Friday, October 5, 2012

Just Say Yes to “No”

A 1964 Spanish edition of Dr. No

Like millions of other people, you probably missed the memo, but today happens to be Global James Bond Day. It was 50 years ago, on October 5, 1962, that the film Dr. No--the first big-screen Bond movie, and the earliest of Sean Connery’s seven Agent 007 pictures--commenced showing at the London Pavilion. That thriller went on to debut in a number of other theaters around England over the next several days. Not until May 1963 did it finally reached U.S. movie houses.

(Left) British first-edition cover, Jonathan Cape, 1958

According to Wikipedia, Dr. No--which was of course based on Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel of the same name--initially “received a mixed critical reception”:
Time called Bond a “blithering bounder” and “a great big hairy marshmallow” who “almost always manages to seem slightly silly.” Stanley Kauffmann in The New Republic said that he felt the film “never decides whether it is suspense or suspense-spoof.” He also did not like Connery, or the Fleming novels. The Vatican condemned Dr. No because of Bond’s cruelty and the sexual content, whilst the Kremlin said that Bond was the personification of capitalist evil--both controversies helped increase public awareness of the film and greater cinema attendance. However, Leonard Mosely in The Daily Express said that “Dr. No is fun all the way, and even the sex is harmless,” whilst Penelope Gilliatt in The Observer said it was “full of submerged self-parody.” The Guardian’s critic called Dr. No “crisp and well-tailored” and “a neat and gripping thriller.”
Other bloggers and critics may enthuse today over Connery’s interpretation, in Dr. No, of Fleming’s accomplished but demonstrably sexist secret agent. Perhaps they’ll extol the supple curves of co-star Ursula Andress’ bikinied Honey Rider. (One syndicated American entertainment columnist, Erskine Johnson, suggested back in 1963 that “tawny 26-year-old Ursula Andress should have been billed not by her last name, but as ‘Undress.’”) Let them have their fun. I wish, by contrast, to applaud the original book rather than the film, and showcase some of the covers featured on versions of that novel--as well as its comic book adaptations--over the last five decades.

Click on any of these images for an enlargement.

READ MORE:007 Reloaded: Dr. No,” by Patrick Ohl (At the Scene of the Crime); “Dr. No in Comics” (Mister 8); “The Birth of Bond,” by David Kamp (Vanity Fair); “James Bond and the Modern Gadget Economy,” by Dominic Basulto (The Washington Post); “How Cary Grant Nearly Made Global James Bond Day an American Affair,” by Amanda Holpuch (The Guardian); “50 Classic James Bond Moments,” by Natalie Bochenski (; “Best James Bond Opening Sequences,” by Kevin Fallon (The Daily Beast); and don’t miss The HMSS Weblog’s six-part series about this Dr. No anniversary; “The Beatles & James Bond: 5 October 1962,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts).

1 comment:

jnarz said...

Remember reading Dr, No on a hot summer nights in the 1970s The books had a far cooler tone than the films-more serious, hard and dry but with Bond one liners popping off on occasion and the always memorable covers. Underrated writer, Mr.Fleming.