Bond, Review Bond: Dr. No
Such a stupid title, it just might work.
My first Bond film was Goldeneye, which came out in 1995. I was twelve years old and that scene of Xenia Onatopp nearly crushing Bond with her thighs awakened something in me I can only describe as A Fetish. Prior to Goldeneye, I had practically no concept of Bond films, aside from parodies like Austin Powers. I knew Sean Connery was in a lot of them, I knew Roger Moore was in moore of them1, I knew they wore suits and loved card games, but I didn’t really care about watching them, mainly because I was worried that they would be very, very, bad. This concept worsened as I got older and more aware of the misogyny and sexist antics of our favorite STD petri dish, which only pushed me away from watching the franchise.
Then the other day I was looking for stuff to watch on my new Big TV, especially things I could watch on my Amazon Prime account, which was set to expire on the 5th of July2. While flipping through the options (well, not flipping so much anymore … swiping?), I noticed it was trying to get me to watch the newer Bond films, the ones with Daniel Craig. And I thought, What was the last Daniel Craig Bond film I’ve seen? I couldn’t really answer that question. I remember Skyfall because of the song and because of Javier Bardem, but that was about it. I remember Casino Royale because of baccarat and the very dumb paddle they use to move cards around. (Also I think that’s the one where Bond has to defibrillate himself, which is absurd but whatever.) But the others, Quantum of Solace, No Time to Die, and By God’s Green Trousers I don’t think I’ve seen before.
As you can probably extrapolate by now, I decided to just watch them all from the very start of the franchise.
Dr. No is two films: the first half is a very fun spy thriller in which James Bond must sit on his boss’s secretary’s lap and present one of the most awkward scenes in the history of cinema. This is one point where the newer films get the Moneypenny/Bond flirting right. In No, it’s one scene and it’s out of nowhere and awkward. Anyway, Bond is trying to figure out who killed some operatives in Jamaica. Along the way he learns about Dr. No, or already knew about him before he left, I’m not sure.
I want to be clear at this point: I was watching this movie. This wasn’t on while I scrolled through my phone or made a lasagna. I did check my phone sometimes but it’s the 21st century baby, that’s what we do now. Regardless, despite sitting with my eyeballs staring at the screen, I still barely know what happened in this film.
Bond has some adventures in the first half and it’s fun and interesting. At one point he is chased by the guy who drives the black hearse and it’s a wild cut between Connery in front of a projection of a car chasing him, and shots of the actual chase. I know CGI wasn’t invented yet but couldn’t they have just given it a shot, you know? Then Bond drives underneath a crane from a construction vehicle on the roadway, and the hearse flies off the cliff and god damn explodes for no reason. Excellent. Also the fights in this film are funny as hell. Bond fighting the chauffer where he just like judo flips him in one second and it's over is funny as hell. But I get it! It’s a film from the 60s, it’s not meant to be full of martial arts and parkour and the stuff you’d see in the more modern films.
I also enjoyed the surprisingly long shot of Bond applying a strand of his hair to a closet door to see if anyone has opened it later on. It’s like a 10 second shot of him grooming a hair onto the door. Imagine Michael Bay making that shot now. Sixteen cuts with extreme music and then the door explodes and Optimus Prime walks out.
The second half of Dr. No is a boring slog through some half-assed attempts at character intrigue and the kind of futuristic tech space shit that Bond films often deal with. During this film they keep talking about the Dragon, and my understanding is that people thought it was an actual, fire-breathing dragon, like a legend. But then in a later scene someone (Honey Ryder I think?) points at some tank treads in the ground and is like “That’s the Dragon” and Bond’s not like, “Oh wait the Dragon is a vehicle and not an actual dragon?” I guess they didn’t do this because it would make James Bond sound very stupid if he didn’t just see the context clue and make the connection that the Dragon was a vehicle and not an actual scary dragon. But I could’ve used it because I’m very stupid!
Then the Dragon shows up and it’s basically a big tank that breathes fire. It sees our heroes and approaches. Bond’s Great Idea is to shoot out the headlights of the Dragon, which probably wouldn’t be able to see them then except I guess Bond forgets that fire emits light. So they’re shooting the Dragon, lots of “PYEOW!” ricochet sounds. Then the fucking, god damn Dragon, which has been driving at 5 MPH for the entire scene, immolates Quarrel, who has been sitting there shooting at it and not, I don’t know, running away like a normal person would do. The steamroller scene in Austin Powers makes so much more sense to me now. See, I always thought that scene was a homage to a general concept of these types of classic films and not a parody of an actual scene in a Bond film. What can I say, I was 13 when the first Austin Powers came out.
Also at one point Ursula Andress just walks out of the water like Aphrodite, and she’s obsessed with shells. She’s gotta get them shells. This shell? She could get $50 for it in Miami.3 I don’t know who’s buying shells for that kind of money but sign me up. But then they run off because some guys on a boat are looking for them, and this woman just leaves two shells on the ground! Girl! Those shells are valuable! Think about how much they would get in Miami!
So who is Honey Ryder? No one, as far as I can tell she’s just some damn woman who got caught up in this mess. In more modern Bond films she would be important, she would be a double spy or something. She would be spying for the Canadians. But she slipped past Dr. No’s radar because she has a tiny boat. Honey Radar, more like!
Anyway the Dragon fucking burns a man alive who could’ve just walked casually away, and then Bond and Ryder get caught and it turns out they were wandering around in a radioactive sludge or something so they have to get decontaminated, which is where the “long pee” scene in Austin Powers comes from. I’m learning as I’m watching, people. The rest of the movie I’m fuzzy on. Dr. No has no hands. Dr. No Hands they should’ve called him. He’s got radioactive stuff going on in a pool that’s just an open pool with no walls to contain it in case it explodes or anything. Great. I guess Chernobyl was 23 years in the future. There’s a rocket launch that is connected to this whole thing but also not? I really don’t know. I could look it up but it wouldn’t be as fun.
Bond and Ryder get put into prison rooms that look like hotel rooms and then they drink coffee, which is laced with something that knocks them unconscious. Uh, why? You’re already in the guy’s secret lair. They eat food with Dr. No who explains that he is in SPECTRE, which is a big Bond thing. I know SPECTRE comes up a lot. Then after dinner Bond gets put into an actual prison cell. I can’t remember why. Bond breaks through his cell by lightly kicking a large, flimsy grate, allowing him access to tubes. At one point water threatens to wash him away, but it’s like a couple gallons that wash over him, so it’s fine. The worst part is that the pipe is hot so he’s gotta wrap his hands up. I guess a thin bit of linen is enough?
Bond breaks into the central chamber by kicking another flimsy grate. This is where the radioactive thing is happening. Dr. No mistakes him for another guy because he’s wearing a radiation suit and tells him to go do his job, so Bond goes to the panel of controls right above the radioactive pool (OSHA would have an aneurysm at this place) and turns up the temperature? The radioactivity? I’m not sure what he turns up, but he turns it up to Dangerous Levels™ and the water starts boiling. The rocket launch happens; I’m not sure if it was supposed to launch or not launch, but it launched! As everyone evacuates the secret lair, Dr. No and Bond fight and No ends up slipping into the water because his prosthetic hands can’t grasp the cage and he dies.
Now a few scenes prior to this, when they’re at dinner, Dr. No shows off his menacing side by crushing a metal statue in one of his hands. So we’ve been shown that his fake hands can close, and close very tightly. But apparently not now, when he desperately needs them to.
Anyway Bond and Ryder find a boat and escape as the whole thing explodes. They fuck in the boat. The end.
Again, I’m not sure what was going on in the entire second half of the movie.
I’m going to give Dr. No a 2.5/5 stars. I’ll rank them as I watch them too. I would add the films I’ve already seen but I don’t think I’ve watched Goldeneye and the other Brosnan films since they were released, and I barely remember the Daniel Craig films, so: fresh start. Clean slate. Can’t lose. So here we go, the first official Definitive Belville Bond Film Ranking:
DEFINITIVE BELVILLE BOND FILM RANKING
Dr. No - 2.5/5
See you next time, unless I forget to write another post. This was sort of spontaneous.
For the first time ever, I forgot about my Prime free trial and it lapsed and I ended up paying Jeffrey Bezos the full price of a Prime membership for one month. I am ashamed.
To be fair that would be about $480 today.