Release Year: 1962
Genre: Action, Adventure
Director: Terence Young
We—and we mean both "as a culture" and "us personally"—are suckers for origin stories.
We know that the greatest wizard who ever lived was once a young boy stuck under the stairs. Batman was an orphan. Rapunzel was trapped in a tower. Kermit the Frog was once a tadpole.
When it comes to the debonair superspy James Bond, we're surprised there isn't a Baby Bond cartoon, in which a young James Bond rigs his blocks to explode, aims his bottle at others with expert precision, and attempts to breastfeed from women who aren't his mother.
But Baby Bond doesn't exist…because the creators of James Bond wanted you to imagine him springing fully formed out of an Aston Martin. That's partially a product of the time: when Bond was born onto the screen it was the swinging 1960s. It was the time of space races and modern design—there was no urge for an origin story.
And so, Dr. No, directed by Terence Young and released in 1963, drops us into the story as if Bond had always existed.
Played by Sean Connery, Bond is suave, sexy, and sophisticated, making every cool move look effortless. We don't see him stumble, stutter, or fall face first into the roulette wheel while trying to impress onlookers…which we would totally do if we found ourselves in Monte Carlo.
Instead we watch Bond on his second mission—or maybe on his hundred-and-second, we have no idea. All we know is that he is a veteran, so MI6—England's secret intelligence division—trusts him Bond to investigate a mysterious man who is planning to interfere with a U.S. rocket launch. What could this nefarious mastermind's name be? Dr. Yes? Dr. Maybe? Dr. Evil? Only Bond can find out.
Bond doesn't have to do it alone. Sniffing the villain's trail through Jamaica, Bond teams up with an American CIA agent named Felix Leiter, played by Jack Lord, the man who would later be surfin' USA in the original Hawaii Five-O. Bond also gets help from a local man named Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) and meets a beautiful bikini-clad babe named Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress).
Eventually Bond & Buds™ find the hideout of the elusive—spoiler alert, in case you missed the title of the movie!—Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a man who sets the bar pretty high for crackpot criminal masterminds. No has cybernetic hands, a tank shaped like a dragon, and a lair 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Director Young and Connery teamed up again for From Russia With Love the following year. After a break in which someone else directed Goldfinger (1964), Young returned to the franchise one last time for Thunderball (1965). Connery played Bond a lucky seven times, a role that defined his career almost as much as his appearances on Celebrity Jeopardy.
Dr. No captivated audiences worldwide. It appears that suave spy + Bond girl + crazed villain = a formula for a franchise that is still going over a half century later.
While we might never get Baby Bond (and for that, we're thankful) someday we might have a geriatric Bond fighting to prevent a nursing home from exploding. We call that one…wait for it…Gold Bond.
We'll eject ourselves from the vehicle.
Most franchises go downhill after the second or third sequel. As a result, many people often think the first movie/book/season/Vine/Tweet in a series/tweetstorm is the best.
Those people would be very disappointed in the two dozen Bond films that follow this one.
However, Bond is the rare series that, like a fine cheese, gets better with age. That means that Dr. No hasn't yet aged to perfection. With the knowledge of the Bond franchise between us and Dr. No's debut in the 1960s, it's almost more fascinating to watch Dr. No for what isn't on screen as opposed to what is.
Let us explain.
One main thing missing from Dr. No are the gadgets. There's no radar, no invisible car, no jetpack, no shark-skewering laser. The closest we get to a gadget in Dr. No is a cigarette filled with cyanide. (Smoking kills.)
Also missing is the globetrotting aspect of the Bond franchise. James Bond usually racks up frequent flyer miles faster than contestants on The Amazing Race, but in Dr. No, he goes to Jamaica and stays there. Not that there is anything wrong with Jamaica, but in later films, Bond barely has enough time to sample the local women—er, the local cuisine—before he's jetting off to another exotic locale.
Many fans argue this series formula was perfected with the third film, Goldfinger. While Goldfinger could be seen as the definitive Bond, Dr. No is its blueprint. The third film wouldn't exist without the first, and it's important to know your film history.
Thinking of cheese again—mmm, cheese—Goldfinger is a sharp gourmet cheddar, whereas Dr. No is a milder, creamier cheese. But guys, cheese is cheese, and we'll eat any of it— on a grilled cheese, mac 'n' cheese, a shaken not stirred cheese cocktail, or streaming across our screens.
Unless you're 100 years old, a time traveler, an art expert, or all of the above, you may have missed the subtle visual gag that happens when Bond enters No's lair for the first time. Inside No's living room (or should we call it a dying room), Bond notices a Goya in the corner. No, not a can of black beans, but a Francisco Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington.
Why is this funny? Because the real life painting had been recently stolen when the movie was filmed. The joke is that No is the culprit. A missile saboteur and an art thief? He truly is a criminal mastermind. (Source)
If you're on Jeopardy! and the clue is "The first actor to portray James Bond" don't answer "Sean Connery." Not because that isn't in the form of a question, and because we all know that Connery has been banned from Jeopardy! but because "Who was Bob Simmons?" would be a much more accurate response.
In the gun barrel sequence that opens Dr. No, it is stuntman Bob Simmons, not Connery, who fires his gun straight between our eyes. Ouch. (Source)
Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica, where much of Dr. No was filmed. His house there was called Goldeneye, a name that should be familiar to Bond fans. Record label guru Chris Blackwell bought the property from Fleming's estate in 1976. It has since been transformed into a resort hotel. Do you think they get sick of martini jokes at the bar? (Source)
007 Days a Week
In March 2017, the Official James Bond Website made Honey Ryder their "focus of the week," complete with behind-the-scenes photos, although not enough to have one for every day of the week. What gives?
Fleming's website describes No as having "mechanical pincers for hands," giving "Crab Key" a whole new meaning.
Green with Envy
The short-lived animated series James Bond Jr. turned Dr. No into a green Fu Manchu stereotype.
Handle with Care
She may have once hunted for sea glass, but now Ursula Andress is an advocate for osteoporosis after saying her bones are like glass.
In 1991, the Criterion Collection laserdiscs (i.e. DVDs the size of wagon wheels) were recalled for an unknown reason. Whatever the reason, that commentary is now hard to find. Film School Rejects relay the juiciest tidbits here, like how Bond originally shot Prof. Dent three or four times. The censors only approved two. (He's just as dead with two.)
Back in the Day
See how it all began in this behind-the-scenes retrospective. And we do mean retro! It also includes the last TV interview from Terence Young before his death.
Diamond in the Rough
Go "Inside Dr. No" with this documentary which looks back at a time before Sean Connery was the slick icon he became after the film.
Mangos and Honey
Can't get enough of that juicy mango song? Here's over two minutes of Mango. (Not Chris Kattan. We wouldn't inflict that on you.)
Three Visually Impaired Rodents
Ever thought "Three Blind Mice" needed more steel drums? Here you go.
Yes, Sean Connery can do a handstand. You're welcome.
This poster with No on it kinda spoils the reveal.