Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ten Statements About....DR. NO (1962)

"HEY!  Stop checking out my shells.  My eyes are up here!"
"I admire your courage,
"Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr...?
"Bond. James Bond."

1) The thing that might strike a viewer only familiar with later Bond films is how this one plays out for the bulk of its running time more as a private detective film than a spy film. We see Bond using his brain, following leads and investigating the situation though footwork and deductive reasoning. It's a definite difference from the Bond we will see under Moore or Brosnan or Craig, or even the later Connery flicks for that matter.

2) And there's also a different feel to the film as a whole--which makes total sense, given how so much of this film is a bunch of people feeling their way around looking for what makes a Bond film a Bond film. Unlike in later Connery entries, this Bond is rather professional, actually caring about his anonymity and not drawing attention to himself. The Bond we become familiar with doesn't crystalize until much later in the series.

3) Boy, given how we've lived on the myth of the Bond Girl as a piece of set dressing good only for her to hang on his arm and look hot (which also gave rise to the trope of the woman cast as the newest Bond Girl promising that she'll be an integral part of the action), Ursula Andress' Honey is anything but. Right from the first shot, where we're struck by how muscular she is, she has a purpose and contributes quite a bit to Bond's survival. Granted, once we get into No's lair and she becomes a trembling willow branch, it comes off as odd...but while we're on the island grounds, Honey is a peer and an integral part of the team.

4) I can't help but think that at some point in his childhood, David Caruso watched this movie and thought he was going to imitate Jack Lord's Felix Leiter one day. I can almost understand why later Leiters are so doughy and older, given how Lord dominates the few scenes he has with Connery.

5) One of the things I find fascinating is that Quarrel--usually codified as The Sacrificial Ally--spends the majority of his time pretty much as comic relief. Even more fascinating is how that comic relief is expressed, namely through his drinking and how those people around him (including Leiter) disapproves of his guzzling an entire freaking moonshine jug of rum. It's the sort of thing I can't imagine the motion picture industry standing for these days.
"I'm sorry, ma''re a strange looking girl, and I'd rather
go first a mock-Asian madman...."

6) I know I remarked upon this in an episode of Better In The Dark, but there are moments where you can see how Ken Adams' design work inspired so many of the spy series that followed. The look of The Avengers, for example, was directly derived from such scenes as the one where Anthony Dawson's Professor Dent gets his instructions from No in that weird bare room with the circular window throwing shadows on the wall.

7) And speaking of Professor, that scene where Bond cold-blooded murders Dent--admittedly after Dent tries to kill him--is pretty harsh. I'm particularly struck by how Bond shoots him, pauses, then pumps two more bullets in him. This is one nasty customer, that is.

8) Look, I know that the general belief in movies in the early 60's was to emphasize instrumentals over actual songs, but couldn't Broccoli and Salzman had bought a song other than 'Under The Mango Tree'? After the fifteenth iteration of this song, both as a full on song and as an instrumental, it became a full-on earworm and tortured me for hours after the present viewing of the film.
"I'm sorry, Quarrel...I've got manly chest hair, and she's an
Italian blonde in a wet've got to be the one to go
out like a bitch."

9) It's funny how the film, unlike so many others in the Bond canon, keeps Joseph Wiseman's disturbingly reptilian Dr. No off screen until the film is literally almost over. And to be honest, I really don't know whether I like the idea or not. It does give him a grander feel when he does show his head...but once he sits down to dinner with Bond, he doesn't seem to deserve such a grand build-up. Plus, as Derrick Ferguson has pointed out, Wiseman runs like a girl.

10) I'm still trying to figure out what Broccoli and Salzman were thinking with the addition of Eunice Gayson's Sylvia Trench in this film and the next. Unlike Lois Maxwell, who ends up fulfilling the 'flirtatious galpal' role I think they were going for, Gayson seems to be out of place. She plays her lines with this strange somberness that clashes with Connery's underplayed humor and has an even stranger, unsymmetrical face that draws attention away from each of her scenes.'s a little prototypical and has a few false avenues it goes down, but this is where it all began, and is an effective action-adventure film in its own right. Recommended, and not just for the historical element.

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