Bond Breakdown #01: Dr. No (1962)

[THE CLASSIFIED INTEL]

Dr. No (1962): Bond Breakdown by Rantbo

Bond is playing the role of the clean-up hitter by cruising down to Jamaica with orders from M to investigate the death of fellow agent John Strangways and his secretary. With a secondary objective to determine whether or not their disappearance is related to some disrupted missile launchings for the CIA. Bond’s keen detection skills lead him to a small island named Crab Key and it’s mysterious owner, Dr. Julius No.

[THE BOND SONG AND CREDITS SEQUENCE]

Arguably, the most recognizable image from this or any film series, the gun barrel POV shot has defined Bond since the beginning. Added late in post, it was thrown in as an afterthought and the role of the Bond’s silhouette was played by Mr. Connery’s stunt double, Bob Simmons. True Fact. I love stunt-man appreciation. So, already this flick is off to a damn fine start. Now, in future installments, the POV shot is a lead-in to the opening action sequence, but that tradition didn’t get started until the next entry. So for now, we have to settle for the first ever BOND CREDIT SEQUENCE.

The entire sequence centers around some technicolor polka dots and conga dancers. The tune is catchy, but the visuals are like something out of a mid 40s Disney movie, like THE THREE CABALLEROS. However, the beginning does feature the now famous, James Bond Theme.  Originating from the song “Good Sign, Bad Sign” composed by Monty Norman, the track was re-arranged and orchestrated by the musical genius, John Barry. It is, in a word: Fantasmorgasmic. So, all-in-all, not bad for the baby-steps that would grow up and become a beautiful bouncing piece of Action Movie history.

[BOND—JAMES, BOND (SEAN CONNERY)]

Body Bags Filled [4 + A Spider] Bedpost Notches [3]

He’s tall, he’s dark, he’s handsome in a toupee, he’s smokin’ (literally) and most of all, he’s shexshy. He is James Bond, as played by Sir Thomas Sean Connery.  We are introduced to Bond’s roguish good looks after a series of camera shots that establish his location, but only tease at to what he looks like.  It isn’t until the TRUE first Bond Girl sets up his most famous line, that he is unveiled to the audience.

Que the theme. The cool thing about this scene is that it is intended as a comedic moment, and though it is that, it also came off as just plain badass. Most people, I think, miss the fact that he is just mimicking the way that Sylvia introduced herself, because Bond is a smartass and he knows the best way to bag a beautiful lady is to mock her and attack her ego.  All it takes is a hop, skip and a shit-eating grin later and he’s in like a dirty shirt. Bond is very cocksure, but it works because he is so charming. The audience must have thought this as well, because the filmmakers went on to have Bond deliver it in almost every subsequent film. Connery, combined with director Terrance Young’s influence, crafts the perfect gentleman spy.  Darkly witty yet brashly sophisticated, smooth yet ruthless, cheeky yet cold, Sean Connery was James Bond.

Back on the job, Bond’s first order of business is fraternizing with MI:6’s secretary and being chastised by his boss, M, for not sticking to the 007 code of arms. Establishing Bond, early-on, as the rebel agent. They don’t use him because they want to, they use him because he’s the best, despite his rebellious routines and egotistical domineer.

Regrettably outfitted with his industry standard Walther PPK and the lowdown on his latest assignment, Bond is off to kick some Caribbean ass—right after he ties up the loose ends of this night’s sexual endeavor, that is. Connery is a great Bond and is understandably the most popular choice when it comes down to picking favorites. I myself, love the old rascal and even in his lackluster (official) farewell performance, I find myself again and again thinking how he was the best part of bringing Bond to the big screen. There is nothing bad I can say about the man.

[THE BOND VILLAINS]

Anthony Dawson as Professor R. J. Dent

The First “Number Two” type character. A local metallurgist, he is also a part-time unwilling assassin for Dr. No. Dent doesn’t have a large role in the film, but along with Miss. Taro, he serves as a great conduit for the evil schemes of the film’s main villain. He is a coward at heart and does a good job of showing us how far people will stoop in fear of a higher authority. Trying twice to eliminate Bond while he sleeps, the wormy little bastard fails time and again. But, rest assured, he gets what he deserves.

Zena Marshall as Miss Taro

She’s a naughty little minx and justifiably gets Bond’s comeuppance (double-entendre alert). A secretary at the Government House in Kingston, Taro allows us to see just how high Dr. No’s influence can climb. Bond reads her like a Sunday paper though, and knows that she is nothing but trouble. But what better way to take care of business than to take care of business?  None I can think of, and neither can Bond. His intuitions correct, Bond evades death en route to Taro’s abode and in true Bondian fashion, plays it like he doesn’t have a clue or care in the world.

Zena plays Taro’s surprise at Bond’s arrival like a true pro and her subsequent scene of duty is one of my favorite moments in the film. Taro goes the whole nine in her job to keep James around for her back-up to arrive, by participating, in what today’s standards, could only be classified as date rape. But hey, you can’t blame Bond, she had on a tight towel! Though she looks a little off in her Asian makeup, Zena is a classic beauty and even manages to look sexy while spitting in Bond’s face when he sticks it to her—and by that I mean, has her arrested.

Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No

The title character doesn’t show up until late in the third act, but thankfully Wiseman’s performance makes it worth the wait. He plays the villainous Dr. No, as a eerily calm and coldly calculating monster. And Wiseman’s performance was more than enough to sell the diabolical nature of the mad atomic scientist. At one point he calls Bond “…just a stupid policeman”. Ouch. If anyone but this guy had delivered that line, I think  it would have come off as laughable, but Wiseman sells it and it connects like a metal-clawed bitch-slap. Which brings me to the franchise’s first ‘Bond Villain Quirk’.

Dr. No is outfitted with a pair of metal hands that would make George Lucas cream his skivvies.  The funny thing about his metallic mitts though, is that I find them completely unnecessary. Dr. No was intimidating and creepy enough just being himself. But, they didn’t take anything away from the performance. Wiseman’s performance is so endearing that he not only manages to pull off looking cool with big goofy metal hands, but he even manages to look halfway serious in a ridiculous over-sized hazmat suit for the final fight scene with Bond. Even with his limited screen time, Dr. No set the proverbial bar for all the Bond Villains to follow and he set it pretty high.

[THE BOND GIRLS]

Eunice Gayson as Trench—Sylvia, Trench

Like I said above, Sylvia Trench IS the first Bond Girl, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Well—perhaps a little more, if the movie were NC-17. But Hell, for a PG rating this girl delivers the goods. Not only is she super cool for setting up Bond with his iconic introduction line, but she also has banging body, wits and a healthy outgoing athletic interest—and I’m not talking about her putts. Her appearance in Bond’s apartment is a classic moment in film and makes for a very sexy and funny scene. I really dug her and I’m not alone, as she pulls off something no other female character has done in this series since, enticed James back for more.

Sylvia Trench will return in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder

What can I say about Ursula Andress that hasn’t been said a million times before? How about that she is a highly overrated C-List Bond Girl that is given far too much credit and is always unfairly titled the first Bond Girl, whom set the bar for all the following?

Anyone still here? OK, allow me to explain. First, let me say what I like about her. 1. Yes, she is extremely good looking. 2. …, I—well, there you go. Honey shows up with about a half hour to go in the picture and aside from some eye candy and a couple of sexist jokes, she served no purpose. OK, sure, she is the reason that Dr. No’s henchmen are able to find his island’s intruders, but that could easily have been made any other number of other things.

I understand that she was the “first”, but it takes a lot more than sentimental tradition to make me jump on the fanboy bandwagon. And, by the way, I am in the WAY minority on this. Google search BOND GIRL LISTS and without exception (so far as I’ve found), she is always number one and the only reason anyone ever gives is posterity and a variation of “Boy, she sure looked hot coming out of the surf!”

01:19:48—You’re Welcome

I admit, I think Ursula does a fine job of standing around looking pretty, but did they have to make her character so stupid? She actually believes in a ridiculous legend about a killer dragon that hunts the island at night, looking for trespassers. Seriously. And Honey claims to have started reading the encyclopedia when she was 8, having started with ‘A’, and is now on ‘T’. I guess she must have just missed that part back in ‘D’ that explains Dragons are fictional creatures. As James from the novels would say, “Silly Bitch.” But aside from all my personal qualms, I don’t hate Honey, she’s an alright Bond girl, who serves her purpose and I am glad she’s in the film. I just don’t understand her foam-at-the-mouth fan base.

[THE BEST BOND-AID]

We’re not quite there yet. Bond is issued his iconic Walther PPK and he uses a geiger counter, but that’s nothing worth gabbing on about.

[BOND’S GREATEST HITS]

The Body Count [11 and 2 Potentials]

Bond takes out 4 directly, another 3 indirectly and 2 potentials. The 3 unintentional, though welcome deaths belong to a hearse full of Dr. No’s men, The Three “Blind” Mice, who accidentally swerve off a road after Bond evades them by driving under some heavy machinery. “I think they were on their way to a funeral.”

The two potentials are men that Bond fights and knocks off of suspended walkways. Assuming that they were left unconscious, the must have died in the lair’s explosion. But there is no way to be sure.

The villains manage to take out an agent, his secretary and Bond’s poor island assistant, Quarrel. And the final death is suicide by cyanide. One of Dr. No’s henchmen takes that bite, out of fear for what would happen to him if No found out he had blabbed. Talk about respect through fear.

The Best Fight:

Bond vs. The Cabbie

There are a couple fun ones in the picture, but my favorite is the first. After discovering that his driver is employed by the unknown enemy, Bond holds the henchman at gunpoint and the fool gets uppity. A couple judo flips and punches later, the poor bastard is more than ready to chomp his cyanide-laced cigarette.

The Most Satisfying Kill:

That honor goes to Professor Dent. After numerous attempts to kill Bond, Dent finally thinks he’s got the drop on old James, but he is sorely mistaken. Bond was waiting for the bastard and after obtaining the information he needs to solve the case, plugs Dent twice in cold blood.

[HIS WORD IS HIS BOND]

Best Witticism:

[Professor Dent grabs his empty (unbeknownst to him) gun and fires at Bond]
Bond: That’s a Smith & Wesson, and you’re had you six [Pip-Pip!]

Best Double Entendre:

Moneypenny: James! Where have you been? I’ve been searching all over London for you. [Picks up phone]
Moneypenny: 007 is here sir. [Slaps Bond’s hand away from the papers on her desk]
Bond: Moneypenny! What gives?
Moneypenny: Me, given an ounce of encouragement. You’ve never taken me to dinner looking like this [referring to his tux]—you’ve never taken me to dinner…
Bond: I would, you know. Only “M” would have me court-martialed for—illegal use of government property.

[THE MISSION DEBRIEF]

When you put together Terrance Young’s direction, Ted Moore’s cinematography, Peter Hunt’s editing, Ken Adam’s production design, Monty Norman’s theme, Bob Simmons’s stunt work and Sean Connery’s performance as Bond, you get something special: The First Modern Action Film. With the fast paced fight sequences, theme music, chase sequences, explosions and witty one-liners, I can’t help but be in awe as I am able to watch my favorite genre be born in glorious high-definition.

However, the film is not perfect. It suffers from some second-act lag, some unintentionally funny moments and some dated customs and effects. But the sum of it’s parts, both good and bad, created Bad-Ass Cinema and gave birth to the gritty anti-heroes of the 70s, which in turn birthed the larger than life machismo heroes of the 80s. They would not exist without this film and for that alone, I have undying respect.

So, all-in-all, it’s a pretty solid picture and a great way to kick off one of the longest-lasting and most successful action franchises in history. And in closing, may the Gods of Action watch over our dearly departed brothers, Cubby Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and Terrance Young. You gave me so much and all I can give in return is my Action fanboy love. Thank you, gentlemen.

[THE 007 SEVEN]

[X] Destroys Evil Doer’s Lair
[X] Drinks or Orders a Vesper Martini
[X] Gets Captured and/or Tortured
[X] Introduces Himself As “Bond—James, Bond”
[X] Teams-Up With Felix Leiter
[X] Uses Judo or a Walther PPK to Dispose of an Enemy

Honey: “What are YOU doing here?—Looking for shells?”
Bond: “No—I’m just looking!”

RANTBO will return in (a breakdown of) FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE