Forty seven years after it was first screened, I’ve finally watched the first James Bond film, Dr No. And I have to say that I found it thoroughly enjoyable – in fact I was surprised at how modern it seemed.
One of the secrets of the film’s enormous success is that the screenplay is very taut. I was amazed to read on Wikipedia that Wolf Mankowitz, who was involved with the original version of the script, was so unhappy with it that he had his name removed from the credits. If true, it was weird judgment on Wolf’s part. One of the writers who was credited, incidentally, was the late Berkley Mather, a thriller writer who is now little remembered, but who was chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association in 1966.-67.
Sean Connery immediately establishes himself here as the definitive Bond (though I admire Daniel Craig’s updated interpretation) and Ursula Andress is the definitive Bond girl -she also played Vesper Lynd in the spoof Bond movie Casino Royale, in 1967, inspiring Burt Bacharach’s classic melody ‘The Look of Love’. The eponymous villain is played by Joseph Wiseman, an actor I’ve never come across elsewhere. He portrays the bad guy bent on world domination as a kind of precursor of Gordon Brown, but with added charisma and bionic hands.
What of the music? The soundtrack was written by Monty Norman, who has won libel claims against those who allege that the great John Barry composed the ‘James Bond Theme’ rather than simply arranging it. I was fascinated to learn that Monty was chosen for the job because of a musical he had written called ‘Belle’ (with a book by Wolf Mankowitz – it’s a small world.) Belle was the stage version of the story of another villainous Doctor – Hawley Harvey Crippen. And the story of that musical deserves a blog post to itself, on another day.