Yes, the first film to really ever introduce us to the world of James Bond. While not as gadget-heavy or exciting as what was to come, Dr. No is still a very solid spy film and really shows us how great a movie star Sean Connery is. For not really getting to do much until the end of the film, Connery is easily able to hold our attention throughout the movie. We get to see some cool old school spy tricks as Bond checks the room for bugs and effectively team up with his CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter. This film also introduced us to Bond girl, Sylvia Trench (played by Eunice Gayson), who might be the only Bond girl to actually return in back-to-back films. Let’s also not forget Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, who is arguably the most iconic Bond girl of them all, something she achieved within seconds of her first appearance in the film.
Made for just about one million dollars back in 1962, Dr. No is a fairly spectacular film, boasting exotic locales, detailed production design, and impressive set pieces. One of my favorite scenes in the film is also one of the more low-key scenes in the film. Bond sits in a chair, playing solitaire through the night with his trusty Walther PPK (complete with silencer) by his side. He has set up the bed to make it look like he is sleeping in it, fooling any assassin who has come after him. When one actually does and shoots the bed, Bond slams the door behind him and flips on the lights. He tells the man to sit down on the bed and throw the gun on the floor. They chat for awhile until the man reaches for the gun and tries to shoot Bond, only to be out of bullets. Connery then perfectly delivers the classic line…
“That’s a Smith & Wesson…and you’ve had your six.”
And Bond shoots his assassin. It’s a great scene. Not technically exciting, but I feel this is Connery really at his best…where I feel he truly IS James Bond. He’s calm, collected, and brutal. He acts as if he already knows how the scene will play out and is just waiting for it to be over. For an impressionable young Kyal Bender (probably watching this at age 4 for the tenth time), I felt like this was what it was like to be a spy. Of course you can’t go to sleep! There’s always people trying to kill you, you have to sit in the corner in the dark and play cards all night just in case they come for you. This scene is also paid a slight homage in Tomorrow Never Dies when we see Pierce Brosnan grab a bottle of scotch, loosen his tie, and put the silencer on his gun as he watches the door to his bedroom.
As for the film itself, it really holds up. Sure it might not be as exciting as the more recent films, but it’s still just as great. Something I noticed in these first few Bond films is the fact that the only time the James Bond theme plays is when he is doing something mundane. I don’t know if it’s to kind of keep up the momentum of the film or give it a little more energy (which it completely does). But in this first film especially, the only time you really hear the infamous theme is when Bond is playing cards, Bond is checking into a hotel, or when Bond is getting a cab. Just thought that was kind of funny since nowadays the theme blasts in during a big action sequence.
Joseph Wiseman plays the titular Dr. No here, the first of the SPECTRE villains, and he is effectively creepy. He does not raise his voice and poses no real physical threat to Bond (apart from his robot hands), but he has a confident way of explaining his diabolical plan that is simply unnerving. The final third of the film at Dr. No’s hidden island lair is fantastic. It’s the classic Bond finale that we see time and time again (not a bad thing) where he is invited for a nice dinner by the film’s villain and is offered a front row seat to his planned destruction.
Man, really didn’t think I would write this much about this one since it is so well known. Just goes to show you that even though it’s 53 years-old, it still holds up. I forgot to even talk about the scene where Bond is almost killed by a tarantula! Being absolutely terrified of spiders as a child and adult…I can say that scene has always stuck with me.
Worst to Best so far:
24. Live & Let Die
23. The Man with the Golden Gun
22. A View to a Kill
21. Die Another Day
18. Diamonds are Forever
17. Quantum of Solace
16. Licence to Kill
15. The World is Not Enough
14. You Only Live Twice
13. For Your Eyes Only
12. The Living Daylights
10. Tomorrow Never Dies
8. The Spy Who Loved Me
7. Dr. No