“Bond. James Bond.”
As is often the case with the first in a long running series of films, Dr No seems half formed as a Bond movie though is a great spy thriller in itself, defining the genre for the 60s. Sean Connery was plucked from relative obscurity to star as Bond, after “Danger Man” star Patrick McGoohan turned the role down. The script was adapted from Ian Fleming’s book of the same name, though Fleming was reportedly disappointed with Connery’s portrayal, though he would later warm to it.
The film was the brainchild of production team Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman who had made a bid for the rights on the then considered “unfilmable” novels after Saltzman had read “Goldfinger”. They assembled a top team to create their relatively low budget movie including stalwarts who would go on to return again and again to work on the franchise. The title sequence was designed by Maurice Binder who created the famous and iconic “gun barrel” opening and Ken Adam as production designer, a role he shared with an un credited Syd Cain. John Barry supplied the music, arranging Monty Norman’s “James Bond theme” into the version which was used as a signature piece on every Bond film that followed.
The plot concerns the attempts of the sinister Dr No to disrupt the American space program as part of his work for the counter intelligence and general mayhem organisation SPECTRE. Bond is led on a chase from London to Jamaica, making an ally of recurring character Felix Lieter, his CIA counterpart and fisherman Quarrel, culminating in an exciting escape from Dr No’s base, the reactor of which Bond has set to overload.
Alongside Connery, the film introduced the recurring cast members of Bernard Lee as “M” and Lois Maxwell portraying the ever lovelorn Miss Moneypenny. Joseph Wiseman is a superb villain and begins a tradition of the adversary having some distinguishing feature, from Scaramanga’s nipple to Jaws’ teeth. Here it is a pair of fearsome robotic hands, capable of crushing steel, which he uses to deadly effect. He’s cold to the core this one and Wiseman is pitch perfect, forever remembered in the role, despite having an acting career spanning over 50 years.
Even better remembered than Wiseman however is Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder. From the first moment where she rises from the sea, clad only in a revealing bikini, (in a scene that was to be repeated years later by Halle Berry in “Die Another Day”) Andress is the archetypal Bond girl and for many who saw the film on it’s first release, still the best. Andress’ voice however was dubbed by Nikki Van Der Zyl.
The action takes place in the lush surroundings of the island of Crab Key and was shot on location in Jamaica under the direction of Terence Young, who imposed many of his own ideas on the picture. Ian Fleming lived nearby and would frequently visit the set. Shooting continued at Pinewood studios in London, where most of the later Bond films would also be housed, in Ken Adam’s spectacular but inexpensive sets. It’s a tight and thrilling movie, one that changed the face of the spy movie genre and in fact, invented a genre of its own.