Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The 007 Project: Dr. No

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of an MI6 operative, who himself was investigating reports of interference in American space rockets. Bond discovers that the source of the interference is an operation led by Dr. No, a scientist working for SPECTRE. Along the way Bond meets Honey Ryder, a young lady who is on Dr. No's island looking for shells. 

Memorable Quote:
What are you doing here? Looking for shells?  ~Honey
No, I'm just looking.  ~Bond

I like the "Underneath the Mango Tree" song and how it's used in different parts of the movie -- it's catchy and evocative of the Caribbean. Here's a good modern arrangement of the song. 

Honey's character could use some more depth. For example, if Dr. No killed her father, why does she still regularly comes to his island to look for seashells?

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
A Francisco de Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington, stolen in August 1961 from London's National Gallery, is found on an easel next to the stairs in Dr. No's dining area, which is why Bond stops to notice it as he passes it while going up the stairs. It was recovered in 1965. When this movie first came out, British audiences laughed upon seeing the Goya, knowing it had been stolen. According to director Terence Young, the idea for the stolen painting prop came from the film's Irish co-screenwriter Johanna Harwood.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I've always loved the MGM lion roar at the beginning of the Bond movies and knowing that the movie is about to start -- it's like arriving at the top of a roller coaster. 
  • Interesting that they have someone other than Connery firing the gun. Also it's the only Bond movie without an opening theme and credit montage. 
  • The card game Bond's playing looks like it just involves flipping cards over. 
  • 9:43 mark - there's no CGI on the hat toss from Connery -- that's real. The scene afterwards between Bond and Moneypenny goes on for a while as part of the same camera shot -- that would have been frustrating to keep having to nail the hat toss if they didn't get the rest of the take right. 
  • Nice of the British to help out the U.S. even though they're not directly affected by Dr. No messing with U.S. rockets. 
  • This movie is the only appearance of a non-Desmond Llewelyn Q until his death. 
  • The Caribbean and Jamaica in particular is the perfect setting for a Bond movie: a beautiful, exotic location with a hint of mystery. 
  • I like Quarrel (great name), and Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O fame exudes coolness as Felix Leiter. 
  • Maybe we should check out the island where no one is allowed to go and that's run by a mysterious foreigner and where visitors suspiciously disappear.  Brilliant idea, James.    
  • 44:19 - Bond emphatically killing the tarantula reminds me of the time I killed a monstrous five-inch long cockroach. 
  • Bond should have tried to get some information from the professor before shooting him in cold blood. 
  • Voice dubbing was more common back then, and Ursula Andress's voice was dubbed for someone with less of an accent. You'd think that there'd be enough actresses out there that you could find someone who could look, act, and speak the way you wanted so that they wouldn't need dubbing. 
  • Dr. No is a familiar face: Joseph Wiseman, aka Joe Catano from The Battle of Tommy Giordano. He could have used more screen time -- he's only in the movie for 20 minutes. 
  • It's pretty dumb of Dr. No to put Bond in a room with a tunnel that's so easily accessed.
  • Bond is lucky that no one recognizes him through his hazmat suit (especially Dr. No who is just a few feet away) and that everyone except Dr. No leaves the room after Bond sabotages the equipment.

    Final Analysis:
    I like the movie -- it's got a retro quality, and the dead time (i.e. slow scenes with no music) is kind of refreshing. Nevertheless, it's slow and dated enough that it's likely going to be near the bottom of my rankings when it's all said and done, but it still makes for a good viewing experience and introduction to the character, and for now it's #1.  


    1. I haven't seen the film in 24 years but my impression was largely the same. It was reasonably entertaining but I would never have imagined back in 1962 that I was looking at the first volume of a three-generations-long film dynasty. I can't speak authoritatively to what the movie felt like in 1962 compared to other films of its genre but "slow and dated" was definitely a good description of it in 1996 when I checked it out. I remembered being taken aback that this was the opening salvo of a film empire. Ursula Andress in her white bikini on the Caribbean beaches and Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No are about all I specifically remember so I can't comment at the micro level.

      1. I read that Connery and producer Cubby Broccoli never imagined it either, so you're not alone there.

    2. Thank you for this analysis, Dr No remains an essential reference in spy films