Plot Quality: Dr. No’s plot is superb. Dr. No opens with the murder of British Intelligence Station Chief Commander Strangways and his secretary in Jamaica. His disappearance sets London into motion. A man is summoned. This man is found playing Chemin de Fer in a casino. He has amazing luck and he defeats a woman named Sylvia Trench, a woman who will follow him to his room. This man is Bond, James Bond.
Bond meets with his local contacts and learns that Strangways had been investigating an island named Crab Key, which belongs to a man named Dr. No. The issue at had is that NASA is planning to launch a rocket in a few days and the CIA is concerned that an attempt will be made to topple the rocket using radio jamming. Strangways thought he was on to something when he vanished.
Bond now sets his sights on Dr. No. He and Quarrel venture to Crab Key, where they find Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), a nomadic woman who collects sea shells from the beach. They are attacked by Dr. No’s men and taken prisoner. Bond finally meets Dr. No and learns that he works for an organization which is tying to set East against West by toppling the rocket... SPECTRE. Bond eventually defeats Dr. No and destroys the base, saving the American rocket.
The only real downside to this film is after Bond is captured by Dr. No. It feels a bit like the film didn’t know how to create a real climax, so the story gets wrapped up too easily. It’s still a decent ending, but could have used something more. And what’s really missing is a more personal struggle between Bond and Dr. No.
The Bond Girl: The Bond girl is Ursula Andress, as Honey Ryder. She’s a creature of the 1960s. She’s an uneducated girl in a bikini whose job is to look up to Bond with awe and she does that well, but she’s hardly an engaging character. Nothing highlights this more than when Dr. No drugs her so that he and Bond can speak without having to worry about her being at the table as well. This moment feels as if the film itself tired of her. Still, she’s adequate when it comes to the task of creating “The Bond Girl.”
He has an interesting backstory too. A half-Asian, born to a Chinese girl and a German missionary, Dr. No became the treasurer of a Chinese crime syndicate, the Tongs. From them, he stole $10 million and he fled China. He then offered his serves as a scientist to the US and the Soviet Union, both of whom turned him down. He subsequently joined SPECTRE and set out on his plan to topple an American rocket for profit and revenge.
One of the more fascinating things Dr. No does is finish Bond’s character for us by telling us that he believed Bond to be more than “a stupid policeman” and he had hope Bond could join SPECTRE. That tells you that Bond is something truly special if he’s that respected by this organization of super villains. It also tells us something further that Bond shows no interest in the offer. This scene does a lot to lift Bond beyond the level of just being another secret agent.
So how should this film rank? Well, it’s a fantastic film with a weaker-than-expected, but still solid ending. The villain is great until you meet him. The Bond girl is iconic, but a little dull. Connery is in top form, even if he isn’t yet perfect in the role. And most importantly, this film set the series off to the right start. On the other hand, in terms of the public, this one always plays in discussions of the top film, but rarely wins. Its box office also was surprisingly weak, coming in at 19th.
So where should this film rank? Is it worthy of the top spot? You tell me.