(This is a revised version of a Persona Paper post.)
Dr. No starts with the British Intelligence station in Jamaica going quiet. The chief and his secretary have been killed. James Bond is sent to investigate. Apparently, NASA rockets have been interfered with using radio signals that may be coming from the area and this may be connected to the killings.
Bond arrives in Jamaica and after a bit of misunderstanding, makes contact with Felix Leiter from the CIA. The station chief had been looking into a nearby island owned by the secretive Dr. No with the help of a local fisherman named Quarrel. The locals don’t like to go near the island because it’s guarded by a “dragon.”
Bond slips onto the island with Quarrel where they run into Honey Ryder, who is collecting shells. Quarrel is killed and Bond and Honey are captured. They are wined and dined by Dr. No. The reason he doesn’t just kill Bond is he thinks he might be convinced to join the evil group SPECTRE, but Bond turns him down.
Bond is locked up so that Dr. No can mess with another rocket. But Bond escapes and damages the reactor for Dr. No’s machine, and kills him. He and Honey then escape.
In just about every video about James Bond, there is the scene of him sitting at a gaming table lighting a cigarette saying, “Bond, James Bond.” That’s his first appearance in this movie. There’s also M, and Miss Moneypenny, and Felix, and SPECTRE, so there are a lot of standard 007 things in this movie. But as someone who grew up watching the later movies – and most certainly not in the correct order – this doesn’t really feel like a Bond movie. Q shows up as “the armorer” who replaces Bond’s gun. That’s it, there are no cool gadgets. The only gadget Bond uses in the movie is a Geiger counter. It’s weird, but I like the newer Bond because it’s more realistic and less silly, but I like my classic Bond to be a tad silly. And there didn’t seem to be enough in this film.
Well, there isn’t enough of the good silly. There is one bad silly element – which is saying something when dealing with James Bond – and that’s the “dragon.” Both Quarrel and Honey talk about the dragon as if it’s real. But it’s just a tank with a flamethrower. Now, if this was set in the 1700’s, or they were from a Stone Age tribe from the Amazon, then maybe we could understand adults talking about a dragon. But for people who grew up post World War II, you would think they would recognize a tank with a flamethrower and a dragon paint job.
I’m not sure how this movie was viewed by someone in 1962. It obviously started a franchise, but to someone viewing it now it seems a tad … lackluster. Almost like they weren’t entirely sure where they were going with this Bond character. Which is odd because about ten novels were out when the movie came out, and Dr. No was the sixth one. Still, it is the first Bond movie, so I’d recommend it, just don’t expect to be overwhelmed by it.