Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dr. No (1962)


Beefing on Bond
Dr. No

I suppose that I should start off by admitting that I am headed into this series with very little actual experience with the James Bond films. I have seen every one from the final Timothy Dalton era, through the entire Pierce Brosnan era, up through current with the departure of Daniel Craig. When it comes to the original "classic" Bond, however, I have seen the single George Lazenby film and possibly one or two starring the fan-favourite, Sean Connery.

So many of these films are new to me, and I will be watching them with fresh eyes. Hopefully, my knowledge of the more recent movies will not haunt my take on these older entries, but occasionally I will not be able to keep myself from comparing them to what I know already about the later aspects of the series.

That being said, I will get my comparison out of the way right off the bat. Going into the first of the film series, 1962's Dr. No struck me as a very strong a serious picture. Because of the Brosnan era, and my own "understanding" of the cheesy spy action movies of the 1960's in general, I was actually expecting something a little more dated... a little more corny. I expected unbelievable gadgets and impossible plots by the evil mastermind... something a little more akin to a giant laser beam from space - the kind of stuff you roll your eyes at and just roll with the sheer stupidity of it all.

What I watched instead was a perfectly down-to-earth spy movie from the era, complete with Jamaican locations and stylized music, as were popular at the time. Here we saw a young 007, a secret agent from MI6, sent off to thwart a plot against rocket launches by way of radio jamming. The sounds pretty reasonable to me and not entirely far-fetched.

Along the way, he coyly flirts with women, snarks back and forth with people who may or may not be evil, and engages in some pretty fair combat. As I know to be somewhat commonplace in Bond films, he is taken hostage, has a calm chat with the bad guy, and eventually thwarts the evil plot in a giant secret installation in some remote location. In the process, he of course manages to save an attractive woman... all-in-all, a pretty good week.

While Dr. No was not the first in the book series, it was chosen to be the first in the movie series, still making references to earlier books, as it was all fairly popular at the time. I have not read any of the books, yet I still had no problem enjoying the film. A rudimentary sense of who and what "James Bond" is isn't necessary to following or enjoying the story, but I'm sure it all helps.

One of the biggest things that struck me, that I had not known about until watching the movie, was that the famous line that everyone knows better than possibly anything else in pop culture... it came first merely as a mocking response to the introduction of Sylvia Trench, who gave her last name first, followed by her full name. I guess when something sticks in the public's mind, you keep it... but it makes me think of other famous lines like "I'll be back," "You can't handle the truth," and "I am your father." No one really knows certain lines will catch on until after the fact, and "Bond... James Bond" I suppose was just another of those little flukes that grabbed on and refused to let go.

In all, I purely enjoyed Dr. No and considered it a great start to a budding film franchise. The budget was low, and that was hardly noticeable... and I'm sure that worked plenty to their benefit for making more after the picture was a hit. I can already see why Connery is many people's favourite and will remain the quintessential Bond.