The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. So, Since this is the start of a new year I thought I would try something out a little different with my weekly classic Movie review, I am going to review each and every Bond film starting with the first Sean Connery entry, Dr No.
In addition to being one of my favorite movie franchises there is also a good chance we will get one a new Bond Film this year so, if you are new to the Bond franchise or just want to catch up, consider this series a bit of a primer.
Today’s Key Movie:
Arriving in 1963, the same year The Beatles made it big and Doctor Who first jumped into the TARDIS, the first official movie in the James Bond franchise hit the big screen. Featuring Sean Connery as the famous British spy, James Bond, our hero heads off to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent. When he gets there he soon discovers the nefarious Dr. No (Played by Joseph Wiseman) is working with the criminal organization known as SPECTRE and has plans to disrupt a key space launch in the United States.
Why this movie?
I was introduced to the famous British spy at a young age. Immediately James Bond represented the ultimate hero to me and I loved his adventures across the globe. While he did come across as a bit of a womanizing philanderer, he was portrayed as a hero who would stop at nothing for Crown and Country. Not only was he a hero, he was also a super spy who could fight his way out of any situation using his wits, his guile and of course, the gadgets supplied by the Q branch.
My father had been a fan of the series since this film hit theaters, and even had a personal connection to one of them which I will discuss in a later entry. This was a film franchise that we would share for many years to come. I vividly remember going to the theater to catch the newest Bond Films when they debuted and was always looking forward to the next one.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Being the first in the series, this one sets the bar for all to come. Sean Connery fits amazingly in the role, establishing himself as James Bond within the first few moments of the film. The film has a strong plot, and although it does touch on the improbable many times over, this is what makes a film like this fun. The fact that this film is able to make such an absurd and insane plot work is a testament to it’s timeliness. At its core, James Bond is an adventure story with underscores of science fiction and is certainly a film that requires a certain suspension of disbelief.
Unlike many of today’s films, it is heavy on dialogue but wastes no moment in the journey of our intrepid hero. Every word is important and every action just as much so. It is a film that is working on developing the character of James Bond in what would eventually become one of the most successful franchises of it’s kind. This film franchise would later inspire others such as the Jason Bourne series, the Jack Ryan series and even, to an extent, the current Mission Impossible films.
The elephant in the room for these movies is the treatment of women and Bond’s overt sexuality. Many accuse this series of Toxic Masculinity in that Bond is a person who portrays all of the negative aspects of the Male personification. He is violent, he uses women as tools and for pleasure, and, there is no doubt that he portrays an ideal of a man that would be impossible to meet. It doesn’t make this portrayal acceptable to today’s standards but, You have to understand though that this series was born out of the cold war era when things were not quite as equal and accepting. In many ways, this film series serves as sort of a time capsule of that era. James Bond is a hero, but a hero with some serious character flaws which, over time, are slowly addressed with later films in the franchise.
This film marks many firsts, including the first appearance of the Walther PPK, bonds preferred handgun described as being like a brick through a plate glass window. It also introduces the enigmatic CIA agent Felix Leiter who would come back several times throughout the series, including the newest entries. Although it does have the famous Bond ‘Gun-barrel’ opening, it is one of the few that do not begin with Bond wrapping up a mission. This would become a mainstay later in the series. We also meet mainstays, ‘M’ played by Bernard Lee and Moneypenny played by Lois Maxwell. We will see them again.
The ‘Bond Girl’ in this film is Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress. Sadly this Bond Girl is diminished to the damsel in distress and really doesn’t get much of a chance to come into her own (another thing that is addressed with future ‘Bond Girls’ later in the series. This was 1962 and they really didn’t understand tough women in movies…yet.) Ursula does a wonderful job in her role though and really seems to try to make her role more of a three dimensional character despite the lack of a critical role. Interestingly, although Ursula plays the part, her accent was so strong that her lines were dubbed over by Nikki Van der Zyl who also did dubbing work for several other minor female characters in the same film. She would continue as a voice over artist all the way through the film Moonraker.
The Villain in this film is Dr. No and sadly is one of the most useless and throwaway villains to grace the Bond Screen. He is little more than a braggart and not much of a threat so, when Bond defeats this nemesis it is hardly surprising. That being said, Actor Joseph Wiseman does a great job in the few moments he has as the titular villain. While he this villain is only memorable as being the first, there will be much better to come.
Is this the best in the Bond Franchise? Well, it is the first and for that , it is the one that set the bar for everyone to come. While it has its flaws, it is a great story which holds up in quality to this very day.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is a film that is available in just about any place that sells films. You can pick it up on it’s own or even as part of an ultimate box set. If you plan to follow this series and have not watched the films, I highly recommend the box set… even though I may through you for a loop here and there.
of course, the original trailer
Late To The Game 1/3/2019
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
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