(1962)4Bruce EderTerence Young's Dr. No started one of the most lucrative franchises in movie history, as well as forever changed film audiences' expectations and the film industry's conceptions of both screen heroes and movie thrillers. Dr. No presented a hero who was as hedonistic and even venal (and that went double where women were concerned) as he was brave and resourceful; in no way selfless, Sean Connery's James Bond was the first hero conceived along lines that Playboy magazine could have applauded, always as mindful of his own pleasures as he was of the mission at hand -- Bond was the first modern screen hero motivated as much by the pursuit of those pleasures, and his personal lusts, as he was by any devotion to duty or a higher purpose (there had been a few antecedents in the distant past, mostly growing out of post-World War I adventure fiction, such as Bulldog Drummond and the Saint, but they hadn't made a huge impact on the screen). The seemingly blurred morality of Dr. No's hero also blurred the lines that movies and popular culture had relied upon for decades to differentiate the sides on which characters stood, so much so, that in their first face-to-face meeting, the film's title villain (Joseph Wiseman) mistakes Bond for a kindred spirit and a potential ally; indeed, Dr. No's first onscreen appearance is filled with as much teasing as Bond's first appearance before the camera -- their bodies and hands are seen before their faces, as though to establish a bizarre (for its time) parallelism between the two characters. Much of what was supposed to intrigue and dazzle viewers in 1962 may now seem tame, mostly thanks to the many Bond movies that followed, but Dr. No holds up as more than a period piece, mostly thanks to the mix of fresh, energetic portrayals by Connery, Wiseman, Ursula Andress, John Kitzmiller, and Jack Lord; a carefully crafted script with its feet in old- and new-style mysteries; and very lean, skillful work by Young and editor Peter Hunt. The sexual byplay also seems mild, until one realizes that Bond beds more women in this movie than any 50 screen heroes up to that time. In looking at the movie today, one can not only see the cinematic equivalent of a bolt of lightning hitting the action-adventure genre dead-center, but also a candid snapshot capturing several new phenomena in popular culture that were about to spring into the world, far beyond the realm of motion pictures. The location material in Dr. No was shot in Jamaica in early 1962, just as the island was in transition to independence, and its culture, music, and identity were all about to burst onto the international scene. The band playing "Jump Up" in the sequence at Puss Feller's club was Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, one of the top music acts in Kingston; at the time, in 1961-1962, Byron Lee was recorded by WIRL records, a label founded and run by Edward Seaga, who subsequently arranged for Lee and his band to appear at the 1964 New York World's Fair, where they took the city by storm, playing the hottest night spots in the city and becoming the first Jamaican band to get a U.S. record contract with a major label. In the later 1960s, Seaga, who had become Minister of Finance (and, later still, Prime Minister), sold his studio to Lee, who renamed it Dynamic Sounds Recording, and it was there that the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, and other luminaries cut a string of classic songs and albums during the 1970s. Additionally, in that same club scene in Dr. No, one can spot a tall man in a blue shirt dancing -- that was Chris Blackwell, who was a production assistant on the movie and soon after became the founder of Island Records, a company that was later sold for 300 million dollars and went on to play a vital role in the international spread of such Jamaican-spawned sounds as ska, bluebeat, rocksteady, and reggae, making stars of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and many others.
Terence Young directed this first of a long line of screen adventures with Ian Fleming's unflappable British Secret Service Agent 007 in a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek style that set the tone for the rest of the popular series. Sean Connery sets the standard by which all future takers must measure themselves as the insouciant and devil-may-care James Bond. The story concerns Bond being sent to Jamaica to investigate the murders of a British agent and his secretary. During his investigation, he comes into contact with the evil and unscrupulous Chinese scientist Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) who, living on an island called Crab Key, is hard at work in a nuclear laboratory. Dr. No's scheme is to divert rockets being fired from Cape Canaveral off their charted course and to blackmail the United States to get their rocket launches restored to normal. Helping Bond is Ursula Andress (mostly undressed in a bikini throughout most of the film), as well as bad gals like Zena Marshall, who almost leads Bond to his death in her bedroom, and Eunice Gayson, a Bond pickup in a London gambling house who proves herself a greater adversary than even James Bond can handle.