Literary Visuality

Exploring the Visual Qualities of Literature

“No, I’m just looking”: Visualising DR NO

Understated, raw, sexy and effortlessly cool, director Terence Young‘s Dr. No burst onto cinema screens in 1962 and began a legendary love affair between the cinema-going public and James Bond. The film, based on Ian Fleming‘s sixth Bond novel (which had been published in 1958), introduced audiences to the British Secret Service agent 007, the man with a licence to kill… and did so in thrilling fashion.

James Bond: Don’t worry. I’m not supposed to be here either.
Honey Ryder: Are you looking for shells too?
James Bond: No, I’m just looking.

The Film: Setting up the staples (albeit sans gadgets) that the series would become known for, this film has it all: a suave and sardonic central character (Sean Connery‘s James Bond); a menacing titular villain (Joseph Wiseman‘s Dr. No); an extraordinary leading lady (Ursula Andress‘ Honey Ryder) as well as a bevy of alluring supporting women (Eunice Gayson’s glamorous Sylvia Trench, Zena Marshall’s duplicitous Miss Taro, and Marguerite LeWars’ kinky photographer); iconic allies (Bernard Lee‘s M and Lois Maxwell‘s Miss Moneypenny); memorable sidekicks (Jack Lord‘s original Felix Leiter and John Kitzmiller’s dependable Quarrel), sardonic one-liners (“Sergeant, make sure he doesn’t get away” and “I think they were on their way to a funeral”); gloriously exotic locations (in this case Jamaica); superbly crafted sets (Ken Adam); edgy editing style (Peter Hunt); and that killer signature musical theme (Monty Norman, conducted by John Barry).

Promotional poster for the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962)

The Poster: This film was not the first time Bond had been adapted for the screen, however, with Barry Nelson having already played 007 in “Casino Royale”, a Climax! episode for television in 1954. Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli thankfully approached the material differently and played to all of Bond’s strengths, most of which are showcased in the exceptional promotional poster (above). And the film does exactly what it says on the poster. Designed by David Chasman, illustrated by Mitchell Hooks, and playing on the very cool Maurice Binder title sequence in its use of bold colouring (hello Technicolor!) and fonts, the poster is adorned by central aspects of the film.

Depicting the female form in various states of undress (and Andress) the first Bond women (blonde, brunette and redhead, Asian and Caucasian) spill over a large portion of the poster as, indeed, they do within the film itself. Furthermore, wielding his trademark smoking gun (and cigarette), the loosely sketched image of Sean Connery oozes all of the charm, wit and raw sexual appeal the actor generates on screen. Although times may have changed in the interim, here he is billed as the man every other man wants to be and every woman wants to be with. Aside from this arresting central image, and beneath the title, all of the danger and exotic excitement of the film’s Crab Key sequence is illustrated while Dr. No, himself, hovers ominously on the far left. The overall effect is immensely cool and irresistibly sexy.

An alternative poster (below) distils these aspects further, with the dominance of the 007 logo and colourful renderings of some key characters set above numerous monotone scene illustrations.

Alternative poster for Dr. No (1962)

Bold, colourful, exciting and titillating, these posters whet the appetite for Bond’s first cinematic adventure – which, on original release, grossed twenty times its $1 million budget – as well as setting the tone for the rest of Cinema’s longest running franchise.


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This entry was posted on July 10, 2012 by in Film, Posters and tagged , , , , , , , .
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