Dr. No

Sean Connery

When you think of James Bond, you think gadgets, glamourous women, questionable sexual politics, huge action scenes, that theme tune by Monty Norman, opening credits with a big song and the silhouettes of half-naked women and a before-the-credits teaser. Dr No was the first outing for a series that has lasted 20 films and 40 years and these things take time to develop. In fact, the essence of the Bond films wasn't really established until Goldfinger, the third Bond, so few of the quintessential Bond elements are here.

James Bond, Agent 007 of the fictional MI7 (not MI6, as it is now), is a hard, cold character, closer to the educated thug of the Fleming novels. Gadgets? Not so much as a spare bit of plastique explosive hidden in the heel of someone's shoe. The nearest you get to it is Bond using a reed to breathe through when he hides in shallow waters. There's no big theme song, although you hardly need it with the totally iconic Monty Norman theme. You could, I suppose, consider the theme song to be the little ditty Bond sings to Honey Ryder (Andress) on the beach. And Q is not payed by Desmond Llewellyn, but by Peter Burton.

Dr No is storytelling as its barest and, as such, is the simplest and most brutal of the Bond films. Director Terence Young (From Russia With Love, Thunderball) cut his teeth making WWII movies, so he's more plot-driven than character-led. Still, he keeps things moving along quickly and efficiently, despite a decent running time of just under 2 hours, which was especially long in 1962.

For those who don'tknow, Dr No sees Bond being sent to Jamaica to discover how and why a British agent was murdered. With help from local boat owner, Quarrel (Kitzmiller), and local scientist's daughter, Honey, he uncovers a plot to take over the world by the mysterious Dr Julius No (Wiseman). Julius is a member of the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE), given to wearing bad Chairman Mao suits and who lives in a secret hollowed-out volcano, populated by henchmen of equally poor sartorial taste.

Sean Connery George Lazenby Roger Moore Timothy Dalton Pierce Brosnan

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It can be difficult for modern audiences to take Julius No seriously as a top-class villian, given that he's a significant part of the prototype for Austin Powers' Dr Evil and especially as his plan for world domination includes using lasers to destroy U.S. rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. But, really, you could now say that of a fair proportion of the Bond films. Let's face it: no-one watches Bond for its gritty realism.

Yet gritty realism is almost what you get with Dr No. Well, as close as any Bond film ever gets to it, anyway. This Bond could not be further from the jocular martini-swilling playboy he would later become under Roger Moore. He's a brutal, effective agent who gets involved in some very credible bare knuckle fights and even shoots an unarmed man in the back.

Who only knows what might have been if United Artists had got their way when they instructed producers Harry Saltzman (The Ipcress Files) and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli to find a bigger star than Connery, who was basically only known for Irish fairy tale, Darby O'Gill and the Little People? Without Connery, would this hard little Caribbean-set thriller have spawned a global phenomenon?

But such navel-gazing is pointless. What you do have in Dr No is Sean Connery defining the Bond persona, the iconic image of Ursula Andress rising from the water and the blueprint for the most successful Western movie franchise of all time. And recurring character Felix Leiter - who, like Kenny from South Park keeps getting killed and coming back - is played here by Jack ("Book 'em, Dano") Lord of Hawaii 5-0 fame and he's easily the best Felix to date.

Idle trivia: Ursula Andress' voice was dubbed by British voice-over actress, Nikki van der Zyl, who also provided the voices for all other female charcters in the film except Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and one Chinese bit-player.

Buy it

Terence Young
Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather
Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Robert Wiseman, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, John Kitzmiller
Release details:
United Artists, UK 1962, 1h 51m
Bond movie
Our rating:
8 out of 10
User rating:

Rating: 7.33 [3 votes]


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