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Monday, January 06, 2014

007 Feature #1 - Dr. No featuring Connery...Sean Connery

Last March, I did something quite experimental with this blog on the Monday Matinee portion of the blog.  I don't know how many of you were around during that time, but there's a clue in what the Monday Matinees in March 2013 were all about.  One of the entries is one of the Top 10 of the most read blog entries since "A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life" was founded in May 2011.

It was the time in which I took a look at one of the Batman film series and examined each movie on its own during each Monday in March.  I chose the Batman quadrogy (which I don't believe is a word, but am not sure what exactly comes after trilogy, so we're going to just run with it) that ran between 1989 and 1997.  There was the stellar "Batman" from 1989, the just as wonderful "Batman Returns" from 1992, the "I'm actually surprised I liked it more than I thought I would" "Batman Forever" from 1995, and the "Why the hell did I waste money renting this movie" "Batman and Robin" from 1997.

(Proof positive that sometimes film series can be too much of a good thing - although Christian Bale certainly helped breathe new life into the Batman franchise beginning in 2005.)

That said, I've decided to try and kick off the New Year right by doing an extended feature on another film series that I absolutely adore.  A film series that has spawned a total of...let's see...twenty-three films in the series so far over a fifty plus year history!

But, don't worry.  I won't be featuring ALL twenty-three films.  That would be major overkill.  But, I will be featuring at least one film from each of the six actors who have played this iconic role.  The role, of course, being a British Secret Service agent who has a penchant for destructive weapons, an eye for the fastest, luxurious sportscars, a thirst for danger, and a libido that could make even the most potent of men seethe with jealousy.

Hence the reason why for the next six weeks (which will take us all the way to February 10, if you're keeping track), we'll be doing the Monday Matinee on a man who is probably known for his iconic number, sharp dress sense, and his preference of the alcoholic beverage known as a martini.

Shaken, not stirred.

I have to say, I am a huge James Bond fan.  I have been for as long as I can remember.  I will also admit that I got into the movies long before the book series, which was created by author Ian Lancaster Fleming, but I'll admit that I did read some of Fleming's twelve books featuring the suave, debonair super spy, and enjoyed them very much.  But, admittedly, it was the films that really got me hooked.  In fact, later on in this series, I'll reveal what Bond movie was the first one I watched, which Bonds I liked, and which I didn't, and some behind the scenes action of each film that I will be featuring in the Monday Matinee over the next month and a half.

Oh, and did I mention that we'll also discuss Bond girls, Bond gadgets, and of course, Bond themes?  This one, of course being the most iconic of all.

So, to begin this extended feature of all things 007, let us begin with the very first actor to ever assume the role of James Bond in film. (I can't really say first Bond actor ever, as the first person to play the role was an American actor named Barry Nelson in a television special based on the "Casino Royale" novel in the mid-1950s).

(I American playing Bond!  What next?  A blond-haired Bond?  Oh wait...)

Now, it probably won't come as too much of a shock to anybody reading this blog, but I think that the first James Bond was the best one.  There was just something about Sean Connery's performance as Bond that just defined the Bond character for me.  And it wasn't necessarily the fact that he was the first one in a long line of James Bonds and that the others could not compare.  It was the fact that of all the James Bond movies that have been released, I find myself watching and re-watching the Sean Connery films.  They were quite simplistic (the first one released over fifty years ago), and certainly, the earlier films didn't have quite the same amount of bells and whistles that later films such as "Goldeneye", "Die Another Day", or "Quantum of Solace" had...but that ended up being a very good thing in the long run, because the Sean Connery films relied more on story than special effects.

(Though, don't get me wrong, the special effects in the Connery films were wicked cool!)

Anyway, did you know that Sean Connery is the only Bond actor to play James Bond in three different decades?  It's true.  He's also the only Bond to leave the franchise, and come back again - on two different occasions!

Now, if you're looking from the perspective of continuity (a.k.a. the films that were released by Eon Productions), there are half a dozen films that feature Connery as Bond.  But if you're looking at the whole picture, Connery really featured in seven.  The films that featured Connery as Bond were...

DR. NO (1962)

Now, the title that happens to be italicized is the film that was not produced by Eon Productions...and I actually am one who kind of wished that film never existed.  For one, it was a lame remake of 1965's Thunderball, for another, Sean Connery was well over fifty and you could tell that he was totally wearing a really bad hairpiece, and lastly, the special effects were extremely lame - even for 1983 standards!  The only thing I'll give you about "Never Say Never Again" is that it was the film that featured a then-relatively unknown actress named Kim Basinger in the role of Domino.

The other six films, on the other hand, were brilliant.  I really did have a tough time selecting just one of the six Connery as Bond movies to feature.  I really loved them all.  However, given that the whole Bond franchise began with the film "Dr. No", I thought that it would be a fantastic beginning to the Monday Matinee - Bond Style.

And while we're at it, check out the opening credits to Dr. No!  They may be just over fifty-one years old (the film was released in theatres on October 5, 1962), they are still just as effective as some of the credits of the newer Bond movies.

So, I'm not really going to bore you with too many plot details here, as I feel very passionately about James Bond movies and definitely don't want to spoil too much.  After all, it wouldn't be worth watching if the entire plot is spoiled, now would it?

All you really need to know about the plot is this.

- It's the first film in which we see the iconic gun barrel image.  Which, I suppose makes sense given that it happens to be the first Bond film.
- The film opens up with the abduction and murder of Jamaican based British Intelligence Station Chief John Strangways by a group of assassins who call themselves the "Three Blind Mice".
- Someone in the film kills themselves after smoking a poison laced cigarette.  Hint:  It's not Bond.
- The film contains this memorable scene.

- The girl, by the way, goes by the name of Honey Ryder (played by Ursula Andress)...the very first Bond girl.
- Apparently James Bond is afraid of spiders.  Who knew?

- The antagonist is a reclusive scientist who goes by the name of Dr. No (played by Joseph Wiseman).  And, it is through Dr. No that we first hear about the enemy organization known as SPECTRE.
- Cape Canaveral plays a key role in this film.  What that role is, I cannot say.

And, that's all that I'm going to spoil for you.  You're just going to have to watch the movie for yourselves.  Believe it when I say that it's worth it.

And besides, considering that they've made over twenty James Bond films, you know that he has to at least survive this one!

Besides, the behind the scenes trivia is much more fun, right?  At least, I think it can be, anyway.  So, what sorts of secrets hide beneath the scripts and film footage of Dr. No?  Well, how about these?

1 - Sean Connery was actually not the first choice to play James Bond.  Cary Grant was actually producers first choice, but they decided not to bother, as Grant would likely only commit to one film, and they wanted someone who would commit to a series.  Though, I have to admit, I think Grant could have pulled off the role.

2 - Sean Connery was thirty years old when he won the role of James Bond.

3 - Contrary to popular belief, Sean Connery did NOT win a contest that ensured that he would become James Bond.  However, a real contest WAS held, six finalists were chosen, and the winner was Peter Anthony.  However, Peter Anthony could not cope with such a role, and dropped out of the production.

4 - Ironically enough, while James Bond is known for being a dapper, well-dressed man, Connery met with film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman with unpressed clothes and unkempt hair.  Somehow, Sean managed to convince them that he was the right man for the part.

5 - This film marks the debut of Lois Maxwell as "Miss Moneypenny".  Little did she know that she would become the longest running actress in James Bond history, holding onto the role for twenty-three years!  Interestingly enough, Maxwell was almost cast as Sylvia Trench instead, but Maxwell wanted Moneypenny instead, as she felt that the Sylvia role was too sexual for her.  The part of Sylvia instead went to Eunice Gayson.

6 - Bernard Lee plays the role of M, and Peter Burton plays the role of Q.

7 - Julie Christie was considered for the role of Honey Ryder.

8 - That might be Ursula Andress playing the role of Honey...but it certainly isn't her voice!  Believe it or not, her voice was overdubbed by another actress (Nikki van der Zyl), because it was believed that Andress' thick Swiss accent was a little too thick.  Also, Andress was required to wear a fake tan, as her character was supposed to appear Jamaican.

9 - Jack Lord was cast in this film as the first Felix Leiter.  Six years later, he would be cast as the lead in Hawaii Five-O - the original series.

10 - Apparently, Sean Connery actually wore a toupee in this and all of the James Bond movies.  I know I commented that his piece in the 1983 film "Never Say Never Again" was ridiculously bad...but I never knew that he had always worn a toupee the whole time.  I guess wig makers were more skilled in the 1960s than the 1980s?

11 - This movie is the only James Bond film which features James Bond singing!

12 - That beach scene, by the was filmed on location at Laughing Waters Beach in Jamaica.

13 - Diana Coupland provided the singing voice for Honey Ryder.

14 - The iconic white bikini that Andress wore sold at auction on Valentine's Day, a cost of 41,000 British pounds!

15 - Ursula Andress was reportedly offered the part of Honey without producers even meeting her.  Suddenly, the dubbing of the voice makes more sense now.

16 - Is the second shortest James Bond movie to be released, clocking in at 111 minutes.  Only "Quantum of Solace" from 2008 is shorter at 106 minutes.

17 - Ian Fleming only had three words to describe the film adaptation of "Dr. No".  "Dreadful, just dreadful."  Fleming would later pass away just two short years later, in 1964.

18 - Ursula Andress made $6,000 for her role in the picture...a modest sum for 1962!

19 - Amusingly enough, despite the fact that she never even had her own voice used in the film, Ursula Andress ended up winning a Golden Globe for her performance!

20 - In Japan, the translated title became "We Don't Want Doctors!"

21 - Sean Connery was actually asked to sleep in the very suits he wore in the film, to get a feel for it and to get accustomed to the wardrobe he would be wearing throughout most of the movie.

22 - Apparently, James Bond isn't the only person afraid of spiders.  Apparently, Sean Connery has an extreme fear of them too.  His fear was so great that a stunt double had to be used for the scene.

23 - The spider was named "Rosie", and contrary to what was shown in the film, Rosie was not harmed.

24 - Filming for Dr. No began on January 16, 1962.  The first scene was filmed at Kingston Airport, where Bond throws a hat in front of his face as he passes a female photographer.

25 - The James Bond film with the shortest title.

And, that's all that I have to say about the very first Bond film, Dr. No.  But there's so much more!

Coming up next week, we'll take a look at our second actor to play James Bond in what could literally be a "blink and you'll miss it" performance!

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