Underneath the mango tree: ‘Dr. No’ – Terence Young (1962)

SPECTRE is now only two months away. Excitement levels should be approaching the dangerously red end of the spectrum. If not, never fear, BEHIND-THE-SEENS is here to help get you in the mood.

Ahead of 007’s latest exploits, we will be taking a look back over the entire EON franchise to chart its evolution, the rise of the mysterious and elusive Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion group, its villains and despicable ways, along with all the gadgets, cars, girls and one-liners that you could reasonably want.

Despite my better judgement, I am determined to plow through the dark and cheesy days of the Roger Moore era and will even voluntarily watch the truly awful Die Another Day, such is my dedication to the cause. It’s my cross to bear. By the time late October rolls around, we’ll all be ready as the lights go down and the curtain comes up on Bond 24. How’s that excitement level?

53 years have passed since Sean Connery first uttered the immortal words “Bond, James Bond” across the baccarat table from Sylvia Trench (Eunice Grayson). Exuding nonchalance and cool from the off, 007 resists the overt intentions of the lady in the red dress but doesn’t mind interrupting her short-game practice for some hanky-panky before his flight to Kingston. Directed by Terence Young – who would later be behind the camera for From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965) – Bond No. 1 sees James in Jamaica, solving the murder of Professor John Strangways and investigating the reclusive Dr. No whose activities on the island of Crab Key are mysterious to say the least.

The one-liner: “I think they were on their way to a funeral.” – James, characteristically sardonic after his pursuers’ hearse hurtles down a ravine.

As you would expect Dr. No makes a number of important introductions: the now commonplace Walther PPK replaces the Beretta as 007’s weapon of choice, the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) makes a brief appearance, James drinks a fair amount of vodka and we are introduced to a doe-eyed secretary named Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and the beginnings of a close-but-no-cigar unrequited love. Other female members of the cast are either duplicitous – Miss Taro (Zena Marshall), sultry – the aforementioned Ms. Trench, or in desperate need of a man to rescue them – Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), but all are certainly subordinate eye candy. 

Montreal-born actor Joseph Wiseman had the honour of playing the titular doctor and first member of SPECTRE. Many villains who would follow had some form of physical deformity and it is a shame his can-crushing false hands are not put to more destructive use. Stiff-backed and ruthless in his demeanour, Dr. No is not one of the greats but he set a benchmark for future megalomaniacs.

That’s how you make an entrance: Ursula Andress – whose voice would be dubbed by German actress Nikki Van der Zyl – as Honey Ryder.

Much like the fire-breathing dragon tank – which has local guide Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) wide-eyed with fear – the film trundles along a little aimlessly, featuring a number of prominent and memorable moments rather than a coherent hole: the tarantula under the bedsheets will have your skin crawling and Andress’ entrance is one of the most iconic scenes in Bond, if not all film, history. Halle Berry’s Jinx and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale would seek to replicate in Bonds of the future but the original remains the best.

Despite an explosive concluding set piece as James turns up the heat in a nuclear reactor, the film comes to an end that is altogether too abrupt. After all that hard work, he and Honey drift in a fishing boat for a bit of a kiss and a cuddle as the credits roll. Bond’s debut performance is reasonable but improvement was needed – from the Caribbean, he would next head to Istanbul. Stay tuned.