The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.
Synopsis: James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program.
Stars: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Bernard Lee
Director: Terence Young
Running Length: 110 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: It all began in May of 1963 when the first Bond adventure was released. For some reason, over the years Dr. No isn’t always mentioned in the same breath as some of the flashier entries that came after it and that’s too bad. Dr. No is one of the stronger films in the Bond canon because no one making the film knew what they had brewing or could have imagined the impact the British agent would have in film history.
Though it lacks some of the elements that would come to represent a “Bond Film”, this is still an enjoyably respectable adventure film following 007 as he travels to Jamaica in search of answers to the whereabouts of an agent gone missing. Taking full advantage of the exotic locales and beautiful bodies, we travel with Bond as he meets up with US colleague Felix Leiter (Hawaii 5-0’s Jack Lord who would be the first of several actors to play the character over the years), Bond Girl Honey Ryder (Andress) and the mysterious Dr. No (Wiseman).
Several indelible images are featured here starting with the now famous opening gun barrel logo. Though it doesn’t have a theme song, per se, there is a short title sequence courtesy of Maurice Binder that hints at the work he’d produce in films to come. And let’s not forget the shot of Andress emerging from the crystal clear ocean waters in her legendary bikini.
Then there is Connery who is an absolute delight as Bond. Whether exploring the gorgeous landscapes of the Caribbean paradise housing the island lair of Dr. No or bedding several game women he demonstrates a suave confidence that never works against him. Though the character would lighten up over the years, in Dr. No Connery gives us a no-nonsense agent that shoots first and asks questions later.
Director Young lets the film unfold in much the same way that a Bond novel would…providing enough necessary information to move the action along with ease. Lacking some of the gargantuan effects and set-pieces that the series would come to be known for, Dr. No relies on some interesting plot developments and old-fashioned spy intrigue to propel it forward. Any Bond fan needs to keep this one at the top of their list.