But he put on an attitude in the meeting, and Broccoli and Saltzman decided he was the right person to play Bond. Terence Young then took Connery out and showed him how to be Bond.
- Apparently Ian Fleming didn’t like the casting of Connery, as Bond was upper-class English, and Connery is working-class Scottish. But after seeing the film, he said that Connery was perfectly cast.
- Title translations: (Italy) Licence to Kill, (Belgium & France) James Bond Versus Dr. No, (Denmark) Agent 007 – Mission: Kill Dr. No, (Germany) James Bond Chases Dr. No, (Japan), Dr. No: 007 Is the Killing Number, (Sweden) Agent 007 with a Licence to Kill, (Spain) Agent 007 Versus Dr. No, (Greece) James Bond, Agent 007 Against Dr. No, (China) 007 Seized the Secret Island, (Portugal) 007 – The Secret Agent, (Finland) 007 and Dr. No, (Brazil) 007 Against the Satanic Dr. No.
- Ken Adam’s sets for this film led to him being hired by Stanley Kubrick for Dr. Strangelove.
- They chose “Dr. No” as the first novel to be filmed because its plot was straightforward and there were few locations required.
- Originally Eunice Grayson was going to be Moneypenny and Lois Maxwell was going to be Sylvia Trench but at the last minute they (mercifully) switched roles.
- Ian Fleming wanted Christopher Lee to play Dr. No. Fleming also asked Noel Coward to play Dr. No, and his response was “Dr. No? No! No! No!” Max von Sydow also turned down the part to play Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told.