It is doubtful that anyone involved with Dr No in 1962 could have had any inkling that the Bond movie machine would still be rolling in the 21st Century, but as James Bond made his screen debut and came face-to-face with an evil scientist, a phenomenon was born.
Plans had originally called for Thunderball to be the first Bond novel-to-movie translation, but legal problems with that title sent Fleming’s Dr No to the head of the pack.
The action kicks off with the assassination of a British agent and his secretary in Jamaica. Meanwhile, half a world away, 007 is busy working the tables and Miss Sylvia Trench in a London casino.
Business calls and Bond is given his assignment by M, the British Secret Service bigwig.
Bond is to travel to Jamaica, hook up with CIA liaison Felix Leiter, and determine whether the assassinations are connected with recent sabotage of American missile launches at Cape Canaveral, Florida. In Jamaica, the Bond-ness of this Bond adventure truly begins.
Through car chases, investigations, a dangerous liaison with sexy murderess Miss Taro, and an attempted tarantula assassination, Bond connects the murders with a radioactive island called Crab Key, owned by the reclusive Dr No.
He boats out to the heavily-guarded island, where he first encounters the sexy Honey Ryder (Ms Andress), an island girl with a fondness for shells.
When No’s henchmen come calling, Bond and Ryder are captured and taken to meet the doctor himself, setting up a test of wills, a radioactive conspiracy, and a fight to the finish.
The story is prototypical Bond, with exotic locations and a brilliant and unusual madman who creates a bizarre plot to wreak havoc. Dr No himself (Joseph Wiseman) makes for a great villain, although he actually appears in very little of the film, and doesn’t even appear until late in the story.
Ursula Andress forever set the standard for the Bond Girl with her appearance as Honey Ryder, a beach-combing babe Bond discovers late in the film.
She’s not the first woman to experience Bond’s lust in the movie (he actually bags two other women prior to her) but she’s the only one that clearly matches the mould of Bond Girl.
Other than that, the cast and basic stage for all Bond films were set in Dr No and the formula was created for a terrific series of action movies.
Not all Bonds have been great, but none have actually been bad – even the worst are still fun on some levels.
Dr No doesn’t remotely approach the bottom of the Bond barrel, and even after 40 years, it remains an exciting and well-made piece of work.
Sean Connery died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the Bahamas on 31 October 2020 having been unwell for some time. He was 90.
James Bond, Agent 007