007 marathon: Just say yes to DR. NO

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

DR. NO is the first 007 movie, the world’s introduction to Sean Connery and an instant classic packed chock full of win — right?

Well, the first two things are true.

The last part isn’t. This film is imperfect.

It’s a rough draft of a rough draft, with big pleasures and big flaws and a lot of cheesy nonsense that you’ll recognize as the first fumbling gestures to what will become glorious 007 movie staples that will change movies FOREVER.

So DR. NO isn’t a perfect film or the amazing classic we all think it is. 

You should watch it anyway.

I just did. As part of a 007 movie marathon — we bought the boxed set of Every 007 Movie Known to Man — I’m watching each movie, in order, with our 11-year-old son who has never seen a Bond movie before.

DR. NO was our first. It will not be our last, nor will it be our favorite Bond movie of all time. Yet there’s something about the first that’s always worthwhile and interesting and magical, even in the bits that are a bit undercooked.

Sean Connery, the Best Bond Ever?

Not in this movie.

Sure, he’s got charm and a sense of menace. He’s instantly credible as Bond and fun to watch.

Best ever? Nope.

Connery in DR. NO beats the pants off Roger Moore any day of the week. Daniel Craig crushes Connery’s first whack at Bond, and I’d even give Remington Steele the win in GOLDENEYE versus Connery in this one.

The later Pierce Brosnan Bonds get a bit cheesy, and he gets massive demerits for all the invisible car nonsense in his last 007 film and singing ABBA songs in that movie with Meryl Streep, so Connery edges Brosnan overall.

Also: Timothy Dalton is under-rated, and gets mondo bonus points for appearing as a glorious bad guy in HOT FUZZ.

Also-also: George Lazenby just doesn’t count.

So here we go, ranking the 007s in order:

Daniel Craig > Sean Connery > Pierce Brosnan > Timothy Dalton > Roger Moore > George Lazenwhatever

The Bad Guy

DR. NO’s villain is a mysterious mad scientist named who lost his hands to radiation experiments or some such thing and belongs to SPECTRE, which he carefully explains to Bond stands for something like Some People Who Are Really Smart and Choose Crime Because It’s Way More Fun to Have Secret Lairs in Volcanos and Such, except he makes it spell SPECTRE.

Dr. No lives on an island with a ton of henchmen, a sweet underground lair and all kinds of fancy prison cells connected by the most awesome airduct system ever.

Basically, Dr. No is a trendsetter for supervillains to come: a rich, disfigured foreigner with some kind of nuclear / doomsday device in his underground lair and all kinds of henchmen who wear matching jumpsuits.

Related post: Out of fairness, I dissect my favorite genre, thrillers

The Bond Girls

There’s a random dark-haired girl in the beginning who Bond meets at a card game. She breaks into Bond’s apartment, which somehow endears him to her instead of making him fill her full of lead as a possible KGB assassin.

There’s a bad girl photographer working for Dr. No and another bad Bond girl at the British consulate who’s a double-agent for Dr. No and flirts with Bond before eavesdropping on him. So naturally he asks her out and winds up going to her place, which is an ambush. Ugh.

At this point, I’m yelling at the screen, “If you see any pretty girl, Sean the Connery, turn around and RUN FAR AWAY.”

Finally, we’ve got a blonde he meets on Dr. No’s mysterious and forbidden island: Honey Rider, the main Bond girl, who’s on the beach hunting for shells. Beautiful girl? Yes. Good actress? Nah. But it works alright.

The Gadgets

None, really. M makes Bond swap out his original gun for a Walther PPK because it has more stopping power.

Bond does have a neat little shoulder holster and displays some tradecraft when he plucks a hair and sticks it over his hotel closet door as a way to check if anybody comes looking around his room.

The Story

The opening sequence is a bit lame compared to later 007 movies. There’s a long bit with British men in a club, talking a lot, before anything really happens. Sean the Connery doesn’t really appear on screen until FOREVER.

What DR. NO does right is set up the basics of a 007 story: a suave secret agent traveling to interesting places around the world to sneak around and uncover plots by intriguing villains.

Dr. No himself gets a great build-up. You don’t see his face for a long time. The first scene with Dr. No, you only hear his voice. The second scene, his body and metal hands. Great stuff. My only quibble is when you finally do see his face when Dr. No dines with Bond and Honey Rider, it’s a let-down. The actor is pretty wooden. I wanted to be even more impressed, to keep up the momentum and menace.

Some of the sidekicks are simply bad story. There’s a boat captain who’s almost — not quite, but close enough — the Jar Jar Binks of Dr. No. The ominous man following Bond from the airport isn’t a bad guy, but a friendly CIA agent, which was a little too cute.

Overall, though, the first Bond story sets up a nice template for all the other movies. Big hero, big villain, big stakes.

The Verdict

This movie won’t blow you away. You’re not going to see the credits roll and shout “Again again!” like a crazed Teletubby.

Despite the rough edges, for any real fan of 007, this is required viewing. You’ll see the seeds of future bits, the origin of characters and tropes that will show up in film after film.

Grade: B+. There’s tension, action and excitement, and at the time, this was ground-breaking stuff.

Three random airplane movies: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Anybody who’s a fan of Clint Eastwood‘s spaghetti westerns knows that THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one of his best films ever. Clint hardly says a word the entire thing. It’s like the first 30 minutes of WALL-E, if you changed him from a robot that cleaned up humanity’s trash in an apocalyptic wasteland to a gunslinger who cleaned up human trash in an apocalyptic wasteland.

So: flying over to Germany and back, I saw many, many airplane movies. As a public service, I’m reviewing the ones that I remember to (a) save you from watching stinkers, (b) give you a head’s up on hidden gems and (c) say sarcastic things about Sarah Jessica Parker.

First up is the Good, then the Bad and finally the Ugly.


More good stuff from George the Clooney and Ryan the Gosling, who does a good job portraying the crazy life of a political campaign.

As a reporter who covered all kinds of campaigns, and as somebody working in politics now, this movie gets a lot of things right. The long hours. The mix of cynical veterans and 20-something interns full of energy. Lofty ideas crashing into the shores of reality. Reporters working angles. War by leaks.

I appreciated this movie, and how it saw all the shades of gray in the characters.

Ryan goes from a wunderkind who can do no wrong to having no job — and then, having learned things the hard way, rolls around in the mud to pull a coup on the boss who fired him to get the job of running Clooney’s campaign. You see this character suffer and change.

Clooney could have played his presidential candidate as a straight-up hero, a cartoonish good guy. Once again, Clooney has the guts to play somebody interesting and flawed.

Verdict: Rent it on Netflix at least TWICE, because I say so.


From watching this with the sound off: Paul Newman is a good-looking jerk. He broke his leg, so he lays around the house all day, drinking up the booze and glowering at people. For some reason I never understood, Elizabeth Taylor is completely nice to him the entire time, even after he tries to break her ribs with his crutches.

This movie raised many, many questions in my mind:

First: Why doesn’t Elizabeth Taylor — or whoever owns this house — kick angry Paul Newman to the curb?

Second: Who’s paying for all this booze that Paul drinks?

Third: Does he have a job?

Fourth: Yes, he’s good looking, but does he have blackmail photos of Elizabeth or something? Because being good looking doesn’t usually let you sit around a house for weeks and weeks, drinking all their alcohols while you throw things at your host and act like a total dipstick.

This is a talky movie. There are old people and kids and a birthday cake.

I’m guessing it was a play (CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF?) before it was a movie, because nobody every drives anywhere and there’s just a few sets. The camera keeps bringing us back to Paul Newman’s bedroom, where he demolishes Elizabeth Taylor’s liquor while giving her the cold shoulder.

She is far too kind in this flick. I would’ve kicked him out of the bedroom, crutches or not, after his first hissy fit.

Also, why is Paul the Newman such an angry drunk? My guess is he was some kind of high school sports jock, sad about the passage of his glory days, because the first scene I saw was Paul at some high school stadium at night, killing a bottle of whiskey or whatever while he throws stuff around before running hurdles. On the last hurdle, he trips up and that’s when he breaks his leg.

I found Paul Newman to be completely unsympathetic. Plugging in the airline headphones wouldn’t change my opinion because he never seemed to say anything anyway.

Note: After firing up the googles, yes, this was CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and the internets say Tennessee Williams, a playwright famous enough to have his OWN STATE, hated this movie adaptation of his play so much that he told people the film would set back cinema for 50 years or whatever. 

Verdict: This might be a good movie with the sound on. Who knows? Visually, it was boring. You’d have to pay me in purple euros to watch it again.


I also watched this with the sound off, peeking every 10 minutes, and that was plenty to understand the plot: Sarah Jessica Parker is a working mom with a husband, kids, a gigantic loft and many, many pairs of shoes. Her boss is Remington Steele / 007, which makes her life even more miserable, right?

It’s a rough life.

There are more than 7 billion people on the planet. Half are women. I bet if you showed this film to moms in Africa who walk miles every morning to fetch drinking water, or moms in China working on assembly lines 14 hours a day, they’d break down and cry at all the hardships that Sarah Jessica Parker has to endure in this movie. Should she spend more time at the office with the suave Pierce Brosnan, more time at home being a wife and a mother or maybe hire another nanny and just not feel guilty about it?

The climax of this movie, I believe, comes when Sarah Jessica Parker faces the ultimate test: should she pack five pairs of shoes on her business trip or six?

The Hollywood executives who greenlit this turkey should be belted into a 15-hour airplane ride, halfway across the world, while they’re forced to watch this thing five times straight.

Verdict: Kill it with fire. Nuke it from orbit. No mercy.