Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Just Say No!
If I have to choose one James Bond movie, (and no one says I do by the way) I'd have to give the nod to Dr.No, the debut James Bond movie as my favorite in the series. Goldfinger (the best complete Bond movie) and From Russia With Love (the best Bond story) are outstanding, but it's this first glimpse of 007 which still gets my complete and full attention each and every time it shows up on television. I never seem to get tired of watching it.
In this story Sean Connery's Bond is still a man who can be hurt, a man who makes mistakes with regrettable and tragic consequences. This is the Bond movie with him at his most human and vunerable, traits which disappear with each succeeding film. Bond, the super agent is fun to watch still, but the emotional connection is broken when you know that he can never be hurt that the people around him might, but he'll certainly wreak his vengeance.
In Dr.No this doesn't really track. Bond is a sleuth, though admittedly a clumsy one and his partnership with Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) remains my favorite after all these years. In just a few scenes together, we get to care about these two men and the rugged and knowing kinship they share.
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder is naive and beautiful and just enough of an airhead to keep you wincing, but not enough to quite make you dismiss her.
Joseph Wiseman as the titular villain damn near steals this show. He has just enough over-the-top nonsense to make him memorable, but still it's connected to a cold yet seething performance. He's got a lot of hate bottled up, and he doesn't rant like so many of his successors will do in years to come.
This is a damn good movie that builds to its climax with steady beats as the mystery of Crab Key unfolds. Since it's all new, we are properly surprised Jack Lord turns out to be the CIA's Felix Leiter, and we are a bit stunned by the cold-blooded assassination of No's henchman Professor Dent.
If the story requires that Dr.No's laboratory have some of the weakest security imaginable, it's okay, because the wrap up is so sweet.
The novel is substantially different from the movie, with Dr.No a more peculiar creature. If you've never read the original by Fleming, then you're in for a treat. It's got plenty to remind you of the film adaption, but enough different to keep it a fresh read.
Other Bond movies will get this detail or that detail better, but none of them capture the whole as well as this first did.