Friday, August 22, 2014

Doctor No (1962) | Music



Music is important in every movie, but especially with the James Bond films. That starts with the James Bond theme itself. Monty Norman composed the score for Dr No, but Saltzman and Broccoli weren't into what he came up with for the main theme. They hired jazz musician John Barry to quickly come up with something short and sweet that they could fit into the title track, but he didn't even have time to watch the movie, so he just modified some of his own stuff. The result was the crazy popular, now classic theme.

As the Bond series went on, the Bond theme got used more and more sparingly, but it's everywhere in Dr No. It's playing when he first introduces himself and then keeps showing up: when he leaves the casino, when he arrives at the airport in Jamaica, when he's walking across the hotel lobby, and when he's driving to Miss Taro's. Dr No cements the association between the character of James Bond and this music, even when he's not doing anything especially exciting. But it's used in a couple of cool, dangerous moments too. It's playing when he surprises Miss Taro by showing up at her door; then a brass variation on it plays when he murders the follow up guard in the river on Crab Key. That kind of thing is what the theme eventually becomes known for, so I'm looking forward to tracking that as we go through the series.

Back to the credits though, what's interesting about them - and sort of jarring - is that the Bond theme is only one of three pieces that play over the opening credits, the other two being a section of just tropical drumming and then "Three Blind Mice," which leads right into the first scene. It's not even a very well arranged medley; each piece just fades and dissolves into the next one without anything to bridge them. But it does introduce the tone and setting for the movie: the Bond theme is dangerous and exciting, then the other two create images of the Caribbean where the movie takes place. One of the other things I'll be looking at in this project is how well the opening titles and music suggest the movies' themes and settings. As clunky as the transitions are, the Dr No titles and music do that very well.

The credits themselves were designed by Maurice Binder. He'd been designing titles for a few years by that time on films like IndiscreetThe Road to Hong Kong, and The Grass is Greener. The Dr No titles are fun, but not especially unique. That kind of animated sequence was super popular in the late '50s and early '60s, with Saul Bass being one of its most successful users. It wasn't until an accident during the production of From Russia with Love that Binder [oops, it was Robert Brownjohn] found the style that would define the rest of the Bond series. For Dr No though, he begins with a lot of meaningless, but exciting flashing dots and squares, then transitions to silhouettes of island dancers during the drumming and the "three blind mice" themselves during that song. It's all fun imagery and makes the music changes less awkward.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. Dr No
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Top Ten Title Sequences

1. Dr No
2. TBD
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