BOND From The Beginning - DR. NO

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Martin Rayburn turns back the clock to 1962 and revisits Dr. No.


The movie that kicked off the James Bond film saga, Dr. No, barely fits any of the preconceived ideas of what a "Bond Film" is. However, what Dr. No does do is introduce the public to the basic tenets of who James Bond is and what he does, and it does this very well indeed.

Bond is asked to go to investigate the disappearance of John Strangways, a British Intelligence Station Chief, and see if there is a connection to his cooperation with the CIA on a case involving the disruption of rocket launches by radio jamming. The investigations hint at a mysterious Dr. No (played brilliantly by Joseph Wiseman) who owns a small island off the coast of Jamaica.


What is so great about this movie is that, though very much a Bond film, it lacks many of the sillier contrivances of the "Bond Formula" which would be introduced piecemeal through later films. Something I have no problem with, largely (although sometimes it can a tad over the top), as its part of that Bond package which we love. But here, right at the beginning Bond is a detective... he's an agent doing his job... and doing it well. Bond is cool, calculating, and even cold-blooded when he has to be, gunning down a potential assassin who he has already disarmed (though the scene inferred here has 2 filmed versions, with one of them depicting the assailant reacquiring his gun, albeit it with an empty chamber).

The interplay between Bond and Moneypenny is here from the get-go, as is the irascibility of M towards Bond (which Dame Judi Dench brought back brilliantly in the Brosnan-Craig Bonds - I'm interested to see how Ralph Fiennes approaches it in SPECTRE). It's also in this first movie (though the book was much later in the Bond series) that Bond is assigned the Walther PPK 7.65mm from Q Branch, by orders of M. Plus we hear the first mention of SPECTRE, the infamous crime organisation, who seem to be making a return this year, almost bringing the series full circle.

Noticeably missing from Dr. No is the famous pre-titles sequences, and Maurice Binder's trademark opening credits are much subtler here, they are not the shadowy nude extravagansas of later years. The budget is small ($1.1 million - half that of From Russia With Love), so there is no epic car chase scene (though a short car chase is offered) and the multi-continent gorgeous locals are reigned in with just about everything happening in Jamaica, yet still beautifully shot.


But probably the most famous element of all the Bond movies, outside of James Bond himself that is, is the "Bond Girls". And they are here, and one of them is the icon of the group. Although Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench came first, Ursula Andress will forever be the ultimate "Bond Girl". Her bikini clad Honey Rider emerging from the sea surely has to rank amongst the most memorable moments in, not just the Bond franchise, but cinema history itself. Combine that with the first time we meet 007 - playing his card game of choice (Chemin de Feur, a form of Bacarat). He's as suave and confident as he will ever be throughout his 50+ years on screen. As he lights his cigarette and offers his name for that first time... "Bond, James Bond", history was made, Sean Connery was propelled to stardom, and one of the movie worlds greatest franchises sealed its future.

So although missing many of the elements we often associate with the Bond series, Dr. No is solid and enjoyable detective/spy thriller. It is fairly faithful to the novel, and presents an interesting story where our hero does not have to hide behind gadgets and gimmicks, as later Bonds often do. All in all, a fine movie, made on a shoe-string budget which accomplished exactly what it set out to do.

Dr. No ably and properly introduced James Bond to a very welcoming international audience.

By day, an ordinary bloke in a dull 9 to 5. By night, a tired ordinary bloke. Martin still hasn't worked out what he wants to do when he grows up. He is currently 46.

James Bond will return next Thursday...
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