James Bond — Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962) 🇺🇸

November 20, 2021

The time when cowboys in their Stetsons galloped across still-smoking plains littered with slain feathered Indians and bison seems to have receded far into the past. Other substances have replaced the tobacco smoked in peace pipes, probably inspiring the acid green of this unmistakeably 1960s poster for the very first James Bond film.

Suspense, humour, acts of bravery, exotic scenes featuring various pretty women and, of course, the essential vodka martini, “shaken not stirred!” These are the ingredients that went into the first movie in the 007 saga and continued to be used in the many others that followed.

The latest Bond film, No Time to Die, is currently on release. In a nod to its predecessor, it opens in a Jamaica that Bond has rid of the fearsome Dr. No. In the original movie, released during the Cuban missile crisis, Dr. No, a member of the international terrorist organisation SPECTRE, is planning to sabotage the American rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. He does his plotting in a lair worthy of a science-fiction film, surrounded by radioactive swamps which are home to a “dragon” (actually a military tank painted with a monstrous jaw). Stage actor Joseph Wiseman was honoured to play this first enemy, who is also the number one enemy in our film, named after him. Along with his rigid bearing, jet-black slicked-back hair and sepulchral voice escaping from snake-like lips, he boasts metal hands sheathed in black gloves which he hides behind his back on the left-hand side of the poster. He uses his them to crush a statute of the Buddha at the slightest vexation, so it’s not hard to imagine what further damage he could do. So much for the baddy.

As for the goody, Sean Connery dons the hero’s magnificent suit and tie (and sometimes “bow tie”). In this first film, his cult line was apparently the result of the actor improvising as he parodied Sylvia Trench’s reply when she was losing at baccarat:

– I admire your courage, Miss...

– Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr...

– Bond. James Bond.

Our hero is armed with humour on every occasion and manages to introduce a quip or two into even the most violent scenes: “It’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six”, he remarks to Professor Dent, who has just missed his target and fired all his bullets at a bolster. Bond then retaliates and hits him with two of his own thanks to his famous Walther PP (recently auctioned off for $256,000!). This emblematic object is displayed in the centre of the poster. Smoke from the phallic barrel turns into a lasso James Bond can use to capture the sexy prey posing next to him. All a bit macho! 

His 007 code number means he has a license to kill and his victims mount up, culminating in the ignominious death of Dr. No who drowns in a bubbling radioactive pool. Bond needs to get his revenge after finding a tarantula someone has insidiously slipped into his bed. And has to work out who’s the real thing and who’s just pretending among all the henchmen and women who are after him from the moment he lands at Kingston airport. He gets so used to being followed, spied on and pursued that he develops an excellent eye for detail, as illustrated by his habit of fastening a hair between two cupboard doors to check if anyone has gone through his hotel room, which is also full of microphones.

His profession means he also has to stay as fit as an athlete to make sure he can successfully execute all his missions. With an evil, Jack Nicholson-style grin on his face, he is clearly enjoying himself at the wheel of his Sunbeam Alpine as it manages to tip a hearse off the cliff, prompting another one-liner: “I think they were on their way to a funeral”. I take personal pleasure in his bulging muscles, revealed by his ripped T-shirt as he tries to escape from Dr. No’s prison by crawling along the burning sides of the air vent. 

Another wonderful moment arrives a third of the way through the film, well worth waiting for: the emergence of Botticelli’s Venus from the sea in the stunning form of Ursula Andress. She is innocently collecting shells while singing Underneath the Mango Tree, a song that is as becoming to her as her bikini. She hardly ever takes it off, removing it in the scene when she is sprayed with jets of water to decontaminate her before entering Dr. No’s hideout. She’s as irresistibly sexy as Sean Connery, her breasts standing out under a wet T-shirt, nipples erect in reaction to the icy river water.

We never get bored, the movie delighting our eyes and keeping us fully entertained with its action-packed pace dictated by the iconic electric guitar riff. When the film ends (and we can guess how), we just want more. Luckily enough, there are twenty-six others!

Check out the French version of this article.