I had seen Dr.No a couple of times before, growing up, and I always counted it amongst my favourites but I was surprised, watching it again, just how much I had forgotten about.
In my memory it didn't have as many of the future established cliches of a Bond film and was more like a straight spy caper but, basically, it has almost all the cliches minus Q's gadgets and, I suppose, if you wanted to nit pick, a flashy car.
Still it contains the first and ultimately classic rendition of Bond's famous name-based catchphrase, the legendary vodka martini, the introduction of his Walther PPK, a multitude of girls seduced with ease with at least two having silly names (if you count Moneypenny), ready quips and puns, an exotic location, Felix Leiter (played by none other than Hawaii Five-0's Jack lord) and a megalomaniacal villain with a weird name, mad heritage, crazy scheme and odd clothing. Most of all, what is ultimately coolest about this film is the introduction of James Bond's theme and the way it's used: James Bond crosses the street, the theme tune comes on, he lights cigarette, the music comes on, he kisses someone, he combs his hair, everything he does is accompanied by that awesome twangy guitar and ballsy brass. It is a trait that they sort of forget to do in later films as the fantastic big band melodic tunes of the 60s and 70s gave way to the unadulterated bilge techno pop of the likes of Madonna's Die Another Day.
What we do get in Dr.No is Sean Connery's original hard nosed, no nonsense, shoot first and ask questions later, highly misogynistic Bond. This is made somewhat sickening with hindsight when you watch it with the knowledge that Connery, allegedly, in real life didn't have a problem knocking women about and generally being a bit of an arse head but if you can get past it then it's nice to see a Bond movie with some real teeth, something which would also fade slightly into the distance in later films. By the time Diamonds are Forever comes about, Sean's toupee jostling about on top of his increasingly craggy face, it's difficult to take any of it seriously, so you enjoy it for different reasons.
Dr.No remains one of the top ten Bond films mainly because of Connery's performance, the music, THAT bikini and on it's incredible style alone which, in this modern age of mix and match fashion and architecture, seems positively luxurious, chic and irresistible. The plot, which is not much more than evil mastermind with Caribbean base wants to destroy/embarrass America, like later Bond films, is fairly throw away and just a nice loose framework on which to hang a series of adventures.
However, Dr.No does follow the book rather closely, although it tones down the sex and violence considerably, which is almost to its detriment as stuff like the locals believing a jeep with ridiculously painted on teeth and a couple of flame throwers is an actual dragon is almost fine in a book where you can imagine any sort of dragon-like apparatus you like but in a film where you have to build something that can actually traverse the swamp beaches of a Caribbean island it renders Bond's boatman friend Quarrel and Honey Rider as ridiculous, superstitious idiots, also it's a completely unnecessary plot point. Likewise it makes no sense why Dr.No would drug his guests, have them to dinner, then strap one to a drowning ramp in her undies and then confine the other to a cell but without killing either of them. In a world post Austin Powers, unfortunately it is difficult not to see these glaring holes for what they are.
If you can suspend disbelief sufficiently to get past this stuff then you can just enjoy it for what it is, the start of a franchise which I hope will never die and a fun, exotic, well directed comic-book, spy caper with an awesome soundtrack, some genuinely hard and gripping moments and a promising leading man.
The director, however, needed to learn how to shoot day for night, the long protracted scene of them getting to the island was terribly shot and so obviously not done at night, it was very off putting once I noticed because unless you have the bright lights of a city illuminating the sky, you do not see white clouds at night.
8 out of 10 Vodka Martini's shaken not stirred