Some background history…
In 1953, British author and journalist Ian Flemming published the first (of twelve) James Bond novels, Casino Royale. While Albert R. Broccolli wanted to rights to the books, Harry Saltzman (who owned the rights) did not wish to sell. Instead, the two partnered up and created two companies; Danjaq which held the rights, and EON Productions which produced the movies. While Thunderball was intended to be the first movie, legal disputes with the screenplay tied it up and the decision was made to make Dr. No the first Bond movie, starting a franchise that, to this day, is the longest running and most financially successful English language film franchise.
When British Intelligence agent Strangeways is assassinated in Jamaica, “M” (Bernard Lee) sends MI6 Agent James Bond (Sean Connery) to investigate Strangeways’ disappearance, wondering if it was related to Strangeways’ aiding the CIA in their investigation of radio jamming of their Cape Canaveral launches. After arriving in Jamaica and escaping some ambushes and double crosses of his own, Bond ends up meeting up with (and getting ambushed by) Strangeways’ fishing guide Quarrel, only to find that Quarrel is working with/for CIA Agent Felix Leiter (played by Jack Lord).
After Bond avoids an assassination attempt by the same group who killed Strangeways, we are introduced to ‘Number 1′ who tells Professor Dent (a contact of Strangeways’ working for Number 1) that Bond must die, and provides him with a rather large, rather poisonous tarantula with which to get the job done, which, as one can imagine, doesn’t exactly work, but for ’62 (and the size of the spider), the tension was thick.
With clues and intel pointing towards the island of Crab Key, Bond and Quarrel investigate, encountering Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) in what has stood the test of time as one of the most iconic scenes in a Bond movie ever. Eventually, Bond and Honey are captured by the island’s owner, the mysterious Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), and are introduced to the foil for most of the Bond movies going forward, SPECTER (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion). Dr. No plans to show the power of SPECTER by interrupting a highly televised rocket launch of Project Mercury with his atomic radio beam, but with some clever escaping and disguising, Bond manages to thwart the plan by overheating the reactor powering the beam and escaping with Honey just before No’s lair explodes.
As this is the first Bond movie released, certain aspects became standard fare for most, if not all, movies that came after. Bond Girls, ‘interesting’ villains, vodka martini shaken not stirred, the introduction of Q-Branch (though the character of Q wouldn’t be ‘named’ until later films), “Bond…James Bond”, just to name a few. Unfortunately, later on in the franchise (to steal a line from The Crow‘s Top Dollar) ‘the idea became the institution’ and many running themes drifted into the realm of running gags. Dr. No however, was well before the movies drifted dangerously close to campy.
In addition to Ursula Andress, we are also introduced to Lois Maxwell as Ms. Moneypenny who will go on to be in a total of 14 bond movies. We also meet Sylvia Trench (played by Eunice Gayson) who later becomes Bond’s girlfriend and appearing in From Russia With Love, making her one of a very few Bond girls to appear in more than one movie.
Not many to speak of in Dr. No, but it does set a standard of Bond being ‘updated’ with newer, more cutting edge weapons/gear to assist him…most notably in this film he is given his signature Walther PPK.
For 1962, this movie was a bit of a gamble. it was given a $1mil budget, and when it went over by $100k, was almost scrapped due to concerns about it recouping it’s money, and while it was the lowest grossing Bond movie to date, it still ranks high among fans and reviewers. Connery sets the tone by which all other Bonds will end up being judged in this and 5 other Bond movies to come, so if you’re planning on checking out all 22 Bond movies, or a smattering of different “Bond”s, this is virtually mandatory viewing for the Sean Connery era.
Grade : A-