Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dr. No

As much as I love the 60's aesthetic, it's somewhat baffling that I've never seen most of the Sean Connery James Bond films. I can't explain it. But I can correct it. Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to try to watch as many of the first seven James Bond films as I can, in order, before they are unceremoniously ripped from the Netflix Instant Watch menus on January 8th. If I had known they were leaving, I would have watched them sooner!

Dr. No is Sean Connery's debut as 007, directed by Terence Young, and I think it's about as good as a James Bond film can possibly be. The series has yet to establish its' gimmicks and cornerstones. The camp level is minimal. The spy action is low-tech and down and dirty. The character of James Bond is cooler and grittier than he gradually becomes. In fact, the closest Bond film I've seen to Dr. No is my other favorite Bond film, Casino Royale, though the latter is obviously on a much grander scale.

The plot revolves around James Bond being sent to Jamaica, where he finds a small island ruled by a scientist named Dr. No, who is plotting to sabotage the American space program. Helping Bond out are CIA agent Felix Lieter, who appears regularly in Bond films, this time played by Hawaii 5.0.'s Jack Lord, and Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress.

I was pretty surprised by how violent Dr. No was. There's actually a decent amount of blood in it. I assume this is because it was a United Kingdom production, and they did not have to work within the strict boundaries of the Hollywood system. Then again, I could be wrong, since Hollywood was slowly starting to loosen up around this time.

Connery is as cool as can be as Bond, but he's not quite the quip-spouting sexaholic he later becomes. He still quips and sexes with the best of them, but I think those qualities were played up in later films after proving popular in this one.

The best Bond movies are known for their villains as well. There are some pretty memorable bad guys here, including Dr. No himself, and a trio of assassins known as the Three Blind Mice (introduced by a sinister orchestral rendition of the nursery rhyme).

Let's see, what milestones do we get in this first James Bond film? We see James Bond walk into the crosshairs, turn and shoot at the camera for the first time. But get this: HE'S WEARING A FEDORA. Also, M, 007's boss gets his first appearance. And the existence of a criminal organization called SPECTRE, an ongoing thorn in Bond's side, is revealed to MI6.

So there you have it. The first 007. Arguably the best.

James Moore will return soon with his review of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

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