Written, not Stirred: James Bond Film #1 – Dr. No

drno

One of the longest lasting movie series in cinema history features the cavalier Scottish agent working for England to right the wrongs of the world, stop the takeover of the world by a psychopath…and shag a few chicks along the way.  With a perfect mix of bravado, scenery, beauty, gadgets and bad guys, the James Bond movie series is one of the most popular of all-time. I will review and comment on every installment, from 1962’s “Dr. No” all the way to 2012’s “Skyfall” and beyond.  I will rank the movies from 1 to 23 and within that grade the following categories from 1 to 10:

Plot/Bond  Performance
Women
Villains
Gadgets
Locations

We’ll add up the totals and give a grade, with a max of 50, as to which Bond (in my opinion) is the  greatest, and crappiest of all time.

So let’s get started with the first one:

Dr. No (1962)

Cast: Sean Connery, Ursela Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord

Director:  Terence Young

Plot: Bond’s mission takes him to the steamy island of Jamaica, where mysterious energy waves are interfering with U.S. missile launches. As he unravels the astonishing truth, 007 must fight deadly assassins, sexy femme fatales and even a poisonous tarantula. With the help of crack CIA agent Felix Leiter and the beautiful Honey Ryder, he searches for the headquarters of Dr. No, a fanatical scientist who is implementing an evil plan of world domination. Only James Bond, with his combination of wit, charm and skill, can confront the madman and save the human race from a horrible fate.

Scott’s Rankings:

Plot/Bond Performance: Since it was the first one, the plot is pretty straightforward and is easy to follow. As for Sean Connery’s debut, he is spot on as the debonair secret agent who is on the trail of his fellow agent’s demise. The dialogue was a little rough and it seemed Connery was feeling his way around the part still, although he hit the “Bond, James Bond” line in the casino right out of the park. We also see the  change of weapon from a Barretta to the more familiar Walther PPK. M and Miss Moneypenny make their debuts, but the actor that plays Major Boothroyd (eventually called Q) would change to the more familiar Desmond Lewellyn for  “From Russia With Love”. Jack Lord played the best Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA  ally, but unfortunately he would play the role just this one time. His Jamaica contacts (Quarrel and Pussfellow) are charismatic (although they don’t trust  each other at first) and actually the Quarrel character is mentioned again in a future Bond film. A solid start for Connery but a lot of room for improvement. Grade: 6.5

Women: Many consider Ursela Andress the greatest Bond girl of all time, and while she’s the first one and definitely in the top  five, I feel that the women upgraded and were much prettier and more sophisticated as the series moves along. Having said that, her pretty and slinky white bikini while walking out of the water is the stuff of legend, and was clearly copied by Halle Berry in 2002’s  “Die Another Day”. The other women (Eunice Dawson as Sylvia Trench, and Zena Marshall as Miss Taro) had nice figures but not very high on the pretty face scale. All in all the women were average, and Andress’ performance, although solid, would also get upgraded with future bond women. Grade: 5.5

Villains: Wiseman’s role as the mysterious Dr. No was  right on, and would be the standard bearer for the future villains JB would  face. His world domination plot is simple and his lair is basic but with a 60’s  flair. The dragon tank with the breathing fire is the first of many evil  mechanical gadgets that Bond would have to battle, although this first one he does not succeed. Anthony Dawson played the devious yet wormy Professor Dent well, as he tries multiple times to kill Bond but in the end takes a bullet himself. We also hear about the nefarious group SPECTRE, who Bond will battle for the next five films, for the first time. It was an easy way to mention the Russians and Chinese as bad guys (as we’re in the height of the Cold War when the Bond Series began) without actually saying it. Grade: 8

Gadgets: There isn’t much in the way of gadgets in this first film, as Bond uses his wit and intellect to get in and out of trouble. Not much more to comment on here, but by the next film we see the first of many work-related resources that would help JB in the future: Grade: 0

Locations: I’m always a fan of the warm weather locales, and Jamaica is right up there. The clear water, blue skies and scantily clad women makes a nice backdrop for our debut Bond film. The camera shots were basic, but for 1962 they served their purpose. Grade: 9

Scott’s Final Take: This was a good first effort that lays out the foundation for future Bond films. Sean Connery was the perfect choice to portray the first Bond, and although he’s doing it for the first time as a relative newcomer, he does his best with a simple plot and easy dialogue. The movies would get better from here, but this was a solid debut. The lack of gadgets keeps the grade a little lower than it should be, but as a stand-alone Bond film it’s a good one. Final Grade: 29/50

Author: Scott Criscuolo

Scott Criscuolo is a co-founder of the Place to Be, co-host of the Place to Be Podcast, and was in the radio business for 10 years. He loves all things pop culture, and someday he will be the ghost writer for Triple H's autobiography. Send Scott an email