Published Oct 27, 2012This is the one that started fifty years of over-the-top espionage and womanizing. Dr. No lays down a blueprint for the adventures of massively popular British superspy sex-addict, James Bond, which has been recalibrated substantially to suit the tastes of each age and iteration, but never fully abandoned.
Many of the hallmarks of the second-longest running franchise in film history were present from the get-go. During the course of the movie's long-winded plot, Bond gets issued his faithful Walther PPK, has his martini shaken, not stirred, beds, or at least flirts with, nearly every woman he meets, fires off droll one-liners after dispatching evil henchmen and uncovers the convoluted scheme of a mad scientist who feels a need to confide in him out of a sense of kinship, all of which inevitably leads to a climactic showdown in an elaborate lair in an isolated location.
Some of gimmicks and traits that came to typify the series didn't emerge until later though. There were no fancy gadgets from Q branch to speak of in Bond's investigation of a fellow agent's murder that first puts him on the scent of international terrorist organization, SPECTRE. Only a Geiger counter—a sensible hero's tool to address the fresh fear of nuclear fall-out brought on by the Cuban Missile Crisis—was available.
Nor was there budget for the kind of complex action and chase choreography that has become a kind of one-upmanship with each new installment. The physical limitations of Sean Connery and imaginative limitations of director Terence Young produced a Bond who dominates his opponents through sheer measured forced of confidence, giving the impression that his efficiency of movement is due less to rigorous training than because any extraneous movement might dishevel his impeccably tailored suit and with it, his psychological armour of pathological composure.
What's possibly most unexpected about revisiting Dr. No is how long it takes to get to the iconic moments. Until Ursula Andress emerges from the surf in that white bikini and joins Bond in a campy romp through the Jamaican jungle, there's a lot of dry talk and only a few forgettable skirmishes.
It's a good thing that Monty Norman's infamous surf-jazz theme arranged by John Barry is always on hand to lend a sense of dynamic urgency and swinging cool every time the film gets bogged down by banality and casual misogyny. Bond has come a long way in half a century.
Dr. No screens as part of The Bond Blitz: Bond vs. Blofield retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and will play later in November for additional big screen viewing opportunities. (MGM)