Friday, May 20, 2011

BOND 1: Dr. No

Dr. No
Director: Terence Young
Year 1962

Dr. No, the first film in a long and outstanding cinematic legacy of stylistic espionage, introduces us to the legendary character of James Bond, played by the always cool Sean Connery. While not the first motion picture to shed light on the character of 007, it is credited for launching what would become one of the most enduring film series in the history of the silver screen. 

In the film, James Bond is sent off to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent, who was last reported working in the tropical locale of Jamaica. Indulging in the sights, sounds, and dangers that the intoxicating island setting provides for our hero agent, Bond finally follows all clues to a mysterious man named Dr. No. Conspiring from his hidden lair on his own private island, the mastermind secretly plots to bring about the downfall of the United States space program. With the help of a few undercover allies and one beautiful young woman, can Bond foil Dr. No's diabolical plan while looking cool as shit? You're damn right he can.

The names... oh screw it. You know my damn name!
James Bond... Man about town.

In Sean Connery's first stab at the icon role of James Bond, he absolutely nails it. The constant cool demeanor and charismatic ambiance that he exudes from the character, resonates through and through in the performance and really gives us a good feel for the kind of man James Bond is. In fact, Connery did so well in my opinion that he gave his predecessors an impossible task in trying to fill his shoes. His mannerisms and carefully crafted movements became the staple for who 007 was, not to mention his expertly delivered one liners and smooth talking dialogue.

Connery's confidence level in this film and all of his following efforts in the role, are tremendously captivating and wholly honest in the portrayal of the quid-essential superman mold that Bond has so famously been branded in. I've enjoyed all of the various James Bond actors throughout the years, but Sean Connery's performance as the super agent has always been my all time favorite. In Dr. No, he really shines and sets the bar so high that no one would be able to fully take the reigns in his absence.

Looks like he's the only one who showed up for the party. Awkward.
James Bond is driving through the DANGER ZONE!

I must say that the location of Jamaica for Bond's first mission in this cinematic interpretation of Ian Fleming's larger then life secret agent series, is just superb. There's enough variation across this expansive island to satisfy the globetrotting aspects that will eventually come to be the staple of the series and the hundreds of imitators that would soon follow in the wake of Dr. No's success. James Bond takes in the sights as he battles over land and sea, while also finding some time to mingle with a few of the lady folk of the area.

The locations of coastal towns, dusty roads, and sandy beaches caressed by crystal clear waters make for a nice visual palette of extremely pleasurable senses. If there's one thing that I've always loved about the James Bond series, it's the beautiful and exotic locales. In this first entry, they started out on the right foot. Having been there on two separate occasions, Jamaica is a wonderful place that director Terence Young has captured beautifully and melded seamlessly within the extravagant trappings of Bond's world.

Hands off the merchandise Mr. Bond.
You can take these beautiful sea shells when you pry them from my cold dead hands!

While I'm on the topic of beautiful visuals, we come to another cornerstone of the Bond series and that's the woman. James Bond just can't seem to keep his mind out out of the gutter and who can blame him when he's up against such a stunning caliber of stylish beauties. Ursula Andress, of She, The 10th Victim, Clash of the Titans, and The Mountain of the Cannibal God fame, introduces us to the long running tradition of presenting to the world the most exotic and enticing women of the era. Playing the role of Honeychile Ryder, or more simply Honey Ryder, Ursula projects a confidence that is both sexy and intriguing. Her character has a duality to it, like most Bond girls do, and that's the ability to appear both helpless and at the same time fully capable. It's a conundrum in itself, but it seems to be a staple for what would appear throughout the Bond series and it's a fact that would help damper the misogynistic trappings that James Bond tend to represents. The effort helps, but in the end James Bond really and truly is a man's hero and who can fault him for staying true to his demographic.

Catering to the boys is presented none to clearer, when we are gifted an introduction of a lifetime by the curvaceous Ms. Ryder. Her entrance is legendary among Bond fans and has been payed homage to in a handful of films including the 21st installment of the Bond franchise where James Bond, played by newcomer Daniel Craig, emerges from the ocean showcasing one of the more muscular looks that the secret agent had showcased up until this point. Ursula's presence in the film and her iconic scene, made a clear and precise line in the sand that dared her Bond girl predecessors to cross, let alone live up to. She definitely left her mark on the franchise and stands high among the rich cast of Bond girl legends.

They found me. I don't know how, but they found me. Run for it Quarrel!
It's not the size of your fish display that counts, it's how you use it.

Finally that brings us to the dastardly bastard, Dr. No. Every Bond film must have a villain and in the case of Dr. No, there's no exception. A scientific madman, bent on collapsing the United States space program, Dr. No is no slouch when it comes to the villainy department. The guys got one of the sweetest evil lairs this side of Dr. Evil's volcanic lair and he's one hell of a snazzy dresser if I do say so myself. Sporting what can only be described as a full body condom, Dr. No really knows how to impress the ladies.

What makes him even that much cooler is the fact that he is played dead serious by accomplished actor Joseph Wiseman. Having an uncanny resemblance to Patrick Stewart, Wiseman plays the evil genius to the letter, ordering his army of minions around and basically being a total bad ass. I mean come on, you'd have to be pretty bad ass to pull off an outfit like that. Bubble boy suit and all, Wiseman wholly excepts the absurd and goes with it, creating one of the most memorable and formidable villains that James Bond will come to fisticuffs with. A word to the wise, look out for his judo chop.

Does this suit make me look fat?
Let's get the hell out of here!

Dr. No is a perfect introduction to the world of Bond, which sets up all the elements that would make the series so popular for the next handful of decades and greatly achieves some of the most iconic moments in the rich Bond history. Sean Connery does a tremendous job in portraying the super secret agent as a charismatic ladies man who takes danger head on, while Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman set the standard for their individual roles in the Bond universe.

With the lavish location of Jamaica and the inventive set designs for Dr. No's lair, Dr. No is a highly enjoyable ride that showcases all of the things I love about the James Bond films. Definitely highly recommended to anyone that loves espionage with a side of adventure and a full serving of fun.

5 out of 5 stars          An Iconic Bond Introduction!

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