Dr. No (1962)

The first 007 film ever made and one that established a new espionage icon for cinematic generations by way of Sean Connery’s sophisticated hyper-masculine Bond, exotic island mystery, stylized visual cues, & sibylline score sleuthing/theatrical as its protagonist. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: In the film that launched the James Bond saga, Agent 007 (Sean Connery) battles mysterious Dr. No, a scientific genius bent on destroying the U.S. space program. As the countdown to disaster begins, Bond must go to Jamaica, where he encounters beautiful Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), to confront a megalomaniacal villain at his private island.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

Shaken, Not Stirred

From The Pages Of Ian Fleming’s Novel To The Big Screen, Agent 007 Wasn’t Always A [Yes] In Greenlit Studio Release Dates

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Bond, James Bond. Shaken, Not Stirred. The combination of iconic three-word lines is limitless in what is now one of the biggest and most successful cinematic franchises of all-time. Now entering its 25th film, our favorite secret-agent-sleuther 007 has come a long way from mere bold-faced words on a 1952 Ian Fleming novel named Casino Royale – and it all started with the big moviemaking debut of 1962’s Dr. No on Bond’s 10th-Anniversary of Creation. One of the boldest and coolest new projects to rock the world’s theaters, it was shockingly-panned at the time of its release – though, audiences were starstruck and the film made 60x its budget at the box office. Re-assessment by modern critics we’re happy to be apart of recognize its vitality as a quintessential Bond/spy thriller – and one of the series’ best to-date 60+ years later. The first 007 film ever made and one that established a new espionage icon for cinematic generations by way of Sean Connery’s debonair mix of acidic repartée and masculine composure as Bond, compelling island mystery, beautiful backdrop, and a sibylline score as sleuthing/theatrical as its secret-agent.

The First Bond Film

The Secretive MI6 Protagonist Leaps Off IF’s Pages To A Diverse Canvas Of Action, Romance, Espionage, Comedy, Horror, & Masculinity: Gadgets, Girls, & Gunsmoke

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

The legacy and thematized establishment of its franchise Dr. No achieves is by far its biggest selling point. Every hallmark of the Bond films – and the entire spy genre as a mode of filmmaking, for that matter – can be found here, from the opening white dot movement into an iris-out gunbarrel, blood-soaked wipe transition that first graces our screens in the wild-and-Vegas-theatrical credits sequence. A balanced canvas of action, romance, espionage, comedy, horror, and hyper-masculinity fan-service [gadgets, girls, gunsmoke, galas, gambling, gamma-radiation, & grandeur], it is easy-to-follow why 007 instantly-evoked magnificent attraction worldwide. The cool-factor and sex-appeal of this wildly-stylized and British-classicism blockbuster made female viewers want him, male viewers want to be him, and even casual-moviegoers love how could easily find elements of whatever their favorite movie genre was – mixed into this signature shaken-not-stirred cocktail on which a U.K. empire could be built. The mystery, exotic locale, and score are phenomenal.

An Exotic Mystery & Locale

A Compelling Script & Mystery Arc Set In The Breathtaking Jamaican Islands, This Bond Is One Of The Most Resplendent

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

The Three Blind Mice opening (transitioned-nicely from the bizarre opening credits thematically-establishing the phenomenal orchestral score as stealthy-juxtaposed-with-flamboyance in its grungy guitar riffs and sybilline xylophonic sounds as its peacockish man-of-the-hour) assassination is one that evokes a strong connection to the film’s events and Doctor No mystery from the opening scene. This intrigue is kept through the screenplay’s shocking twists-and-turns, as it goes from a beautiful Jamaica town to the eclectic classical architectural mixes of London to a private island fit-for-a-[villainous]-king. The power dynamic and behind-the-scenes puppeteering of the bad-doctor is beguiling and a stranglehold on local townspeople – as well as a geological marvel with radioactive ore and native superstition. When the film gets to Crab Key, our oculars are met with some of the most breathtaking tropical scenery and ecosystemic beauty of its era – this is truly a fairy-tale wonderland of escapism in setting we all can (and want to) get lost in as the cinematography’s long, rich cross-dissolves aid our absorption into the surroundings.. plus serves as a perfect background for DN’s characters.

The Performances

A Collection Of Fine Performances Led By Sean Connery’s Robust, Suave, Acidic Masculine Composure As A Classical 007

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

The performances are universally-strong – especially the agent-of-all-agents: Bond, James Bond. Sean Connery’s performance is a masterclass in masculinity – a debonair mix of acidic repartée and coolness that crafted the cinematic icon of James Bond from smolders.. and remains the [2nd] best Bond ever to-date by the most infinitesimal of margins (CLC puts Craig just inches ahead of him, for reasons we’ll explain later). From the opening cigar-smoke-hazy backroom high-stakes poker match we first hear him utter the immortal intoruction, the suave cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor juxtaposed with flirtatious effficacy, heroicism, and the ability to charm the pants off of whomever needed makes a protagonist everyone can love. Not only is he badass when he needs to be, lovely at other times, and befit with wry British humour at others, he is one of the most competent operatives to take up the 007 mantle: he traverses his spy duties with surgical precision and sure-handed perspicacity that is mega-refreshing. The supporting performances are adequate as well – especially Ursula Andress’ blonde-knockout first Bond girl Honey Ryder and the film’s scientific criminal-genius: Dr. No.

The Villain

The Genius Criminal Mastermind Of This Mad Science Pulls Strings From Behind-The-Scenes, Only To Think Small In Plans

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

The eponymous villain of Dr. No doesn’t even reveal himself until the last 1/3 of the movie. A genius criminal mastermind who owns a massive private island befit with mad science mysteries, exercises tyrannical power over local townspeople, calls-in hits, and pulls string from behind-the-scenes, he is a compelling figure looming large over the film’s events and atmosphere – until we meet him in person. While Joseph Wiseman’s performance is strong as the chillingly-expressionless doctor from the first time he states ‘one million dollars, Mr. Bond’ and backstory potentially-powerful devoid of existential purpose beyond watching the East and West burn out of inferiority-complexed, handless megalomaniac rejection, Dr. No is a bit of a disappointment. What is his plan exactly – to just shoot down a rocket? The extent of the project and cost of [likely] tens of millions of dollars by the U.S. Space Program sounds good on paper/reflection, but it comes across extremely lame when he announces it – small-potatoes to what a so-called criminal genius with this much time, money, and resources should have: a far better, casualty-laden, 10x more ambitious villain plan that goes beyond mere dollars.

Flaws

A White-Washed Antagonist, Old-Looking Connery, Objectification Of Non-Honey Girls, & ~Anticlimactic Finale Revelation

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Besides the underwhelming/anticlimactic finale revelation of the film’s pre-established big bad [as Bond humorously says: a minnow pretending to be a shark], there are a few other problems as well. The white-washing of casting Joseph Wiseman as a Chinese character in this big of a franchise film is the same kind of racist/exclusionary practices Old Hollywood was guilty of – there are billions of people in Asia and exponentially more in mere Chinese cities than in the entire nation of the U.S.A.; you couldn’t find ONE actor to play a role and give important representation?! Please. Connery also looks a bit old for the character – a little weathered and wrinkly, not exactly the best for a bright-eyed protagonist we’re seeing on his first day on the job on-screen [also, his eyebrows are distractingly-thick; what was the make-up doing during warm-ups missing such a crucial element on the literal face of your franchise.] The film is a bit guilty of objectification of its women – every one of the film’s women is characterized as little-more than a sex trophy or plot-device for Bond to plow, except Honey Ryder who is given the backstory exposition and classical romance that should’ve been more spread-out.. not every girl across the entire movie needs to fall head-over-heels for James Bond, writers.

Conclusion

A Hyper-Stylized Debut Feature

Despite Its Flaws, Dr. No Archetyped The Spy Genre As We Know It Today & Launched One Of The Biggest & Most Successful Franchises In Cinematic History

Photograph Courtesy Of: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Overall, Dr. No is a magnificent launch to the James Bond saga. There’s no wonder why 007 became one of the world’s biggest franchises of all-time with a debut this special; the film works on every level. An adventure epic disguised as a romance film masquerading as a horror-comedy with a pervasive atmosphere of espionage thrills, cool calculating masculinity, gadgets, girls, and gunsmoke, Dr. No is a massively-entertaining package for the history books you can’t help but say [yes] to. The exotic Jamaican island locale is jaw-dropping, cool-factor off-the-charts, mystery and villain compelling, and Barry and Norman’s soundtrack as stealthy & sibylline as its shaken-not-stirred protagonist: ‘Bond, James Bond.’ Sean Connery’s performance is mesmerizing as the rugged and capable MI6 secret-agent-of-the-hour: a live-action fulfillment of Ian Fleming’s character on every conceivable leve – befit with strong performances from all support, especially Ursula Andress’ gorgeous first bond-girl Honey and Joseph Wiseman’s chillingly-intense Dr. No. A whitewashing of its [supposedly-Chinese] big bad, somewhat-old-looking Connery, objectification of its non-Honey girls, and ~anticlimactic villain motivations/backstory-writing are present flaws – but not enough to beam this rocket down from the upper-atmosphere of film history: Dr. No establishes a franchise legacy few films have the debut-pedigree to share. The first 007 film ever made and one that established a new espionage icon for cinematic generations by way of Sean Connery’s debonair mix of acidic repartée and masculine composure as Bond, compelling island mystery, beautiful backdrop, and a sibylline score as sleuthing/theatrical as its secret-agent.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10