Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Complainist vs. Dr. No

Dr. No starts off great! It's got this super-sweet 60's-style credit sequence with cool circles and squares bouncing around the screen and obvs the James Bond theme is killer as always. This is the part of the movie where you're like, "Nice! Watching this movie was a fantastic decision! I regret it not even the tiniest little bit!"

You will soon change your mind, however, if you keep watching.

We even get some classic dancing silhouette action after a strangely abrupt jump from the classic theme to some hand drums. This is where you already start to worry because JB movies don't have a good track record when it comes to like, portraying non-white characters as human beings. Foreshadowing! So you hear those drums and you just know we might be in trouble.

The silhouette dancers fade out and we three blind (Editor's note: OR ARE THEY?) men off for a stroll. We know they're blind because of their canes and glasses. And also because of the lyrics to the song that accompanies their progress. It's called "Kingston Calypso" and it's by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and it's a sweet jam with lyrics borrowed from "Three Blind Mice." These lyrics are adjusted a little and now the song is about the mice sticking it to the cat and so we know that these dudes are going to totally mess up somebody. But whom?

Dunno. I kinda like the first few minutes of this movie largely on the basis of JB's iconic theme (sweet) and "Kingston Calypso" (equally sweet) and it's a cold open but it's not in the middle of an action scene. We have no idea who these guys are or what their deal is. We know we're somewhere in the Caribbean, probably Jamaica, but the song tells us this and nothing else. So far so good!

Then the white people show up and ruin everything!

We're at some place called The Queen's Club because it is very important to us that we know that we're dealing with British people who are very British even though they're in Jamaica. They're playing cards and drinking and their conversation alludes to "work" but these don't really look like dudes who do much work. Part of the appeal of JB, I think, is the way the movies make espionage look like a chill vacation. Even when people are getting shot, you look at JB and you're like, "Ooh maybe I should go there next summer. I wonder what time of year is best for getting into gunfights."

One of the card players, Strangways, splits to receive a call from his "managing director" which is a weird thing to call your boss. He leaves the club, drops a coin in the cup of one of the blind guys, and then gets into his car.

But oh noes! Turns out, Strangways was the cat! The cat that the blind mice are after, I mean! The blind guys are totally assassins, and they shoot him five times in the back. It's really a pretty poorly done assassination. Why so many shots? Why have three guys carry out the hit? A group of three blind men walking together is memorable, whereas one dude walking by himself is highly forgettable.

Strangways mentions before he leaves the card table that his boss calls him at the same time every day, so the murderers knew the exact right time to hit him. So that's why a hearse shows up at just the right moment to whisk his body away, along with the assassins. But then why open with the sequence of the three assassins walking to the club, feigning blindness? Why didn't they just ride in the hearse?
I don't know! #ScriptProblems.

We've come a long way, friends! The scene just feels kind of inept, like our director just doesn't know how to make an action sequence seem convincing. The assassins sort of seem like they're shooting every which way none of it feels real. The guns don't seem heavy. The impact of the shots feels theatrical and not at all like a true injury. Now, I realize that my perception of what a "real" gunshot looks like is completely determined by trends in contemporary films, so what I'm really saying is that the gunshots in 1962 don't look as serious as the gunshots in 2014, and the 2014 gunshots are the ones I'm used to. But still: not impressive.

Here's the real problem though: I'm pretty sure that we're supposed to think that the guy who got shot is a hero and the people killing him are villains and, sure--that makes sense. Killing people is villainous. That's shit that villains do. But I worry a little bit that the we're just supposed to presume that Strangways is good because he's white. Maybe he could be the most villainy villain of all the villains! I don't know!

Next scene: we're at Strangway's place. The assassins show up from three different windows and murder his. . . . secretary? Assistant? Wife? Who knows. She was just minding her own business, trying to connect some kind of complex radiophone thing. Anyway. Now the assassins are looking super evil because they've just murdered a white lady and if you are writing a movie? Or a video game? The most popular shorthand for showing that somebody is evil is to have that person murder a white lady.

Then the villains steal a folder marked "Dr. No" and you're like, "Ooh shit must be getting real." But also you're like, "I wonder who Dr. No is. Certainly not one of these Jamaican assassins! They couldn't be doctors!" And that's racist. They are all doctors. And in truth, Dr. No is not actually a doctor but he was given an honorary doctorate from Harvard and he's just the kind of asshole who pretends that his honorary doctorate is real and he makes people call him "Dr." You should really stop making all these unjustified assumptions.

Next we move to London where people are starting to freak out about not being able to get Strangways on the phone. It's a pretty chill, British sort of freak out though so you'd barely think anything wrong at all if you didn't already see Strangways get killed. This scene is a little annoying because it's a little annoying seeing all these women doing nothing but walking around handing pieces of paper to important men. But also it's kind of awesome? Because it's like a low-budget, 60's spy movie version of a NASA mission control room and how could that not be kind of awesome? I like imagining the director setting up for this shot. "Hey I want one of the extras to just draw some lines on a map. I don't give a shit where they are. Just like, put your pen on a city, and then connect it to a different city. Action!"

This dude on the phone? He tells his boss to drag James Bond's drunk out of whatever casino he's passed out in. That's gotta be an annoying part of working for MI6, right?

I do like this establishing shot. We only get ambient traffic noise in the background, which I think is a good choice. Plenty of contemporary directors would be like, "Hey we need some music to make sure people know that JB is fun. How about something from that band called fun.?" (Editor's note: I don't know how to punctuate your dumb band name correctly and I'm not going to try.)

Then, a pointless quick sequence in which some doofus establishes that he's there to find JB and the concierge runs over to the card table to find him. JB's actual introduction scene is probably the best thing in the movie. It's a card game--I don't even know what the game is. Doesn't matter.

What's great is the way that JB's actual introduction is stretched out. The game is going for a while--JB's opponent is running out of money and getting the casino to float her some so she can keep playing. But what's most compelling is the way that JB is kept out of frame. We get glimpses of him before he speaks, but they're always from over his shoulder.

But look at this shot! I love this kind of thing. This semi-pointless focus on the players' hands, the fancy poker chips, the cards? I could watch 60s Sean Connery play cards for two hours at this casino. In fact, I would rather just watch this game continue for another couple hours than watch the rest of this movie.

At least we haven't quite gotten to the best part, because that happens exactly right here: the first ever introduction of James Bond in a Bond film. Smooth!

Bond: "I admire your courage, Miss. . ."
Trench: "Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr. . ."
Bond: "Bond. James Bond."

BOOM! Stop the movie right there and don't watch anymore because it's not going to make any sense. We start with the camera on JB's hands, as he removes a cigarette from his immaculate cigarette case. And then the first clear shot of his face in the frame comes when he finally says the word "Bond" and if I overstate how awesome this is it's only because of how un-awesome the movie pretty much gets from this point on.

Then Bond gets slipped the card of the MI6 handler dispatched to fetch him back to the office and ends the game. He and Trench have a conversation that I guess is innuendo? But it's just like, a guy saying stuff semi-lecherously. Here's the actual exchange:

Trench: "Too bad you have to go, just as things were getting interesting."
Bond: "Yes. Tell me, Miss Trench, do you play any other games? I mean besides chemin de fer?"
Trench: "Golf. Amongst other things."
Bond: "Tomorrow afternoon then."
Trench: "Tomorrow?"
Bond: "We could have dinner afterwards perhaps?"
Trench: "Sounds tempting. May I let you know in the morning?"


The first part, from Trench, is kind of a silly taunt. She's losing badly but talking tough. But the flirting is super awkward and unconvincing. JB's part wouldn't even count as flirting except for the part where he literally asks her on a date so I guess, sure, that counts as flirting. Let it be known that when Trench says "Sounds tempting" she does not sound tempted at all. "May I let you know in the morning" sounds absolutely like a brushoff. But then JB gets his poker chips changed for a huge stack of money and then Trench is interested again because ladies be shoppin.

JB makes his way back to the office and immediately starts his half-century (Editor's note: and counting!) sexual harassment campaign aimed at the beleaguered Miss Moneypenny. Sorry Moneypenny! Sucks to be you!

JB's boss M states that it's 3AM. I don't quite believe it, particularly since Moneypenny seems perfectly chipper and I don't think she's like, the night receptionist? Whatever. M tells JB that they can't get ahold of Strangways in Jamaica.

And here's a cute part: Strangways was in Jamaica because America was worried about "interference" from Jamaica affecting their rockets leaving Cape Canaveral. Get it? We are to believe that America was having some spy-type problems in Jamaica, and said, "Oh hey let's ask our buds in England if they can check that out for us." And then England sent two people to Jamaica, and they stopped answering their phone, and England said, "Hey let's send maybe one more dude to Jamaica just in case."

FUN HISTORICAL FACT: this film was released October 5, 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis? October 14-18, same year. I'm reasonably certain that if America was worried about Jamaica in 1962, the US would've just invaded and not bothered inviting James Bond. Oh well!

M talks to JB about "toppling" which allegedly means throwing off the guidance systems of a missile. So I guess that's what we're worrying about: missiles going to the wrong places. JB is to be dispatched to Jamaica ASAP to meet with Leiter, who's a CIA doofus who will eventually reappear as a CIA cool-guy when Jeffrey Wright gets the part many decades later. Foreshadowing!

The armorer comes in to give JB a new gun. JB gets hassled about his Beretta, which the armorer calls a gun for ladies. This scene wherein JB gets told what kind of gun to shoot is unbelievably pointless. Really should've dispatched him straight from the casino to the airport. Would've cut out on a bit of this filler. Also it would've been fun if JB really were just kind of a wreck, right? Like if they were dragging him along in a drunken stupor, hoping to just get him buckled into the plane, hoping he'll wake up semi-sober when he gets to Jamaica.

Instead, it's pretty bland. And the stakes are awfully low. We know that Strangways and his secretary are dead, but we don't much care about them so we're not worried about whether or not they'll be avenged or whatever. Now, the real problem--somebody might be redirecting American missiles--that seems like some shit people ought to be upset about. Americans, for instance. Oh and whatever poor slobs the missiles might land on. But we're fifteen minutes into this movie and all we're really talking about is the fact that somebody in Jamaica isn't answering his phone. Ruh roh!

JB runs back home before his flight. But what's this! Something is amiss!

Oh but it's ok. Not an assassin. Just Trench from earlier, playing golf in a borrowed shirt, waiting around to throw herself at the IMPOSSIBLY SEXY James Bond.

Well that was fun I guess. Now we're in Jamaica, where Leiter is ready to meet JB, but doesn't for spy reasons maybe. I am going to complain about the direction in this film a lot because the pacing is just absolutely sluggish. But I've got to admit one thing, Terrence Young! You saw that all this movie really had going for it was Sean Connery walking around looking cool and smug, so you give us lots of time with Sean Connery looking cool and smug. We're fifteen minutes into this thing And all we've got are two dead people in Jamaica, and JB landing in Kingston, acting exactly the way he would if he were there purely as a tourist. Instead it's a kind of business / pleasure scenario.

Let's skip over the weird, passive-aggressive interaction JB has where he and some flight attendants hail the same cab at the same time. Some guy is very enthusiastic about driving JB to Government House so JB calls his local handlers, who tell him that no, they haven't sent him a car and JB's reaction is totes "Cool now I get to murder this impostor chauffeur!"

Not at all scared. It's a tiny bit creepy, but more important, it means that the stakes remain super low. JB is so not worried about this false chauffeur who might be here to murder him, so there's no hope of me being worried either.

JB goes ahead and gets into the car with the spurious chauffeur, then comments on his speedy driving, because the dude is going srsly like 60MPH. Chauffeur says they're being followed! Oh noes! JB instructs the chauffeur to pull off the road to lose their tail, and then there's a quick, kinda mediocre fight as JB confronts the chauffeur. We're never much worried about JB's safety; an intimidating-looking fellow was not cast as the driver. But before the driver can reveal any information, he asks for a cigarette and guess what? POISON CIGARETTE! He chooses death over revealing any information to JB so there goes our best chance at a plot! I mean we're only 20 minutes in but c'mon. We do need some kind of plot at some point right?

Oh also I should note that JB doesn't say "Those things'll kill you" after the cigarette literally kills the chauffeur. So that was kind of a wasted opportunity right? JK I'm glad nobody said that. JB does, however, drive the chauffeur's car to Government House with the dead chauffeur in the back, and says, "Make sure he doesn't get away" to the valet so that's something anyway.

JB plans to meet the dudes who were playing cards with Strangways right before he dies--Professor Dent, a metallurgist; and Potter, a retired general. No mention of the fourth guy at the card game so I guess he must've done it? JB then drives over to Strangway's place. Nothing very interesting there besides a receipt from Dent's metallurgy company for geological analysis, which means Dent must have done it! JK I don't know what that means. Means that JB and I are both kinda grasping at straws here.

JB declares that a fisherman in a photo with Strangways was tailing his car earlier. So literally everybody at the airport was following JB. Like there probably weren't even any actual flights. Just a bunch of Jamaican spies.

JB gets a room service martini at his hotel, and it is not stirred. But was it shaken? I'm dying to know but all the server says is that it wasn't stirred! Oh well. At least I can admire JB's high-waisted pants game. Lookin good JB. Lookin good.

JB sets little traps in his room so that he'll know if anybody comes in to spy on him while he isn't there. You know, like other spies. They might do that kinda thing, right? Who knows. It's nice seeing JB leave dust on his briefcase and a hair across the closet door so he'll know if anybody goes into his room while he's away. He doesn't say anything.  I do at least admire the way the movie doesn't feel like explaining every last thing to us, but maybe because there's not really anything to explain yet. All we know is that Dr. No is behind this somehow because we saw his name on a file and also we know the movie is called Dr. No and that's probably some type of clue.

JB learns from the other card players that Strangways was an avid fisher, but only started three weeks ago. Suspicious! And the captain of his charter boat? Dude named "Quarrel" and that is a villain name if ever I heard a villain name ever.

So JB goes to the ocean to find Quarrel. He literally goes up to the first lady he sees and asks after him, and then she points Quarrel out to JB. Well, that was easy! Being a spy sure is easy!

Quarrel is a chill dude who doesn't put up with much of JB's nonsense. Choice dialogue:

JB: I'm a friend of Commander Strangways.
Quarrel: Well ain't that nice! I like people who's friends of people.

JB: Where did you take him in your boat?
Quarrel: See that captain? That there's the Caribbean. That's where. Fishing. 

Quarrel's coolness makes all the more obnoxious when he gets burnt by a dragon an hour from now. Weird, right? Kinda.

JB follows Quarrel to a bar, where we get one of the all-time great James Bond movie character names:

I mean, am I wrong?

Then Quarrel leads JB into a stockroom made of bamboo that's filled with empty Red Stripe boxes because Jamaica. Quarrel and the bartender (Puss Feller) try pretty halfheartedly to take down JB but of course they fail of course. There's a bland inevitability to the outcome of these little skirmishes that keeps them pretty boring.

Oh but wait! Somebody else shows up at the bamboo door and disarms JB! Now this is getting intense! Wait no it isn't. It's that guy from the airport! Felix Leiter! Sorry for spoilering that earlier but was kinda obvious. All the white people in this movie are either chilling at Government House or are spies. And he's one of the spies.

Gun or ipad mini? I won't tell!

Then everybody makes up and is happy because Quarrel is with Leiter and Feilix Leiter is white an American spy so you know he's chill. Then they go to a party and we learn that Leiter and Quarrel have looked everywhere for a source of missile / rocket ship interference. Everywhere except Crab Key.

And the moment Quarrel says that Crab Key "belongs to a Chinese-" our group is interrupted by a photographer. She takes an ostentatious flash photo and is wearing an ostentatiously "Chinese" dress so whaddaya know! It was China's fault after all!

JB sends Quarrel to catch the photographer because she might be Chinese. Turns out she's not! She is one of the many spies who were at the airport earlier and now she's taking photos, basically in Chinese-face. It's super ridiculous. It almost plays as like it was only her fake Chineseyness (Editor's note: yes, I let that stand. I don't tell you how to do your job; don't tell me how to do mine.) that aroused JB's suspicion, but that was just a weird costume. Whatever.

And of course JB's crew is not terribly pleasant to her and treats her as basically disposable because everybody in this movie who isn't JB is pretty disposable I guess. Quarrel twists her arm the whole time and she says he's hurting her but that isn't taken very seriously.

JB at one point says, "Tell us and he'll stop," which is an implicit acceptance of torture as a coercive measure against a lady guilty of taking photos at two different places that JB happened to be. SO GUILTY. Then Quarrel asks JB if he wants him to break the lady's arm and JB says, "Another time" because he is a famous ladies' man. (Editor's note: that doesn't look right. Ladies man? Lady's, man? Fix before posting.) The photographer is released but not until after her photos are destroyed.

Anyway they keep talking and it's completely obvious that Crab Key and its owner are the real mystery or whatever. Plus the guy who owns it is called DR NO so uh yeah that's pretty much your solution, ya buncha geniuses. It's kind of a silly scene because what Leiter and Quarrel are basically saying is this: "We've searched for mysteries everywhere, except for this one mysterious, scary place. We don't look for mysteries there because it's so mysterious and scary." Well, we're thirty-three minutes in. Doing great!

Some new dudes try to kill JB and they're super bad at it so they fail. They fail so hard that JB doesn't even notice that anybody was trying to kill him.

JB goes to Dent's office and asks about the samples Dent analyzed for Strangways. It's kind of a strange scene. Dent comes off as super guilty and JB is just the smarmiest we've ever seen him and the scene ends with us having no idea what we just saw. Dent says the samples couldn't have been from Crab Key because that's not "geologically possible" and it sure seems like Dent is up to no good and JB knows it but I can't figure out what's going on. Hooray!

Fortunately, Dent hustles over to the beach and meets up with the dudes who just tried to kill JB most recently and insists that they take him to Crab Key so obvs Dent is a baddy. It's odd--these little breaks in point of view. Once JB enters the movie, we're mostly told the story from his perspective, but then we get these little bits focusing on minor villains while JB is somewhere doing something. Not much to make of it--just kind of a strange choice, and I think it's a bit of what gives these movies a lot of, "Wait what's happening?" moments. You spend quite a bit of time watching early JB movies and saying, "Well, this will probably make sense later."

We get to Crab Key and it's obvious that some proper super villain shit is going down. That much secretive industry can only mean one thing: and that is that Dr. No is some kind of Bond villain.

Dent goes and meets with Dr. No and maybe he's a vampire? Finally something worth worrying about: Dr. No seems to be just a disembodied voice and Dent does whatever the voice says. Which, in this case, means picking up a huge spider in a cage!

Jesus. That took forever! Almost 40 minutes in and finally finally we get some proper villain shit! Probably the main problem of this movie: takes forever to actually introduce anybody scary.

Cut back to JB's room. First discovery is that his case has been tampered with. No surprise there. That's what he expected. But wait! Oh shit what if somebody poisoned my vodka???

Well, there's no way they could've poisoned both of my vodka bottles so I'm totally fine! Good one JB!

And now I'll just leave with my drink. I will totally definitely for sure remember that there is good vodka in the bottle with the attached red label, and poison vodka in the bottle without that extra red label. No reason to bother throwing out the poison vodka right at this moment.

While JB is sleeping, Dent's spider totally shows up in his bed and crawls on him and stuff and this spider is, IRL, the sort of tarantula that some weird people might keep as pets. But it's still kind of the scariest thing to happen in the movie so far. First time JB has actually seemed like he was in danger. Fun part at the end: JB smashes the spider on the floor with a shoe, and the score in the background plays along precisely with the sound of his shoe. That's just good soundtrack is what that is!

JB goes back to Government House to ask about Crab Key. This movie does not actually ever explain what Government House is or its relationship to JB. It kinda just seems like "the place where the trustworthy white people work" but I don't know what they do there. Oh well!

Government House doesn't know anything about Dr. No or Crab Key and a pretty lady named Ms. Taro informs JB and the director of Government House that the files on Dr. No and Crab Key are both missing. JB picks up a mysterious box, delivered to GH for him from London so it's probably spy shit. JB starts to leave, and then stops, and decides to go the other way, almost certainly so that he can go have sex with Taro. You're very predictable, JB! Even this early in the game.

But then JB finds Taro listening at the door, and he ends up asking her on a date. But now we know that she's spying on him, and also she's got the same cringeworthy, faux-Asian hair and makeup thing going so we know she's totes evil. I hope JB doesn't do that thing where he has sex with a low-level villain and then gets her killed right away because that's his grossest trick and one of his very faves.

Next, JB, Quarrel, and Leiter are down by the docks again. JB has a geiger counter--turns out Strangways' samples were radioactive and Dent lied, which we already knew. But now we know he's a full-on villain / spider wrangler. Quarrel doesn't want to go to Crab Key because he says there's a dragon there. Something that didn't come up when we first learned about Crab Key a few minutes ago. Feels like it's a detail invented purely for this scene. Leiter calls this dragon fear a "Native superstition" and that is an uncomfortable line. This movie kind of has two groups of people. There's the white people, and then there's this convoluted mass of everybody else. We just jump from stereotype to stereotype so quickly that it's a bit hard to keep up. Leiter uses the word "native" to mean not just dark-skinned, but basically as a stand-in for "savage." But the whole dragon part kind of hints at more of the movie's fake-Chinese theme and I don't really know what to think of any of this but I do not think of it fondly.

Anyway, the trio arranges to depart for Crab Key later in the evening and JB goes back to his hotel. Ever since the idea of Crab Key was introduced, the purpose of the plot became to delay our trip to Crab Key. We know that that's where the villain is, and we don't know what the villain's deal is, but we can be pretty confident that whatever happens is going to happen there. So! Better not get there to quickly, lest our movie end too soon.

JB calls Taro and arranges to go to her place instead of meeting at the hotel like they'd originally planned. Yeah they are definitely, definitely going to do it.

No idea what she's holding. Underwear? A dead animal?

But before that! Some car chases JB on his way to his booty call. Ugh. Don't you hate it when that happens? Fortunately some nice driving on JB's part sends the pursuing vehicle over a cliff. A construction worker asks, "How did it happen?" JB's answer? "I think they were on their way to a funeral."

Well, that doesn't make any sense, other than the thematic connection between "funerals" and the people in the car who are now dead. A lot of JB's clever lines are not terribly clever.

Finally he makes it to Taro's place. Taro is surprised to see him because the whole plan was for him to get killed on the way. Taro: "I'll just go put some clothes on."

He seems friendly.

Right so JB totally knows that Taro organized this attempt on his life, but he's totally going to have sex with her anyway, whether she likes it or not! Because that's how this works, dammit! He's James Bond, and that's the system!

The phone rings. Taro runs to answer it.


JB holds onto her towel, and bites it? Sure why not. His mouth is totally open right? I'm not wrong! Is this a 60s sex thing that I don't know about? The phone call is some other villain wondering why JB isn't dead yet. JB comes into Taro's bedroom looking exactly like he's going to murder her so I'm betting he eventually murders her.

They totally have sex next.

Taro volunteers to cook JB a Chinese meal and I guess we're legit supposed to think that Taro is Chinese? Because she's obviously not. JB calls a taxi and then they have sex again. Only get this! The "taxi" that arrives isn't a taxi at all, but a car dispatched from Government House to arrest Taro. Right? "Well, I am about to arrest this person for her relationship in some undefined conspiracy. But no reason we ought not have sex first!" That's just good spy-work! You can never be too sure about what somebody is up to until you get them naked, and have sex with them. The only problem with JB's spywork is that he only applies this rigor to ladies he's investigating and never men.

JB goes back into Taro's house and pours a couple of vodkas because why not. He's trying to make the room look as though he and Taro started some romance in the living room and ended up in the bed, which he fluffs up so that it looks occupied, and then waits around playing solitaire.

Who shows up to shoot the bed a buncha times? Dent, of course! Dent is easily thwarted by JB because JB is a good thwarter.

They chat for a moment while JB uses a cigarette to light his next cigarette. Dent sneakily retrieves his gun but uh oh for him! He is out of bullets, and thus defenseless. JB decides that this would be a good opportunity to murder him, rather than to try to get any additional information. JB shoots Dent and Dent flails and falls over, and then JB shoots him a second time squarely in the back. James Bond is a real hero!

Finally! We're off to Crab Key. And now, a bunch of scenes shot during the day and then darkened in a rough approximation of night. JB and Quarrel separate from Leiter and then head for the beach. Nowhere near the whole industrial zone we saw at Crab Key earlier. JB declares that they ought to sleep which seems super weird to me, but they do. I thought this was a spy mission? Feels more like camping.

JB wakes up to the sound of a lady singing the the same song we've been hearing most of the movie? Something about a mango tree? I dunno. Anyway. It's day again, and there's a lady gathering shells. And even though JB is in the middle of some dangerous espionage, he's like, "Hey. I bet having sex with this lady would be a cool way to end the movie, so I better get started on that right away."

This is my single biggest complaint about this film. JB selfishly decides that this woman, who is not in any particular danger, ought to end up in all sorts of danger purely so that she'll be convenient in a little while when he wants to have sex again. It's totally bonkers, and it's exclusively so those members of the audience who like looking at ladies in bikinis get to see Ursula Andress in a swimsuit for a half hour or so. She plays the ridiculously-named "Honey Ryder." Right? Weird that that's only the second-worst name in the movie, behind Puss Feller. Even JB laughs at this name and then pretends he is not laughing at this name.

Ryder explains that she often sails to this particular island to collect shells. JB worries about Dr. No's radar.

Quarrel warns JB and Ryder about an approaching boat, and it's at this moment that JB fully drags Ryder into his own shenanigans. Ryder doesn't know anything about anything; if she's discovered looking for shells it seems unlikely that Dr. No's people will do anything but send her on her way. Whatever. JB isn't interested in your script logic! He's interested in Ursula Andress and her bikini! Fun fact: Andress's dialogue is dubbed over because her accent was judged too strong. The voice actor? James Earl Jones.

The soldiers on the boat call out to JB for a while and shoot for a second but give up rather abruptly after doing rather little. It's a pretty pathetic work, really. I guess JB isn't the only lazy spy in this lazy spy movie.

Ryder says she's seen the dragon, so that's something. JB tells Ryder she's going to leave on her boat, but of course she isn't. But before they get to Ryder's boat?

He's talking to Quarrel, in case that wasn't clear.

Oh goddammit. Fetch you're own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.

But oh noes! Ryder's boat was damaged by the gunboat so she can't sail anywhere. Ryder says she knows a place they can hide.

Seems legit!

JB then tells Ryder, who has nothing but a knife and a bikini, to leave behind everything the doesn't need. I guess he hopes she'll get naked? She does find a shirt tho. But soon! They're being chased by soldiers again, this time with dogs.

Reminder: we still don't know what Dr. No is trying to accomplish. We just know that he's killed a few people trying to do it, and it might have something to do with missiles.

The good guys use reeds as snorkels and escape the dogs, who are not very good at their jobs.

Then JB has a wash in the river that he's been skulking around in for the past several scenes. The only thing he might be washing off himself with the river water is, I think, more river water. Whatever.

They spy some tread tracks. Quarrel and Ryder both assert that these belong to the dragon, because they are both stupid people. I was about to say that at least this wasn't racist because Ryder is white but I think instead it's just racist and sexist at the same time. For some reason, they are now going to wait until dark. So last night? When they arrived at the island? They were like, "This is no good. Gotta wait til morning." And now? "This is no good. Gotta wait til night." This is some pretty lazy spywork.

Especially lazy because it is about at this point that the movie introduces a clock: they're worrying about the timing of a US rocket to the moon, which Dr. No may be interested in interrupting. But of course, we don't know that he wants to do this or why he might, beyond a general evilness. It's just a thing happening somewhere in the same hemisphere that JB is worrying about. Not worrying very much tho! If he were really worried he wouldn't have spent so much of his time on the island sitting around or sleeping.

JB and Ryder chat, and Ryder tells JB that she thinks her dad was murdered while looking for shells on Crab Key. Right? So a few minutes ago she was telling JB about how safe it was, and now, she thinks that this is the site of her own father's murder. Oh and then? She tells a harrowing story about being raped by man she stayed with after her father's death. She then killed him with a spider, because that is a theme of this film.

Quarrel keeps interrupting JB just when he's getting ready to put the moves on Ryder. This time? It's "the dragon." How scary!

The dragon is some kind of flamethrower tank thing that serves some purpose that is not immediately clear. Quarrel still thinks it's a dragon, even after it's used its loudspeaker to tell them to stay where they are. He says, "Ok, captain. If that ain't a dragon, what is it?" Duh it's a flamethrower tank. It resembles a dragon in literally no way whatsoever. I bet it must've been a real bummer for the actor who plays Quarrel to say a line that stupid. Sorry, guy. 

JB and Quarrel try to attack the tank with their pistols and this goes exactly as well as you'd expect. Quarrel gets burnt to death, just like you knew he would, because he's a minor character, black, and not a pretty lady. That's three strikes against him in the James Bond universe! In typical fashion, the white people are captured peacefully, but not until after Quarrel is totes incinerated. This is barely deemed worth mentioning by the remaining white characters. 

JB and Ryder are captured by the tank crew and brought to some kinda facility where everybody wears radiation suits. The crew hose down JB and Ryder with some kind of hose because they are radioactive I guess? Seems like a real missed opportunity to me in the sense that they are scrubbed down in the least sexy way you can possibly imagine, and yet, they are both attractive individuals. Get it together, movie! 

Then they go through some kind of shower on a conveyor belt? I'm not sure what that's about. But hurray! They're no longer radioactive. So that's good I guess. 

Then they get treated like honored guests! With their choice of cigarettes! The whole "guest" facade would feel less ridiculous if the tank crew hadn't murdered Quarrel like one minute ago. 

This is a thing that happens in pretty much every James Bond movie ever. The villains are super hospitable and pretty much always always always always ALWAYS capture JB for a while and play host rather than murder him right away, thus giving JB the chance to gather his strength, break free, and spoil their plans. And again, please, let us not forget that the very hospitable villains did just murder 1/3 of JB's party, or 1/2 of his original party before he dragged poor, innocent Ryder into this mess. 

He did basically deserve to get captured, tho. I mean what was his plan? Pretty much to just slip onto the island and wander around? This is a two-man team, armed with dainty-looking pistols, approaching an island that has its own army and flame-thrower tank. Oh and also it's clearly got a nuclear reactor, considering all the radiation that the army types are worried about. This was not a good plan. Almost feels like a desperate, suicide mission, but of course we don't really know what Dr. No wants to do so the stakes are far too low for a suicide mission. 

Anyways. JB and Ryder are brought to a luxurious suite and proceed to drink cups of coffee faster than any two people have ever drunk cups of coffee. I am not sure that I can even drink water as quickly as they down their coffee. And then they pass out because it was poison or whatever. This seems like overkill, right? I mean they're already trapped in this luxury prison on this remote island. Gilding the lily a little, aren't you, Dr. No?

Anyway, next thing we see is Dr. No stopping in to molest JB in his sleep.

That's a weird scene. Next JB and Ryder wake up and get dressed for dinner, presumably with Dr. No. They're wearing "Chinese" outfits so I expect Dr. No will once again be "Chinese" as played by an actor from Europe who has dark hair. Is that probably somebody's dumb defense of this movie? "It's not racist! All the Asian characters are played by white people so how could it be racist?"

Dr. No tells us that he's half-German and half-Chinese which is fifty percent more plausible than the idea that he's Chinese, which is zero percent plausible. Please check my math. 

Their conversation is leisurely, to say the least. No hint of Dr. No's schemes. Basically just him bragging about his sweet lair. And it is a sweet lair! No question? But we're not exactly on the edge of our seats. What's even happening? What is Dr. No's motivation? What is JB trying to accomplish? 

Dunno. JB tries to bluff. Tells Dr. No that MI6 know a bunch of stuff that they don't. 

No indication yet as to what that mission is. Ninety minutes into the movie. 

JB sends Ryder away, presumably for her safety. A little late to be thinking of that, isn't it, JB? 

So here's where things get hell of stupid: NO tells JB that he is a member of SPECTRE. And just what is that? 

Why it's the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion

Sometime in the lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, a small socialist group in the US started a front group called ANSWER which stood for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism and it always amused me to to imagine them deciding on that name. Like, they probably had it locked in a safe somewhere? And sometime after 9/11 their leaders got together and were like, "It's time. We've been saving that acronym for this moment. Pull out our special folder." And they probably have a bunch of other sweet acronyms ready to go, just in case.

See, the name ANSWER is just a little too showy, a little too "perfect." The interplay between the acronym and the words it represents too studied. Feels silly, like comic book characters whose names have too much alliteration. You hear it, and you say, "That's not just fake. It's a bad fake." Frankly, ANSWER is better than SPECTRE if only because ANSWER meant to be showy. Meant to be a name that people would rally behind. Whereas SPECTRE, we learn, is just some rich criminals who wanna do crimes together. So you'd expect them to be secretive. You'd expect them not to even have a name. Or if they did have a name, you'd expect it to be something bland and forgettable, something which only holds meaning to those already in the know, like Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc or whatever.

Ugh. Spectre. What silliness. And why are they doing crimes or whatever? Because they like crimes? I guess? Dunno. 

And why didn't NO just kill JB? Here is the only time I'm going to suggest it is because they have a big ol' crush on each other and should make out:

Also, NO crushes a statue with his weird rubbery hand so I guess that he doesn't just have hands scarred by radiation. He's got robot hands? Or super-strong mutant hands? Either way, he's probably real good at doing stranglings. 

Anyway, NO gets summoned to the control room to go mess up the American rocket, so I guess that answers that. Yes, in fact, NO wants to mess up an American rocket. So that's the thing that JB wants to prevent him from doing, I guess. No idea why NO wants to do this to the rocket. I guess just because he's an evil guy and Spectre is evil and that's just the type of shit they like to do, really. Yawn. As NO leaves he tells one of his goons to "soften up" JB. 

They get punchy and then JB gets moved from luxury jail to jail-jail. This takes him like, ten seconds to bust out of, and soon he's in some kind of huge air duct. 

You know- that kind of giant, man-sized duct you need for air, because of how huge air is. Oh and then the duct gets very hot for some reason and then a couple of huge waves of steaming water crash through? Because this is an air and water duct? Ok sure. I'm no HVAC expert but I think that's usually not how it works. Particularly since JB emerges from the duct and ends up back at that decontamination area from before. So wait, the water just drains into a room, or what? Where did the water go? Ugh stop asking so many questions! Stop asking the movie to make sense!

JB steals a radiation suit and goes into the control room, which is oozing 60s charm! I mean look at this place! 

I do have to hand it to the doofuses who made this movie: their production design looks outstanding all the time, even it's totally silly all the time. I love this control room. Sweet control rooms are pretty much a JB staple, so we have that to look forward to at least! JB is always getting captured, put up in guest accommodations, then getting moved to a prison cell, then breaking out, and then finding a sweet control room. That's the climax of almost every one of these silly movies. 

JB stole a radiation suit from a technician named "Chang" because the writers of this film wanted to demonstrate their deep familiarity with Chinese culture. NO tells "Chang" to get to his spot and it should be super obvious that "Chang" is not actually "Chang" at this point but somehow NO doesn't notice and proceeds with his complicated system for redirecting rockets. I guess it's a nuclear powered radio? I don't know what is going on or why. This is a sweet satellite dish tho. 

So what is JB's move here? He literally starts turning a wheel marked "danger level" so that he can increase the danger, I guess? Sure why not. People figure out that he's trying to mess up their stuff and he's quite successful. So I guess that JB's exit strategy here was to blow up a nuclear reactor? Sounds like a cool scheme. 

His fight with NO lasts like, two seconds. 

I wonder if Sean Connery used a stunt double at any point in this movie?

And then JB escapes the control room while the American rocket launches successfully. I do like the way that we've got the rocket launch on some tv screens while the control room burns up, because the rocket launch is going great and people are saying "All systems go!" and happy stuff like that while NO's place is getting wrecked. 

Everybody is trying to escape because obvs the reactor is going to blow up and that's going to be a real problem and JB runs around and grabs people so that he can figure out where Ryder is. JB bunches a few randos on his way just to be safe. 

Ryder was tied up to some tide-based murder system which seems pointless cruel, and also confirms that it was not super generous of JB to ask NO to take her away earlier so that she would be safe. Wasn't safe! Don't you know that about super villains, JB? They are very villainous. Fact!

JB and Ryder steal a little motorboat just as the whole place explodes. Close one! Hey but wasn't this a nuclear meltdown? Aren't those like, super dangerous? Didn't JB just cause a Chernobyl-style event to protect a single American rocket? Wouldn't this have like, ruined Jamaica? A densely populated country? Oh well! At least that rocket is safe!

That thing in your car's engine? The dipstick? That's for checking how much gas you have right? Such a hassle to have to open up the hood of your car every time you want to know how much gas is in it. Oh well! We can put a man on the moon and blow up a nuclear reactor harmlessly, but still no way of knowing how much fuel is in your tank without using the ol' dipstick. 

This fuel shortage provides a good opportunity for JB to have sex with Ryder which suggests to me that the whole dipstick thing was an obvious ruse to delay their return to land but whatever.

Leiter shows up with a tiny British navy boat just in time to be basically useless and tow JB and Ryder's boat back to shore. Yay. Oh wait! JB unties the boat to give him and Ryder another sexpertunity. And that is the end of that. 

The end!

So. What did we learn?

This franchise really figured out its formula right away. Tons of stuff in here that we're going to see again and again. Off the top of my head-

  1. The Caribbean. Ian Fleming, the author of the original Bond books, used to take a few weeks (only a few weeks!) each year to write the novels while on vacation at his Jamaican estate. He called the place "Goldeneye." References! Anyway, Fleming likes the Caribbean, ergo he sets lots of books there, ergo JB is often doing spy stuff there. It's part of what gives the series that whole "playboy on spy-vacation" feeling, although the settings will only get ritzier after this first movie.
  2. Bond gets given a new weapon or two. That early scene in which M takes JB's gun and gives him a different, identical-looking gun will be the template for JB receiving weapons of increasing zaniness as the movies progress.
  3. Loose plotting. Mostly the movies just send JB somewhere beautiful and let him bumble around at fancy parties for an hour or so until he ends up confronting the bad guy and his luxurious lair. 
  4. Dr. No's lair is pretty much a template for all subsequent lairs. 
  5. JB gets captured in almost every one of these movies. Gives him a chance to try to charm the villain or whatever. Also gives the villain a chance to brag about his cool villain schemes. 
  6. Oh and we have Andress as the prototypical "Bond girl." What a gross phrase! But you can see why it sticks: Honey Ryder has a weird, "sexy" name that doesn't make much sense. And she has no character. She's just there for two reasons: to look good, and to serve as a bit of a stakes-raiser as a damsel in distress or whatever. Only JB was the main cause of her distress but don't worry about that too much. He probably didn't mean it. Just a little extra proof of JB's virility, I guess. Honey Ryder is sort of the purest version of this trope because her presence in the story is so accidental. She was just chilling on a beach, and JB brought her along for the ryde. Future sex-interests for JB will typically be a little more integrated into the plot. But not much. And that's why they get called "Bond girls" instead of like, you know, characters or whatever.
  7. It's pretty common for JB to have sex in a boat at the end of the movie, or, in some cases, an airplane. More boats than planes tho. I should keep a running tally. And maybe there was a train at one point? With Jane Seymour? I will keep a running tally.
  8. Puns that really aren't very good. Austin Powers' puns are pretty bad, but they're almost better than Bond's, whom of course Powers is mocking. JB's little quips often sound like jokes but don't quite make actual sense. 
  9. The curious fetish this movie makes of China is a thing we're going to see pretty often too, I'm afraid. I don't remember any other movie in the series having quite so many white actors pretending to be Chinese, but we're going to see a lot of inscrutable Orientalism as the series progresses, so keep that in mind. It's going to be uncomfortable. 
  10. Oh and we're going to see a lot of black characters who get killed off with little ceremony after doing their best to help keep JB alive. Even this first film really nailed the JB trifecta: "Probably going to make you pretty uncomfortable if you're a woman, Asian, or black!" Part of establishing the demographic for this series was, I guess, to alienate a bunch of people. It's some system of targeting based purely on exclusion, I guess?  

Did I like this movie? 

I mean, kinda. It's campy, but the plotting is unbelievably flabby. And even though a modern audience is going to remember that this movie was released in 1962 and expect that it's not going to quite match our modern sensibilities, it's grosser than you likely expect. I'm particularly grossed out by the way JB treats Taro. He suspects her of conspiring against him, yet has sex with her before getting her arrested. He will do worse things to women in the series, I'm afraid, but that's pretty bad. Oh and somehow, in 1962 people figured out that it wasn't ok to use blackface in movies but thought it was fine to have a bunch of white characters pretend to be Chinese? 

But more than anything? There's the fact that JB's solution to stopping Dr. No is to start a potentially cataclysmic nuclear event. Good one, JB! Good one! My initial reaction upon re-watching this movie was to say, "Oh hey. Maybe this is actually kinda bad?"

Hey but at least we'll return next month with From Russia with Love. Good times. Maybe?

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