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Dr. No

Our guest blogger today is Helen Geib, who blogs about movies at commentarytrack.com.

Opening literally with a bang, the title sequence is a masterpiece of graphic design.Without which, would it have launched a 22-movies-to-date series?  Playing over the iconic images is the inimitable “James Bond Theme,” the franchise’s indelible signature. Decades of imitation and parody haven’t put a dent in their fabulousness.

In his breakthrough role, Sean Connery is impossibly virile and attractive; Cary Grant with a steely edge and a sexy Scottish accent. Connery owns the movie so completely it comes as a moderate shock to learn he wasn’t the producers’ first choice. Of unmet contract demands, disinterest, and scheduling conflicts is film history made.

Innumerable sequels, spoofs, and inspired-bys later, it’s tough to be the movie that created the paradigm. Impossible to watch Dr. No in 2012 and not be waiting, at least in some corner of our minds, for when he orders a drink. We relax at each first appearance of a Bond movie signature item and note the absences with surprise (Q, for example, who made his appearance the following year in From Russia With Love).

Yet it’s a relief to go back to the beginning, before each new entry had turned into “the next Bond movie” and not just the audience, but the filmmakers began operating under the checklist mentality. Dr. No didn’t need to be, and wasn’t trying to be, anything but itself. Inside the space of this first movie, the martini is just a martini.

The series has seen back to basics movements over the years, typically coinciding with the introduction of a new Bond. One thing none of the sequels has attempted to emulate is the progenitor’s shoestring budget. That they were designing on a dime doesn’t show in the elaborate production design. Nor in the costumes; the legendary bikini worn by prototypical Bond girl Ursula Andress and Connery’s tux look like a million bucks. That said, you can see the special effects team was saving its pennies for the big finale.

This is a movie very much of its own time, from the cars to the nuclear fears. Connery’s Bond, on the other hand, is forever. With 1960s fashion and design back in style, Dr. No looks as good at 50 as it did when it was new.

Come see Dr. No at tonight’s screening of Summer Nights.

Filed under: Film, Public Programs

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