Sunday, 10 December 2017

Dr. No (4 Stars)

This is the first James Bond film, made in 1962. I can't help wondering if anyone imagined that the James Bond films would still be successful after 50 years. Ian Fleming's novels, on which the character was based, were only moderately successful at the time. They didn't begin to sell well until after the first few films were made. The initial public reaction to "Dr. No" was mediocre. Critics called the film silly.

Then the film received support from two unexpected sources. The Vatican condemned "Dr. No" as a dangerous mixture of violence, vulgarity, sadism and sex, and the Kremlin said that Bond was the personification of capitalist evil. After recommendations like that everyone wanted to see it, and it became a huge box office success, relative to its budget. The critics also sat down and looked at the film again, realising it was better than they initially thought. It now has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%.

What makes "Dr. No" so good for me is being to analyse it in retrospect after seeing the other films. I can't remember when I first saw it on television, probably in my early teens, but I'm sure I didn't enjoy it as much back then. There are certain recurring motifs that take place in all or most of the films.While watching the film this evening I found myself chuckling whenever one of the motifs occurred.

The first and most obvious motif in the film is James Bond flirting with Miss Moneypenny, M's secretary. She's madly in love with him, but for Bond she's just a plaything. Their relationship is never consummated. By that I don't just mean that they don't have sex; they don't even go on a date. Bond always has an excuse when she starts insisting..

The real reason Bond doesn't take it any further is that Moneypenny is too plain for him. He's only interested in glamorous women like Ursula Andress. When he meets a woman like her there's no hesitation and there are no excuses. He gets her into bed before the end of the film. That's another regular motif: the Bond Girl. In actual fact, most of the films have two or three Bond Girls. There's one good Bond Girl who assists him in his mission, and there's one bad Bond Girl who works for his enemy. In this film the good Bond Girl is Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress, while the bad Bond Girl is Miss Taro.

This film is guilty of  whitewashing. Miss Taro is supposed to be Chinese, but she's played by Zena Marshall, a white British actress. The title character, Dr. No, is supposed to be half Chinese, but he's played by Joseph Wiseman, a white Canadian actor.

The optional third Bond Girl is another good Bond Girl who is usually killed in the first half of the film. This procedure is called fridging. A woman is said to be fridged if she is introduced into a film only to be killed, so that the male hero is even more determined to catch or kill the bad guy.

The second good Bond Girl in "Dr. No" is Sylvia Trench. She isn't fridged, and she's actually unique among all the Bond Girls. She's the only Bond Girl who appears twice in two consecutive films. The reason is that she was originally intended to be Bond's regular girlfriend. After the second film, "From Russia With Love", it was decided that Bond didn't need a girlfriend, so she simply disappeared.

If there are three Bond Girls, which one does James Bond sleep with? All of them! In most cases Bond is such an incredible lover that the bad Bond Girl falls in love with him and turns against her master. But not this time.

That introduces the third motif: Bond is irresistible to women. Some try to resist him, but none can succeed. He only has to walk into a room and the women stare at him longingly.

The fourth motif is that Bond always wins in the casinos. He has skill at games like Poker, but even when he plays games of chance he never loses.

The fifth motif is that in each film he has to face a criminal mastermind with far reaching plans that can be anything from world domination to simply destabilising the world. In this film Dr. No only wants to ruin America's space program by making the moon rockets crash.

The sixth motif is that the evil mastermind never kills Bond when he has the chance. He spends time talking with Bond as if they were friends, boasting to Bond about all the details of his plans.

The seventh motif is a car chase in almost every film. The chase in this film is simple because of the relatively small budget. As the films continue the chases become longer and more extravagant.

The eighth motif is that the film ends with a big explosion. This almost didn't happen in "Dr. No". The budget was exhausted before the explosion could be filmed. The producer, Albert Broccoli, asked United Artists for extra money to film the explosion, and he was given another $100,000. That was 10% of the film's budget! Fortunately the explosion succeeded first time, or the film would have ended with a puff of smoke instead of a big bang.

That's all the motifs I can think of in this film. Others start later in the series, and I'll mention them when we get to them. Did I forget anything? Please let me know.

Order from
Order from
Order from

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tick the box "Notify me" to receive notification of replies.