I had seen bits and pieces of “Dr. No” before, but never the whole way through. Watching it in this day and age, it feels like an average James Bond adventure with the megalomaniac villain bent on world domination. I was getting sick of that in the last few of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. Still, it helps to keep in mind what action movies were like before 007 came along. Compared to “Dr. No,” they were nowhere as gritty. Shooting female characters in a film was a no no back then, and this Bond quickly did away with that unwritten rule. There was also a lot more going on here than just your average good guy versus bad guy action movie. While it may appear to be something of an average Bond adventure for those watching it today, “Dr. No” was in many ways a groundbreaking film which led to a franchise that has lasted longer than any other.
OK, I am in agreement that nobody played James Bond better than Sean Connery (Daniel Craig is right up there though). His first appearance as 007 in “Dr. No” was brilliantly shot to where you could see him at the card playing table, but you didn’t see his face until he uttered some of the most famous lines in cinematic history:
“Bond. James Bond.”
My dad told me that what made Connery so great in this role was that he was so believable in how he could romance a woman for one second and then slap her in another when she proved to be dishonest. There was a raw danger and edginess that Connery brought to the role, and he set the bar impossibly high for others to match what he did. At the beginning when he lets a driver take him to his destination, even though he knows the driver is up to no good, shows how quickly Bond can change from being suave and debonair to lethal and dangerous. Connery’s Bond, for the most part, keeps his cool and manages to get his way in the end. The bad guys think they have him, but that’s what he wants them to think.
It is endlessly interesting to see where the Bond franchise went after watching the first one of all. “Dr. No” still remains the only Bond movie never to have a pre-titles scene like the others as it just gives us the gun barrel sequence and jumps right into the opening titles. The titles look cheesy today as “Dr. No” and “007” are made to fill up every part of the screen. It was the first of many 007 opening credits sequences designed by Maurice Binder, and it is also the most disjointed of the bunch. It goes from the unforgettable Monty Norman theme we all know to three men walking along to the tune of “Three Blind Mice.” Suffice to say, things have changed a lot since this one came out.
Seeing the flirtatious relationship between Bond and Miss Moneypenny (the late Lois Maxwell) here makes me miss the banter these two characters have had over the series. Miss Moneypenny was not featured in “Casino Royale,” and it’s uncertain if we will see her again in the future, but seeing these characters here for the first time reminded me of how great and they were together until M buzzed her from his office to get 007 away from her and keeps things between them strictly professional.
Bond in this film actually gets to bed several women instead of just one, and Connery makes seduction look so easy to do. The fact that it isn’t as easy to pull off in real life remains infinitely frustrating. That lucky bastard had quite the selection before he met the first Bond girl, Honey Rider, played by Ursula Andress whose entrance in her flesh colored bikini is still one for the ages. “Dr. No” also marked the first time Bond sang in a movie, and that hasn’t happened again since. I can’t help but wonder if that was a good or bad thing. Then again, I can’t quite picture Timothy Dalton singing “Thunderball.”
One of Bond’s first death-defying moments in movie history involved a tarantula crawling over him while he’s in bed, and that sent shivers down my spine! Easily one of the scariest moments in any Bond movie, the tension escalates so quickly that the rest of the movie can’t quite match it. Still, it wouldn’t be the last time we would see 007 having to deal with those creepy crawlers.
Watching “Dr. No” was fun, and it is an excellent Bond movie in many ways. Time has not been exactly kind to it though. We can see the green screen being used which will have audiences snickering some. The pace is a lot more leisurely, and that would not be the case in any movie, let alone a Bond movie, today. That Bond theme is played throughout the movie endlessly to where you almost get sick of it. The music scores for the future films kept building up the different themes that were inherent in the story, but it all threatened to go south when Monty Norman’s famous theme was made to sound all disco.
From here the Bond series really had nowhere to go but up. The formula was more or less perfected with the next one, ‘From Russia with Love,” and it has more or less been fooled around with over the years. I enjoyed “Dr. No” and it helped to lay the groundwork for better Bond films to come. It’s not perfect, but it is still groundbreaking, exciting and enjoyable from start to finish.