Dr. No: adapted by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather, Wolf Mankowitz, and Terence Young from the novel by Ian Fleming; directed by Terence Young; starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder), Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No), Jack Lord (Felix Leiter), and John Kitzmiller (Quarrel) (1962): More than 50 years after its debut, and about 30 years since I last watched it, Dr. No still seems pretty refreshing.
In this first movie of the series, the Bond mythology hasn’t accreted around the central concepts yet. Connery is young, though already in a toupee. And the movie is fairly faithful to the original novel, though it replaces Dr. No’s fertilizer factory with one of the most ridiculous nuclear reactors in the history of cinema.
Well, I can see why the fertilizer factory — the Jamaican front for No’s nefarious enterprises — was dumped. After all, it involved the collection of an awful lot of bat guano for the fertilizer, bat guano which would assume tremendous importance by the end of the novel.
Bond teams up with the CIA and the first of a seemingly endless array of actors to play CIA operative Felix Leiter (here it’s Hawaii 5-0‘s Jack Lord) to thwart shenanigans aimed at disrupting America’s space program. Bond romances three women, including the stunning Ursula Andress as this movie’s main Bond girl, Honey Ryder.
And Bond’s universe is nastier here than it would be again until Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale. One sequence in which Bond empties his gun into an already dead man lying on the floor was trimmed to accommodate censors. And one Bond compatriot (it never pays to be a Bond compatriot) meets with a truly gruesome and abrupt death, one we hear but don’t see.
As to the nuclear reactor…well, generations of Bond viewers with a modicum of reactor knowledge have noted that the reactor operates contrary to normal reactor protocols, as lowering the control rods into Dr. No’s reactor somehow causes it to blow up rather than cool down. True. But my question is, why did Dr. No put the computer control room for his entire enterprise inside the actual fission reactor? He sure is crazy! He probably lost his hands from radiation exposure while typing!
Dr. No also sets the early standard for changing the villains from Soviets to the criminal agency SPECTRE because the producers wanted the Cold War to end and thus didn’t want to irritate the Soviets by making them the villains in 90% of all Bond adventures. The more you know. Recommended.