My James Bond Challenge has reached the stage where I’m not just reading the books. The first feature film has now come into play. That, of course, is Dr. No, starring Sean Connery.
I am very familiar with the Bond movie series, although several of them I haven’t seen in years. I’m particularly interested, however, in watching them again after having just read 10 original Ian Fleming Bond novels.
Similar to my book review style, my film review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst watching the movie. I’m also letting my 11 yr old son watch all these Bond films with me for the first time. So I will add his score to the end of this review too.
- The gun barrel in the opening sequence isn’t great. They are obviously just still working out the best way to do everything and I think it’s really from perhaps Goldfinger or Thunderball onwards that the titles and the tropes are all what we have come to love. It’s also not Connery in the gun barrel. It’s stuntman Bob Simmons. I only learnt this this year but I had always recognised that something wasn’t quite right with that gun barrel in these early films.
- I quite like the cool dancing in the title sequence and the drums. It’s too short though and it kind of cuts between three different music tracks really quickly.
- The three blind mice bit is slightly odd, but I think I like it.
- We have the first hat throw! Bond throwing it on to the hat stand in Moneypenny’s office. I wonder whose idea that was. Maybe Connery said he could do it, or maybe he was asked to do it and had to try loads of times.
- We have our first mention of Felix Leiter
- Bond gets his Beretta replaced by the classic Walther PPK. Here we see Peter Burton as Major Boothroyd, otherwise known as ‘Q’. Boothroyd was named after guy who wrote to Fleming suggesting that the character of Bond should use a Walther PPK rather than a Beretta.
- M mentions Bond’s gun jamming on him and him spending six months in hospital. This is from the books. I can’t remember exactly how long he was out of action for but it was the events at the end of From Russia With Love where his gun jammed. Funny, cos that’s the book before Dr. No but it’s the film after Dr. No.
- M mentions ‘licence to kill’
- It sounds like M say he’s head of MI7?? Sounds like 7 although his mouth moves like 6? After a bit of research online it appears this was overdubbed with MI7. Maybe the British secret service didn’t want the term MI6 widely known? Although it is definitely mentioned later in the film series.
- We see Bond’s apartment! Looks very civilised. And here’s me thinking it would be full of empty beer cans and dodgy magazines
- He’s not very gentlemanly to the women at the airport. He just brushes past them to the taxi rank and when they complain he just says “Fine” or something!
- “Vodka Martini mixed like you said and not stirred”. That’s the first mention-ish of his usual drink.
- We hear ‘Underneath the Mango Tree’ playing in the bar
- Leiter’s sunglasses! Amazing. Not many people could pull them off. Certianly a lot of middle aged women could, but also Jack Lord apparently.
- Very interesting facial expressions from the male dancer in the foreground. He even stops as someone goes past and then carries on immediately while his girlfriend dances normally next to her.
- Bond is being pretty pushy in general so far. I like it though. It shows the ruthlessness of the character. And Connery plays it very well.
- What a strange choice of weapon to kill Bond with. A spider. I reckon the chances of the spider walking over Bond and then just walking off again without biting him were pretty high.
- I love how the music strikes in time with Bond killing the spider.
- We hear ‘Underneath the Mango Tree’ again on her record player. It really was the hit of the day.
- Bond is ruthless when he kills Dent. I love his face when he shoots him. Utterly ruthless.
- The famous Ursula Andress beach shot. Bond is ridiculous though, scaring her by surprise and then saying the slightly pervy line “I’m just looking”.
- Interesting how Bond hesitates when Honey asks if he has a woman. Is he thinking about Sylvia Trench?
- The radiation shower is hilarious. They move along on a shower conveyor belt, akin to the Generation Game, and just shower off all the radiation.
- Dr No’s lair looks amazing and he himself is obviously an inspiration for Dr Evil, along with Blofeld. I love when Professor Dent comes in for the meeting and you just hear Dr No’s voice booming.
- I thought it was a bit unnecessary, although certainly creepy, that we partially see Dr No go into Bond’s room when he’s unconscious.
- I thought Dr No was very well acted. I’ve read a lot of comments saying it was very bad having a Western white actor playing a Chinese man, but actually in the book he is meant to be ‘Eurasian’, half German and half Chinese. So perhaps it’s not so bad.
- Bond has another Vodka Martini, this time with Dr No.
- SPECTRE is mentioned! I forgot that Dr. No had a connection with SPECTRE and that they were mentioned in this first film.
- I love how Dr. No pushes his chair back! He stands up and kind of flicks his knees back to slide the chair back. Probably because he can’t use his back metal hands!
- This movie must seriously have inspired Die Hard. Lots of crawling inside air vents with white clothes getting more dirty, and shoes coming off etc.
- Bond has guns and gadgets and yet a shoe saves him twice. (From Smershpod)
- Dr No gets killed very easily in the end. Bit of an anti-climax
- I’m so satisfied that the “Abandon Building” sign gets used. It’s the first thing I noticed in that final scene. When you see a sign like that a part of you kind of hopes it gets to get used at least once.
- Bond gets rescued by the boat in the end but then throws it back in their face when he loosens the rope again! One thing on his mind that man. He ends the movie having sex in the boat, which turns out to be a Bond trope!
- In the credits I noticed that General Potter is played by Colonel Burton. Acting above his station!
I thoroughly enjoy this film. There are a few slow bits but overall I think it is amazing that so many of the Bond elements we know and love are in this first film. And Connery is just amazing. Possibly his best portrayal of the character, which is crazy as it’s his first time in the role. He does indeed walk like a panther, as I’ve heard people say, and he is just smooth as silk. We also see his funny side as well as his stone cold side. Incredible performance. There are several bits in the film that aren’t totally amazing but really overall Connery’s performance and the whole Dr. No character and setpiece really make this film great. Great to see Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee too. My son really enjoyed it too and didn’t find it too slow or boring as I thought he might. He thought Connery was perfect in the role.
My score – 7.5 (but I can imagine I could possibly push it up to 8 or even 8.5 after watching the other films and getting a gauge of all the movies)
My son’s score – 7.5
Now here are some notes and scores on several categories that I will be addressing each film.
Overall score – 7.5/10
“Bond, James Bond” utterances – 1
Bond theme occurrences in the movie – 5 & again at closing credits (one just walking through the airport! And one getting a telegram!)
Vodka Martinis – 2
Hat throws – 1
Girls bedded – 3 (Sylvia Trench, Miss Taro, Honey Ryder)
Gadgets – Just the new Walther PPK and Geiger counter
Vehicles – Only a rental Sunbeam Alpine. Oh and a villain’s dragon tank!
SPECTRE involved? – Yes
Villains – Dr. No
Henchmen – Professor Dent
Cold open – There isn’t a Bond cold open in this one.
Main title song – No ‘Dr. No’ song. Just the Bond theme tune and ‘Underneath the mango tree’. 3/10
Title sequence – Weird, odd, too short, but cool in places. The first part feels like Saul Bass and is ok. The middle part is amazing. Love it. Like the Apple iPod advert. And I don’t really like the three blind mice bit. 7/10
One liners – “I think they were on their way to a funeral”
Felix Leiter – Jack Lord. Pretty good. Not far off what I envisaged Leiter to look like from the books, although perhaps not quite as chummy as in the books. 7.5/10
Movie poster – 6/10