That Same Old Dream: Dr. No (1962 – James Bond #1)

Over the course of 2019 and into 2020, in the run up to the 25th James Bond movie, I am going to be deep diving into every Bond film in depth, revisiting one of my favourite franchises.

We start at the beginning with 1962’s Dr. No…

It struck me watching Dr. No just how much the most recent James Bond film to date, Spectre, called back to the very first cinematic outing for 007.

In Spectre, Bond pursues an urbane, calm and collected super-villain who wears Nehru jackets, like in Dr. No. Said villain in Spectre only truly reveals himself fully in the third act, while charming Bond and his female companion with a luxury suite and fine clothing, like in Dr. No. Given the villain in question is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, arguably the most iconic bad guy in the Bond lexicon, it is easy to suggest Spectre is first and foremost inspired by Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice, but Christoph Waltz’ modern take on 007’s arch enemy has far more in common with Joseph Wiseman’s Doctor No, certainly when it comes to performance and style. Dr. No may not be a film which perfectly nails the historic James Bond movie formula but there is not one of the twenty-four films that follow it across half a century that do not owe a debt to this somewhat quieter beginning.

It is easy to dismiss Dr. No as a stepping stone to the embarrassment of riches to come in From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, but that is to lend a disservice to a picture steadily growing finer with age. A picture that puts in place a range of Bond movie aspects that without question made the franchise a global, beloved success.

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All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve is an early attempt in Hollywood filmmaking of questioning gender politics, and the place of powerful women within the creative, performance landscape.

Writer and director Joseph Mankiewicz had been contemplating producing a picture about an aged, waning actress for a while, and upon learning about Mary Orr’s 1946 short story ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, he saw the wisdom (ironically) of fusing together the two ideas – telling the story Bette Davis’ celebrated stage actress Margo Channing and how her life is affected by Anne Baxter’s ambitious upstart Eve Harrington.

What follows is a frequently caustic drama, set in the Broadway world of actors, playwrights and critics, which almost certainly by design has the feel more of a stage play, Mankiewicz relying on dialogue and his actors to carry long, lengthy scenes to tell his story. What it does, quite significantly for a film made at the turn of the Fifties, is depict the facile, cyclical nature of fame in an age long before the advent of everyone wanting to become a star. All About Eve was perhaps so well received because it’s a little ahead of its time.

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