As a companion piece to our newest series – That Bond Show – Logan will be reviewing the films as we discuss them. Watch the first episode of That Bond Show on Dr. No here.
In 1962 Sean Connery first appeared on our screens and uttered three words that would instantly sear themselves into film and pop culture history: ”Bond…James Bond.” Thus was born the longest-running film saga in history.
The roots of Bond might be long and complex, but the movie that kickstarted the first real blockbuster franchise is noticeably less so.
Dr. No was and remains a largely straightforward who-dunnit, one mostly situated on the shores and beautiful waters of Jamaica. The film’s Bond is still figuring himself out a little. You can almost see and feel Connery still coloring in the shape of who this character will become. The gadgets: a simple new gun for James. The Bond girl: not even introduced until the final act. And the baddie: a man who maybe gets slightly more than five minutes of screen time. Yet the seeds of Bond were planted from here on out.
Dr. No is by no means a perfect Bond movie. Indeed, it is probably the roughest cut of Connery’s mostly sterling set. Yet, there is something charming in its rougher edges; in it still figuring out how to do this whole blockbuster franchise thing.
Jack Lord is, of course, great as Felix Leiter and while Honey Ryder largely is tasked with standing around looking beautiful in this movie, the few moments they do give her tease at a far more interesting character. Ultimately though, this is a movie that is driven by the sheer magnetic appeal of Sean Connery.
A young, baby-faced 32-year-old Connery propels and steers the film. His is a raw power in this Bond outing. He doesn’t have the detective skills of From Russia with Love, nor the utterly charming ease of Goldfinger, and certainly not the emotion and brilliance of You Only Live Twice. Instead, he is all unrestrained energy and in the slow burn of Dr. No, it works wonders.
The movie as a whole can’t match Connery though. It can be a slow, plodding affair at times and for a movie only an hour and fifty minutes long, there is both an extra fifteen minutes in this thing and also whole characters I wish we had more time with: Quarrel and the titular Dr. No among them.
Dr. No remains above the label of mediocre or bad. It is a good movie. A good performance by Sean Connery. It is the start of something remarkable and, while flawed and messy and shaky at moments, you can just see it all working. In the end, it all comes back to those three words said by one of cinema’s great actors breathing life into one of its greatest heroes. “Bond…James Bond” and we were never the same again. For that, if nothing else, Dr. No is a success.
Best Moment –
Sort of a weird one for Dr. No with not too much in the way of standout action scenes but a personal favorite has always been James escaping through the vents at Dr. No’s lair.
The Villain –
Dr. No – I like him, Trevor thinks he’s fine but severely underused which is fair but it’s my review so I still give him a 7.5/10
Felix Watch –
Jack Lord will always be one of my personal favorite Felix’s. One of the only ones who could seriously threaten Bond in cool. Part of why he didn’t come back as Felix. Also because he wanted co-billing. Gotta respect the hustle. 9/10
Literally just a gun. That gun is the Walther PPK Bond will use for the next 35 years so that’s not nothing but still, mostly a dud. 4/10
The Music –
Shoutout to “Three Blind Mice” and “Underneath the Mango Tree” I guess. Also a work in progress still. 4/10
Final Ranking –
Dr. No isn’t the best or worst Bond movie. To me, it defines the type of Bond movie that just misses the cut for the top 10. A rough-around-the-edges, early first look at the character and the actor who would come to define him. Ultimately, it is still more good than bad. 7/10