Director: Terence Young
Cast: Sean Connery, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Ursula Andress
Have I Seen it Before: I’ve seen them all before, let’s get that out of the way right now.
Did I Like It: It’s got some fascinating embryonic charms going for it. Ultimately it’s early Connery, so there’s plenty to like.
Man alive, the opening sequence to this, the first James Bond film, is disconcertingly weird. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just hard to ignore. In fact, it is sort of thrilling in a way, as it is clear the once and future EON Productions isn’t yet churning out a product with a winning formula, but actually trying to make a film. This phenomenon will come up a lot in the first several Connery-led pictures.
There are very few things that indeed come fully formed in this initial outing. Q-branch and their wonderful toys are nary heard from, there is no pre-title action set piece , and the gun-barrel shot is truncated and sounds like a flying saucer landed (both a byproduct of the aforementioned embryonic title sequence), and Bond (Connery) is—by his own standards—nearly eligible to join the priesthood.
What is arrived in its full form is Connery’s Bond. With just the right menace of masculine confidence, wry charm, and the lethal edge in which Roger Moore remained supremely disinterested, Connery owns the role from his first scene. Indeed, that first sequence with Bond and Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson*) trading barbs during a round of baccarat may be one of the more prototypical Bond scenes in the canon. Legend (and DVD behind-the-scenes featurettes) have it that the scene from From Russia With Love (1963) where Bond first meets Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) is what is used to audition new Bonds before white smoke seeps out of the chimney at EON Productions, but I really think this scene is the much more important test.
The plot is sort of perfunctory, coming together and resolving itself with a simplicity that just isn’t found in some of the later entries. That isn’t much a criticism, though, as I am no baffled by how supremely bored I found myself during the final stretches of the later entries during the tenure of Roger Moore or Pierce Bronsan.
Also, is Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) wearing women’s sunglasses in this movie? Man the sixties were wild, weren’t they?
*Although the role’s dialogue was spoken by the same woman, Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed over Ursula Andress later in the movie