Thursday, October 18, 2012

007 goes Alex Carriére: A guest review of Dr. No (1962)

Before I watched Dr. No today, I had seen it one other time, and that was 10 years ago. I was considerably younger then and I found Dr. No to be very boring and unlike the rest of the Bond series, which I was pretty familiar with by the time I was 14. Like I mentioned in my text on Goldfinger, I am very much a fan of the fun and campy side of James Bond, so Dr. No seemed way off to me as a 14 year old kid. This time around I actually enjoyed Dr. No quite a bit. I went into it this time having more of an idea of what to expect.

In Dr. No, Bond finds himself in Jamaica, investigating the death of a fellow agent. Before he gets there, he is playing cards in London with a fine looking woman who introduces herself as, “Trench, Sylvia Trench,” to which James replies, “Bond, James Bond.” So for the first time in the series we get to hear the classic Bond introduction, and I wasn’t even aware that Sylvia Trench was the one who started it in the first place! James is called in to the office, but it is implied that he still has time to give Ms. Trench what she came for. Walking into the MI6 office, James throws his hat on the coat rack, which becomes a series staple, along with his “relationship” with Moneypenny. While talking to M, Bond has his gun replaced with a Walther PPK, which has become known as being the classic James Bond gun. I found it interesting that Bond commented about how he was using his Beretta for 10 years, meaning he has been working for MI6 for at least 10 years prior to this. Now I know that Dr. No wasn’t the first Bond novel by Fleming (Casino Royale was) so there was some room for them to play with characters who already had relationships established, making for better dialogue and just a more engaging environment all together. I’m glad that they finally did make Casino Royale (not the ’67 spoof), because I always thought it would be interesting to see how James Bond got his start, though you don’t really get to see that in Casino Royale either, but closer.

In Jamaica, Bond finds himself making progress, however slowly. Yes this movie is a lot slower than the Bond movies that would come after it, but this isn’t always a bad thing. I realized why I would have thought this movie was boring when watching it when I was 14. I wanted campy James Bond action, and this movie is seriously lacking in that department. Anything in this movie that seems campy is probably just a result of a lower budget. That being said, there are a few great moments of Bond’s famous witticism. 

What surprised me most about this movie was Bond’s killing. In most Bond movies, the killing is faceless. In Dr. No, Bond kills a few people really bluntly, which actually surprised me to see. These kills aren’t gory or particularly brutal by any means, but they are much more realistic situations, which I think makes them have a greater impact on the viewer. There are two examples of this that come to my mind. The first one is when James sets a trap (the classic pillow under the sheets trick), and when the man arrives to assassinate Bond, Bond is waiting there for him. Bond sits him down in a chair, asks him questions, then shoots him point blank after he’s done asking questions. The second is when Bond, Ryder, and Quarrel are hiding from Dr. No’s henchmen. When one of the henchmen comes by them, scanning the area, Bond sneaks up behind him and kills him with a knife! Honey even asks James, “Why?” to which he replies, “Because I had to.” I’m so glad they added this exchange in the dialogue, because it really drove the point home that James isn’t in this for the killing, but he knows that it is part of the job.

Dr. No is a pretty good villain. I really enjoyed that they didn’t show him for most of the movie, and just let you hear his voice. This added a nice mysterious tone to his character, something that they tried to echo later in the series, less successfully though. Bond has good chemistry with Dr. No, which is an element that I actually enjoy quite a bit, this is seen again in movies like Goldfinger and The Man With the Golden Gun.

Dr. No was a good movie, and I’m glad I took the time to revisit it. It isn’t exactly what I want from a Bond movie, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. Dr. No is just so different from the other Bond movies that in some ways it can’t even be judged against the others. When I want to watch James Bond, I will always return to my favorites, because I’m probably looking for a lighthearted adventure, with great cheesy lines and awesome music. When I want to watch a cool spy movie that is a lot more serious and realistic I would definitely choose Dr. No. 

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