14 April 2019

"I'm just looking" — looking back on Dr. No

14 April 2019

"I'm just looking" — looking back on Dr. No

Just looking (but later touching): Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962

There's a moment in Dr. No when Bond barks, "Fetch my shoes" at Quarrell. Some claim racial undertones, yet I don't believe there was anything sinister in this line. 

Bond was captain of the mission and would have said it to anyone below him in rank — black or white. It's Bond confident and assured. And Connery is certainly that during his first outing as 007.

Remarkably, this debatable sign of the times is one of the few evident in a 57-year-old film. You'd struggle to find a film from 1962 that still looks as fresh, exciting and colourful as this. You'd no doubt struggle to find one as gritty, and one that spawned 24 sequels would be impossible.

Dr. No is incredibly violent for its time. Three Blind Mice brutally slay a woman. Quarrel is set on fire. Bond kills two men by strangulation and stabbing. He coldly dispatches Professor Dent — pummelling a superfluous bullet into the geologist's lifeless body. 

Bond also gets roughed up and is seen battered and bleeding. We don't see Bond as bloodied as this for another 27 years when Timothy Dalton crawls out from a crashed tanker full of cocaine dissolved in petrol.

Terence Young directs and showcases Connery's panther-like movements in several spanning shots. Having uttered one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, Bond glides across the casino before charming Miss Trench into dinner. 

Connery looks fantastic. Bond's suits and casual wear are as timeless as the film, and he could've just stepped out of 2019.

It's a shame we don't see the Connery walk in the gun barrel opening; Blu-ray makes it even more apparent it's stuntman Bob Simmons. Under new HD spotlight, look out for the make-up caked on the Scotsman's forearm in an attempt to cover up his "Forever Scotland" and "Mum & Dad" tattoos. Plus, the sheet of glass between Sean and the spider.

Many features of this film set the bar not just for the Bond series but also for cinema. Joseph Wiseman is a cracking villain — complete with the obligatory deformity. Ursula Andress is as iconic as it gets. Anthony Dawson is perfect as the scrawny, slippery and weasel-like henchman. The beautiful Miss Taro and Miss Trench significantly make up for the rest of Bond's conquests.

We see many firsts that would become staple fixtures of future Bond films. The genius, futuristic imagination of Ken Adam's set designs. The sacrificial lamb. Bond's one-liners. The ever-brilliant Bernard Lee as M. The flirtatious repertoire between Bond and Miss Moneypenny. Plus, CIA agent Felix Leiter.

Jack Lord is parallel with Connery for coolness. It's a pity he priced himself out of a return to the series by demanding equal billing with the leading man:

 "Sean Connery and Jack Lord in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger"?


Watching the friendship between Lord's Leiter and Connery's Bond develop could've been fascinating. Yet this character's constant chopping and changing became jarring. Continuity was never the series' strong point.

We also see a last in the series: Bond singing. Did he do wrong? Well, it wouldn't help to make a habit of it.

Copyright © 2019 J W Emery Ltd. All rights reserved.

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