Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Essentials- "Dr.No" (1962)

The Essentials-#41

Dr. No
Its hard to believe that the James Bond series has been alive and well for over 50 years. Though, it was not always easy on MGM to maintain the franchise. I remember the studio went bankrupted for awhile (or, at least, was nearly bankrupted) I remember hearing that "Skyfall" almost didn't happen and that 2008's "Quantum of Solace" came pretty damn close to being the last Bond film in history. I don't know what MGM did to get itself back on track, but I am certainly glad they did. There is truly nothing comparable to the James Bond franchise. A series of film that seems to have no continuity, that has featured six different actors in the title role, and a handful of different directors, styles and visions.

If you were to ask 100 different James Bond fans who their favorite Bond was, there would not be a general consensus. Each actor not only approached the character differently, but the times had changed as well. Put the Connery films next to the Moore films, it would almost not look like the same franchise (almost). Not only was Moore different than Connery, but the 1970's created a different style of filmmaking compared to the 1960's. As the world and its politics changed, and how Hollywood action genre changed, so did the style of this franchise. Which has made Bond unlike any other series in the business.

I must confess that my favorite era of Bond were the Connery years. Simply put, he was the first horse out of the gate, he defined the character first and molded him in a certain way. Even though Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig are very different interpretations, its clear that they took ideas from Connery's playbook. Plus, the first years really defined the franchise overall, and I think they made the first films of the franchise very special. "Dr. No" was the first James Bond film ever made and it paved the way to something truly memorable.

There was nothing like James Bond being escorted through Dr. No's (Joesph Wisemen) lair whose walls are giant shark tanks. There was nothing like seeing Ursula Andress bursting out of the Jamaican waters in her white bikini. Most of all, there is nothing more addicting to listen to than the catchy Bond theme. "Dr. No" started it all, and it did so in an epic, tense and entertaining way. "Dr. No" really set the stage for spies on film, and I think the film set the standard for the franchise and for the sub-genre itself.

Another reason why Connery resonated with me the most is how well he portrayed Bond in those early years. When he takes on the job to go to Jamaica and find out what happened to Agent Strangeways, we believe that he means it. When Connery is seducing several women, which has become a lovable cliche in the series, we believe it. The audience believed every decision Connery made as Bond, which possibly helped Connery's popularity with the character. Joesph Wisemen as Dr. No is a powerful creation and a great first villain for the series. Dr. No is callous, malicious, and completely villainous. Wisemen's work is solid, and he's a great first villain.

Bond as a character has assimilated himself as an American popular culture icon. Many of the cliches and troupes that have become common in the franchise started with "Dr. No." The movie gave birth to one of our long-lasting franchises. I will be forever grateful for that.

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