Release Date: October 5th, 1962 (London premiere)
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Monty Norman
Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Milton Reid (uncredited)
Eon Productions, United Artists, 109 Minutes
“The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be.” – Dr. Julius No
James Bond had to start somewhere and Dr. No is just that, his cinematic debut.
Granted, he appeared in Ian Fleming’s novels and they were the inspiration for pretty much all the Bond films, even to this day. However, the world didn’t have the love for the character until he hit the big screen.
When I did my ranking of the movies in the James Bond film franchise (see here), I ranked this third. Only On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and From Russia With Love are ranked higher.
What makes Dr. No so great, is that it exists in a world without any other Bond film before it. It wasn’t as refined and as playful as the pictures that would come after it. It had a genuine grittiness to it, even if it showcased decadence and opulence within the sets and the world it was set in. Dr. No was less gadgety and more balls to the wall. It also featured less location jumping and just told a great story. Plus, the Jamaican scenery was beautiful and added to this picture’s mystique and allure.
Additionally, the film introduced the world to Sean Connery, who is still most people’s favorite James Bond. He was mesmerizing and bad ass in the role and he made it his own. In fact, the character was so uniquely Connery’s that every actor after him, had to put their own spin on the character and not try to replicate Connery’s interpretation.
The picture also introduces us to the evil organization SPECTRE. While many great Bond films have come and gone, there is just something about the weight that a picture featuring SPECTRE has compared to all the other chapters in the franchise.
While Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No is not as much of a threat as later SPECTRE members would be for Bond, he was a great introduction to that organization and what it was all about. I love the Dr. No character but for a film titled after him, he needed some extra meat. Regardless, as a character, he still accomplishes what he was set out to do and opens up the James Bond mythos for the Connery (and Lazenby) run of films.
Dr. No is a hell of a lot of fun and a great start to a mostly great film franchise. The masses must have agreed, as it has spawned two dozen sequels, more sequels to come and now there’s talk of an expanded cinematic universe for this franchise.