The Weekly Bond Countdown: #12 – Dr. No (1962)

“Bond…James Bond.”

Those were the lines that started it all.  Those lines defined the series and introduced the most charismatic spy in cinema history.

This is the birth of Bond and the beginning of something special.

It’s not easy to utter those words – even the Bond actors over the years have struggled to say it because if the Bond actors didn’t get it right, the illusion of playing a spy might be ruined.  The pressure really stems from Connery.  It’s effortless and he completely owns it.  He says it with such coolness with a little bit of a swagger that you instantly get who he is from three words.  It’s amazing isn’t it?

I also love the way Bond is introduced.  Directed by Terrence Young, he introduces the audience to style as we see glimpses of Bond such as the back of his head or a close up of his hands.  It keeps the mystery of this player who is very good at Baccarat, Bond’s favourite card game (and the game he actually played in the Casino Royale novel but was switched to poker for the 2006 film adaptation).  Then when the camera pulls away, we see Sean, cigarette in mouth, uttering those famous lines for the first time whilst mentally screaming, “Yeah…this is how I roll” – great moment.

While the following Bond films have set the standard in terms of stunts and the grand epic nature to the plot, we have to remember this was the first Bond film so watching some of the action will probably feel underwhelming and slightly cheap.  It was because it was made on a budget and since Saltzman and Broccoli didn’t have the rights to Casino Royale and Thunderball was a legal mess, Dr. No became the film that started it all.

Because it was made on a budget ($1 million dollars to be precise) does not make it any less of a film in comparison to the other Bond films.  The film holds up well because the intentions and the spirit were there.  Frankly, if it weren’t for the success of Dr. No, we wouldn’t have Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me or even Skyfall.  Heck, I wouldn’t even be here writing this.

But thank God it was.

I guess what is appreciative about Dr. No is how it handles Bond as a character.  After being introduced in the casino in classic fashion, we see what he is like as a spy.  Suave one minute, ruthless killer the next and on some occasions, it’s all in one move.  We also get introduced to his charm and charisma, used in effect to occasionally break up moments of tension or to contradict another’s viewpoint.  Bond was also the epitome of cool, especially when a giant tarantula spider was crawling along side him in his bed.  I don’t know how he did it and you can definitely see fear in Bond’s face, but I would have freaked the f*cked out!  This was Connery’s first major role, and to cast an unknown worked massively in their favour.  Connery and the director worked tirelessly to make sure Bond leapt from the book to the movie screen, discussing meticulously the tiniest details about his character – from the way he would hold his gun, the type of cigarette lighter he would use to the suits he would wear.  No stone was unturned and everything you see on the screen is what you get.  You get a character that is totally believable.

One of the most memorable scenes in Dr. No (other than Honey Ryder beautifully emerging from the ocean) is Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No.  Handicapped and born from German/Chinese parents, he set the standard of what to expect from a Bond villain.  Every time I think of him, I recall my visit to the Bond exhibition at the Barbican and the villain section they had on display.  They had Dr. No’s outfit where the designers were greatly influenced by Asian clothing.  They adopted a very minimalistic and Zen-like approach.  Add Joseph Wiseman’s performance where it’s unnerving and unflinching, you have a villain that is at ease with their conscience.  It’s simple yet effective.  This template became the foundations for all other villains in the franchise and if I think about it more, I can definitely see it being the influence on the characters such as Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies).

Dr. No represents the first opportunity of the James Bond theme.  Bond music just wouldn’t be the same without his theme music.  It’s a theme that starts off the adventure and played during moments when Bond is being Bond.  And how can I forget the introduction of the famous gunbarrel intro, which has become a key element to all future Bond films.

Dr. No laid the groundwork for what we love about Bond and the world he lives in.  It was the introduction of Bond being a cinema icon and the tease of more to come.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #11.

Author: Kelechi Ehenulo

Creator and writer of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Loves sci-fi and LEGO - couldn't ask for a better combo!

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