Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dr. No-Carbs; or, The Yumminess of Bond

Over Thanksgiving, I watched (or re-watched, it's not always easy to keep track) Dr. No, the first Bond film; and I also watched the Tippi Hedren-Alfred Hitchcock HBO film The Girl. There wouldn't seem to be a connection between the two: one is the blueprint for all Bond plots to come (i.e., spy + girl vs. international evil); the other is a docu-drama of Hitchcock's creepy obsession with the star of two of his films, The Birds and Marnie.

The only real connection is this:

  • Dr. No (1962), starring Sean Connery
  • The Birds (1963), starring Tippi Hedren
  • Marnie (1964), starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery
In The Girl, Hitch tells Tippi the idea of the movie Marnie--a frigid woman is blackmailed into marriage with a man who repels her (as all men do)--and that her co-star will be Sean Connery, from Dr. No. Tippi's response is that she'll have to be a very good actress to be frigid towards Sean Connery.

With that line in mind, when I watched Dr. No, I couldn't help but notice how differently this film treated Bond than some of the later films. Yes, at least one partly unclothed woman throws herself at him in his first appearance; but the main Bond girl doesn't show up until the second half of the film.

(And that woman is the almost realistically named Honey Ryder. Sure, that's ridiculous, but compared to Pussy Galore, Christmas Jones, and Holly Goodhead, "Honey Ryder" could be something out of Stephen Crane for its realism.)

On top of that, for a big chunk of the third act of Dr. No is Honey Ryder-less, with Sean Connery losing more of his clothing as he climbs through the air vents. (This was before supervillains realized that air vents are bad.) The camera doesn't follow Bond's body in the way The Avengers starts by showcasing Captain America's butt, but it also doesn't ignore his body as a consumable product of pleasure. What's especially notable here is that there are no women in these scenes who are comparably undressed. James Bond being naked for sex is one thing--James Bond stripping for the visual pleasure of the audience is quite another.

This takes something of a backseat in many of the later Bond films, where the camera lingers most on the women in James Bond's sights, or, at most, on Bond's clothing and gadgets. But Dr. No is a helpful reminder that the Daniel Craig James Bond movies aren't coming out of nowhere, but a return to the source.

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