The James Bond movies represent the longest running film series ever (in production from 1962 to today), with Eon Productions having made 23 official entries (go home Never Say Never Again, nobody wants you!). It’s a staggering feat, and it all revolves around one suave super spy created by the talented author Mr. Ian Fleming.
As embodied by 6 actors so far, James Bond is who “women want and men want to be.” Sure, he’s hit some rough patches over the years (as we’ll see) and at times he’s been slow to adapt to the changing culture, but with the 24th on-screen adventure forthcoming (this November’s Spectre) I thought, what better time to rewatch the whole series? It’s been awhile since I’ve seen many of these, so it’ll be interesting to look upon them with fresh eyes and see how they stack up.
I’ll take a look at all the hallmarks of the series: the theme songs, the evil plans, the dastardly villains, the iconic moments, and of course, the girls. After each entry I’ll update the series rankings, ending up with a (not-at-all) definitive list (that’s actually totally subjective). Who’s the best Bond? Which had the best action? And did they really call a movie Octopussy? (Hint: they did.) All that and more in The James Bond Rewatch!
Dr. No (1962)
Directed by Terence Young, with Sean Connery as James Bond
The Theme Song: “Dr. No Theme Song” by John Barry
The series opens with the iconic gun iris and animated credits, but the theme is wordless and performed by The John Barry Orchestra. Pop stars would come later, but this piece is instantly brassy and memorable, proving its durability by finding its way into all subsequent films in one form or another.
As the first film, Dr. No is necessarily less grandiose than everything that came after, hamstrung as it was by a comparatively small budget. The action is confined to Bond’s introduction at MI6 in London, followed by a foray to Kingston, Jamaica to investigate the death of a British station chief. There he meets some allies (like Felix Leiter and the regressive stereotype Quarrel) in an attempt to stop the shadowy Dr. No. The well-founded No is looking to make the East AND West pay by disrupting CIA rocket launches and achieving, naturally, world domination.
James The Fighter
The action is surprisingly minimal, with the first fist fight occurring a half hour in and the car chases and especially the climax feeling somewhat truncated. Bond’s sociopathic predilection for one-liners following the killing of his foes is in fine form though. “Sergeant – make sure he doesn’t get away” – Bond, upon dropping off a car with a dead body. “I think they were on their way to a funeral” – Bond, after running some foes off a road and sending them to a fiery death.
James The Lover
Moneypenny appears in a brief scene at the beginning to trade barbs with James, but Bond consummates his first on-screen kiss with the luminous Sylvia (Eunice Grayson) whom he meets in his iconic introduction at the card table. Later in Kingston he meets the duplicitous Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) who Bond has no trouble seducing and then ultimately arresting in scenes that feature what could politely be called “retrograde sexual politics” (there’s a lot of that until the producers smartened up in the 90’s). Halfway through the movie a vision in a white bikini rises from the ocean in the form of Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), the first and one of the best known Bond Girls.
It’s the first movie, so a whole lot! Including:
- The gun-iris opening with Bond shooting directly into the camera (he’s wearing a hat here!)
- Connery’s introduction as Bond, insouciantly lighting a cigarette and purring “Bond, James Bond”
- Ursula Andress’s entrance from the water, forever insuring her and her bikini’s place in film history
- Dr. No’s introduction and (now hilarious) exclamation of “1 million dollars!” when asked how much his fortress cost
- “Clumsy effort Mr. Bond, you disappoint me” – Dr. No to Bond, establishing the trope of the mocking villain that will receive his comeuppance
- the tragic sidekick that gives his life for the mission (in this case it’s local Jamaican Quarrel)
- Bond saving the day single-handedly during a bombastic ending, followed by Bond bedding a woman amid a belated rescue from the authorities, which would also become commonplace
A great introduction to the character that’s jaunty and fun, although the pace sags at times. It gets the all the important building blocks in place (M, Moneypenny, the Villain, the Girl, the cars, the suits) and admirably constructs a world you want to spend more time in. While it lacks the big set pieces of later efforts, Dr. No proves that this is the role Connery was born to play – he owns that Saville Row suit with a leonine presence that leaps off the screen.
- Dr. No
James Bond will return in From Russia With Love…