Monday, April 30, 2012

Secret Agent Enriches 1962: James Bond and Dr. No

So here it is...the final draft of my critical essay on a film from 1962.  The film I did was Dr. No, so I hope you enjoy and learn something from what I wrote and researched!

Dr. No movie poster
           In 1962, the world was introduced to one of the most famous film spies’ movie history.  With just three words, audiences learned the identity of this man, this memorable statement: “Bond, James Bond.”  James Bond was introduced in director Terrence Young’s first Bond film Dr. No and it helped change the action adventure genre forever.  Dr. No created a new genre some people call “secret agent,” which emerged and grew in popularity in the 1960s.  The James Bond series has become one of the longest lasting secret agent film series and has created an unforgettable character who always is trying to save the world from a new villain.  As it evolved the James Bond series also has mirrored what was happening in the world at the time each film was produced as 007 tries to save the world from the dastardly villains who threaten it.  The series continues to tap into such anxieties and threats in its contemporary incarnation.

            James Bond was created by British writer Ian Fleming.  As of 1963 Fleming wrote eleven James Bond books in eleven years and sold millions of copies of the books.  The novels attracted many readers from around the world because of the adventurous situations James Bond was involved in.  According to Geoffrey Boca, writer of “The Spectacular Cult of Ian Fleming,” “each winter, he [Ian Fleming] retreats from London whirl and writes a new Bond novel at his beach house in Jamaica,” which is interesting in relation to the film Dr. No because, like Fleming, Bond leaves England to head for Jamaica to complete his assignment and help out another spy (1).  Most people believe that Fleming based Bond on himself with whom Bond shares a couple of similarities, but according to Fleming this is not true.  In fact Fleming wrote Bond to be the “opposite of himself…Bond, Fleming writes in every book, is “cruel”.  The essence of Fleming’s personality is his gentleness, he abhors violence” (Boca, 1).  When Boca says James Bond is cruel he means that James Bond is not afraid to hurt some people in order to figure out the truth and complete his missions, he does not care whom he hurts in the process.

            Fleming was able to create such a likeable interesting character with Bond that many people such as President Kennedy enjoyed reading the books.  With this success of the books, Eon Productions and producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli picked up the rights to produce James Bond novels into a feature film.  After deliberation, producers Saltzman and Broccoli decided to produce Dr. No as the first film, even though it was not the first book in the Bond series.  The first book in the series was Casino Royale, which they later decided to adapt to film in 1967.  James Bond is one of those book and film characters that can be both likeable and unlikeable by people because of the way he acts towards people and always puts his aggression out on others.  There are many reasons as to why James Bond is a likeable character with the first one being his good looks.  It is hard for a person to be hated in a film if he has such good looks.  Also he is very suave and both men and women wish dream about him, in different ways though.  “Guns, fast cars, hot women and the free life of a spy…the life of a suave British spy is some sort of escapist fantasy for men” (Ewing, 1).  These are all reasons as to why men want to be like James Bond because they can vicariously live a lifestyle that is.  Women also fall in live with the fantasy of James Bond because they want to each be wooed by Bond just like the women in he books and films are.  Bond’s likeability is questioned sometimes because of his negative traits are the only things that people notice.  James Ewing noted that “Bond is some kind of socially sophisticated sex maniac or he’s one misogynistic SOB” (2).  Most of the negative characteristics and traits that Bond possesses all have to deal with two things—sex and women.  Bond seems to not know the acceptable ways of courting women because he does not court them at all, he only sees them as objects of desire that he finds attractive.  “Womanizing is all well and good, but it seems Bond has a come on line for just about every woman he meets…Bond bedded a woman he knew was working for the enemy and then turned her in to the authorities right after that” (Ewing, 2).  Bond’s womanizing ways disgust and turn people away from his character because he is cold to women.  It seems that he does not have any interest in knowing how to treat women properly and seems to only want them to fulfill his sexual needs and desires and often his needs as a spy.  007 is one of those men who will always remain a bachelor because he is content with just sleeping around with different women and never getting married.  However, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond played by George Lazenby, actually gets married to one of the Bond girls that he falls in love with.  This marriage is short lived because after they are married his wife is shot and dies in Bond’s arm and cementing the fact that James Bond will always be a womanizing bachelor.  The first time that we meet Honey Ryder, we see her emerge from the water in a white bikini through the eyes of James Bond.  The director uses point of view focalization to show that James Bond looks towards the ocean and sees Ryder coming out of the water and the camera follows her trek from the water to the sand.  When she throws down the shells she has collected the camera moves back to James Bond and a smile comes across his face and then the camera turns back to Ryder again.  When the camera goes back to Honey Ryder it is a close-up of her torso and head focusing on her wet body.  The camera once again turns back to Bond and the smile on his face is even bigger and he begins to interact with Ryder.  Bond’s gaze is seen throughout the Bond series because of the use of point of view focalizations because other directors pay homage to this particular scene in other Bond films in the future.

            Dr. No established many iconic images and characters that have appeared in twenty-two other Bond films.  The first iconic image is in the opening sequence with Bond walking across the screen as we see him in the scope of the gun.  While we see him walking across the screen he abruptly turns towards the viewer and shoots his gun, and still looking through the scope of the gun, we see blood begin to travel down the scope.  Once this happens the iconic and memorable James Bond theme song begins to play and we are introduced to the next other iconic image in the film.  The opening title sequence, which is similar to that in other Bond films.  In Golden Eye, the opening title begins with gun scope, similar to Dr. No, but instead of just having the gun scope be filled with blood, a bullet is being shot at the audience as if they were staring down the barrel of that gun.  In every Bond film the opening is an animated sequence, which features characters that will be introduced later in the film and also features multiple women.  In all the openings animated shapes of women’s body is shown from head to toe in silhouette form.  The women are shown as if James Bond himself was looking at them moving in sexual and sensual ways that could be the women teasing Bond with their good looks because they know they are an object of his desire.  This is seen in both Dr. No and Golden Eye.  However, in Golden Eye the women’s silhouettes are done in 3D animation making them seem more realistic than the women shown in the Dr. No opening sequence.  While women are being shown in the Golden Eye opening sequence, other symbols and objects that are relevant to the films plot lines are featured, like communist Russia symbols and a mask that has a golden eye. Women become an important image in the James Bond films because Bond is a very sexual person and loves any women that are pretty whether she is good or bad for him. 

Sean Connery

            When it came to casting James Bond, it called for someone who could command the screen while also being suave and sexual.  The front runners for the part of James Bond in the beginning were, Cary Grant, Patrick McGoohan, James Mason, and Steve Reeves, all of whom turned down the role either because of other commitments or for other reasons. Sean Connery was ultimately cast as James Bond 007.  Sean Connery was not Ian Fleming’s choice for Bond but Saltzman and Broccoli cast him “because they liked how he was big, tough-looking man who nonetheless moved gracefully” (IMDB).  The producers and the public embraced Sean Connery as the British spy who would help save the world.  Sean Connery used his good looks, charm, and smooth voice to win over Bond lovers as 007.  It is said by film critics and fans that they “view George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan as impostors” in the role of James Bond (Berardinelli, 2).  Sean Connery was such a great Bond that he reprised the role six more times after Dr. No.  “Connery’s panther-like movement and look of an ever-ready sexual predator, made him Bond worthy…with his leisurely smile, deadpan wit and impassive manner, Connery epitomized the early Bond to such an extent that it seemed near impossible task to replace him” (Black).

            Along with Sean Connery as the iconic Bond in the film series, the Bond girl, and the villains also became staple characters in the series that would set the standard for the other films in the future.  The first Bond girl is Honey Ryder played by Ursula Andress.  Honey Ryder set the standard of how a Bond girl should look in the films.  Bond girls should be extremely beautiful and sexy women that men lust over.  It also happens that Bond girls are given “exotic and far out names like Honey, Kissy, Pussy, Bibi, Lupe, and Jinx” to name a few (Black).  Honey Ryder’s entrance, which happened to be almost halfway through the film, was an attention getter for both James Bond and viewers.  Honey Ryder, enters the film by emerging from the Caribbean waters on Crab Key Island wearing only a white bikini that shows off her assets and wielding a knife and a bag of shells.  When Honey Ryder comes out of the water she is singing the song, “Underneath the Mango Trees” which is one of the songs from the opening title sequence that is played after the iconic James Bond theme song.  Ryder agrees to help Bond out on Crab Key Island for his search of Doctor No and his secret lair.  At nightfall, the two are attack by the supposed “dragon” of the island and they are captured and brought under Doctor No’s control.  James Bond near the end of the film searches for Ryder as she is in danger because the maze of a lair is about to blown up due to nuclear weapons.  Bond and Ryder are reunited at the end and share a passionate kiss that is familiar in all Bond films as an ending.  For many Bond fans, Honey Ryder is considered to be the best looking and most memorable Bond girl to have ever graced the screen.  She is able to capture the attention and make James Bond become entrenched in her good looks and everything that she does.  These characteristics are what makes a Bond girl because James Bond should be entirely entrenched in who she is and always desire her like Bond does of Honey Ryder in Dr. No.

            Doctor Julius No sets the stage for villains that James Bond has to defeat in order to save the world.  Doctor No is hired by SPECTRE, which stands for SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, to help topple and ruin the United States Space Program by disrupting Project Mercury which was the first human spaceflight.  Doctor No uses his location on Crab Key to hide his secret plans of using a radiation beams to disrupt the space launch.  Another feature that makes Doctor No memorable is that he has metal hands because constant exposure to radiation that has caused the loss of his hands.  During the film, it is evident that Doctor No shares certain traits with James Bond because they “both have a cool, calculated demeanor but both fight for two competing ideologies” (Ewing, 3).  Doctor No remains calm believing that he will outsmart and prevail against James Bond and complete his mission.  The only time Doctor No loses his calm, in the film is at the end when James Bond is messing around with the nuclear reactor and defeating the plans that Doctor No set up to sabotage the United States Space Program.  Doctor No set the standard high when it came to other villains and foes that James Bond was later to fight against because he outwitted most people that he faced and did it with his wits instead of just power.
            One thing that the James Bond films have been able to accomplish very well is having relevant story lines that go along with what is happening in the world at the time in 1962:
Not only does Fleming write with great skill and verve, but there is a startling topicality about his work.  Bond’s world of spy fantasia has proved to be no fantasia at all but a mirror of what is going on in the world.  We know now that the Russians do build missile bases in nearby Caribbean islands (Dr. No)… (Boca, 84). 
Fleming uses his stories to show the public that the things in his novels and subsequently films may truly be happening in the world.  Bond films, like Dr. No, play on the fears that people have.  One of the fears is that there may actually be a villain like Doctor No, trying to plot against the United States Space Program, as there is in the film.  Dr. No is a great example of using events that are going on during the time of the film to set up the scenes of the film.  “The U.S.-Soviet Cold War had worked its way into the fabric of everyday life in both countries, fueled by the arms race and the growing threat of nuclear weapons…” (  The threat of nuclear weapons became ever increasingly real when the Soviet Union launched a “R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile—Sputnik…[and showed] the demonstration of the overwhelming power of the R-7 missile—seemingly capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into U.S. airspace…” (  Nuclear warfare was such a threat to Americans that they began to worry about everything that the Soviet Union happened to be doing with their space program.  Also in 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis became world headlines as President John F. Kennedy believed that the Soviets had armed the country with nuclear missiles pointing toward the United States.  It is amusing to see the similarities between the United States and Soviet Union conflict in relation to the film Dr. No.
            During the Cold War, Khrushchev, the Premier of the Soviet Union, decided to place nuclear missiles in Cuba and help another communist country.  Khrushchev stated that Kennedy and the United States had violated an air and space agreement that was a part of an international treaty.  But Kennedy, “blocked Cuba, halted the shipment of new missiles, and demanded the removal of existing installations” which led to Khrushchev removing all missiles from Cuba and thus ending the immediate threat of nuclear warfare (Kagan, 915).  James Bond can be seen as similar figure during the time of Dr. No was made and when the story takes place.  James Bond can be related to John F. during the placement of the film because of his calm and collected nature during a time of national terror.  James Bond himself during his mission trying to defeat Doctor No also remained calm and collected always knowing that he would be able to figure out how to solve the problem.  Along with Bond having the same personality as Kennedy he also had the same good looks that also help him with women.  Many women thought that John F. Kennedy was very good looking and that helped with his popularity.  James Bond is also a good looking man and this helps him with the women also.
            Writer Ian Fleming and film director Terrence Young in 1962 were able to create a film that would change film forever.  Dr. No set a new standard for film genre featuring spies while also setting the standard for the future James Bond films to come.  James Bond and the Dr. No film created iconic images and characters that movie viewers were able to remember for years after the film was released.  Sean Connery as James Bond set the standard for the suave, smooth talking, secret agent, Bonds to come throughout the film series.  Honey Ryder set the standard for Bond girls and how they were supposed to look as a sexual object within the film and Doctor No was the first dastardly villain the 007 would face in order to save the world from his plan for world domination.  The James Bond film also raised discussion of how Bond treated women and how this film set the standard for how other Bond girls were to be objectified by other Bond’s in later films. The film was able to use current events in order to play on the fears of the viewers and keep them entertained with its story lines during the Cold War period.  Ian Fleming’s Dr. No introduced the world to the most famous secret agent in the world and was able to do it with three words; “Bond, James Bond” and with those three words the film industry was introduced to the greatest international spy that would stay around for years to come.

Works Cited

Berardinelli, James. "Dr. No." Rev. of Movie. Reelviews. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>.

Black, David. "The Villians." The James Bond International Fan Club. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <>.

Bocca, Geoffrey. "The Spectacular Cult of Ian Fleming:." Rev. of Dr. No. Saturday Evening Post 22 June 1963: 66-68. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>.

"Dr. No (1962)." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.

Dr. No. Dir. Terence Young. Perf. Sean Connery, Ursula Andress and Bernard Lee. Eon Productions, 1962. DVD.

Ewing, James B. "Dr. No (1962)." Rev. of Movie. Cinema Sights: Through the Eyes of Film. 21 June 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>.

Kagan, Donald, Steven E. Ozment, and Frank M. Turner. "The Cold War Era, Decolonization, and The Emergence of a New Europe." The Western Heritage. 10th ed. Vol. 2. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

"The Space Race." A&E Television Networks. Web. 18 Feb. 2012. <>.

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