DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
DR. NO (director: Terence Young; screenwriters: from the novel by Ian Fleming/Richard Maibaum/Berkely Mather/Joanna Harwood; cinematographer: Ted Moore; editor: Peter Hunt; music: Monty Norman; cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Ursula Andress (Honey Rider), Joseph Wiseman (Dr No), John Kitzmiller (Quarrel), Jack Lord (Felix Leiter), Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent), Zena Marshall (Miss Taro), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Robert Rietty (John Strangways), Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent), Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench), Reggie Carter (Jones, chauffeur), Margaret Le Wars (Photographer); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Albert R. Broccoli/Harry Saltzman; United Artists; 1962-UK)

 
"Less gimmicky, more charming."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Terence Young ("Wait Until Dark"/"From Russia with Love"/"Thunderball") directs the first in the long running successful series of Bond films. It introduces John Barry's famous James Bond theme music; its featured tune is a catchy faux calypso song "Underneath the Mango Tree." It's taken from the novel by Ian Fleming and the screenplay is by Richard Maibaum, Berkely Mather and Joanna Harwood. Sean Connery, clearly the best 007 ever, sets the high-standard in acting cool for this money-making enterprise that relied on slick formulaic hokum, continuous action, a fast-pace, not revealing casual sex scenes with beautiful women (later known as Bond girls), nonchalant lighthearted sadism and tongue-in-cheek styled lightweight humor.

It opens with the well-planned execution in Kingston, Jamaica, of a resident Brit agent named Strangways by three local assassins dressed as the Three Blind Mice. Soon afterwards, the agent's secretary is executed in the office. In London, M (Bernard Lee) pulls James Bond (Sean Connery) away from the casino at 3 a.m. to tell him of his immediate assignment to fly that evening to Kingston and find out what happened to the agent and investigate why American intelligence believes their rocket launches from Cape Canaveral have been experiencing interference from that part of the world. 

Bond lands in Kingston and the chauffeur turns out to be working for the enemy, and when confronted prefers to kill himself with a cyanide cigarette rather than blab. A Chinese lady photographer, caught taking Bond's photo in a restaurant, would rather have her arm broken than talk. Helped by CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and his local contact, a fisherman on Cayman Island named Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Bond snoops around to discover there's something fishy about Crab Key, owned by steel-clawed master criminal and twisted scientific genius Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a mysterious Eurasian born in China to missionaries who does not allow anyone on his island without his permission. Bond learns that one of Strangways' last acts was to bring radioactive rocks to Professor Dawson for analysis, and was given wrong information. After a few more incidents to endanger his health, such as dealing with a scorpion an assassin placed in his bed, an attempt made to run him off a hilly country road and an assassin trying to kill him in the enemy spy Miss Taro's bed, Bond is certain Dr. No is behind all the trouble and gets Quarrel to take him secretly to Crab Key. There he runs into sexy blonde bikini-clad sea diving shell collector Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) and Dr. No's vast security force, who kill Quarrel and take the two prisoner's back to the boss's elaborate undersea laboratory for a heart to heart chat. There Bond learns that Dr. No is a member of SPECTRE, bent on world domination, who uses a nuclear reactor to divert missiles launched by the Americans so he can blackmail them into buying them back at outrageous fees. To get off the island after he blows it up, Bond must defeat Dr. No's large private army single-handed. Which, of course, turns out to be no big problem.

All the Bond films are hardly memorable and lack human warmth. But this one is made cheaper than the others (shot in Pinewood Studio and on location in Jamaica for just over $1.1 million), is more low-key, less gimmicky, more charming, a young unknown Connery is at his best and it's easy to handle without all those double entendres that were soon to follow. For what it attempts to do, it does well; such as play to the crude male fantasies as does Playboy magazine by showing that it's cool to wear stylish threads, drink martinis, gamble for high-stakes and be a womanizer. This one is a good place to start watching Bond films if you've never done so before (the films got bigger, but not necessarily better) or found the more recent ones too trite and obnoxious. If you're looking for something more than escapism, then you're in the wrong pew. 

REVIEWED ON 3/26/2007        GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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