Dr. No

Dr. NoSynopsis: His name is Bond, James Bond, and here, in his explosive film debut, Ian Fleming’s immortal action hero blazes through one of his most spectacular adventures. Sean Connery embodies the suave yet lethal cool of Agent 007 as he battles the mysterious Dr. No, a scientific genius on destroying the U.S. space programme.
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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

Dr. No

Date of viewing: January 29, 2013

Dr. No -  Opening CreditsOpening credits

The Thorn: 3.5 – Likely the weakest of the lot, stylistically and musically. Plus which the transitions between the three songs (yes, three!) are jarring. However, it did cement the barrel-view look at Bond – and that is pretty damned awesome.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – 10 for the first part (classic gun barrel intro and music; although the person shooting at the gun does it in a lame “jumping” kind of way), 0 for the last part with lame music transiting into the movie.

The Consultant: 6 – I was glad to see that the sequence of the barrel view and the blood and the theme has endured the entire series. However, the transition to the dancing people was very awkward. Mr. Bond’s hop to turn and face the camera was kind of childish too.

   ***

Dr. No - StoryStory

The Thorn: 7.5 – It’s not ambitious by any means, but it’s a decent little espionage story. I don’t get what Dr. No is aiming for by mischievously playing around with NASA, though. Still, there are some excellent moments throughout.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – the concept is solid and simple; some aspect of the story have not been successfully presented but the concept behind always remains solid.

The Consultant: 6 – I wasn’t sold on the whole world-domination-by-tampering-with-a-rocket-destined-for-the-moon idea. As well, I would hope that MI-6 would be sufficiently informed to know that if you make a nuclear reactor go boom, Jamaica has a good chance of not being inhabitable. Think of the tourists and the jerk chicken!

***

Dr. No - BanterBanter

The Thorn: 8.25 – Surprisingly, the quips are actually relatively clever – even some fifty years later. The banter between Bond and Moneypenny, in particular, was utterly delightful.

The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Great dialogues between characters. There are only a few tiny cheesy moments.

The Consultant: 8.5 – It was very amusing and Bond had some good one-liners, although I have no idea what those British guys were talking about at the table at the beginning.

***

Dr. No - VillainsVillains

The Thorn: 7.75 – I love how creepily cool Dr. No is. Plus which his weird metallic hands set the bar for Bond villains to come. The other baddies are standard fare hoods, though – decent but nothing noteworthy.

The Horrible Dr. B: 9 – Dr.No is a great villain: smart, powerful, ambitious, has tons of dumb but docile henchmen (I like the way they are controlled by fear and his methods to enforce obedience is felt but not shown explicitly), sophisticated, great taste in interior decor, is able to recognize/admire great skill in others, and doesn’t tolerate nonsense (he treats Bond with lots of respect, within adequate limits, offer a deal: no? you had your chance – back to prison, you stupid policeman). Even though his archetype is reincarnated in the future movies, I find it sad that he dies at the end. I gave him 9 instead of 10 because he’s a Chinese character played by a white guy; the actor is good, and the character is supposed to be half-Chinese, however it still bothers me.

The Consultant: 7.0 – For a billionaire genius, you would think that he would have put on ovenmits before frying his hands and now being stuck wearing those masochist gloves. But he definitely had the look and the attitude of an excessively evil villain.

***

Dr. No - Bond GirlsBond Girls

The Thorn: 6.5 – Sylvia Trench (6.5) + Miss Taro (4.5) + Honey Ryder (8.5) = 6.5. Sylvia Trench is slightly eerie, but she has nice legs and I love how forthcoming she is. Miss Taro isn’t even Asian – which is typical of the era, but remains an eyesore. Meanwhile, Honey Ryder is feisty and sexy. Maybe not as brainy as she claims to be, but yummy anyway.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Sylvia (5): sophisticated, mature, independent, daring, but has a weird paralyzed eyebrow and doesn’t know how to kiss. Miss Taro (0): Chinese spy played by a white girl; she should not have been played by a white actor. Honey (10): Very beautiful, strong, not educated but has brains.

The Consultant: 8 – Sylvia Trench: Dirty and quick with the quips. Evil Admin Girl: Pretty but slutty, lacks finesse. Honey Ryder: Meh, she should have finished that encyclopedia before going into the business of selling seashells in Miami for $50 she said… $50!!!

***

Dr. No - GadgetsGadgets

The Thorn: 4.0 – Wow. A Geiger counter AND cyanide pills hidden in cigarettes? Far out. Well, it’s more realistic this way, which I like. But it’s nonetheless fairly underwhelming.

The Horrible Dr. B: N/A – There are none; see additional notes.

The Consultant: n/a – Hint: Geiger counters don’t count 0.o

***

Dr. No - VehiclesVehicles

The Thorn: 4.5 – All the vehicles are standard cars from the era, which is totally fine by me. There is one exception, however: the “dragon” tank on Dr. No’s island, which is SO cheap-looking and poorly designed that it looks pathetic. PAH-thetic.

The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – Tank. See ‘Worst Bond moment’.

The Consultant: 6.5 – While there were some vehicles, they didn’t have the pizzazz of the high tech ones I think this category was meant to gauge. For the record, that tank/dragon was not a vehicle in my opinion… it was a legend… OOOOOOOOooooo

***

Dr. No - LocalesLocales

The Thorn: 6.0 – Jamaica’s kind of nice, I guess. The cinematography could be better, though; the film would have greatly improved by having a more luscious look to it. As for the villain’s lair, it’s a good start: huge and pretentious, if slightly stage-y.

The Horrible Dr. B: N/A – This story could happen anywhere as long as Dr.No Lair is remote. Jamaica and its landmarks and culture are not part of this movie. See ‘Overall impression’.

The Consultant: 8 – I think Jamaica was a great choice. Their accent was cool. Felt like a trip.

***

Dr. No - StuntsStunts

The Thorn: 4.0 – There’s not much to speak of in ‘Dr. No’. The biggest stunt might be when Bond pushes the chubby dude in a transparent diaper from a short height and he falls head first – almost quite literally on his head. Meh. Still, the actions sequences were done adequately.

The Horrible Dr. B: N/A – There are none. See ‘Overall impression’.

The Consultant: 9.7 – While most of the stunts were mundane (eg. a tarantula on the arm is a weekly event in our home), I never saw a stuntman take a flamethrower to the head like Quarrel. Sheer genius!

***

Dr. No - SoundtrackSoundtrack

The Thorn: 5.5 – Well, there’s an excellent use of the then-new James Bond theme, but there’s also the over-use of “Under the Mango Tree” and some cheesy scoring from Monty Norman. Thanks for writing the Bond Theme, Monty… now, move along… move along.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Half of it is great classic music that is known and used throughout the series; the other half ranges from ok to lame.

The Consultant: 6 – Director: Theme song? Crewman: Check! Director: What about the rest? Crewman: Well sir, we blew the budget on 1917 vintage red wine we used as that lifelike blood stain on the carpet, not to mention those crystal playing cards Mr. Connery demanded he have for that one scene. Director: So where does that leave us? Crewman: Under the mango tree, I reckon.

***

Dr. No - Best Bond MomentBest Bond moment

The Thorn: The introduction of Sean Connery as James Bond. First we see this stranger from the back, playing cards at a casino. Then we see his well-manicured hands dealing cards. Then we see the man, just as the James Bond theme charges into the scene. Classic, goosebump-inducing.

The Horrible Dr. B: For me there are tons of great moments in the movie, and not one that stands above others. What strikes me as the best element of the movie is how many aspects of it have become classic defining elements of the whole series (Bond character and tactics, villains, character interaction, music, …).

However, if I were tortured by Dr.No’s minions to choose one moment, I would choose this scene that I particularly like: Bond and Honey are guests of Dr.No and Honey discovers that Bond is also scared like her when she’s holding his hand. This little scene is extremely powerful: not only does it help us believe in the situation (being trapped inside the lair, being treated oddly well, not knowing what’s coming, etc…) but also reveals a lot about the Bond character – it reveals that like us he feels fear in that specific situation but that he chooses (and probably has trained) not to show this emotion through his face or body. In fact he probably chooses to project a cool and relaxed look with his face and body, which are independent from his internal feelings, not because it looks good (although I’m sure it’s useful outside of a mission), but because it is a tool that may be a factor in his confrontations and ultimately if he lives or dies. Understanding this aspect of Bond increases my admiration for the character.

If Dr.No’s minions continue to torture me for a second best moment, then I would have to choose the scene at the airport where Bond gets picked up by an unexpected chauffeur, and is smart enough to confirm that it’s a trap, and has the balls to go into the trap. Risky but clever.

The Consultant: I have a tie. That line he used with Ms. Moneypenny to get out of having to take her to dinner. As well that line he used on Honey to make her put away the knife. I won’t quote them because it would ruin the moment. Trust me, those alone were worth the movie.

***

Dr. No - Worst Bond MomentWorst Bond moment

The Thorn: The dragon sequence. In the book, it takes place in the pitch of darkness, so 007, Honey and Quarrel can only see its eyes and the fire spouting from its mouth. In the movie, however, they have a terrible day-for-night effect which ruins everything because we can see that it’s not a dragon – and that the “dragon” is made of sheet metal with a lame-o paint job. Ugh.

The Horrible Dr. B: Tank painted as a “dragon”. This scene is lame on many levels. Any idiot would recognize that this is a vehicle with some paint. The tank is super slow; in order to get hurt by it, you would need to charge it with your eyes closed. The scene has been underexposed to simulate night time which doesn’t work; we know it’s day time. The whole thing is just lame.

The Consultant: That line Bond used to explain why those bad guys drove off a cliff.

***

Dr. No - Overall ImpressionOverall impression

The Thorn: 7.0 – ‘Dr. No’ is a good start to the franchise and it has all the key elements of the formula already down, if unpolished. One has to look at it contextually, though: it had a lower budget, a series wasn’t necessarily in the cards then, and it was made in the early ’60s – it’s not nearly as slick and sophisticated as one might expect Bond to be. But it’s a decent interpretation of the original novel, even though Fleming’s book covers some elements (especially in the third act) more intelligibly.

The Horrible Dr. B: 9 – Solid first movie. It has weaknesses but they are not very important.

Additional notes:
– Of all the Bond actors, Sean is my favorite: he depicts perfectly a smart, sophisticated, talented, and commanding Bond.
– I like the fact that this movie is low tech: it does not have special gadgets, or Bond car, or stunts. It relies on the story, the characters, and low-tech techniques like removing shoes to move quietly, sticking a piece of hair between door and frame to know if someone has opened the door, using a piece of bamboo to breathe underwater, etc. I prefer to see a Bond without gadgets who uses his wits and improvises with his surroundings. The movie has car chases, traps, gun and fist fights, and things blowing up; however this movie proves that they can be very simple; they don’t need to be big, showy or complex.
– I would add the following rating category: Villain’s Lair: very often, Villains have constructed some kind of elaborate secret lair where they conduct their evil business. I like Dr.No’s Lair; simple but well designed.
– Weakness: the main weakness of the movie for me is that towards the end, when Bond infiltrates the island, the movie tries to stick too much to the book; there are many scenes like for example the tank and the tunnels, where I can see what they were trying to do but are not believable. In my own opinion, they should have simply adapted these scenes. Another irritant aspect of the movie is that not only are main Chinese characters played by white people, they also don’t have Chinese names! “No” and “Taro” are typical Japanese phonetics; “Dr. Ng” and “Miss Xiao” would have been more appropriate choices. Do proper research Fleming!
– Strength: simplicity and amount of signature elements of the Bond series.

The Consultant: 7 – For a movie dating back to the 60s, I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t have a frame of reference however, having never seen a movie that predates E.T. the extra-terrestrial. I was sad to see that the story didn’t have more depth. I’m glad I can say that I’ve seen it but will only ever watch it again to poke fun at it, if Mr. Connery isn’t too busy poking other things.

James Bond will return inFrom Russia With Love

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One response to “Dr. No

  1. Pingback: North By Northwest | thecriticaleye·

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