Filmsite Movie Review
Dr. No (1962)
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Dr. No (1962) is the first of the James Bond series of action-packed spy thrillers, and it played a key role in establishing the Bond character as a recognizable icon in popular American contemporary culture. Bond began as a well-known literary figure in the works of British writer Ian Fleming (the first Bond book was Casino Royale, written in 1953). Terence Young, the film's director, went on to direct two other Bond films, From Russia With Love (1963), considered by many to be the definitive James Bond film, and the fourth film in the series, Thunderball (1965).

All James Bond films feature clever opening title sequences and trademark theme music, sexy and beautiful women, great diabolical villains, exotic, international locales, the calm manner and witty, subtle humor and repartee of the mythic hero 007, violence, terrific action sequences, stunts and chase scenes, narrow escapes, gimmicks, humor, and great cinematography. Its predictable formula stars the debonair, dashing and charming British "Secret Agent 007," James Bond, with great taste in clothes, wine, food, and exotic, sexy women.

This first feature in a long line of great Bond film sequels was much less gadget-ridden than later films. The plot of this low-budget film was a timely one - it capitalized on the problems America was having with missile launches, and the changing mood of the country in the early 1960's.

Plot Synopsis

The opening credits flash the titles on the screen with brilliant colors and sounds and feature silhouettes of beautiful girls and a gun-barrel - a look and feel which has remained consistent throughout subsequent Bond films. In the opening credits sequence, white dots travel across the screen, opening up into a gun barrel sight as the secret agent steps into view. He turns and fires toward the audience, causing a bloody-red color to wash over the screen. To a calypso beat, colorful silhouettes of erotic dancing girls undulate, to be replaced by the black silhouettes of three blind men moving in single file, tapping ahead of them with walking canes. The music becomes a calypso version of "Three Blind Mice."

Gradually, the silhouettes become realistic - three apparently-blind blacks tap their way down the street and into the driveway of the Queens Club (for private members only). On the veranda of the club, four men are seated playing bridge. One of them [later identified as John Strangways (Tim Moxon)] rises and excuses himself to make a regularly-scheduled appointment, walking out onto the driveway of the club and passing the three blacks seen earlier. The man drops a coin in the cup of the first "blind" man. As he reaches his car and opens the door, he slumps down, shot in the back five times by guns fitted with silencers, held in the hands of the three men. A black hearse roars into view - the men load his body into the back and then jump in as it speeds off.

The second scene, producing even more unease in the viewer, is introduced by the opening of a creaking old iron gate (by an unidentified hand of a black man) outside a tropical garden and bungalow. On the gate hangs a mailbox marked: "Letter Box STRANGWAYS." Inside the bungalow, a woman opens up a bookcase which conceals a hidden ham radio set. She makes a call from there - "W6N" (Jamaica) to "G7W" (London), but from her sense of agitation, she expects someone to arrive who is overdue. As she stands and moves toward the door, she is startled by the sight of men standing at her windows. When she screams, glass breaks and she is spun to the ground when shot three times by the silenced guns. The killers enter and while two of them carry the woman's body out the door, a third rifles through a filing cabinet, locates and removes two folders titled "CRAB KEY" and "DOCTOR NO." In London, headquarters realizes that contact was broken with "W6N" in Jamaica, signalling trouble "during a routine transmission" and "it's not a technical fault."

The build-up to the introduction of the famous secret agent in the fancy gambling casino, Le Cercle (Les Ambassadeurs, London) Club is established with over a dozen different camera angles before Bond's face is actually seen. Playing cards at one of the chemin de fer gaming tables against a beautiful, wealthy and sexy brunette named Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), James Bond (Sean Connery) introduces himself onscreen for the first time. He admires her willingness to continue playing against him (and losing elegantly), in a series of famous lines:

Bond (offscreen): I admire your courage, Miss...?
Sylvia: Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck. Mr...?
Bond (while casually lighting his cigarette): Bond - James Bond.

[Sylvia Trench has the dubious honor of being the very first Bond girl (even introduced before Bond himself), and she also reappeared in From Russia With Love (1963) briefly. She was to be a re-occurring character, but the idea was dropped. Trivia: she was the only Bond girl to appear as the same character twice in the films.]

Bond is called away to Secret Service Headquarters. After cashing in and setting up a dinner date with Miss Trench along with some verbal foreplay (Bond: "What other games do you play?" Sylvia: "Golf, among other things"), he reports to the office (disguised as a Universal Exports office) of Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), the secretary of the head of the Secret Service, and she shows her obvious interest in him:

[In the following sequences which are ritualistically repeated in later Bond films, Bond plays cat-and-mouse ("the usual repartee") with his secretary who is mildly infatuated with him, and then learns the nature of his mission.]

Bond: Moneypenny? What gives?
Miss Moneypenny: Me - given an ounce of encouragement. You never take me to dinner looking like this, James. (She gestures toward his tuxedo) You never take me to dinner, period.
Bond: I would you know, only M would have me court-martialed for, uh, illegal use of government property.
Miss Moneypenny: Flattery will get you nowhere. But don't stop trying.

According to her, the case involves their Jamaican agent Strangways. Bond proceeds through the double-connecting doors from her office into the chief's office, Bond's crusty superior and the head of the British Secret Service named "M" (Bernard Lee). A set of red and green warning lights on the entry to the chief's office changes from red to green, signalling Bond to enter. After opening and entering through the leather-lined double-door entry, he finds the office warmly decorated with naval decor - ship models, paintings, and assorted bric-a-brac. It's 3 AM in the morning, prompting M to ponder:

M: When do you sleep, 007?
Bond: Never on the Crown's time, sir.

Seated in a leathery chair, Bond is told that fellow S.S. agent Strangways in Jamaica has disappeared, along with his new secretary. Strangways was making an inquiry of the Americans into massive interference with Cape Canaveral (Florida) rockets. M describes Agent 007's new assignment - he is to investigate whether the agents' disappearance is linked to the interference with the flight paths of Cape Canaveral's nuclear rocket launches, since the source of the trouble appears to be in the Jamaican area. Bond is to speak with Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), a long-time compatriot in the U.S. CIA who was working with Strangways in Jamaica.

Bond is reminded of his special status in the Secret Service, told to be careful, and instructed to carry a different gun than his beretta:

If you carry a double O number, it means you're licensed to kill, not get killed.

The Secret Service's weapons expert/armorer, Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton) cautions Bond to carry a smaller weapon for his protection.

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