Dr. No

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Terence Young
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Writers: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather,
  from the novel by: Ian Fleming

  • Sean Connery — James Bond, British secret agent
  • Ursula Andress — Honey Ryder
  • Eunice Gayson — Sylvia Trench
  • John Kitzmiller — Quarrel, an islander
  • Bernard Lee — M (Bond's boss)
  • Jack Lord — Felix Leiter, CIA
  • Zena Marshall — Miss Taro
  • Lois Maxwell — Miss Moneypenny
  • Joseph Wiseman — Dr. Julius No

United Artists: 1962

111 minutes February 2007

Enter: Sean Connery as James Bond

Dr. No is the first movie made from the series of James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. It stars Sean Connery, in the first of his handful of Bond films; Connery set the type for James Bond on-screen against which other actors' portrayals must be measured.

I prefer the films to the books, at least those films with Sean Connery. The films are thriller spectaculars, in which a lot of the impact is visual: exotic locales and criminal-mastermind hideouts, secret-agent tools and weapons, girls in bikinis, vehicle chases, explosions. Good fun. Many of the themes and motifs which we see continuing in the James Bond films are introduced here.

Dr. No is fairly free of the nearly-futuristic gadgetry which helps empower both Bond and the villains in the later movies. Those weapons and automotive add-ons and so forth are amusing, but I prefer the action and suspense without unnecessary gadgetry; if I want futuristic mechanisms, I'll read science fiction. Dr. No is better for their lack.

The basic plot involves interference with American missile launches from Cape Canaveral, apparently by some sort of secret installation on or near Jamaica. Bond is sent to solve the problem of the interference, and stop it. The chief weakness of the movie is perhaps that the villain's role is too flat to carry his weight in the plot.

A high-visibility secret agent

James Bond lives not just for high-stakes crises; he also is a high-roller in high-society, and we may think rather high-visibility for a secret agent who needs to do casual villain-detecting and spectacular villain-foiling.

As to the newspapers, we must keep in with them. Fame, reputation, constant public mention, — these are the detective's bread and butter.

Mark Twain
"The Stolen White Elephant" (1882)

While there are a number of improbabilities in Dr. No that the viewer can and does roll along with, one difficulty for me is Bond's unprofessional lack of alertness in the presence of Honey Ryder. We may accept that she's distracting in a bikini on a beach; but Bond, in a situation of great potential danger, should not need to have his attention called to engine noises and other enemy activity four times or so by Quarrel. Surely the professional secret agent should be the most alert and wary person present.

Is Dr. No a good movie to start with, if you're not familiar with the James Bond series on film? It's all right for that, but if you only can or want to watch one of them, I recommend Goldfinger (1964).


© 2007 Robert Wilfred Franson


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