Sunday, May 6, 2018

Don't Make a Scene: Dr. No

The Story: It's a standard trope in every James Bond film...or most adventure movies, for all that. The confrontation. 

You know the scene—Bond pokes and prods at the villain and the villain talks too much, revealing what the plan is, so that Bond can stop it. And in the Bond movies, the joke was that the villain was at least hospitable enough to gloat over a grand multi-course meal, presenting Bond plenty of opportunity to grouse about the wine...and the villain's manners.

The Fleming novel, on which this initial Bond film is based (released this week 55 years ago), started out as an episode of a proposed television series called "Captain Jamaica," which was ultimately abandoned. Fleming expanded it into novel form for his yearly Bond novel, a trick that would get him into legal trouble years later when he did the same thing with a unsold film project called "James Bond of the British Secret Service" which became the basis for "Thunderball." 

And for a plagiarism suit from his writing collaborators. 

By the time the first official Bond film was being prepared, with a script made from a quilting bee of writers, there were some changes—the villain Dr. No had not lost his hands for stealing from the Tong but for dealing with too-much radiation, Crab Key did not house a guano-mine (it was the less messy bauxite)...and he was no longer working for the Russians. He was working for the organization invented for "Thunderball" (just in case Russia wanted to screen the film and make the production more money), which was called S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which started a flood of acronym-laden organizations in the spy genre (think "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") and, because the producers were still working out their "formula" for the Bond films, there is some not-so-subtle racism, and a winking jokiness to the presentation to soften the effect of Fleming's "blunt instrument."

In any event, it's an eventful dinner. The dessert course could be better, though.

The Set-Up: James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of their agent in Station "J" (Jamaica), John Strangways, who has not radioed in as scheduled. He'd been helping the CIA investigate the blowing up of missiles being launched at Cape Canaveral and that may have led to his fate, whatever it was. Bond's digging leads to Crab Key, a remote island owned by a Dr. Julius No, that is supposedly guarded by a mysterious dragon. Anyone venturing to Crab Key does not return.

With local fisherman Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Bond makes it to the island, despite machine gun patrols strafing the beaches. He and quarrel run into a vagabond shell-marketer, Honey (Ursula Andress), whose boat is destroyed in an attack. Quarrel is killed by the island's dragon—a tank equipped with flame-throwers—and Bond and Honey are captured and taken prisoner deep in the lair of Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).


Action!



BOND: Well, Dr No, you haven't done badly, considering. 
DR.NO: A handicap is what you make of it. I was the unwanted child of a German missionary...

NO: ...and a Chinese girl of good family. 

NO: Yet I became treasurer of the most powerful criminal society in China.
BOND: It's rare for the Tongs to trust anyone who isn't completely Chinese.

NO: I doubt they shall do so again.
NO: I escaped to America with ten million of their dollars...
NO: ...in gold.
BOND: That's how you financed this operation.
BOND: A good idea to use atomic power. I'm glad you can handle it properly.
BOND: I'd hate to think your decontamination chamber wasn't effective.
NO: My work has given me a unique knowledge of radioactivity, but not without costs, as you see.
BOND: Yes.
BOND: Your power source had our organisation puzzled for some time. 
NO: They are still puzzled, Mr Bond.
BOND: Not any longer. I sent a complete report.
NO: Bluff, Mr. Bond. You've not contacted your headquarters since you requested a Geiger counter.
BOND: But there are so many files open on you already, Dr No.
BOND: Our own, the CIA's...
BOND: The one from the Tong society that you robbed.
BOND: When trouble comes, you'll find this is a small and naked island. 
NO: An expendable island, Mr. Bond. When my mission is accomplished, I'll destroy it and move on.
NO: But the habit of enquiry is consistent. I see you're wondering why, where, when.
NO: I gratify your curiosity because you're the one man capable of appreciating what I've done...
NO: ...and keeping it to himself. 
BOND: Just a minute. There's no point in involving the girl at this stage.
BOND: Let her go free. She'll promise not to talk.
HONEY: No, I won't. I'm staying with...
HONEY: ...you. 
BOND: I don't want you here.
NO: I agree.
NO: This is no place for the girl.
NO: Take her away.
HONEY: No!
HONEY: No! 
NO: I'm sure the guards will amuse her.
HONEY: Let me go! No! 
NO: That's a Dom Pérignon '55. It would be a pity to break it. 
BOND: I prefer the '53 myself. 
NO: Clumsy effort, Mr Bond. You disappoint me. I'm not a fool, so please do not...
NO: ...treat me as one.
NO: And that table knife, please put it back.
BOND: Well, we can't all be geniuses, can we?
BOND: Tell me...
BOND: Does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?
NO: Missiles are only the first step to prove our power. 
BOND: "Our" power?
BOND: With your disregard for human life means you must be working for the East.
NO: East, West - just points of the compass, each as stupid as the other.
NO: I'm a member of SPECTRE.
BOND: SPECTRE?
NO: SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion. The four cornerstones of power...
NO: ...headed by the greatest brains in the world.
BOND: Correction.
BOND: "Criminal" brains.

NO: The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be.
BOND: Well, why become criminal?  I'm sure the West would welcome a scientist of your... calibre.
NO: The Americans are fools. I offered my services. They refused. So did the East.
NO: Now they can both pay for their mistake. 
BOND: World domination. That same old dream.
BOND: Our asylums are full of people who think they're Napoleon... or God. 
NO: You persist in trying to provoke me, Mr Bond.
NO: I could've had you killed in the swamp.
BOND: And why didn't you? 
NO: I thought you less stupid.
NO: Usually, when a man gets in my way...
NO: But you were different. You cost me time...
NO: ...money, effort. You damaged my organization and my pride.
NO: I was curious to see what kind of a man you were.
NO: I thought there might even be a place for you with SPECTRE. 
BOND: I'm flattered.
BOND: I'd prefer the revenge department.
BOND: Of course, my first job...
BOND: ...would be finding the man who killed Strangways and Quarrel. 

NO: Unfortunately... 
NO: ...I misjudged you. You are just a stupid policeman...
NO: ...whose luck has run out.
TECHNICIAN #1: They're waiting for you in the control room, Dr No. 
NO: No hurry. They won't have started their countdown check yet. 
BOND: You won't get away with it, Dr No. The Americans are prepared for any trouble.
NO: I never fail, Mr Bond.
GUARD #1: What do we do with him? (991)
NO: Soften him up. I haven't finished with him yet.



Dr. No

Words by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Joanna Harwood


Pictures by Ted Moore and Terence Young


Dr. No is available on MGM and 20th Century Fox DVD and Blu-Ray.






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