Wednesday, September 7, 2011
(October 1962, U.S.)
Your personal interpretation of the very first James Bond film ever, DR. NO, may depend entirely on what generation you're from. Perhaps you're old enough to have seen the first film on screen back in 1962 and then all the others that followed in their theatrical release order. If that's the case, then you got to witness the character's development over time. However, if you're in my age bracket (late thirties to early forties), you very likely got your first taste of James Bond on screen in the 1970s in the form of Roger Moore and perhaps managed to catch GOLDFINGER or THUNDERBALL on the ABC Sunday Night Movie. That being the case, it's a considerably different experience to go back to the first Bond film and see Sean Connery bring the character to life for the first time.
If you were to watch DR. NO, CASINO ROYALE or even THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, it would be very easy to see that author Ian Flemming had a much different idea of James Bond in mind that doesn't even come close to the silly campiness displayed in many other films by men like Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Connery's very first portrayel of James Bond is a much tougher, grittier and cold-hearted spy, and I might also add, a much faster talker. Watch the film and you'll what I'm talking about; at times, the man is speaking at a hundred miles an hour. But I suppose like any other film franchise, a character like his needs a little time to be well seasoned.
The film, too, is just getting started and the stories, too, need time for seasoning. In this film, James Bond is sent to Jamaica on an investigation into the death of a fellow British agent. The murder trail leads him to the underground base of the villian Dr. No (played fiendishly by Joesph Wiseman), who is plotting to disrupt an early American manned space launch with a radio beam weapon. Not a terribly exciting plot and there are no over-the-top gadgets or cars to marvel at. For it introduction, DR. NO serves more to introduce us to the English gentleman spy who is licensed to kill and to learn what exactly makes the man tick. We know from many films of the future that he kills anyone, anytime without hesitation and that monogomy doesn't exactly work out for him. In fact, there's a moment in DR. NO when Honey Ryder asks Bond if he has a woman of his own. Just take a long look at Bond's face as he hesitates at the question and ultimately never answers it.
Now let's take a moment to talk about Honey Ryder (played by the sultry Ursula Andrews), shall we? Bond fans and even Bond historians (is there really such a thing??) have often called her the best "Bond girl" ever. Is she really? Well, I suppose that would depend on what you're personally grading her on. If we're talking about character strength, personality and performance, then my answer is definitely "no". On the other hand, if we're talking about the hottest piece of "Bond girl" ass you've ever seen on screen, then I have to definitely give Honey Ryder two big thumbs way up! Truth be told, I've never really had a favorite "Bond girl". Most of them (even the more independent, intelligent ones) seem to follow the same persistent formula. I can tell you that I consider Denise Richards in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999) the absolute WORST "Bond girl" of the entire film franchise! Most people would agree with me.
As a quintessential "Bond villian", I have to say that Dr. No rates as one of the best I've ever seen in the franchise. He's cunning, diabolical and evil without being entirely over-the-top in his personality and mannerism. I would call him the silent-but-deadly type, which I consider to be a more frightening character that the villian who's constantly shooting off his mouth and laughing like some stereotypical "mad scientist" or something. Many other Bond fans would likely tell you that Goldfinger is the best "Bond villian", but maybe that's simply because he says the best line to come from a villian, which is, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" Who knows.
Favorite line or dialogue:
James Bond: " I admire your courage, Miss...?"
Sylvia Trench: " Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr...?"
James: "Bond. James Bond."
And with those immortal words, a film legend is born...