Dr. No is quite good

Thursday February 3rd 2011

Nonsesically-titled movie blog The Incredible Suit had an idea the other week and it went something like this:


There’s a slightly more lucid explanation here if you need it. Anyway, he’s encouraging other bloggers, ‘vloggers’ and podcasters to do the same and even though the deadline for Dr. No was the end of January, I’m gonna go ahead and write about it in February because I DON’T PLAY BY YOUR RULES MR. SUIT.

When I was seven I was absolutely obsessed with James Bond. My mummy used to take me down to the little newsagents that was also a video shop on Abbeville Road in Clapham (back when it still had newsagents and wasn’t being referred to as ‘Abbeville Village’ in estate agents’ windows – DAMN YOU FOXTONS!) and let me pick out a Bond video to watch. My favourites were The Man With the Golden Gun, Goldeneye and Goldfinger. I just had a thing for gold shit, okay?

However, one that I could never seem to get on with was Bond’s big debut, Dr. No. There were no gadgets, no pretty ladies in the title sequence and no elaborate mirror mazes in the final act. I just couldn’t understand the appeal.

Fast forward 12 years and the Bond-ambivalent me apprehensively inserts a Dr. No Blu-ray into the player and gets ready to see where it all began.

After the slightly underwhelming gun barrel opening, I’m treated to one of the most bizarre (and slightly crap) title sequences I’ve ever seen. It’s got about three different musical tracks in it (including a calypso, obviously) and not one of them even remotely syncs with the visuals.

Before long though we’re straight into the action, with the assassination of a British spy in Jamaica serving as a catalyst for Bond’s investigation into the mysterious titular villain, who it later transpires hates Westerners and is doing something bad with nuclear power.

Bond himself is a pretty cool character. Women find him impossibly attractive, he can beat up taxi drivers without breaking a sweat and his spy credentials seem pretty up to scratch as well, even if MI6 in the early sixties wasn’t quite the stockpile of invisible cars and laser watches it is today:

After a brief tryst with a sexy Baccarat player, Bond jets off to Jamaica to do a bit of spying. He gets involved with some trouble at the airport (I won’t bore you with the details) but the plot doesn’t really get going until he meets Quarrel, a fisherman who agrees to help Bond find the bad guy for a reason I may or may not have forgotten. He also enjoys sitting on large boxes of Red Stripe:

Move along, nothing to see here. RED STRIPE HEINEKEN VIRGIN ATLANTIC

They sail across to the mysterious island of Crab Key, which is rumoured to be guarded by a deadly dragon. Also across for a visit is Honey Ryder who, despite the name, is a seashell collector not a porn star. Bond convinces her that she’s not safe on the beach and tells her to come with him and Quarrel.

What follows is one of the least ‘Bond-y’ sequences in the entire franchise, in which James leads the pair across the island while dressed in matching baby blue shorts and a polo shirt. Very little happens at all. It’s lovely.

When they return to the beach later that day, it’s revealed that the ‘dragon’ was actually a flame-throwing tank (easy mistake), which captures Bond and Honey and takes them to some kind of de-contamination centre. You sort of see Ursela Andress’ boobs at one point but then you sort of don’t.

Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the long and the short of it is that Bond wins and Dr. No is struck off the medical register. It all ends with James in a boat, about to have glorious victory sex with Honey…

… and all is right with the world.

TO SUM UP: Dr. No is the perfect Bond film for someone who’s not really that bothered about Bond films. It adheres to relatively few of the conventions that would emerge in later entries, has all kinds of weird unexpected moments and showcases a Bond who’s actually quite the badass motherfucker at times. He kills a tarantula with a shoe for fuck’s sake. Could you do that? No, I didn’t think so.