Lang is the bedrock (the Mabuse films, Spies and Ministry of Fear are referenced throughout), though the world now is one of missile crises and Playboy bunnies. To visit the first entry in the series is to go through the layers of the subsequent movies, passing through the psychedelic credits and exotic locales, the dry ice of M (Bernard Lee) and the flirtations of Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) until the iconic hardness of Sean Connery’s "Bond. James Bond" intro is reached. Ian Fleming wrote the secret agent as a lethal jet-setter blithely adapted to the extremes of an atomic epoch, Connery gives him hints of soigné thuggery -- the hero’s private smile as he sends an enemy down a precipice, his metallic thrill in letting an enemy believe he’s got a chance before shooting him repeatedly. The story is one of global menace and neo-colonialism, set under Jamaican skies; the titular villain (Joseph Wiseman), a card-carrying member of the SPECTRE cadre, is a smarty-pants Fu Manchu with iron hands and modernist hideouts. "World domination. The same old dream." Bond meets his CIA counterpart (Jack Lord), dodges an arachnoid assassin, and tries the babe-buffet: Eunice Gayson and Zena Marshall are the entrées, Ursula Andress as Jupiter’s Daughter rises from the foam with seashell and knife. The hero is ushered into the radioactive lair of Dr. No, who’s rather disappointed at the mortal "policeman" before him; Bond admits fear but can't resist noting the Freudian implications of his foe’s obsession ("Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?"). A franchise’s foundation needs to stand on its own, and Terence Young capably brings together Caribbean travelogue, Gropius-type architecture, and cardboard computers with "danger level" plaques. The launching is a success -- the shifting morality and pop lushness are already in place for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, so is the "unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism" for Austin Powers. Music by Monty Norman. With Anthony Dawson, John Kitzmiller, Peter Burton, and Marguerite LeWars.
--- Fernando F. Croce