Everyone’s seen at least two or three James Bond films, right? That’s certainly a reasonable assumption for most, but when it recently came up in office discussions that I had never seen a single one of them, save for the recent “remake” of Casino Royale, I was roundly ridiculed by the other members of the RT staff. To rectify this tragic oversight, I’ve taken on the task of watching every Bond film in chronological order, leading up to the release of Quantum of Solace. Feel free to follow me on my journey of discovery as I explore the world of cinema’s greatest spy.
The first thing that struck me about Dr. No was 007’s attire. Naturally, I’m familiar with the image of his silhouette as seen through the barrel of an anonymous gun, creeping across the screen slowly before facing the camera and firing a single shot. What I didn’t expect was that Bond would be sporting a fedora during this famous intro. It made me wonder if I just never knew he liked hats, or if the accessory had been later supplanted by other personal effects, like acid-spewing watches, pen lasers, and decoder rings.
I was, of course, rather anticipating the first Bond appearance, and when it happened, I was rewarded handsomely. He’s seated at a card table opposite a hottie in a red dress and winning hand after hand of baccarat when the woman asks him his name. The camera cuts to his face for the first time as he lights a cigarette and responds, “Bond. James Bond,” cuing his theme music in the background. He ends up winning a ton of cash at the table and bedding the aforementioned hottie, of course, and all before he even sets out on his adventure.
I have one thing written in my notes here, and it became my mantra throughout the movie: “smooth MF.” Bond transforms typically mundane activities like closing a door or hanging his hat into a ballet of sex and champagne, and I was effectively man-putty in his hands. He’s so smooth, in fact, that I was almost able to disregard his gloriously unruly eyebrows, which seem to stretch into his sideburns. The first time he meets Honey Ryder on a Jamaican beach, for example, she freaks out and draws her knife on him, but he casually reassures her, “My intentions are honorable,” and soon enough they’re frolicking down the coastline together. I can’t say I blame her.
Speaking of Honey Ryder, I’m still not settled on whether this first official “Bond girl” was merely free-spirited and simple or Forrest Gump with a killer body. Frankly, I think her character was more a veiled critique on homeschooling — she learned everything she knows from a set of encyclopedias, and she believes in dragons. But hey, she’s hot, and she spends most of her screen time either in a bikini or drenched in seawater, and that’s really what being a Bond girl is all about, right?
Let’s talk about Dr. No himself. It surprisingly hadn’t occurred to me before, but I saw elements of Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil in the character, what with the distinctly industrial underground lair, the nuclear subplot, and the retro-modern pseudo-Chinese formalwear. Upon bringing this up with my fellow RTers, I was told that Dr. Evil also borrowed from a later Bond villain, Blofeld, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Sevice, so I have something to look forward to. I have to say I liked Dr. No; he’s classy and articulate, but menacing. His mechanical hands are powerful enough to crush solid metal, but delicate enough to handle a cigarette. And he somehow figured out a way to cleanse the body of radiation with a hot shower. That’s worth something.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie much more than I anticipated. I don’t think Dr. No was a milestone in technical brilliance, nor do I think it was attempting to be, but it was fun and, at times, unintentionally hilarious. I got more out of Bond’s one-liners, his shameless womanizing, and his Jamaican sidekick Quarrel yelling “Look! What’s that!” every five minutes than I did out of the spy intrigue central to the story. It seemed more of a showcase to display how much of a badass James Bond was, and in that regard, Dr. No delivered on all counts. I foresee my perception of the character changing over the next few weeks, and I’m officially excited to see what other shenanigans he’ll be up to in the next installment.
Check back tomorrow for my reaction to the next bond film, 1963’s From Russia With Love.