Dr. No (1962)


*. And so it began. The great Bond franchise. From the rather weak opening credit sequence  you wouldn’t be expecting much, but the foundation was there in what became the prototype. We have Sean, the groovy Bond theme, the Bond girl (Ursula, a classic even if re-voiced), the supporting administrative cast (at least M and Moneypenny, Q and his toys would have to wait for the next film), the gorgeous international settings, the lecherous banter, a couple of car chases, and a megalomaniacal villain with a magnficent Pinewood hideout that gets destroyed at the end along with most of the movie’s budget (a bit of financial planning that had apparently been forgotten by the time of Skyfall).
*. In later outings these elements would become a formula, and it’s hard to go back to this movie and imagine it as all being part of something new.


*. Connery was only 32 — this was his first major role — but he looks older. His face is so gaunt. And while not skinny, it’s interesting to think that this was what a bodybuilder looked like in the early ’60s.


*. Yes, it is an old dream. But is world domination really Dr. No’s game? Does he have a Napoleon complex? Or does he just want to show the world how smart he is?
*. Jack Lord’s sunglasses don’t seem very masculine. Was that the style for men?
*. The tarantula scene doesn’t work at all. Why would a spider slowly crawl up Bond’s body, under the sheets, without biting him on the foot or the leg? Also, the way the scene had to be shot (with the bed built on an angle and a glass plate for the spider to walk on, because that was a real tarantula), and the use of a double (the cuts from Connery’s sweaty face to a totally dry shoulder and neck are jarring), undercut its effectiveness. Terence Young should have known that if you can’t do something right (i.e., so that it works on screen) then you probably shouldn’t do it at all.
*. Interesting to hear that there were censorship issues involving Bond’s killing of Professor Dent. It was seen as unsporting, and I have to admit I did raise an eyebrow at it myself. Is it in character for Bond to kill Dent “in cold blood”? And wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep him alive, as he’s clearly someone with information about Dr. No? In both ways it does seem wrong.


*. When Honey Ryder tells Bond that the mosquitoes are only after the salt on his skin, and that the way to repel them is to rub water on himself, does that make any sense? I’ve never heard it before.
*. Are we really supposed to believe that Quarrel and Ryder think that Dr. No’s absurd Deathmobile is a dragon? Or that tire treads are dragon tracks?
*. I do love that giant globe in the middle of the reactor control room. It doesn’t seem to have any purpose, but it has a blinking light inside and it’s the kind of thing any megalomaniac dreaming of world domination should have as a prop.
*. The showpiece sets by Ken Adam really were amazing, especially given the budget. His hotel rooms never convince me of their luxury (though I’ll admit, the definition of luxury has changed quite a bit over the years), but for large-scale industrial craziness Adam had a unique vision.


3 thoughts on “Dr. No (1962)

  1. Morgan Butler

    I do recommend checking out the first Matt Helm book. (and the 2nd and 3rd but no further.) It’s fun to contrast and compare the characters and writers. If Sean Connery was the perfect Bond, then I think Robert Mitchum would have been the perfect Helm. You can easily hear the 1st person narrative in Mitchum’s voice.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Thanks Morgan, I will look for them. I have to admit Mitchum isn’t my favourite actor because of that general air of sleepiness. Great as a heavy in Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear though.

      1. Morgan Butler

        Maybe that’s a good thing. Matt Helm goes often goes from being sleepy/casual/philosophical to behaving like a real heavy. I think both Ian Fleming and Donald Hamilton tended to write about the things they knew about. The characters in some ways were proxies for the authors. Sterling Hayden would also have been a good choice to helm a Helm movie.

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