Andrew: Hello readers! In honor of this upcoming Friday’s domestic release of Skyfall, the 23rd (official) entry in the James Bond film series, we are doing a little thing we like to call 7 Days of 007! Each day this week we will be watching and discussing one of seven Bond films I have chosen for this endeavor.
Essentially, Sarah hasn’t seen any of the Bond films prior to Pierce Brosnan taking over the role of Bond. So I have selected seven pre-Daniel Craig Bond films for us to watch; seven that I have deemed more essential than the others for Sarah’s crash course in 007 history.
To begin our 7 Days of 007 where else would we start but the very beginning with 1962’s Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as everyone’s favorite MI6 agent.
Sarah, just to confirm first: You hadn’t seen ANY of Connery’s Bond films before today, correct?
A: So I guess the best way to start this off is to ask what your initial thoughts are on Dr. No?
S: My initial thought is that is this is definitely THE original James Bond. Connery has a definite presence about him, he’s very suave, he’s very much a ladies man. But the action aspect of James Bond wasn’t quite there yet in the first film.
The movie is VERY 1960’s. It’s a little cheesy, but other than that it was a great introduction to the character of James Bond on the silver screen.
S: Well Dr. No is an Asian villain played by a Caucasian man. One of the Bond girls, a henchman for Dr. No, is supposed to be Asian but again is played by a Caucasian woman. Now, there ARE actual Asians in the film but none of them were given lead or supporting roles. They’re background or inconsequential characters.
|Sarah wasn't particularly fond of the fact that Dr. No, a Chinese character, was played by a Caucasian character and pretty blatantly so.
And the main black character, Quarrel, while being pretty important to the plot of the film, he’s given a lot of stereotypical aspects including his bone-headed death.
I think it was progressive for it’s time a bit in that it had three black hitmen in the film working for Dr. No, which makes sense because the movie is set in Jamaica. But still, I give it props for that. But yeah, just the racial aspects of it are mainly what I mean by being very 1960’s.
A: That’s a good point about the Asians being played by Caucasians, I had always thought of that whenever I see this movie, too. But that doesn’t last much in the series, as they have actual Asians playing those kinds of characters a lot more in future installments. (And yes, I’m purposefully ignoring the fact that Connery is made up to play Bond disguised as an Asian in You Only Live Twice.)
This was the first time you’ve fully seen Connery’s portrayal of 007. Give me your take on him, what you liked about Connery’s Bond and what you didn’t like.
S: I liked that he’s extremely suave, that he totally embodies the sexy feel of James Bond. He can get any woman he wants, he makes the women weak at the knees, and you believe it.
But when I think of James Bond I think of a highly intelligent MI6 agent, and I didn’t quite get that in this one. Dr. No calls him a policeman in this film and that’s kind of what I got too. He wasn’t a secret agent but was more of a detective. Connery’s version of Bond was still being shaped. But of course with it being the very first Bond film I’m giving it a lot of leeway.
A: Connery’s Bond is definitely suave and charming and has that Scottish brogue about him. He has a great introductory scene at a casino where he says that classic introduction, “Bond. James Bond.”
Did you buy the physical aspect of Connery’s Bond? There are a number of times in Dr. No where Bond is fighting someone in hand-to-hand combat, and a lot of the time it actually looks like Connery doing the fights even though it probably was a stunt man. As we’ll see in future Bond films, some Bonds like Craig’s version do very well and look very believable in fight scenes, and some won’t.
S: I found Sean Connery to be very large on-screen. Like, he seems like he’s a big guy. So I found him to be this overpowering presence; that this is a guy you don’t want to mess with because he’s bigger than you.
|The original Bond, Sean Connery, with one of the best introduction scenes in movie history.
That said I didn’t find many of the fight scenes believable but I think that’s because of the time period the film came out and how they filmed them, how they were choreographed and blocked. It was more stage fighting than what we now look at as movie fighting.
A: Very good point. Especially in that climactic fight between Bond and Dr. No you can tell they’re not really hitting each other.
S: Speaking of Dr. No himself, the biggest problem I had with this movie was that we have a villain that we know almost nothing about. We know almost nothing about his plan for the most part, and his screen time is actually a very short part of the movie. The character of Dr. No just really didn’t do much for me. Maybe it did back in the day, but I wasn’t terribly impressed.
A: So you weren’t really a fan of how they tried to make Dr. No seem like this larger than life, almost Wizard of Oz, Man-Behind-The-Curtain villain?
S: I was not. Not a fan. I found it to be forced, actually. Almost like they were forcing this villain on me that I had no vested interest in.
A: I will say that while I respect Dr. No for what it is it’s never been a favorite of mine BECAUSE I always found the villain to be one of the weakest in the series. His plan is never QUITE clear as to its actual goal. Clearly it has something to do with radiation and the NASA shuttles launching at Cape Canaveral…
S: So it was topical when it came out, I get that. But yeah, what the heck was he actually trying to do? I didn’t get that.
A: While I never quite understood Dr. No’s endgame, something I do like about the movie is how Dr. No has all these henchmen coming after Bond, putting multiple attempts out on his life, and in turn we get to see Bond…sort of in that detective mode that you mentioned. More so than most of the films in the series, they take the time to show you Bond setting up little things in his hotel room to see if someone broke in and messed with his stuff, etc.
I liked that aspect, Bond always kind of having to look over his shoulder to watch for who might be coming for him next, or taking little precautions like going out the backdoor of the Government House.
S: I didn’t really like that stuff so much because I’m spoiled with where I like to have my things fleshed out. To me, all of the henchmen and the characters that were following Bond seemed to get a little redundant.
I guess here’s my main things: none of those henchmen or the hits put out on Bond’s life in the film built any mystery about Dr. No to me. It got a little repetitive.
A: Fair enough. Are there any aspects of the movie that you want to make a point of?
S: I loved the music. I love that this is where we’re introduced to the James Bond Theme. I thought it was brilliantly done and it really is a definitive theme song for a movie character. I loved all the little Bond that things that series what it is – the martini that’s shaken and not stirred, the hot women, the nice cars – I liked all those things.
A: Ah, you bring up a good talking point - the “Bond girl.” Dr. No contains one of the most classic scenes in the entire series, and arguably a classic scene in film history, with Ursala Andress’ Honey Rider walking out of the surf in that white bikini. What were your thoughts on the original Bond girl?
|Ursala Andress as Honey Rider, the original Bond girl
S: She set the precedent for future Bond girls. I loved that she’s not rail thin like a lot of “sexy” women are nowadays. She was your classic hourglass shaped, full-figured woman. She just oozed sex appeal. Even for the 1960s that bathing suit was a little bit scandalous.
She’s a little soft-spoken for my taste, but obviously it’s common knowledge now that it wasn’t Andress’ voice used in the movie. But I liked her. I thought she was a solid Bond girl and obviously she’s the original.
A: I like the way you put that. Ok, so give me your final thoughts on Dr. No then and what you’re kind of hoping for or going to be looking for in the future Connery films we’ll be watching this week.
S: It’s right on par for what I expect out of an early 1960s action film. It obviously set up a great legacy for future Bond films to follow, and Connery is and always will be the original Bond.
Going forward I hope that the villains get better. I wasn’t a fan of Dr. No. He wasn’t very ominous, but I’m hoping the next ones will be more fleshed out and we’ll find out what their master plan is and that Bond’s adversaries will be tougher in general.
A: You’re definitely going to get your wish as far as the villains getting better, though we won’t be watching some of the other Bond films where SPECTRE is comes in to play more, though they do show up again in the next Bond film we’re going to watch tomorrow, From Russia With Love. So I’ll be interested to see what you think of the others we watch!
|(Individual Scores - S: 3.5/5 A: 3.5/5)