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...


  1. I'll try to contain myself. I am a huge James Bond Fan and I'm glad you are including those films in your collection. Here it would mean all 22 films would be included, I don't know how many are on your DVD shelf but you start with a good one that happens to be the first one. You are right that there are not a lot of gadgets in this film, which is one of the ways this movie sticks more closely to the book character that Fleming created. Honey Ryder is mostly iconic because of her first appearance in the movie, walking out of the ocean in that white bikini. "Venus Rising from the Sea". As for Bond historians, you will probably be surprised to find that it is a subject of scholarship at many film schools. My daughter took a semester length class at USC that focused on James Bond films. She had to read all of the novels and watch most of the films. It's hard to believe I forked over forty grand a year for that experience. Of course if the class had been offered when I was at SC, I'd have taken it but there would have been half as many films to see. Connery's characterization here was the most like the books, and you can see as the movies progress, how his role and performances were tailored for a film audience. You have the iconic first use of the introduction line as your favorite quote. Good choice, but in terms of character my favorite is:

    "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six."

  2. Richard, let me correct you on one minor point - DR. NO isn't the first Bond I've discussed. As the order of the alphabet goes, CASINO ROYALE (2006) was the first one I did and coincidentally, it's based on Ian Flemming's first novel. You may have also noticed (again, as the alphabet goes), that DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) was skipped over. I was never crazy about that one. And when the time comes, rest assured that at least two of the Pierce Brosnan films will be omitted, as well.

  3. Die Another Day is the first Brosnan you decided to skip. Goldeneye and Gold finger make a nice back to back evening. His first appearance as Bond was his best.

  4. DIE ANOTHER DAY was, indeed, a great tragedy in the Bond franchise. And if I thought I hated Madonna's music before, her opening song only further solidified my convictions.