Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Dr No (1962)

"Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?"

Time for my first Bond film, I think. I'll blog them all as and when, but in order. I'm not really a hardcore Bond fan, but I've certainly seen and enjoyed a lot of Bond films and I'm expecting to have a lot of fun along the way.

My first observation is that Sean Connery is superb, and oozes charisma: all the other British characters are very, very public school, yet Connery manages to pull off the character of Bond, comfortable in casinos and colonial gentlemens' clubs, while maintaining his working class Edinburgh accent, and pulls it off. In an age of strict actorly RP he's unique, and he pulls it off brazenly and brilliantly. This film is a triumph in no small part to his charisma.

My second observation is that all the women seem to have been written by fifteen year old boys but, hey, that's Bond. No Bechdel test here.

My third observation is just how long ago this film was made. Yes, everyone dresses as though they're in an episode of Mad Men but, even more evocative of just how long ago it was, this film is set in a Janaica that's still a British colony, with a Governor General and seems the Winds of Change haven't reached gale force yet. Still, the film deserves credit for not being particularly racist for its time, although I notice that, in the case of Quarrel, the trope of the black guy getting killed is present and correct.

It's a reasonably faithful adaptation of the novel- a more cinematic spider is substituted for the centipede, but this is a much more straightforward adaptation than what came later. There are no gadgets: Major Boothroyd (not called Q) only appears in a rather pointless scene where he replaces Bond's gun. One thing is present and correct, though: "Honey Rider" is (titter) the first of many, er, hilariously naughtily named Bond girls. And Dr No is the archetypal Bond villain from the start, with the lair and arch dialogue down pat.

I suppose I have a hard time believing that anyone could have believed that "dragon" was a flesh and blood creature, but other than that very minor pint the film is superb, and it's easy to see why the Bond films continued.

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