Sunday, October 28, 2012

175. DR. NO (1962)

Like JAWS, Terence Young's DR. NO -- based on the sixth of Ian Fleming's best-selling James Bond novels -- was one of those films that changed everything. There had been sequels before, but this film was cinema's first step toward franchise thinking; and yet, more importantly, it was a film that changed the way adults thought about themselves, giving them a mirror image against which to gauge and extend their personal senses of sophistication, liberation and worldliness. Looking back at it now, that's a lot to have sprung from such a humble seed, but this was a visionary film -- a voluptuous elaboration, you might say, of what Bernard Borderie had done in France with the Lemmy Caution thrillers starring Eddie Constantine. Whereas Lemmy was a two-fisted, scotch-drinking American living and loving in foreign ports, he seemed to play with loaded dice and was seldom shown at a serious disadvantage; those films (especially La môme vert-de-gris (aka POISON IVY, 1953) may have been the template of the Bond films, but DR NO jumps past them with a truly handsome and resourceful hero (Sean Connery's James Bond), a larger-than-life villain (Joseph Wiseman's Dr. No), drier comedy, deft action sequences, and a genuine sense of the value of fine things, from Bollinger champagne to Ursula Andress' Honey Ryder -- the value of pleasure in a career fraught with danger and death. For a film saddled with the responsibility of setting the ground rules while also telling an engaging story, DR. NO holds up very well indeed, even though Jamaica now seems a cut-rate exotic locale, the series' later musical personality isn't yet wholly present, and the film, as a whole, seems a bit too careful. It can't seriously be blamed if Dr. No's world-challenging lab looks somewhat less impressive than the super meth lab in Season Three of BREAKING BAD; it's 50 years old. Imagine what it means, after half a century, that a remake is still unthinkable.

Viewed as part of MGM's BOND 50 Blu-ray box set.   

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