Dr. No (1962)

"Bond. James Bond.""Bond. James Bond."

“Bond. James Bond.”

When discussing film franchises the one that has possibly lasted the longest without any true fatigue, that has the most notoriety behind it is the James Bond franchise. Based on the novel of the same name by author Ian Fleming, director Terence Young kicks off a franchise with one of the strongest entries to date – Dr.No. Full of thrills, betrayal, action and romance, Dr. No has everything that makes a spy thriller great which simultaneously provides a base of inspiration, DNA, and structure for future films to be made.

Add to that mixture of what makes Dr. No a fantastic first entry in the Bond legacy is an endearing performance of the title character James Bond (Sir Sean Connery) an MI6 agent that also goes by the codename 007. Connery though dipping his toe in the character, (he would go on to star as Bond 6 times) he’s exactly what the character embodies – charm, charisma, the looks, sex appeal and the intelligence to bring this character to life. 


The appeal of an Ian Fleming adapted James Bond film centers around the possible storylines that can be explored. Though Fleming wrote and published 12 novels and two short story collections, 24 feature length films have been created all from the starting point here. Bond is notified by the head of the British Secret Service M (Bernard Lee) of a fellow intelligence officer in Jamaica being murdered along with his secretary. When he goes to investigate, Bond meets Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) of the CIA and learns of a scientist named Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), a member of the criminal organization called SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion or SPECTRE for short. Dr. No’s nefarious plan is to destroy the US space program by disrupting Project Mercury using a radio beam on a remote island called Crab Key.

For its minimal budget, director Terence Young squeezes as much as he can out of the screenplay written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood & Berkely Mather. The action set pieces alone is enough to marvel at as James dodges every attempt made on his life, staying one step ahead of Dr. No’s ploy to have him killed. That is the brilliance in Connery’s performance, he blends all these personalities that a secret agent would have well and can switch from romantic to serious in a moment’s notice. The character has a comedic side to him that is unexpected, but Connery makes it work to his advantage – adding another personality trait to his bag of tricks. 

James Bond starts and ends with Connery. The plot leans more on the basic side being thinly written and sometimes predictable, we can tell Bond is going to survive from a mile away but it’s the journey of how he gets to Crab Key that matters most. For a film that has a runtime of 109 minutes, the pacing from scene to scene is quick enough to get a pulse pounding experience but slows down at the right time to live in the more serious moments. Seeing Bond outthink the woman he’s romancing to have the upper hand on the hired killer, knowing how many bullets his magazine holds while taking his time to make the right decision adds to the atmospheric tension built by Terrence Young. 

What builds the tension even more then the silent lived-in scenes are the action sequences that are constructed throughout each act of the film. Each scene signifies the end of one act and the beginning of the next which also moves the story forward. On top of that, the action sequences are coordinated and choreographed with precision. It’s another strength of Connery’s performance – having the appearance of reacting to all the bullets, flame throwing dragons and melee attacks authentically. 


Fleming shapes his novels and characters in a unique way that showcases a structuralist point of view that Terrence Young vitally captures – if one point doesn’t make the connection its supposed to then the entire film unravels. Connections are formed between characters through the script that links Bond to Dr. No even though the plot of film centers around the United States and the villainous SPECTRE. From Britain’s involvement, Bond meets Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) the first Bond girl and a shell diver. The script puts this burden on Bond’s shoulders to save the world regardless of their political standing. 

Dr. No is the 6th novel written by Fleming in the James Bond series but serves as a fantastic starting point for the franchise to come. Connery brings all the personality to the character making Bond his own and it’s hard to distinguish the character from the actor. What Dr. No does exceptionally well is world building – something vital to a franchise. SPECTRE is shrouded in mystery making it a formidable antagonistic organization for years to come. So much is left to be explored, but Terrence Young leaves us craving more by the time Dr. No finishes. Don’t be fooled by the PG rating, there’s plenty of action, implied sex, and violence that should deter a younger audience from viewing a James Bond film. 

Dr. No is written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood & Berkely Mather, directed by Terrence Young is Rated PG and has an 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dr. No was released on October 5, 1962 in the United Kingdom and on May 8, 1963 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours. Dr. No can be bought from online retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google.  4.5 out of 5.

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