Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Doctor No (1962) | Bond
Actors and Allies
As I mentioned yesterday, Dr No goes for a deliberately lighter tone than the novels. That leads to lots of quipping by James Bond, but there's also a gleam in his eye that just doesn't exist for the literary version. Sean Connery was a perfect choice to play this version. He's able to switch effortlessly from bemused to deadly and then back again.
That has a lot to do with sheer confidence. Every time Connery's Bond enters a room, he owns it. Whether it's a hotel lobby, a government office, or the villain's lair, he looks completely at ease and in control. In contrast, the literary Bond is filled with self doubt that ramps up the tension, but he always overcomes it. That would be impossible to put on screen without making Bond a weak character, so Dr No swings the pendulum way to the other side. Viewers know that Bond's in trouble, but he rarely seems to.
Because I don't have a better place to put it, I'm also going to use this section for each film to also talk about Bond's allies and how they're cast and portrayed. I mentioned the Armorer and Moneypenny a little yesterday and don't have much to add about the Armorer except that he's admirably played by Peter Burton (A Clockwork Orange) as professional and humorously disparaging of Bond's preference in firearms.
As for Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell does a great job making her flirtatious, but not completely over the moon about Bond. When he asks her, "What gives?" and she replies, "Me, given an ounce of encouragement," she delivers the line with a melodramatic flourish that reads like kidding to me rather than a true, hopeless crush. Maybe I'm choosing to read it that way, but I prefer to think of Moneypenny and Bond as knowing that any kind of romantic relationship is inappropriate and impossible, but finding each other attractive enough to pretend about it anyway. That may become harder to do as the movies roll on, but let's see how long I can hang onto that interpretation.
The other big ally that needs mentioning is Felix. Jack Lord is possibly my favorite Felix ever, but he's not much like the literary version. Fleming's Felix was a lighter version of Bond and part of his role was to balance out Bond's dark side. Connery's Bond doesn't have a dark side, so Felix kind of struggles to find a new purpose in Dr No. He ends up being mostly just a plot device and a way to comment on Bond's womanizing, but Lord has a great look and tons of charisma, so I love the character anyway.
Finally, I just want to call out Louis Blaazer as Pleydell-Smith, mostly because the character is one of my favorites in the novel. Dr No is Blaazer's only movie credit, so I don't know his story, but he does a fine job making Pleydell-Smith a pleasant ally even if the script doesn't give him as much to do as the novel did.
I don't know if you count this as a quip or not, but thanks to Connery's delivery of it, it's the line that consistently gets a legitimate laugh from me every time I hear it. It's when Pleydell-Smith tells Bond that a package has arrived for him and Bond picks it up. His grin and voice are a childish mixture of excitement and embarrassment as he explains, "Present from home." It's an unexpected reaction and that's what always gets me.
"I think they were on their way to a funeral."
Oh, James, you're not even trying.
Though gadgets had become a thing in the novels (Bond's heel-knife was standard enough equipment by this time that Fleming didn't even need to explain it whenever it showed up), Dr No doesn't really have any. The closest is the geiger counter, his "present from home," but that's really just equipment.
Bond’s Best Outfit
I know nothing about fashion, but I know what I like and what I don't, so for each movie I'll pick a favorite outfit and one that makes me groan. My favorite for Dr No is this lightweight suit that's perfect for looking great while walking around a tropical island.
Bond’s Worst Outfit
One of the few rules I do know about fashion is that you don't match the color of your shirt exactly to the color of your pants. Faux pas, James.