The station chief of MI-6 in Kingston, Jamaica, John Strangways (Timothy Moxon), is killed by three assassins posing as blind men. When this news reaches M (Bernard Lee), the head of MI-6, he assigns Agent 007, James Bond (Sean Connery), to investigate. The attack may be related to their cooperation with the CIA concerning the disruption of U.S. rocket launches at Cape Canaveral by radio-jamming. Bond lands in Jamaica and finds a chauffeur waiting, but Bond realizes it is a plant. The man suicides with a cyanide-laced cigarette before he can be interrogated. Bond visits Strangways’ house and confronts a boatman known to Strangways by the name of Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) who reveals that he is attached to the CIA and introduces Bond to Agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord).
Felix tells Bond that the CIA traced the radio jamming signal to Jamaica, and Strangways almost had it pinpointed. Quarrel says he had taken Strangways to Crab Key, a forbidden island. The soil samples they found were declared normal by Professor R.J. Dent (Anthony Dawson) but we see Dent travelling to Crab Key and meeting with the island’s recluse owner, Doctor Julius No (Joseph Wiseman). Dent is instructed to kill Bond with a tarantula, but Bond survives and traps Dent. Dent admits the samples were radioactive before Bond shoots him dead.
Bond tests Quarrel’s boat and finds it radioactive. He convinces Quarrel to take him to the island, where he meets Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), a shell-diver who emerges from the sea in a white bikini. They are surrounded by Doctor No’s henchmen and Bond, Ryder, and Quarrel escape into the swamp. They are threatened by a flame-throwing tank disguised as a dragon to keep the locals terrified. Quarrel is killed. Bond and Ryder are captured and taken to No’s hidden base. They are decontaminated, put up in private quarters, and knocked out with drugged coffee.
Upon awakening, they are escorted to dinner with Doctor No himself, a Chinese-German from the Tong Crime Syndicate who now works for SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion). The plan is to disrupt the Project Mercury launch to demonstrate SPECTRE’s power. Bond is offered a job and when he refuses, Ryder is taken away and Bond beaten and locked up. Bond escapes through the air-vents, disguises himself as a worker, and infiltrates the control centre. Bond discovers that the radio beam is powered by a nuclear reactor and overloads it. They struggle and Doctor No falls into the radioactive pool and is boiled to death. The base is being destroyed. Bond grabs Ryder and they escape just in time. Felix finds them adrift at sea and has them towed to safety, but Bond lets go of the tow-rope to be stranded with Honey Ryder.
The film was directed by Terence Young and was the first of some two dozen Bond movies, based on the sixth James Bond novel by Ian Fleming. It was produced by Harry Salzman and Albert R. Broccoli. SPECTRE, which first appeared in the Thunderball novel in 1961, was introduced early in the film series. The budget was miniscule compared to later films and received mixed reviews, but was a great box-office hit, largely because of Connery’s charisma and the combination of spy fantasy and Honey Ryder. The theme music by Monty Norman, the elaborate visual style by production designer Ken Adam, and the iconic opening shot by Maurice Binder added a great deal to the audience’s experience.
Fleming wrote the first script of Doctor No for producer Henry Morgenthau III largely to promote the Jamaican tourist industry. Hollywood was lukewarm to the project because it was too British and too sexual. But United Artists had more sense. They offered it to several directors and eventually gave the film to Terence Young. Wolf Mankiewicz removed his name as scriptwriter because he thought the film would be a dud. The set-design budget was $14,000, which was probably why the battle between Bond and the giant squid in the novel was dropped.
Originally, Cary Grant was supposed to play Bond but Saltzman and Broccoli realized he would only do one film and not a series. Patrick McGoohan was offered the role because he had starred in Danger Man. Roger Moore was thought too young and pretty to play Bond. Ursula Andress was chosen on the basis of one photo of her in a wet-tee-shirt contest, but her voice had to be dubbed throughout because of her heavy Swiss-German accent. She was later voted Newcomer of the Year by the 1964 Golden Globes. Christopher Lee was considered for the part of Doctor No. Bernard Lee as M and Canadian Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny appeared in this first Bond film. Bernard Lee was cast the day before shooting because no one else was around.
Shooting took place practically next door to Fleming’s estate Goldeneye and he often dropped in. The recent theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery inspired the creation of a copy to be placed in Doctor No’s quarters. John Barry was uncredited for the James Bond Theme, which has been in every film since. The movie received mixed reviews, particularly scathing from The Catholic Church and the Kremlin, which helped. The film, which cost one million to make, ended up making 60 million dollars. Rights to all of Ian Fleming’s Bond books were bought for $50,000. Honey’s bikini was sold for $61,500. Bond speaking his name while bogarting a cigarette at the Baccarat table is one of the iconic moments in movie history.
Connery had a deathly fear of spiders. The Tarantula’s name was Rosie. Ian Fleming thought the movie was dreadful. Bond’s suits were made by Anthony Sinclair of Saville Row. Connery slept in one and in the morning it still looked perfect. A scene in which Honey Ryder is attacked by crabs was not done because the crabs arrived half frozen and damaged. Connery was six-foot-four and a former contestant for Mister Universe. He was chosen because he was a big man but still moved like a cat. Bond is licensed to kill and audiences could believe he was a cold killer when necessary. We see that in his bored expression as he shoots R.J. Dent. Nevertheless, he oozed charm and both men and women in the theatre seats couldn’t take their eyes off him. Later Bonds did their best to copy him and some succeeded.