Bond—James Bond

As you may recall, one of my goals for the next 1,001 days is to watch the first 12 James Bond movies (that may not seem like much of a feat, but there’s much else I want to watch). So Sunday, TYG and I settled down in front of Dr. No.
The film holds up well, despite the notably slower pace than more recent entries (the excellent book Action Speaks Louder has some discussion of the pace of cutting in recent action films). In fact, while 1994’s True Lies had bigger, splashier stunts, the Bond film has aged better, in part because it’s not trying to top everything else.
One of my film books says one of the strengths of the series is simple craftsmanship: The pleasure of watching a good, well-executed genre film (admittedly not all the Bonds live up to that). That’s certainly in evidence here: The action is well done, the performances are competent (particularly Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No) and if the story isn’t a thrill-a-minute it doesn’t have any dead time either. Still, it really feels different when they take several minutes to flesh out the backstory of Ursula Andress’s character Honey.
Regarding the action: As with Batman, Bond seems noticeably less superhuman than he’d be later in the series. Connery’s Bond is tough, hard, smart and formidable, but he’s not equipped with super-gadgets or capable of super-stunts without them; faced with Dr. No’s flamethrowing tank, he surrenders (he’s also quite coldblooded, sleeping with one of No’s agents when he’s already arranged for the cops to collect her).
Despite liking the film, I suspect it would have had a bigger impact if I’d seen it on the first run. Dr. No’s underground fortress must have been quite an eye-opener at the time; today, such citadels (as Roger Ebert puts it, “the impregnable fortress impregnated”) are par for the course.
But what counts is, it still works, 40 years later. And that’s something everyone involved can be proud of.

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One response to “Bond—James Bond

  1. Pingback: James Bond: the spy on whom the sun never sets (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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