Monday, August 13, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Dr. No" (1962)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

“Dr. No” is a bit of a mess. The plot is barely strung together enough to sustain all of the action. This is not quite a James Bond film yet, not in the way they would come to be known, but it is close. As far as spy stories or even mysteries go, it is not developed enough to really give one insight into the mindset regarding the “Cold War” of the early 60s. Then again, maybe that is itself an insight. Either the conflict was so stressful that people needed a light-hearted, glamorous spin on things, or it wasn’t perceived to be serious enough for people to worry about. To have “Dr. No” tell it, espionage in the Cold War was all about adventure and hedonism. The conflict was just background.

One even begins to think that maybe the Cold War was like the other unfounded fears people had back in the sixties. This is not just a problem from this first film. Back then it appears that people really did think that things like tarantulas could be poisonous enough to kill, or that one’s skin had to “breathe.” It is not exactly that people were not as smart back then. The collective knowledge was simply not as comprehensive. The places that Bond traveled to were truly more exotic than they are today because people could not travel as much as they do now.

It is easier to see here why so many people find Bond repulsive when one watches these early films. This too, though, is an insight into the western culture of the day and an indictment of our day. One of the most talked about scenes in the film has James Bond kill a man in cold blood, not because he has to but because he can. Sure the man had just tried to kill Bond by emptying his gun into some pillows he mistook for the sleeping agent. However, after a few questions and an attempt by the man to shoot him again with an empty weapon, Bond shoots him dead. The reaction at the time was probably guilty pleasure. Today we don’t even give it a second thought. We are enamored with our anti-heroes. Films like last year’s “Drive” reveal just how far down the sadistic rabbit hole we have gone.

I never considered “Dr. No” to be one of my favorites of the Bond series, but I have always like Connery’s interpretation best. This rewatch has begun to make me nervous for the rest of the series.

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