The James Bond Challenge – Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger posterIn which James Bond’s mission is to find out all he can about bullion dealer and international gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger. He captures Bond but is fooled into thinking that Bond knows more than he does about Operation Grand Slam. Just how does he intend to make his money, and will Bond be able to foil him in the final reel? To find out, you’ll have to watch the film, and remember, careful what you read here, there will be spoilers!

Auric EnterprisesInspired by the successes of Dr No and From Russia With Love, producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman increased the budget yet again, this time to $3 million – apparently it made all its money back within two weeks of release, was the fastest grossing picture in film history when it was released, and is said to have made $125 million overall. Given the two previous successes, director Terence Young wanted a profit-share to direct Goldfinger, but Broccoli and Saltzman refused his offer. He therefore went off and directed The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders instead, and Guy Hamilton was approached in his place. Hamilton’s vision for the film included more humour, more gadgets and more impressive sets, and you can really see the difference between this and the first two films as a result. Once again the screenplay was by Richard Maibaum, with Paul Dehn on re-writes; cinematography was by Ted Moore and editing by Peter Hunt, as in both Dr No and From Russia With Love. Ken Adam resumed his position as production designer – he’d worked on Dr No – the title designer was once again Robert Brownjohn, stunt co-ordinator was Bob Simmons, as he had been for Dr No, and John Barry was credited as soundtrack composer.

Mr GoldfingerGoldfinger was published in 1959 and was the seventh in Ian Fleming’s series of James Bond novels, immediately following the novel of Dr No, which had been filmed first. Fleming liked to use the names of people he knew, or knew of, throughout his books, and there really was a Mr Goldfinger – British architect Ernő Goldfinger. Upon learning of the use of his name, Goldfinger threatened to sue Fleming over the use of the name, before the matter was settled out of court. I haven’t read the book, but I believe the film follows it reasonably faithfully.

Pussy's aircraft girlsIn the book, M suspects Goldfinger of being connected to SMERSH and financing their western networks with his gold; in the film, unusually, there’s no mention made of SMERSH at all. Also in the book, Jill and Tilly Masterton have a much more important role to play, whereas in the film, not only does their surname become Masterson, they also have much less to do and die earlier in the story. The plot of the film was also changed from stealing the gold at Fort Knox to irradiating the gold vault with a dirty bomb. In the book, Pussy Galore is the leader of a team of burglars, whereas in the film she leads a team of aircraft pilots; also Pussy, the burglars and Tilly are all lesbians in the book – but any lesbianism implied by Pussy at the start of the film certainly doesn’t last for long. Goldfinger attempts to kill Bond by using a circular saw; however, between the book (1959) and the film (1964), lasers were invented, and so Guy Hamilton thought it would be much more fun to show Bond in peril with a laser cutting up between his legs. Nasty.

Odeon AylesburyI mentioned in my blog post on From Russia with Love that I had seen it before as a teenager at the Odeon Aylesbury as part of a double-bill with Diamonds are Forever, with my schoolfriend John. I’m pretty sure we also saw a double-bill of Goldfinger with You Only Live Twice. It was a great way to catch up on your Bond back catalogue in those days; shame they don’t do that kind of thing any more.

Goldfinger novelBoth book and novel received extremely good reviews, even if they are of the “guilty pleasure” type, more than out-and-out classic. Considering the book first, Maurice Richardson in the Observer described Ian Fleming as “maniacally readable” whereas, writing in The Manchester Guardian, Roy Perrott observed that “Goldfinger…will not let [Bond’s] close admirers down”, summarising the book by saying that it was “hard to put down; but some of us wish we had the good taste just to try.” The Evening Standard looked at why Bond was a success and put it down to “the sex, the sadism, the vulgarity of money for its own sake, the cult of power, the lack of standards”. The Manchester Evening News thought that “only Fleming could have got away with it…outrageously improbable, wickedly funny, wildly exciting”.

OddjobOf the film, the Sunday Times said it was “superbly engineered. It is fast, it is most entertainingly preposterous, and it is exciting.” The Guardian said that Goldfinger was “two hours of unmissable fantasy”, also saying that the film was “the most exciting, the most extravagant of the Bond films: garbage from the gods” – again, a guilty pleasure. Plenty of praise for the performances too: The Times said “there is some excellent bit-part playing by Mr. Bernard Lee and Mr. Harold Sakata; Mr. Gert Fröbe is astonishingly well cast in the difficult part of Goldfinger”. The New York Times said “Connery plays the hero with an insultingly cool, commanding air” and that “Gert Fröbe is aptly fat and feral as the villainous financier, and Honor Blackman is forbiddingly frigid and flashy as the latter’s aeronautical accomplice.” Interestingly, of all the James Bond films, this has the highest appreciation score on the Rotten Tomatoes website – 97%. Sadly, Ian Fleming never got to see this film; he visited the set in April 1964, and died a few months later in August 1964, a month before it was released.

Decoy BondThe opening credits start just as they did in Dr No and From Russia with Love, with Maurice Binder’s iconic glimpse of Bond walking across the screen whilst being captured by the barrel of a gun, only for him to turn around, see us, and shoot; and then for the blood to start filling up the screen. Then, before any opening titles, as was becoming the practice in these films, we then go into the first scene. A dark, suspicious waterside location at night, sees Bond emerge from beneath the water, with a decoy seagull strapped to his head (would that fool anyone? – it’s not even a duck!), gain access to this secret location by assaulting a guard, and cause some handily placed barrels of nitro-glycerine to explode by attaching a timer. He then rips off his deep-sea diving outfit to reveal an immaculate white dinner jacket (with red carnation) in time to get to a cavern bar where a buxom dancing lady (Bonita) is entertaining the gentlemen with her act. Bond lights his cigarette, checks the time, the nitro explodes, everyone runs in panic, apart from a chap sitting at the bar who congratulates Bond on his success, and they observe that a certain Mr Romarez won’t be able to finance a revolution from the proceeds of his heroin laboratory that’s just been blown up.

In Your EyesBond is offered a flight to Miami, which he says he will take, after he has attended to some unfinished business – by which he means chasing up Bonita in her bath. But whilst he is giving her a big sucker on the lips, a guy who has been hiding behind her wardrobe (always check behind the wardrobe, Bond!) comes out and is about to cosh our hero – but he spots him in time and a fight ensues. Bond sends him flying across the room and he lands in the bathwater (the lady is no longer in there) but from there he can still reach Bond’s gun in its holster on the wall… so there’s only one thing to be done, and Bond flings the portable electric heater into the bath and his hapless opponent is zapped to death.

Opening titlesThat’s all totally irrelevant to the plot of Goldfinger, but I guess it shows what a cool guy/rogue/heart-throb/masterspy/ruthless killer Bond is. Now the rest of the title sequence kicks in. In From Russia with Love, Robert Brownjohn’s titles projected names of the cast and creative team onto the scantily-clad body of an exotic dancer. That idea went down well, so this time he went one better, with moving images of the actors appearing on the gold body of a sexy female – in fact, Margaret Nolan, who plays Dink, the Miami Beach masseuse, a little later in the movie. I actually met Margaret Nolan when I was ten, and probably a little too young to fully appreciate her; buy me a drink and I’ll tell you all about it! Not only actors were projected onto her gold body; also scenes from the film, and from the previous films. And of course, over this title sequence we hear Shirley Bassey belting out the title song Goldfinger, more of which later. This was the first time that the title sequences used the film’s title song – a winning practice that was to continue forever after.

FontainebleauAnd the locations? The film takes us from Latin America to Miami Beach, on to London, on to a golf course, Geneva and then Goldfinger’s Kentucky stables (the Auric Stud) and then – allegedly – Fort Knox. That opening scene, with huge oil tanks, was filmed at the Esso refinery at Stanwell, near Heathrow Airport. Interestingly, none of the principal actors were actually in Miami Beach apart from Cec Linder, who played Felix Leiter. Everyone else was on a soundstage at Pinewood Studios – and it’s very obvious, watching those Miami Beach scenes, that they’re all standing in front of a projection. The grand hotel, that dominates the aerial photography, is the Fontainebleau Miami Beach; you think you’re looking at a swanky, trendy, impressive building, and indeed you are. The golf course was Stoke Park, at Stoke Poges, near Pinewood; the scene of the car chase in the Aston Martin was at Black Park, near Slough. The American airports scenes were shot at RAF Northolt, and the scene where Bond flies to Geneva was shot at Southend Airport.

Fort Knox is right hereFilming moved to Switzerland, with the car chase being filmed at the small curved roads near Realp, near the Italian border, the exterior of the Pilatus Aircraft factory in Stans serving as Goldfinger’s factory, and Tilly Masterson’s attempt to snipe Goldfinger being shot in the Furka Pass. Of course, they weren’t given access to film at Fort Knox. That would simply have been too much of a security risk! So the interiors of Fort Knox were purely the imagination of production designer Ken Adam – who was later complimented by the Comptroller at Fort Knox for his vision.

Suave ConneryBond, James Bond. Yes, Sean Connery does get to utter this immortal phrase in this film, even though he’d been denied it in From Russia with Love. Connery enjoyed another pay increase, this time taking a cool $500,000 – a lot of money for 1964. Connery received a lot of praise for his performance too, and I would imagine, at that time, that they never had any idea that anyone else would ever play the part! Although in 1964 he also appeared in Hitchcock’s Marnie – in fact that was the reason he wasn’t in Miami Beach – and he was slowly beginning to tire of being just known as James Bond. I expect the cash helped make up for it.

Red CardsBoo-boos. There are some continuity errors and mistakes as always, but perhaps not as many as in Dr No or From Russia with Love. When one of Pussy’s pilots is counting down the numbers from five to zero during the course of Operation Rockabye Baby, she says “5, 4, 3, 2, Zero,” but skips 1 – presumably not considered worthy of a re-take. After the game of golf, Goldfinger sits in the back seat of his car and makes out a cheque to Bond. He gives the cheque to Bond, and Bond gives the golf ball to Oddjob, in the driver’s seat. But when Oddjob drives away, magically Goldfinger is no longer in the car. Talking of which, when Oddjob leaves the car containing Solo’s body on the back seat at the wrecker’s yard, it’s very clear there’s no one in the back when the car gets scrunched up. When Goldfinger and Simmons are playing cards, the blue-backed pack of cards changes to a red-backed pack. When Goldfinger is explaining to Mr Ling about the process of melting down the gold from the car, his lips don’t move. And is James Bond a hairy chap or not? When he’s receiving his rubdown from Dink, his back is perfectly shaved; but when he wakes up the next morning with Jill, his back hair has all grown back!

JillThe Bond Girl. Bond’s rather spoilt for choice in this movie. Apart from liaisons with the Latin American dancer Bonita in the first scene, and Dink the masseuse, at first we have a lot of hope for Jill Masterson, played by Shirley Eaton, a much-favoured young actress at the time, who retired from acting five years later. Sadly, Goldfinger arranges for her to die from the rather glamorous fate of “skin suffocation” after being painted head to toe in gold. Odd how she didn’t struggle when she was only halfway though the paint job, but there you are, film editor Peter Hunt always said it was vital to keep everything moving as quickly as possible so that the audience doesn’t start to analyse the plot.

TillyThen we meet her sister Tilly, full of vengeance for Jill’s death, who tries to assassinate Goldfinger, and very nearly takes Bond out in the process. However, their time together isn’t long – and is mainly spent in a car chase trying to escape from Goldfinger’s henchmen. Bond gets captured and Tilly gets garrotted by Oddjob’s lethal bowler hat. Tilly was played by Tania Mallett, a successful model who made this one venture into the movies and didn’t like it – she earned much more as a model anyway.

PussyBut the title of Bond Girl for this film can really only go to the wondrously named Pussy Galore played by Honor Blackman. That name certainly caused a few problems, and was a particular concern to the American censors, who wouldn’t allow it to appear on any promotional material. The producers thought of renaming her Kitty, but decided that if you had a dirty mind, then so be it. This gives rise to her and Bond’s classic opening exchange: “Who are you?“ “My name is Pussy Galore.” “I must be dreaming.” As with Dr No’s Honey Rider, it’s a goodly time before Pussy makes an appearance; 52 minutes to be precise. Pussy leads her group of pilots – her Flying Circus – who I’m sure were the inspiration for Captain Scarlet’s Angels. Honor Blackman was chosen for the role due to her success as Cathy Gale in the TV series The Avengers – and the script was altered so that she could show off her judo skills. The New York Times described her performance as “forbiddingly frigid”, which is not what you expect from a Bond Girl. One of her first lines to Bond is “you can turn off the charm, I’m immune”, which ought to rule out any future hanky-panky. However, a few instructions from Goldfinger and she softens up towards him – see paragraph on sexism further on!

Scary PussyWhat Bond Girls Are Like. From the first two films, we came to the conclusion that Bond Girls are: sexy, exotic, unpredictable, as equally likely to attack Bond as to support him, strong and self-reliant up to a point, and sometimes tragic. With Pussy Galore we can add professional and scary.

GFThe Villain. This is a perfect villain plus henchmen set-up. Auric Goldfinger (I won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out the appropriateness of his first name) has what I think is probably the best line in the whole gamut of Bond films – “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!” – and a genuinely creative plan to rule the world, much more interesting than all the usual mass murder kinda stuff. Gert Fröbe gives a brilliantly underplayed performance, making him much less of a pantomime baddie but more a real threat. I’d forgotten that he played the Baron in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, making him a double Fleming alumnus! Fröbe’s heavy German accent required that his voice was dubbed by actor Michael Collins. There is just one scene where you hear his own voice – when Bond is listening from the cellar underneath the big control centre where Fröbe talks to all his gangland associates.

Bond and GoldfingerHe had serious reservations about Goldfinger using nerve gas to get rid of his witnesses. Fröbe felt that with him being a German, this scene would have Nazi concentration camp implications. Indeed, the film was banned in Israel for many years after he revealed he had been a member of the Nazi Party. The ban was lifted after a Jewish family came forward to praise Fröbe for protecting them from persecution during World War II. He left the party in 1937, which was presumably quite a brave thing to do. Apparently, he got married five times; so not quite Henry VIII standard, but not far off.

Varley ThomasOther memorable characters? Jill Masterson – as mentioned earlier – is an attractive character, and her betrayal of Goldfinger is enjoyable to watch; pity she had to pay such a high price for it. There’s also a wonderful scene where a little old lady played by Varley Thomas unexpectedly lets rip with a machine gun in an attempt to stop Bond.

More OddjobBut there’s really only one contender for Memorable Other Character – the magnificently terrifying Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata. Oddjob is the definition of the phrase “silent but deadly”, with his lethal bowler spin (nothing to do with cricket) and his lips kept tightly shut. He was described in the Daily Telegraph as “a wordless role, but one of cinema’s great villains.”

Oddjob AgainSakata was born in Hawaii, of Japanese descent, and was a professional wrestler as well as actor, and also represented the United States in Weightlifting in the 1948 Olympics. He was badly burned when filming his death scene, in which Oddjob was electrocuted by Bond. Sakata, however, kept holding onto his electrified hat with determination, despite his pain, until the director called “Cut!” Guy Hamilton described him as an “absolutely charming man”. Oddjob reappeared in later years as a guest on chat shows, or in adverts, which gave Sakata a nice continued income. He died in 1982, aged 62.

Q and 007As last time, we can just briefly pop in to M’s office; Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn reprise their usual roles. Q starts what I believe will be a series of banter-filled conversations with Bond, beseeching him not to wreck all the equipment. I don’t think he pays heed.

Shirley BasseyAnd what about the music? We start with the main James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman, as part of the title sequence, but that never returns for the rest of the film. Shirley Bassey sings Goldfinger during the main title sequence, and you often hear echoes of it on and off throughout the film, until it finally returns properly for the closing titles. John Barry said this was the first film where he felt he had complete control of the music content. Much of the incidental music throughout the rest of the film, which frequently returns to the Goldfinger theme, is notable for its high brass instruments content – reflecting the film’s Gold motif. Fascinating piece of trivia – playing rhythm guitar on the title track was session player Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin.

Bricusse and NewleyHarry Saltzman had to be convinced that Goldfinger (the song) was the right choice for the film, calling it too old fashioned for 1960s youth culture, but Cubby Broccoli convinced him. Though the music was by Barry, the lyrics were by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, both known more for their work in musical theatre. The Daily Express called the lyrics “puerile”, but it was Shirley Bassey’s belting performance that meant that criticism was almost irrelevant. The soundtrack album reached No 1 on the Billboard chart and the single of Goldfinger reached 21 in the UK charts, but No 2 in Italy, No 5 in the Netherlands and No 8 in the US top 100.

Car ChaseCar chases. There are two, and they’re hardly classics, both involving Tilly Masterson. The first one is where she is trying to overtake Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 and she ends up receiving the best that Q can design as he causes her tyres to burst. The second is later, when they’re both in Bond’s car, being pursued by Goldfinger’s Swiss henchmen.

Brandy momentCocktails and Casinos. No casinos in this film, but we do have some interesting drink situations. We see Bond becoming a self-confessed brandy snob – he describes the offering at the Bank of England as a “30 year old fine indifferently blended, with an overdose of bon bois”; Goldfinger offers him a mint julep in Kentucky, and Bond’s requirements are that it is made with sour mash and not too sweet; and there is also the request for the classic Martini – shaken, not stirred, at 35,000 sq ft above Newfoundland.

Poisonous meterGadgets. Guy Hamilton said he liked gadgets, so gadgets he was going to get. At Q’s laboratory, we briefly see a parking meter that emits poisonous gas when you insert a coin – something that would be warmly welcomed in many cities, I suspect. Bond’s car has its bullet-proof windscreen, revolving number plate, a transmitting device, an early form of Sat Nav; and there’s the control console in the armrest of the car, which allows Bond to do lots of things: smokescreen, oil slick, rear bullet-proof screen and side machine guns. Handy! The ejector seat is pretty neat and is wisely used when needed. Whilst Aston Martin were originally unwilling to allow their car to be used in this way, sales went up 60% after the film and the Corgi toy of Bond’s Aston Martin became one of the most successful toys ever.

Laser momentBut there’s probably nothing to match Goldfinger’s sinister use of the laser beam as it slowly slices up between Bond’s legs – hitting him where it hurts the most. And of course, Goldfinger’s lair, in Kentucky, is one ginormous gadget, as buttons turn it inside out to create the most up to date of operation centres.

In MemoriamIn Memoriam. Dr No had a death count of approximately 11 + all those who go up in smoke in his lair at the end; From Russia with Love notched up at least 40. Where does Goldfinger stand on this count? Let’s briefly remember those who gave their lives so that Bond can dismiss the rescue helicopter so that he can spend more time getting acquainted with Pussy:

1) Maybe the guard at the Heroin laboratory that Bond attacks (but maybe he’s just knocked out).

2) Henchman electrified in the bath.

3) Jill Masterson, gilted to death.

4) Four henchmen who burn to death in the car that slides in the oil slick.

5) Tilly Masterson, bowler-hatted to death by Oddjob.

6) The guard outside Bond’s cell – if he dies from their fight, that is.

7) All the gangsters gassed by Kisch in Goldfinger’s Control Centre – I counted nine.

8) Mr Solo, shot by Oddjob.

9) Mr Ling, killed by Goldfinger.

10) Kisch, killed by Oddjob.

11) Dozens, possibly hundreds of Goldfinger’s “army” and the government’s security guards at Fort Knox.

12) Oddjob.

13) Goldfinger.

14) Henchman on board the plane with Goldfinger.

Apart from the massive slaughter at Fort Knox, that’s probably around 23 deaths. But when you add in all the soldiers, there’s nothing modest about this death count!

Shocking momentHumour to off-set the death count. Following his jokey remarks whenever someone died in Dr No and From Russia with Love, here are some more throwaway lines that marked some of the deaths in this film:

After Bond has thrown the electric heater in Bonita’s bath, thereby killing the henchman, he remarks “shocking, positively shocking.”

When Bond and Pussy arrive at the airport in Baltimore, they are greeted – if that’s the right word – by the bowler-hatted Oddjob. In a delayed reference to the murder of Tilly, Bond observes: “Manners, Oddjob. I thought you always took your hat off to a lady”.

When Oddjob returns the car to the Auric Stud, with the body of the late Mr Solo smashed to smithereens in the scrunched-up car, Bond agrees: “as you said, he had a pressing engagement”.

“Where’s your butler friend?” asks Leiter, as he rushes inside Fort Knox once the device is safe. “He blew a fuse” replies Bond.

“What happened, where’s Goldfinger?” asks Pussy, as the plane plummets to earth. “Playing his golden harp” replies Bond.

sexismAny less frothy elements? So once again it’s time to consider if there are any outstanding themes or elements that don’t sit well with today’s audience. As usual, I couldn’t perceive any obvious homophobic or racist elements, but when it comes to sexism, where do you start? Once again I think it’s important to remember that definition of sexism, so that we know where we’re at. Sexism is: “(Behaviour, language, etc, reflecting) the assumption that one sex, esp. the female, is inferior to the other; prejudice or discrimination, esp. against women, on the grounds of sex; insistence on (esp. a woman’s) conformity to a sexually stereotyped social role.”

Smacking Dink's bottomOnce again we get close ups of a woman’s body during the opening credits; you can argue that it’s an artistic expression and not really sexist; although the gypsy/Spanish dancer at the beginning basically just waggles her boobs at the guys and I’d contend that wasn’t exactly a skilful show of dancing prowess. Much more ostentatious a show of sexism, and one in which Bond absolutely delights, is when Felix Leiter arrives on the scene and interrupts Bond with the lovely Dink, whom he dismisses with a considerable whack on the bottom as he and Felix have “mantalk” to get on with. That’s actually quite cringe making today. And when he takes the chambermaid’s key to Goldfinger’s hotel room, Bond smilingly and patronisingly placates her with “you’re very sweet”. So that’s alright then.

Connery and Blackman in the hayJill Masterson is a disarmingly easy conquest; perhaps, given the fact that she has spent all her time helping Goldfinger to cheat at cards, she isn’t of the highest moral rectitude as a character. But I think the most sexist point of the film is when Bond basically forces himself on Pussy Galore – who had previously warned him off with the words “skip it, I’m not interested” – yet she melts into his arms. You would have thought that Honor Blackman must have been sick in a bucket to do that, but by all accounts she said she enjoyed the experience of rolling around in the hay with Sean Connery. Still, by today’s standards, he assaults her, and this isn’t a comfortable scene. The other pilots who make up Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus are, by contrast, a paean to the sisterhood, being tough, resolute, skilled and beautiful all in one go.

British United Air FerriesBizarre other stuff that occurred to me and a few observations.

“I have a slight inferiority complex”, says Bond, as Bonita complains that his gun is digging into her ribs. As if.

“Something big’s come up”, Bond says to Leiter, explaining why he won’t be there for dinner, while Jill is pawing him all over. If ever there was a euphemism, that’s the one. Although there is also Goldfinger’s description of his atomic device: “it’s small, but particularly dirty”.

Bond jokes that you need earmuffs to listen to the Beatles. Did they have some kind of falling out? Paul McCartney would write the theme to Live and Let Die a few years later, so I guess they must have patched up their differences.

Even though you can only see his arm, it’s clearly Oddjob who has broken in to Bond’s suite and who karate-chops him when he’s getting another bottle of Dom Perignon ’53 out of the fridge. When he comes to, Jill has been killed by being painted in gold. But that’s not Oddjob’s style at all! He’s a wham bam, slice your throat with my bowler rim man. Visually, it’s a very effective scene, but if you think twice about it – it doesn’t really make sense; I refer you to Film Editor Peter Hunt’s comment I mentioned earlier!

This is the first time we hear in the films about any other “00”s. M threatens to replace Bond with 008 if he can’t keep the assignment professional. And Bond tells Goldfinger, “if I fail to report, 008 replaces me…”

Do we remember British United Air Ferries? They transport Goldfinger and his car from Southend Airport to Geneva. They were founded in 1963 – so the company was quite new when this film was made – and went through a number of name and ownership changes until the company was dissolved in 2001.

I can’t help but think that Oddjob had numerous occasions on which he could have killed Bond instantly, but doesn’t. I feel that affects the film detrimentally. He also doesn’t seem remotely concerned about being trapped inside Fort Knox with Kisch and Bond and with no way out. He only seems to want to kill Bond. Which is odd.

I loved the fact that the stopwatch counts down and stops at “007”. How hokey is that!

OscarAwards: Norman Wanstall won the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing, making Goldfinger the first Bond film to receive an Academy Award. John Barry was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Score for a Motion Picture, losing out to Mary Poppins (can’t complain at that) and Ken Adam was nominated for the BAFTA for Best British Art Direction (Colour), losing out to John Bryan for Becket.

Thunderball PosterTo sum up. Goldfinger was a very successful film with some great reviews, fascinating and entertaining characters, and memorable lines; and, unsurprisingly, it still rates very highly with film and Bond fans today. However, personally, despite its obvious attractions and highlights, I found myself disapproving of what I can only describe as its overall silliness! It is a very silly film. Maybe I need to see a few more Bond movies and that might cause me to reappraise my view. What do you think, am I wrong? In the final analysis I upgraded my score by 1 sparkle, simply because it’s such a ground-breaking film. I’d be fascinated to hear your opinions of Goldfinger – and whether you agree with me! Please leave a comment below. Next up, the film Broccoli and Saltzman had been wanting to make from the very start – Thunderball!

My rating: 4 Sparkles

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All photos from the film of course belong to their various copyright holders.

The James Bond Challenge – From Russia With Love (1963)

From Russia With LoveIn which James Bond is summoned to Istanbul to meet Tatiana Romanova, who has allegedly fallen in love with him after seeing his photo, and who offers to defect to the West, bringing with her a Lektor cryptographic device which Bond is to take back to M. However, Tatiana is herself a pawn in a plot by SPECTRE to steal the Lektor from Bond and then kill him. Obviously, that doesn’t happen, otherwise there’d be no more Bond films! But how does he survive….? To find out, you’ll have to watch the film, and remember, careful what you read here, there will be spoilers!

Chess matchFollowing the artistic and financial success of the first Bond film, Dr No, the budget for this next film was doubled to $2 million – $150,000 of which was spent on the set for that brief scene at the beginning, where Kronsteen beats Macadams at Chess. With an eye to realism, the game that is being played out is actually a re-enactment of Boris Spassky’s victory over David Bronstein in 1960! Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman chose From Russia With Love as the next adaptation because, apparently, it was one of President John F Kennedy’s favourite books. Once again it was to be directed by Terence Young, with a screenplay by Richard Maibaum (originally it was to be Len Deighton, but he wrote too slowly!), cinematography by Ted Moore and editing by Peter Hunt – the Dr No dream team reunited. Amongst the changes in personnel, the production designer was Syd Cain (who had been art director on Dr No), the title designer was Robert Brownjohn (who would also design the titles for Goldfinger), Peter Perkins was the new stunt co-ordinator, and John Barry composed the soundtrack.

LektorFrom Russia with Love was published in 1957 and was the fifth in Ian Fleming’s series of James Bond novels; ironically, it immediately preceded the novel of Dr No, but in the films, the order was switched. There is a story – which may just be a rumour – that Fleming originally had thought this would be the last James Bond novel – he was getting bored with his creation – but its good reviews (see later) and even better sales made him think again. As with the adaptation of Dr No, the bulk of the story is reasonably faithfully portrayed in the film; but there are a few alterations. In the book, SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, are the “baddies”, and the cryptographic device is called a Spektor; in the film, it’s SPECTRE who want to steal the device – Saltzman and Broccoli didn’t want to emphasise any Cold War aspects to the plotline – and the device is called a Lektor (because Spektor would have got confused with SPECTRE!) Neither the helicopter chase nor the boat chase are to be found in the book – they were added to the film for some extra kapow! factor; as was the SPECTRE training school, which was inspired by the Gladiator school in the film Spartacus. Both the book and the film have the “sea of rats” scene – but they come at different times in the story. The book also ends on a cliff-hanger, with Rosa Klebb having kicked Bond with her poisoned switchblade-shoe, leaving him fighting for breath and collapsed. In the film, however, Tatiana shoots her dead. I told you there would be spoilers! Interestingly, Ian Fleming had himself tried to steal the German Enigma machine during his time in the Naval Intelligence Division in the Second World War. This no doubt gave him the idea for the Spektor/Lektor device.

Odeon AylesburyI’m sure I’ve seen From Russia with Love at least once before. I believe it was at the Odeon, Aylesbury, in the 1970s, when it was on as part of a double-bill with Diamonds are Forever, and I saw it with my school friend John. The fact that we almost certainly spent the film gossiping and giggling means I had absolutely no recollection of the plot at all. This would have been one of the many occasions when the Cinema Manager would have told us to shut up or get out. Ah, the follies of youth.

FRWL NovelWidely considered to be both of one of Fleming’s best novels and one of the best films in the series, the author was delighted with his reviews. Fleming’s “tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale” said Julian Symons in the Times Literary Supplement. The critic for the New York Herald Tribune wrote that “Mr Fleming is intensely observant, acutely literate and can turn a cliché into a silk purse with astute alchemy”. However, The New York Times described it as Fleming’s “longest and poorest book”. Of the film, Time magazine called it “fast, smart, shrewdly directed and capably performed”. Penelope Gilliatt in The Observer said the film manages “to keep up its own cracking pace, nearly all the way. The set-pieces are a stunning box of tricks”. The critic for The Times wisely noted that “the nonsense is all very amiable and tongue-in-cheek and will no doubt make a fortune for its devisers”. It would actually be the last James Bond film that Ian Fleming saw; it was released on 10th October 1963 and he died on 12th August the following year.

Is it Bond?The opening credits start precisely as they did for Dr No, with Maurice Binder’s iconic glimpse of Bond walking across the screen whilst being captured by the barrel of a gun, only for him to turn around, see us, and shoot; and then for the blood to start filling up the screen. Then, before any opening titles, we then go into the first scene. Bond, dressed in his habitual dinner jacket, is walking through a grand, ornate twilit garden when he realises he is being followed. He hears a footstep on twigs and turns around in a heartbeat (the background music also sounds a stabbing, terrified note) but Bond still can’t see who or where. A little further… the music continues to quiver in the background… the sound of footsteps and owls hooting. Bond is beginning to look anxious. He turns; he shoots; he misses. We see the prowler continue to stalk Bond. Behind a fountain they walk, the violins getting more jumpy, Bond, with his pistol in his hand just ready to strike; then we see the prowler pull out a garotte cord from inside his wristwatch, and as Bond walks in front of him in the shadows, the prowler emerges from the darkness, pulls the garotte around Bond’s throat, as 007 seemingly falls to his knees and dies.

Training schoolThen the lights go up on the big house in the distance and we realise that we are at a training ground; a henchman (Morzeny) comes up and tells the prowler “exactly one minute fifty-two seconds, that’s excellent” – although his mouth never moves, curious that, the first gaffe of the film comes very early. The camera falls to the dead man on the ground, a hand reaches out to its throat and, it’s not Bond after all, but some poor sap wearing a Bond mask, sacrificed in the quest for the perfect spy mission. So who was killed in Bond’s place? (we never find out!) Apparently, the extra who originally played this fake Bond accidentally looked surprisingly like Sean Connery, so they had to re-shoot with a moustachioed man, so as not to confuse the audience! And who is the prowler? (That we definitely do find out!) And what happens next?

Opening creditsWhat happens next is a return to the rest of the title sequence. Robert Brownjohn created a semi-glamorous, semi-seedy vision of the titles being projected onto the scantily-clad body of an exotic dancer, the words floating and contorting as they reflect over the dancer’s undulating form. The dancer was actually the same one who takes part in the gypsy scene, Leila, who, apparently, danced with the Lebanese National Ballet in Iran for the Shah’s coronation! Whilst she is dancing we hear John Barry’s Latin American/Middle Eastern jazz arrangement of the From Russia with Love theme, mashed up with his James Bond Is Back theme. Musically, it’s very arresting! And as the credits come to a conclusion, the lights go up on a very familiar sight…

VeniceAnd the locations? … gondoliers on the waters of the Grand Canal in Venice. The first scene after the opening titles take place at the Venice International Grandmasters Chess Championships, where Czechoslovakian Kronsteen is taking on the Canadian Macadams. The rest of the film takes place in London, then Istanbul, and then Bond and Tatiana work their way back to Venice on the Orient Express, via Zagreb and Belgrade. However, all the railway station scenes were filmed at the Sirkeci station in Istanbul. Almost all the interior shots took place at Pinewood Studios: M’s office, SPECTRE island, the Venice hotel and even on board the Orient Express. The gypsy camp scene was originally to be shot at Topkapi in Istanbul, but funding required that it be shot in the UK, so a mock-up was created at Pinewood. Other short scenes were filmed in Argyll and Scotland, with the “rats” scene filmed in Spain.

Hat trickBond, James Bond. Although the book features that famous phrase, Sean Connery doesn’t get to utter it in this second film. However, he did get a considerable pay increase, from the $100,000 he pocketed for Dr No to $250,000 for this film; and his wages never decreased as the series continued. The success of From Russia with Love truly sealed his own personal success as an actor and he never looked back. Apart from the pay, and the success, the other thing that Connery got out of this film was the chance to wear eight Savile Row suits, each one costing approximately $2000. But then he always was something of a clothes horse.

SteamFilm editor Peter Hunt realised whilst making Dr No that it was vital to keep everything moving as quickly as possible, so that the audience doesn’t start to analyse the plot. It’s got to be here and now entertainment. And as in that previous film, as a result, there are a number of gaffes and continuity issues that remain in the film due to this keenness to move on and make it all at breakneck speed. For example, one scene was cut right at the very last minute because, at a private screening, Terence Young’s 12-year-old son pointed out that it contained a character – the Bulgarian Agent constantly pursuing Bond – who had been killed earlier on in the film. When Kronsteen plays the winning move in his championship match, the chessboard on the wall shows the movement of Queen from F4 to E4, but one moment later, after Macadams has conceded, it’s back on F4 again. When Klebb arrives at the SPECTRE training camp and meets Morzeny, they’re clearly saying the word “pool” whilst their voices say the word “lake”. No time to retake, perhaps? There’s no way that Bond could have put his shirt on that quickly when he has his first phone call with Moneypenny. The bath that he runs when he comes back after Krilenku’s death only has steam coming out of the tap even though you can distinctly hear water pouring out. The Flower truck changes from being a Ford F-350 Flatbed to a Chevrolet C30. Minor errors each one, but when you add them up, it clearly shows that pace and effect was more important than accuracy!

PuntingThe Bond Girl. We last saw Sylvia Trench attempting to get a hole in one in Bond’s bedroom just as he was being called for Dr No duty in Jamaica. Here she is again, up to her elbows in romance, snuggling up to Bond in a punt on the river Cam (I presume – the punter who goes past is punting from the Cambridge end) when, once again, he gets the call to action – no, a different kind of action. Originally there was to be a running joke throughout all the films that Sylvia and James would be just about to shake their groove thangs when M would insist on his being sent to some other part of the globe. But the powers that be decided this would be an unnecessary distraction, and I reckon they got that right. So this is the second and last appearance of Miss Trench attempting to tee something up with Bond.

TatianaInstead, meet Daniela Bianchi, at 21 years old, the youngest to perform the role of Bond Girl. In 1960 she was runner-up to Miss Universe, and it’s not hard to tell why from her extraordinary good looks. From 1958 to 1968 she appeared in a string of movies, mainly performing in her native Italian; and at the grand old age of 28 she retired from acting, to marry a Genoese shipping magnate and bring up a family. Because her accent was too strongly Italian, her lines were dubbed by Barbara Jefford, the first of three times that Ms Jefford would provide the spoken words for a character in a Bond film.

Tatiana looking sexyWhat Bond Girls Are Like. From watching Dr No, we came to the conclusion that Bond Girls are: sexy, with an exotic background, unpredictable, as equally likely to attack Bond as to support him, strong and self-reliant up to a point, and sometimes tragic. I think it’s fair to say that Tatiana fulfils all those descriptions – apart, perhaps, from tragic; the end of the film suggests that they could go on to have a long and happy relationship….as if that would be likely with James Bond!

FilmingInterestingly, the scene where the SPECTRE agent is secretly filming Bond and Tatiana in bed together caused some problems with the film censors. They didn’t like what they felt was the extreme voyeurism of the arrangement; and to make it more palatable for the censors, the film doesn’t dwell on the agent doing the watching.

BlofeldThe Villain. It’s not so easy to identify just one “villain” in From Russia with Love. In one respect, the villain is the entire SPECTRE community. In another, it’s the unnamed, uncredited character Number One, who lounges in his comfy chair, stroking his pussycat. We know from subsequent films and stories that he is Blofeld; but at this stage, Bond’s cinema audience would only know him as Number One. In fact, he was played by Anthony Dawson, who played Professor Dent in Dr No; although the character was voiced by Austrian actor Eric Pohlmann.

KlebbOther memorable characters? For me the big memorable character is the icily sinister Comrade Colonel Rosa Klebb, formerly with SMERSH, now “Number Three” in SPECTRE. With a face like a ripped trainer, she socks wannabe SPECTRE agents in the stomach to check their strength, lingers dubiously long over the prettiness of Tatiana in a rather icky way, and is ready to despatch Bond to the Pearly Gates with one flick of her poisoned-bladed boots. It’s a brilliant performance by Lotte Lenya, whose first husband was Kurt Weill, responsible for the music in The Threepenny Opera and other collaborations with Berthold Brecht as well as a range of classical compositions. She had a long and wide-ranging career, and was a renowned singer as well as actress.

GrantAnd there’s also “Nash” – Bond’s associate with whom he meets up on the Orient Express, except that he isn’t really – he’s SPECTRE assassin Donald “Red” Grant, whom we meet in that first scene, successfully stealing up on the pretend Bond and garrotting him. Grant’s classic Aryan looks set the hallmark for future tough-guy henchmen. He’s a pure psychopath through and through. He was played by Robert Shaw, an English actor who appeared in a number of top roles in great films – A Man for All Seasons, Young Winston, Jaws, and so on. Sadly he had quite a tragic life, dying at the age of 51 through an alcohol-induced heart attack.

Karim BeyThere’s a lot of fun lurking within the role of Ali Karim Bey, Head of MI6 Station T in Istanbul. He likes the good life – food, drink, women, and never seems to do much in the way of work, although he proves himself a fine marksman with the revenge killing of Krilenku. This excellent performance was the last that Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz gave, as he died from suicide during the filming, as a result of a diagnosis of terminal cancer of the hips. He was apparently in great pain whilst the film was being made – you can see him limping in many scenes – and actually only took on the job to provide additional income for his wife/widow. Curiously, like Robert Shaw, he too was only 51 when he died.

KronsteenIt’s a small role, but superbly judged: Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen, the Czech Grandmaster who also works for SPECTRE and who suffers at first hand the displeasure of Number One. His seriously dour countenance was perfect for this humourless, arrogant character. It was actually Sean Connery who recommended him for the role, as they were already friends, and he went on to have a hugely successful career, mainly playing villains in dozens of films in the 60s – 80s. Born in Poland, he became a British citizen and was a very familiar presence on our screens.

QJust briefly to check in at M’s office; Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell reprise their usual roles, and Desmond Llewelyn appears for the first time as Q – a role he would undertake with true devotion 17 times in all. There’s a very funny scene where M cuts off Bond’s recording as he is about to share a dubious story about him with Tatiana, and which everyone around the table would have ended up hearing. Spoilsport!

John_BarryAnd what about the music? So of course we have the main James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman, which remains as iconic and attention-grabbing as ever. The rest of the incidental music is written and arranged by John Barry, and it works extremely well. The sequences in the Russian embassy (007 Takes the Lektor), on the Venice canal and accompanying the closing credits are (IMHO) outstanding.

matt-monroBut the main song this year was “From Russia with Love”, sung by Matt Monro, and written by Lionel Bart, two men who were pretty much at the top of their respective trees. Matt Monro’s biggest hit Portrait of my Love was released in 1960 and he had a string of chart hits for six or so years that ended with his superb cover version of the Beatles’ Yesterday. In that period he represented the UK at Eurovision in 1964 (with a song that didn’t chart) although his second-most successful single, Walk Away, was a translation of that year’s Austrian entry, Warum nur warum. But perhaps his most famous track is the title song from the film Born Free. He died in 1985, but his son Matt Monro Jr is still performing his dad’s old numbers.

Lionel BartLionel Bart was most famous for writing Oliver! along with a few other musicals, plus a few odd songs like Livin’ Doll for Cliff Richard and Little White Bull for Tommy Steele. He had something of a rollercoaster career, with incredible highs and lows. Although the phrase “from Russia with love” is repeated throughout the song, there is no crossover between the lyrics and the story of the film, which John Barry perceived to be a weakness and decided shouldn’t happen again. We first hear the song on the radio when Bond and Sylvia are reclining in their punt, and then not again until the final credits.

HelicopterCar chases. Well, rather disappointingly, there aren’t any. Instead, we have a helicopter chase and a boat chase. I guess they thought it was important to take a step-up from the car chases of Dr No. The helicopter chase was inspired by a scene from Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and the boat chase by a scene from The Red Berets, also directed by Terence Young. The helicopter was a model – all very clever cinematography – but the boats were real enough, and they were so highly tuned that they didn’t make a sufficiently “turbo” roar to make the scene exciting, which was a challenge for the sound editor. Although there are no car chases, we do get to see Bond with his beloved Bentley, a 1935 3.5 litre model. Perhaps even nicer, depending on your taste, is Karim Bey’s Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith.

Turkish CoffeeCocktails and Casinos. Again, I expect the producers wanted to move away from that aspect of Bond, putting him in a different environment. So there are no cocktails and no casinos in this film. We do discover, however, how Bond takes his Turkish coffee – medium sweet – although at breakfast time his only stipulation is that it is “very black.” In other alcohol-based news, the scene in the restaurant car on the Orient Express is where Bond realises that his associate Nash is not all that he seems. Red Chianti with sole? Unthinkable!

Phone bugGadgets. Another year, another set of gadgets. Bond has a pager in his punt – it would have been the envy of all hospital staff in the 80s. Q issues Bond with a terrific briefcase, which contains an Armalite AR-7 folding sniper’s rifle with infrared telescope and detachable suppressor, 50 gold sovereigns concealed in a strip, a tear gas cartridge disguised as talcum powder, set to discharge when the briefcase is opened incorrectly, and a spring-loaded throwing knife concealed within the case. Bond wouldn’t have won his fight with Grant without it! There’s a bug checker under the phone, which is useful for all those times when you need to know who’s listening in. There’s a mobile phone in his car – it looks like an ordinary receiver of the time, which is kinda cute. Bond’s charming old Box Brownie camera (which would have surely been archaic in 1963) reveals its secret as a tape recorder.

Walkie talkieBond’s not the only one to have a decent gadget – Grant’s garrotte wire within a wristwatch is a pretty neat trick. And of course, the lektor, around which the whole film revolves, could be considered the ultimate in gadgets. And have you seen the size of the walkie-talkies used Krilenku and his cronies? They’re bigger than a rifle!

In MemoriamIn Memoriam. Dr No had a death count of approximately 11, plus all those who perished in his lair when it explodes at the end. Can From Russia with Love do any better? Let’s briefly remember those who gave their lives so that Bond and Tatiana can go off in that boat in the end scene for some nookie (just like Bond and Honey did in Dr No):

1) SPECTRE man who was killed at the beginning who we all thought was Bond.

2) Bulgarian agent trussed up in the back of the Citroen hijacked and killed by Grant.

3) Guard at the gypsy camp, murdered by Krilenku by hurling a machete in his back.

4) All those who perish in the gypsy camp skirmish. Impossible to judge really, but I counted at least 14.

5) Krilenku, shot through Anita Ekberg’s mouth in a poster for Call Me Bwana, a 1963 film which was also produced by Eon productions and had largely the same crew as Dr No. Canny!

6) Bulgarian Agent who followed Tatiana into the Saint Sophia, killed by Grant.

7) Russian embassy guard.

8) Anyone who may have died in the explosion at the embassy.

9) Karim.

10) Metz.

11) Station Y officer who should have met Bond at Zagreb, taken into the toilet at the railway station by Grant and mysteriously never seen again.

12) Grant. The fight that ends with his death is under two minutes in the film but took two days to shoot.

13) Kronsteen.

14) Two guys in the helicopter.

15) Everyone who died on the boats (approximately ten people including Morzeny)

16) Rosa Klebb.

That’s at least 40 deaths. Dr No’s death count is chicken feed in comparison with that lot!

Petrol drumsHumour to off-set the death count. Following his jokey remarks whenever someone died in Dr No, Bond continues that morbid sense of humour. Here are the throwaway lines that marked some of the deaths in this film:

After Bond has helped Karim Bey to shoot Krilenku dead as he climbs through the window, framed by the smiling lips of the Anita Ekberg poster, Bond helpfully observes: “She should have kept her mouth shut”.

When the helicopter that’s been chasing him, finally blows up, killing the two guys inside, Bond says “I’d say one of their aircraft is missing” – referring to the 1942 film of (nearly) the same name.

After he’s shot the petrol barrels that explode in flame killing those pursuing Bond and Tania on the boats, he says to her “there’s a saying in England, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

And after Tatiana has shot Rosa Klebb dead, Bond observes, “she’s had her kicks”.

sexismAny less frothy elements? So once again it’s time to consider if there are any outstanding themes or elements that don’t sit well with today’s audience. As in Dr No, I couldn’t perceive any obvious homophobic or racist elements, but when it comes to sexism, it’s quite another story. Once again I think it’s important to remember that definition of sexism, so that we know where we’re at. Sexism is: “(Behaviour, language, etc, reflecting) the assumption that one sex, esp. the female, is inferior to the other; prejudice or discrimination, esp. against women, on the grounds of sex; insistence on (esp. a woman’s) conformity to a sexually stereotyped social role.”

LeilaSo those opening credits, where the words are projected onto the belly dancer’s body, aren’t really sexist; and the belly dancer’s entertainment sequence at the gypsy camp can in many ways be interpreted the other way – she’s revealing her skill, her ability to do something that the others can’t do, her sexiness (which is a gift) – in no way is this showing that women are inferior to men.

Fight!However, the rest of the film is not quite so straightforward. Karim Bey’s on-off girlfriend is dressed to show off her remarkable cleavage, and she does nothing else apart from pout and look sexy. But then Karim Bey would never be the kind of guy who’d want an equal for a girlfriend. The fight between the two gypsy women, Vida and Zora, to see who wins the hand of the guy they both love, is pretty degrading. True, in the old days, two gentlemen might have fought a duel to win the hand of a fair lady; but that would have been an honourable and somewhat clinical procedure. Aliza Gur’s Vida and Martine Beswick’s Zora get down and dirty, bosoms almost popping out of their colourful bras, in a scene that only lacks mud and a soft porn soundtrack, rather than John Barry’s more dramatic Girl Trouble theme. Then, to cap it all, they fawn over Bond, trying to make his stay as pleasurable as possible. Where’s their self-respect?

Tatiana's nightieTatiana shows less fighting spirit than Honey in Dr No, thereby taking on that sexually stereotyped social role that is the definition of sexism. The very idea that someone should fall in love with someone else just through seeing a photograph of them, so that they want to marry, defect, and risk their life is pretty appalling. I realise that Tatiana is forced into this position by SPECTRE – so I’m happy to accept that it’s SPECTRE who are sexist more than she is. The behaviour of Bond with “Nash” on the Orient Express is also very sexist. Bond insists that she doesn’t go to the restaurant car with the men. He slaps her on the bum. Together, they refer to Tatiana as “The Girl”. Again, she is on the receiving end of the sexism, but does nothing about it. I guess she still has her eyes on prize at the end – which is, not being killed by SPECTRE.

BondBizarre other stuff that occurred to me. Once the film gets underway and the first scenes are of Bond at play, Bond being called into M’s office, Bond being sent to a foreign destination, Bond arriving at a foreign airport, and Bond being collected in a car… I wondered if I was watching Dr No again.

I know foreign travel and tourism has grown a lot in the last 55 years, but how on earth did they manage to film inside the St Sophia in Istanbul when it was so empty? We’ve been twice, and it’s been absolutely thronging with people both times!

Uncharacteristically lax of Bond to let himself get so trapped with “Nash” on the train. Where was his training? If it hadn’t been for Q’s briefcase, he’d be a gonner.

I had no idea Bond was so attached to his hat. In the most trying of circumstances, he’s still headgeared up. It never leaves his head even when he’s on the run, being strafed by helicopters. What a fashion hero!

Those fighting fish… the one that Blofeld says is being trained to wait until its rivals are exhausted… you can see the pane of glass that separates it from the others. Of course it can’t fight, it can’t reach them!

The scar that Sylvia tenderly fingers above Bond’s left hip suddenly disappears when he gets up out of the punt. Magic!

Terence Young didn’t like Daniela Bianchi’s legs. So she had a stand-in reveal her legs in that periscope scene under the Russian embassy.

BAFTA_awardAwards: Ted Moore won the BAFTA for Best British Cinematography (Colour). It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Song (From Russia with Love), but it lost out to Circus World, from the film of the same name. Never heard of it!

Goldfinger posterTo sum up. From Russia with Love feels like a much more mature film than Dr No, and its baddies (Klebb and Grant) are so superbly created and performed that you can really wallow and revel in their misadventure. The Istanbul (and to a lesser extent Venice) settings add a real taste of intrigue and I’m not surprised to discover that this is many people’s favourite Bond film, including Sean Connery himself. Although the budget was doubled to $2 million from the first film, it returned $79 million at the box office, $20 million more than Dr No. It’s a really enjoyable, escapist film that leaves you wanting more. I’d be fascinated to hear your opinions of From Russia with Love – and whether or not you agree with me! Please leave a comment below. Next up – Goldfinger!

My rating: 5 Sparkles
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All photos from the film of course belong to their various copyright holders.

The James Bond Challenge – Dr No (1962)

Dr NoIn which we meet Bond (James Bond, that is) who is summoned to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of Secret Agent Strangways, and eventually locates Dr No’s secret hideaway at Crab Key – and defeats the scoundrel. In my Agatha Christie Challenge blog posts I endeavour not to give the game away as to whodunit; James Bond films are a different kettle of fish and so I recommend that if you haven’t seen the film first – well, let’s just say the blogs will be full of spoilers!

BlogAlso – apologies in advance. This is quite a long blog, gentle reader, so I wish you the best of luck in getting through it all. There’s a lot of introductory material that I thought I should grapple with, that shouldn’t be necessary as the film series continues. So, please, may I crave your indulgence just this once?

Dr No novelDr No was the first of the films to be made, an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name published four years earlier. In 1961, Canadian film producer Harry Saltzman read Fleming’s Goldfinger, and loved it so much he bought the film rights to the novels. Albert R. Broccoli (Cubby, to you and me) also wanted to transfer Bond to the Silver Screen only to find that Saltzman had beaten him to it. Saltzman refused to sell but they went into partnership together and, under the title of Eon productions, they made eight Bond films together between 1962’s Dr No and 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Although Thunderball had been the original target for the first Bond movie, there was a long drawn out and ultimately acrimonious legal battle over the work between Fleming and Irish writer Kevin McClory, whom Fleming had originally brought in to write a screenplay for a Bond movie in the late 50s. Broccoli and Saltzman wisely chose Dr No instead.

Ursula Andress on the beachBefore this recent re-watch, I think I’d seen Dr No just once before – on television, probably in the 1980s. I remember enjoying it, but my only memory of it, and probably the memory I share with most people, is the vision of Ursula Andress as Honey Rider, emerging from the sea, clad in not very much at all. So it was great fun to watch it again all these years later, and to discover there’s more to the film than just that scene.

Three Blind MiceHow does it start? The opening credits blend into the first scene as we see three (apparently) blind men, all walking in tandem for safety to the tune of Three Blind Mice, crossing a road, holding out a begging tin, then walking up to the Queen’s Club where John Strangways, the MI6 Station Chief in Jamaica, is playing Bridge with geologist Professor Dent, retired military man General Potter, and Government House Chief Secretary Pleydell-Smith. As Strangways leaves to file his usual secret daily report back to London, he is assassinated by one of the (clearly not) blind men, who then take a getaway car to Strangways’ House. There they surprise and murder his assistant Mary, then steal secret files on Crab Key and Doctor No. As the transmission from Jamaica faltered and broke up, London’s suspicions are aroused. So M summons Bond to deliver him his next task: find out what has happened to Strangways. I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story at this point – you’ll just have to watch the film for yourself!

Portrait of the Duke of WellingtonProduced on a low budget of just $1.1 million, there are many stories about how cheaply certain effects were achieved. Dr No’s aquarium, for example, was represented by some stock footage of goldfish magnified many times over. M’s office features cardboard paintings and the expensive looking upholstered door to his office was made of plastic. Dr No had clearly stolen Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery, as you can see it in one scene in his lair. It’s true; the painting had genuinely been stolen in 1961 and was missing for four years. In reality, Doctor No wasn’t the thief; over the course of a weekend, production designer Ken Adam painted up a copy using a slide from the National Gallery as his source. The UK arm of United Artists put up an extra $100,000 specifically to film the scene where Dr No’s hideaway is blown to smithereens – that’s an extra 10% of the entire budget spent on that one brief scene. However, they needn’t have worried about the financial risk; the film went on to be a huge success, taking $59.5 million at the box office.

Terence YoungTo direct the film, the producers eventually decided on Terence Young, after it had been declined by Guy Green, Guy Hamilton (who went on to direct four later Bond movies), Hammer movie expert Val Guest and Ken Hughes (most famous for directing Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Guest and Hughes would also be two of the six credited directors (which tells its own story) of the spoof film Casino Royale. Terence Young ended up directing three of the first four Bond movies, and is credited with moulding the character of Bond from Fleming’s original characterisation into someone more sophisticated, tasteful and with an eye to humour as well as to women.

Ian FlemingI haven’t read any Ian Fleming books, but the synopses are readily available on the Internet, so I can (hopefully) make a reasonable estimate of how faithful each adaptation was. But first a word or two about Ian Fleming himself. Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he was the naval intelligence Commander in charge of Operation Goldeneye (recognise the name?) which was a plan to monitor and sabotage Spain’s activity during the Second World War if the country had been invaded by the Nazis or indeed had offered their support to Hitler. It was vital that British communication with Gibraltar was unhindered during that sensitive period. As it was, there was never any need to put the plan into full operation; and in later years, Fleming used the name for his home in Jamaica. Of course, it would also become the name of the 19th film in the series.

Bond and SylviaIn real life Fleming was no stranger to the more enjoyable things in life; a serial womaniser from his time at Eton onwards – he left Sandhurst with no commission but with gonorrhoea – and a heavy addiction to cigarettes which no doubt brought about his early death at the age of 56. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Bond has these attributes too. Fleming clearly brought his experience with military intelligence into his prize creation!

Tarantula sceneDr No was published in 1958 and was the sixth in his series of James Bond novels. Many elements of the story are reasonably faithfully portrayed in the film; although there are a few major alterations. In the book, Dr No runs a guano mine; in the film, it’s a bauxite mine, but with a nuclear pool reactor. In the book No dies through being buried alive in guano; in the film, Bond submerges him in the pool so that No boils to death – neither is a nice way to go. In the book No subjects Bond to the ordeals of electric shocks, burns, an encounter with large poisonous spiders and a fight with a giant squid. In the film, Bond is assaulted by guards and has to crawl through a ventilation shaft that fills with water. The book features a scene where Bond’s life is threatened by a deadly centipede, whereas in the film it’s a giant tarantula. In the film, No is working for SPECTRE, that‘s the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion; in the book he’s operating solo. Much of the rest of the story is true to the book. No’s plans to interrupt the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral; the characters of Honey Rider and Quarrel; the local fear of “dragons” (which turn out to be flame-throwing swamp buggies); even M’s insistence on Bond changing guns, are all to be found in Fleming’s book.

Shoot to killThis was the first of his written works to receive some harsh words from the critics. Famously, Paul Johnson of the New Statesman, under the title, “Sex, Snobbery and Sadism”, wrote: “I have just finished what is, without doubt, the nastiest book I have ever read […] by the time I was a third of the way through, I had to suppress a strong impulse to throw the thing away [..] three basic ingredients in Dr. No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical, two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult”.

James BondMany of the film reviews were equally grudging. Time Magazine called Bond a “blithering bounder” and “a great big hairy marshmallow” who “almost always manages to seem slightly silly”. The New Republic said that the film “never decides whether it is suspense or suspense-spoof” – but I personally think that’s one of the film’s strengths. The Vatican described it as “a dangerous mixture of violence, vulgarity, sadism and sex”, whilst the Kremlin said that Bond was the personification of capitalist evil; well, they would, wouldn’t they. However, on a positive note, The Daily Express said that “Dr No is fun all the way, and even the sex is harmless”, The Observer said it was “full of submerged self-parody”, and The Guardian‘s critic called Dr. No “crisp and well-tailored” and “a neat and gripping thriller.” Just goes to show that you can’t please all the people all the time.

Iconic title imageThe opening credits always set the scene and the vibe for any film. With the expectation that Dr No would be the first of many movie adaptations of Bond stories, it was important for them to get it right first time round. And that they surely did. We can thank Maurice Binder, an American film title designer, for the idea of having Bond walk across the screen whilst being captured by the barrel of a gun, only for him to turn around, see us, and shoot; and then for the blood to start filling up the screen. Simple, but incredibly effective. For this first film, a stuntman by the name of Bob Simmons played 007 in this sequence (it was also Simmons over whom the tarantula crawls – not Sean Connery).

Opening creditsThe rest of the title sequence consists of coloured flashing discs and squares against a black background with white lettering, representing nightlife signs, traffic lights, casino chips, computer on/off lights – it could be any or all of these; it’s however you want to interpret them, really. This then breaks and becomes a sequence of coloured silhouettes of intertwining people dancing to Latin American rhythms, before another break, revealing the black silhouettes of the Three Blind Mice assassins, hobbling along to a calypso version of the famous nursery rhyme tune.

Le CercleAnd the locations? The action of the story takes place in London and Jamaica, and those are the two locations where the film was shot. Pinewood Studios was used for M’s office, Dr No’s lair and the ventilation duct that Bond has to crawl through. Le Cercle club, where we first meet Bond, was based on Les Ambassadeurs Club in Mayfair, but was another indoor set created by Ken Adam. The external views of MI6 were shot at Queensborough House in London. In Jamaica, the Queens Club scene was shot at the Courtleigh Manor Hotel in Kingston, and Strangways’ House actually belonged to Dolores Keator, the actress who played Strangway’s assistant Mary. Most of the other locations used in Jamaica were very close to Ian Fleming’s home and he frequently popped round whilst they were shooting.

Young Sean ConneryBond, James Bond. Apart from George Lazenby’s one-off portrayal of 007, Sean Connery was the only Bond I’d seen until I saw Daniel Craig in Skyfall. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan are mere names to me at the moment (until I get around to seeing their films), so, for me, Connery is the one and only truly original. Prior to landing this role, he’d had a few parts, both major and minor, in some obscure films. He’d earned a reputation of being something of a hard man as, on a couple of occasions, he’d shown how handy he was with his fists, both on and off set; and it was director Terence Young who introduced him to the fashionable London scene, with glamorous women and decadent casinos, that knocked some of his rough edges off. But they wanted an actor who had strong, masculine charisma, and he truly fitted the part. Producer Cubby Broccoli had been slightly less than complimentary about some of the names in the frame for the role before they chose Connery.

Bond's first appearanceHe was 32 years old when the film was released; in the books Bond is meant to be in his mid-thirties, so that was a perfect match. Our first impression of him, seated at the casino table, gaining from Sylvia Trench’s losing streak, is of a suave, immaculately dressed, arrogant and maybe dangerous gentleman. He’s introduced to us gradually in that first scene; Sylvia Trench is centre stage, gambling extensively against her invisible opponent. At first, we just see his hands with the cards; then, on side profile, his face is masked by one of the others at the card table; then we see him from behind. We don’t see that iconic first look until he says the magic words “Bond, James Bond”. But it’s not only his words that express his thoughts. His eyes are firmly rooted on Miss Trench, and flirt outrageously with her when he observes, with something of a double meaning, “it looks like you’re out to get me”. When he gets up to attend to business, once again his eyes are more eloquent than any of his words; see you upstairs later, they say, rather than just goodbye. And indeed, by the end of the scene, he has already sorted out a golfing date with her the next afternoon with the prospect of dinner afterwards too. In the words of Sade, no need to ask, he’s a smooth operator.

Fixing a dateFilm editor Peter Hunt realised that the key to success in this film was to keep everything moving as quickly as possible, so that the audience doesn’t start to analyse it. As a result, this vital, iconic opening scene contains a terrible continuity gaffe. On uttering the immortal “Bond, James Bond” line, his cigarette is posed decadently between his lips. As Sylvia speaks her next line, “Mr Bond, I suppose you wouldn’t care to raise the limit”, he removes the cigarette from his mouth and we see it, from behind, held between the fingers of his left hand. However, when the camera pans back up to his face for his next line “I have no objections”, the cigarette is already, magically, back up there in his mouth. Pan back for Sylvia’s next line and the cigarette is back in his hand. There’s a lot of this kind of thing in Dr No. By all accounts, Peter Hunt’s very idiosyncratic style frequently sacrificed continuity for pace and impact. The film is riddled with continuity and factual errors and inconsistencies; no wonder Peter Hunt didn’t want to give the audience time to think. I particularly like the way Bernard Lee as M accidentally says he works for MI7 rather than MI6 – they kept it in, but dubbed “6” over “7”. Watch it back and you realise his mouth is all over the place.

Sylvia TrenchThe Bond Girl. Whilst Sylvia Trench is the first “girl” we meet in connection with Bond, and with whom there is definitely a romantic connection – that’s quite a warm kiss whilst she’s practising golf in his hotel room; and whilst Miss Taro is the first girl with whom he (almost certainly) has some kind of sexual congress, I wouldn’t classify either of them as the first Bond Girl. That accolade surely has to go to Honey Rider, played by the 26-year-old Ursula Andress. Apparently, at first the role was to be given to Julie Christie, but the producers didn’t think she was sufficiently voluptuous.

Miss TaroMs Andress had arrived in Hollywood in the mid-50s but made no films because she couldn’t learn English lines. For Honey Rider, her Swiss-Germanic accent had to be dubbed, in speech by Monika van der Zyl, and in singing by Diana Coupland (Bond theme composer Monty Norman’s wife). But it was definitely the breakthrough moment in her career – she said later that “she owed her career to that white bikini” which was sold at auction in 2001 for £41,125.

Honey and shellsOver the years the “Bond Girl” has developed into its own phenomenon, and of course the books, which by 1962 were extremely popular, substantially feature these glamorous female sidekicks. But it was with this first film that the idea of the Bond Girl really took off; and Ursula Andress’ performance obviously set the tone for future portrayals. Let’s take her performance as Honey Rider as a starting point for What Bond Girls Are Like. Sexy, obviously. With an exotic background? Unpredictable. As equally likely to attack Bond as to support him. Strong and self-reliant up to the point when they just have to collapse into his arms and allow him to rescue them. Tragic? Sometimes. Honey Rider tells Bond how a local landowner took advantage of her against her will; and how she got her revenge by putting a female black widow spider inside his mosquito net – he took a week to die.

Honey getting decontaminatedJust as Sylvia Trench had introduced herself as Trench, Sylvia Trench, and Bond was of course, Bond, James Bond, it’s strangely satisfying that Honey also introduces herself to Bond as Rider, Honey Rider, subtly suggesting a level of equality between the two. This continues with the way that they face their foe together, throughout the majority of the movie.

Bond, Honey and somethingAnother cinematographical anomaly; whilst Bond and Honey are talking seashells on the beach at their first meeting you can distinctly see a grey figure bobbing up and down at the foot of the screen, which disappears when you see them at a greater distance. It must be some kind of film equipment, or even a person trying (and failing) to keep out of shot. Click on the picture to take a closer look!

Dressing for dinnerIt’s a full hour before Honey Rider appears in the film. Well they say good things come to him who waits. Mind you, we don’t get sight of Doctor No himself until there’s just 21 minutes left to go.

Dr No himselfThe Villain. For every Bond Girl, there’s also a Bond Villain. In this case, it’s the eponymous Dr Julius No, a fiendish creation that Fleming based on the evil scientist made famous in the works of Sax Rohmer, Dr Fu Manchu. More recently, he is unquestionably the inspiration for Austin Powers’ Dr Evil. Dr No is half Chinese, half German; he has hands made of metal, which can crush with a vice-like pincer grip; but are also useless for delicate work, for obvious reasons, and are the reason why he cannot escape his fate from the boiling nuclear reactor pool. Displeased at the many failed attempts by his henchmen to kill Bond before his arrival at No’s lair, No even considers welcoming Bond into working for SPECTRE, which of course the latter refuses, although No changes his mind anyway believing Bond is too stupid. However, I can’t help but think that No is remarkably unobservant that things are going wrong in his reactor room, and that Bond has escaped and is slowly but surely punching all his assistants up the throat to sabotage No’s ambitions. I suppose that’s the typical conceit of the arch-evil enemy. Synchronise radio beam for toppling is a great masterplan. I’d have loved to recreate that in the playground. Too young, sigh.

Joseph WisemanDr No was played by the Canadian actor Joseph Wiseman, who was mainly known for his extensive stage work on Broadway. It was his appearance in the 1951 film Detective Story that convinced Harry Saltzman that he was the right man to play No. Apparently, in later years, Wiseman treated the film with disdain and preferred to be remembered for his theatre career. He died in 2009, aged 91.

Sylvia's handicapOther memorable characters? I felt rather sorry for Sylvia Trench, who loses loads of money at the Baccarat table just to get Bond’s attention, only to have him stand her up for their golf date with a difference and she never reappears throughout the rest of the film. She will, however, be back for the next film, From Russia With Love. She’s played by Eunice Gayson – again with her voice dubbed by Monika van der Zyl – who was originally due to play Miss Moneypenny, and Lois Maxwell was to play Sylvia; but Ms Maxwell didn’t like the part of Sylvia, so their roles were swapped. Originally Sylvia was expected to be in the first six films – yes, they were thinking that far ahead – but it wasn’t to be.

No such things as dragonsI also feel sorry for Quarrel, the Cayman Islander, who worked for Strangways and then accompanied Bond on his trip to Crab Key, and who dies at the hands (or should that be breath?) of the dragon that he and Honey insisted roamed the island. The dragon was of course a flame-throwing swamp buggy that wipes out Quarrel with one roar. Bond and Honey, with no room for sentimentality towards others, simply never mention him again. He was played by John Kitzmiller, who had appeared in dozens of European (mainly Italian) films in the 1950s, and who died in 1965 at the age of just 51.

Miss Taro againMiss Taro, who is ostensibly Mr Pleydell-Smith’s secretary at Government House, but in reality a spy working for No, is a very engaging character. Ruthless in her desire to kill, she is expert at using her womanly wiles to entrap any unsuspecting man into her clutches. Bond can see through her like a window pane, but he’s perfectly happy to fill his boots up before ensuring her arrest, even if he has to suffer the indignation of being spat at as a result. She was played by Zena Marshall, who appeared in dozens of films from 1945 on but retired from the film industry in 1967 – she died in 2009, aged 83.

Jack Lord as LeiterJack Lord – of Hawaii 5-0 fame – plays Felix Leiter, the CIA man with whom Bond has to work whilst he’s in Jamaica, and, in all honesty, it’s quite a dull role. He appears a few times, mainly to give factual support and advice, and he’s head of the Royal Navy launch to rescue Bond and Honey; but there’s nothing particularly memorable about him. Interestingly, the character, though frequently recurring throughout the books and films, doesn’t appear in the novel version of Dr No, and was, I guess, written in simply to provide a useful reference for future films. Leiter would be played by many different actors throughout the series, with a particularly uncompromising lack of continuity.

Bernard Lee as MThe other interesting characters are the regular favourites M, Miss Moneypenny, and Major Boothroyd, otherwise known as Q. They only have a brief appearance in Dr No, but they would come back again and again in future films. Bernard Lee played M, as he would on ten other occasions, Moonraker being his last appearance. Major Boothroyd was played by Peter Burton, a jobbing actor who appeared in minor roles in endless films and TV programmes up till his death in 1989. He would return to the world of Bond in Thunderball, although not as Q. For devotion to duty, Lois Maxwell outshines them all, appearing as Miss Moneypenny in all the films (bar the parody Casino Royale) from Dr No till 1985’s A View To A Kill. She discussed with director Terence Young what Moneypenny and Bond’s backstory might have been; and they concluded that the two had probably spent an idyllic dirty weekend away when they were very junior officers but they realised that if they carried on together, she’d have her heart broken and he’d never make a spy. So they just settled for various levels of flirtation. She’s also the first person to call him 007, as she announces his arrival to M on the phone. A security necessity no doubt, but you get the feeling she thinks of it as a rather affectionate nickname. M confirms it’s real significance: if you carry a 00 number it means you’re licensed to kill.

Byron Lee and the DragonairesAnd what about the music? Over the years we’ve got used to associating the James Bond films with some remarkable theme songs – as well as the main James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman. Whilst there is plenty of incidental music, Dr No doesn’t have any big song; just the arresting original theme, arranged by John Barry, who would later go on to compose the music for eleven Bond films. The incidental music features a few numbers performed by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, the Jamaican calypso and ska band. The only other recurring song is Under the Mango Tree, also written by Monty Norman.

Monty NormanFew pieces of music so compellingly and arrestingly attract your attention as Norman’s Main Bond theme. You cannot hear it without associating it with 007. It’s as iconic a sound as the opening titles are visually, and another great example of the production team getting it right the first time.

First car chaseCar chases. I don’t know about you, but one of the things I always associate with a James Bond film is a good car chase. So I thought I’d take a look at all the car chases in all the films and see how satisfying each of them is. Dr No benefits from two such chases. The first – of moderate interest – is after he has been met at Kingston Airport by “Mr Jones”, allegedly a chauffeur sent by Government House, but in fact he’s in the pay of the nasty Dr No. Bond gets in the car, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 2434, knowing full well that Jones is not a bona fide chauffeur, but nevertheless Bond instructs him to “take him for a ride” as he’s in no hurry to get to Government House. Playing into the hands of the enemy, one might think? But he is pursued by Felix Leiter and Quarrel in a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider 101-03. As it becomes clear to Mr Jones that they are being followed, Bond suggests he tries to lose the pursuers. Bond tells him to swerve off the main road and, careering through the dust, they come to a panicky halt, whilst Leiter sails past. Jones is just collecting his thoughts when he feels a gun in the small of his back, and Bond interrogates him as to who he is working for. Despite Jones’ insistence he was hired by Government House Bond forces him out of the car, and some fisticuffs ensue. Jones knows he is no match for Bond so says he will talk, but first he wants a cigarette. Just as you think he’s going to spill the beans, he bites into the cigarette which proves to be laced with cyanide. Result: one dead chauffeur, and Bond has to do his own driving. By the way, I know nothing about vintage cars; I’ve gleaned the information about the vehicle models from someone on the Internet whom I hope knows what he’s talking about.

Second car chaseThe second – and more exciting – car chase follows Miss Taro’s invitation to Bond to join her at her house on Magenta Drive. He follows her instructions – now driving a 1961 Sunbeam Alpine Series II – and at first it’s an enjoyable, relaxing, sporty drive down some hairpin roads. But then he’s suddenly pursued by a 1939 LaSalle Funeral Coach Miller Combination Series 50 hearse. It’s all hammy studio stuff, you can virtually see the joins, but nevertheless the thrill starts to kick in. Bond, despite an initial sense of alarm, is clearly loving the chase, trying to outwit his opponents and force them off the road. Suddenly Bond sees the road is blocked by a crane with its boom down but there is a gap underneath that he can just squeeze through. Unfortunately the gap is too small for the hearse, which also can’t stop in time, so swerves left and plummets down a cliff subsequently bursting into flames. Some bright spark has observed that the hearse that gets destroyed is a different vehicle from the one in the chase – a 1949 Humber Super Snipe Mk II Hearse, apparently. I expect it was less valuable than the LaSalle. Budgets mattered enormously.

BaccaratCocktails and Casinos. One always thinks of Bond in the glamorous environment of a casino, discreetly pocketing thousands of pounds worth of gambling wins, whilst always stipulating to an obsessive degree how his cocktail should be prepared. So I thought I’d take a regular look at his gambling habits and alcoholic beverage choices throughout the series. We’ve already taken a look at the casino scene that introduces Bond to the world. He’s playing the Chemin-de-Fer variant of Baccarat, neither of which mean a thing to me, and he’s fleecing poor Miss Trench. I hope she gets a chance to win some back in the next film.

Vodka MartiniAs far as drinks are concerned, he starts off with a medium dry vodka martini – mixed not stirred, prepared by a waiter as he is getting ready to meet Pleydell-Smith, Dent and Potter at the club; later in the hotel room he just drinks neat vodka, from the bottle in his case, not the one that’s been left out, which I presume he suspects may have been poisoned. He pours out two glasses of neat vodka for Miss Taro and himself from a very fine looking Imperial Vodka bottle, even though she’s already been arrested and taken away – it’s a ploy to convince Dent that he and Taro are in bed together. Later, in Dr No’s lair, he’s served another medium dry vodka martini, with lemon peel; this time specified as shaken not stirred – whilst Honey appears to have a red wine.

Geiger CounterGadgets. This is another area of Bondlife with a high reputation – Bond always had the best and most up-to-date gadgets, issued by Q. Well, it looks like it was a soft launch for gadgetry in Dr No, as there isn’t very much to take our attention. A Geiger counter arrives from London; and for day to day assistance, Bond wears a Rolex Submariner watch; perfect for underwater use, as the name suggests, and a stylish addition to his wardrobe. The only other extra offered by M in this film is a self-destructor bag for the case notes, which Bond has to study during the flight.

In MemoriamIn Memoriam. I assumed before I started watching Dr No – and all the subsequent films – that there would be a not inconsiderable death count. So let’s briefly remember those who gave their lives so that Bond and Honey can go off in that boat in the final scene for some nookie:

1) Strangways. Shot by the Three Blind Men.

2) Mary, his assistant. Ditto.

3) Mr Jones, the bogus chauffeur, who chomps on a cyanide cigarette rather than tell Bond who he’s working for.

4) Whoever was driving the hearse when it hurtled down the ravine. I think received wisdom suggests it’s the Three Blind Men again.

5) Professor Dent. Clinically despatched by Bond with deft expertise (and a pistol) – a scene that the censor didn’t like because it was unsporting; he took a lot of convincing by Terence Young to get it passed.

6) The guard on Crab Key who wades through the water, who gets his knifed in the back in one swift movement by Bond, much to Honey’s horror.

7) Quarrel; incinerated by the dragon.

8) The guard whose clothes Bond nicks so that he can steal inside the Big Reactor Room – neck broken from behind, or possibly knifed – hard to tell behind the screen.

9) Doctor No; whilst at first he has the upper hand in his final fight with Bond, balance, gravity and slippery hands are not his friend as he is not so gently poached in a vat of boiling nuclear reactor liquid.

10) There are two guards/scientists treated to a couple of Bond’s sucker punches which up-end them over a barrier landing heavily on a hard floor. So they may have died, or they may just be feeling pretty ropey. However, it’s all rather irrelevant as the death count continues with:

11) Everyone else left in Doctor No’s lair when the whole place erupts.

One dead chauffeurHumour to off-set the death count. It became something of a tradition (or maybe it didn’t! We will see!) for Bond to make some kind of jokey remark whenever someone died. Here are the throwaway lines that marked some of the deaths in this film:

As Bond delivers the dead body of Jones back to Government House, he tells the Sergeant on duty outside “Make sure he doesn’t get away”.

When the operator of the truck that blocked the route to Magenta Drive asks about the hearse the plummeted down the ravine, Bond quips “they were on their way to a funeral.”

Dent creeps into Taro’s bedroom and delivers six bullets into what he believes is the outline of Bond’s body in bed – whereas it’s just some pillows he’d cleverly arranged in advance. Just before Bond shoots Dent, he says “it was a Smith and Wesson, and you’ve had your six”. A good card player always counts the tricks that have already been won.

Oxford-DictionaryAny less frothy elements? Before wrapping up this look back at Dr No, let’s just consider if there are any outstanding themes or elements that don’t sit well with today’s audience. I couldn’t perceive any obvious homophobic or racist elements, which in itself is quite interesting, given the racial mix of people in the Jamaica half of the story. But what about sexism? I think this might be a recurring issue in Bond films, so let’s first of all consult my OED and get a definitive definition, if that’s not a tautological tautology. Sexism is: “(Behaviour, language, etc, reflecting) the assumption that one sex, esp. the female, is inferior to the other; prejudice or discrimination, esp. against women, on the grounds of sex; insistence on (esp. a woman’s) conformity to a sexually stereotyped social role.”

MoneypennyI interpret that as revealing that the sexism in Dr No stems from all the women having subordinate roles – Moneypenny, Mary (Strangways’ assistant), Miss Taro (Pleydell-Smith’s secretary), various hotel receptionists, airline cabin crew, and so on. 15-love. Merely playing up the sexually attractive nature of the women, like Honey in her bikini, or Miss Taro lying on the bed sensuously waving her foot in the air, is not sexist in itself, unless you view it as conforming to the sexually stereotyped social role of looking great for guys to ogle. Even so, Honey wasn’t expecting company and Miss Taro was on her own when she was on the bed, so I think in those moments they’re doing it for themselves and not for others. 15-all.

Bond getting decontaminatedThere is the scene where Honey is taking a decontamination shower (every home should have one), which clearly has sexual connotations. But then Bond is also lathering up, so there’s no assumption that the female is inferior to the male; the decontamination shower treats everyone equally. 15-30.

Rescuing HoneyHowever, the whole notion of the Bond Girl is surely steeped in sexism. The Bond Girl is, by her very nature, an add-on to Bond; a sidekick, an assistant, someone to look up to him heroically, someone to be fluffy in comparison to his hard man image. It’s clear that a woman like that is seen as inferior to Bond, and therefore would come under the definition of sexist. Indeed, a purely vacuous Bond Girl would be both bland and sexist at the same time. But if you imagine or interpret the Bond Girl as Bond’s equal; if they work together in partnership, each bringing different skills to the table; then, perhaps, not. There are a couple of times when Honey fights back at the armed guards who capture her and Bond in Crab Key. However, his instruction to Honey before they dine with No is “leave all the talking to me” – so that’s not equality in the face of the enemy. In Dr No, I think it’s fair to say that Honey needs a lot of rescuing; she’s more eye-candy than partner in crime-fighting. 30-all.

Dismissing HoneyAnd there’s a vital moment, in Doctor No’s lair, over their posh dinner, when Bond insists that any argument he has with No, has nothing to do with “the girl”, and he wants her safely removed from harm’s way. Despite Honey’s protestations that she wants to be involved, she is taken from the dining table and – as far as Bond is concerned – is out of the picture (literally). Gentlemanly or sexist? A mixture of both, of course. But overall, at 40-30, I’m going to call this a relatively sexist film, but with the rider (no pun intended) that it could be a lot worse than it is.

MaoDr No’s joint Chinese and German heritage is significant from a political point of view; at the time, China was a closed country, led by Mao Tse Tung, of whom the West was extremely suspicious. West Germany, whilst having reinvented itself after the war under Adenauer, was still an emotional hurdle for many who had sustained personal loss during the Second World War. And of course there was also Walter Ulbricht’s East Germany to fear.

Get TopplingDr No’s stated aim, to interfere with the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, sets him firmly in an anti-American, but he claims to be working neither for the East nor the West; SPECTRE are a class apart. Nevertheless, it’s pure Cold War material, which one guesses will continue simply from the title of the next film, From Russia with Love. Whilst Bond is clearly working for the British Government, it’s a given that the American and British security policies are broadly the same, and that Britain will therefore work to support America. Plus ça change…

A pressing needBizarre other stuff that occurred to me. I don’t know whether it’s deliberate or not, but the radio operator who reports that the Jamaica link has broken has the most appallingly un-ironed shirt. That could be a way of showing how long and hard they all worked; or it could be that the wardrobe department had an off day.

Dolores KeatorDolores Keator, who played Strangway’s assistant Mary, was apparently married to Sandford Ziff, who founded Sunglass Hut.

PhotographerMargaret LeWars, who played the unnamed photographer who constantly tries to take snaps of Bond, was the reigning Miss Jamaica at the time. The story goes that she was employed at Kingston Airport, which is where the production crew discovered her, and offered her the job there and then, on the spot.

A singing BondWhen James Bond sings Under the Mango Tree back to Honey, when she first walks in from the sea – apparently that’s the one and only time Bond sings in a film. I’ll make a mental note to Golden Globe Statuecheck that’s correct!

Awards and Nominations: Just the one – the Golden Globe for most promising newcomer – female went to Ursula Andress.

RIchard MaibaumTo sum up. Considering this was the film that launched a hugely successful series – the 25th Bond film is expected to start filming later this year – you would think that Dr No would have had high impact and be considered largely successful; and so it was, and still is. Richard Maibaum (who would go on to write 13 of the Bond films), Johanna Harwood (script editor) and Berkely Mather’s screenplay is tight and compact, witty, with no unnecessary dialogue, smart, but not too smart. It treads a delicate, and I think successful, line between being a genuine spy thriller and a slightly tongue-in-cheek affair, which raises its entertainment status without having a detrimental effect on the suspense. Strong characterisation, a memorable theme tune, and some iconic acting make it extremely watchable. My only criticism would be that the story gets a little bogged down between the time that Bond, Honey and Quarrel are hiding in the Crab Key waters and finally getting to challenge Dr No in person. However, that’s just my small quibble. I’d be fascinated to hear your opinions of Dr No – and whether or not you agree with me! Please leave a comment below. Next up – From Russia with Love!

My rating: 4 Sparkles

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All photos from the film of course belong to their various copyright holders.

The James Bond Challenge

Dr No“The name’s Sparkle. Chris Sparkle.” You might have realised, gentle reader, that I often enjoy a challenge. For three years now I’ve been working away at my Agatha Christie Challenge, re-reading all her books and then writing a blog post about each of them. At my current rate it’ll be at least 2021 before I finish, maybe even later.

From Russia With LoveJuggling that alongside all my usual blatherings about theatre, travel, films, Eurovision and all that lark, I’m going to introduce another thread – The James Bond Challenge. Now, I’ve never read any of the Ian Fleming books, but as a youngster I was quite a fan of Mr Bond on film. In the 70s they frequently brought back the 1960s Sean Connery films as double-bills, and I remember seeing From Russia With Love and Diamonds Are Forever on the same cinema ticket with my schoolfriend John – I expect we chatted all the way through it, much to the annoyance of the other cinemagoers. My cousin also worked with and was personal friends with George Lazenby, so we all felt we had a family allegiance to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

On Her Majesty's Secret ServiceBut then something strange happened… I never saw any more in the series. I loved the Wings single of Live and Let Die, but never got around to seeing it at the cinema. So I never saw (and still haven’t) Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan in the role. I did see Skyfall at the cinema, but missed out on Spectre. I decided this was Something About Which Something Must Be Done.

Casino RoyaleSo very kindly Mrs Chrisparkle bought me for my birthday this year a box set of all the James Bond films from Dr No to Quantum of Solace, excluding the erroneous comic Casino Royale – which I saw at the cinema as a youngster with the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle and I remember laughing like a drain at it. But I have that Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre all downloaded on my Freeview box anyway, so every James Bond film is now at my fingertips. Lucky me!

SpectreAs a result I’m going to start the James Bond Challenge. I’ll be re-watching each and every Bond film in chronological order (maybe with Mrs C, if she’s of a mind to join me) and then giving each one a little write-up afterwards every few weeks or so. Mrs C and I have already sat down and watched Dr No again and we were both really impressed! So watch this space and, all being well, Dr No will kick off the season in a couple of days’ time! And if you’re fancying dipping your toes back into Bond-land, and have access to the films, it would be great if you wanted to watch along at the same time and we can compare notes!