Dr No (1962)

When it’s on: Saturday, 12 May (3.15 pm)
Channel: ITV1
IMDb Link

As widely reported in the media, Sky has bought the rights to screen James Bond films on its channels, ending a long association between 007 and the ITV network. That it’s made the news is testament to the ingrained tradition of your serving of Bank Holiday Bond. Christmas Day certainly won’t be the same, though ITV’s omission of the spy from its 25 December schedules in recent years hasn’t exactly been lamented. A pity they have never found anything memorable to replace it.

Under the guise of celebrating 50 years of Bond, ITV is kissing off its partnership with Saville Row’s greatest walking advert with a weekly showing of each film, hopefully in strict sequence. We start, logically enough, with Dr No, which remains a spry, muscular piece of work fifty years since it first hit the screen.

These days, it’s tough to imagine a world without 007. A bit like Dr Who, he’s always been there, and I suspect many people have a fondness for their ‘Bond’ in the same way they love a certain Doctor, depending on the actor of the day (for me, it’s Roger Moore and Tom Baker). I think it helps that Sean Connery initially filled the role of the central character as though he’d worn those beautifully tailored suits for years. Connery was a little known, jobbing actor before he won the part over a raft of more famous actors, including a certain Roger George Moore. The Scot’s relative obscurity worked in his favour. There had previously been a cautious sounding out of Cary Grant for the role, which would have turned Dr No into a vehicle for its star. Instead, we got Connery – in his early 30s, handsome, athletic, at ease in his work (even with the famous toupee), an all-round fully formed gentleman spy.

Within the context of the 007 series, Dr No introduced parts of the formula that would become well established over the course of 22 (official) films – we get our megalomaniac villain bent on world domination (Joseph Wiseman) with his outstanding feature i.e. metal hands. Glamorous locations are laid on – much of Dr No is set in Jamaica, and that really is the Caribbean rather than some studio backlot. Bond’s snobbery and his enviable attraction to women are present and correct. And yet this film doesn’t quite set the template for entries to come. That comes with Goldfinger, in which Bond becomes more or less an invulnerable superhero. There’s definite fragility here, moments in which 007 finds himself in real peril, and he’s all the more interesting for the resources he calls upon when dealing with these instances.

Terence Young, already a veteran of nearly twenty directing jobs by this point, was called on to helm the project and did so economically. Dr No’s $1.25m budget was well spent on a fast moving yarn that showed off the beauty of Jamaica whilst never letting the audience rest long enough to consider how daft the whole show really was. Deep into the film comes its signature scene, the best known Young was ever involved with and utterly iconic, the one showing Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini. Her dialogue may have been dubbed (by Nikki van der Zyl, a voice artist who applied her tones to many female characters in the film), but her aloof sexiness was unfakeable and added immeasurably to Dr No’s appeal. It’s a quality successive films tried to match, with results ranging from noble efforts to terrible messes.

Dr No: ****

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9 Replies to “Dr No (1962)”

  1. I hadn’t read about the Sky deal – somethign else to fester one’s hate of the Murdochs! ITV did tend to cut the films for their screenings, especially pre-watershed. I remember the late, lemented John Brosnan bitterly complaining in his Starburst column about chunks getting removed. I wonder if it was screened uncut this time … I always laught at that great sequence when Anthony Dawson goes into that wonderfully impractical Ken Adam set to collect the spider in the cage which has bars so far apart that the creature could easily just crawl out! Definitely part of the style over substance charm of the films!

    1. Well, it’s a PG film, so you’d think that would save it from the cuts, indeed I don’t really think there’s much to worry viewers in 2012. I have to admit a fondness for the cutting and redubbing that used to be rampant, especially in the era before owning home movies was common. My favourite was the redubbing of a famous Die Hard quote into ‘Yippie-kiy-ay Mister Falcon’ – who dreamed this up?

      I suppose if there’s one saving grace about the Sky deal, it is that surely anyone interested will have seen these films by now. They were rotated to death back in the day. But yes. Hate Murdochs!

      1. There’s a great section of the extras on the De Palma version of SCARFACE that focuses on the TV version and it’s really amusing but you end up admiring the gall and ingenuity involved in turning a film like that into Network TV fodder. I reremember Borsnan pointing to one cut from DR NO which si this admittedly slightl pervy sequence, when Honey and Bond arrive at No’s lair and are drugged and you see his metal hands pull back the sheets on their bed …

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