The British Secret Service's man in Jamaica returns to his office to relay a message back to London when three men posing as blind beggars wander by. The agent drops a coin in their cup, when suddenly they turn around and shoot him dead and bundle the body into the back of a hearse that serves as their getaway car. Then they head over to the office, kill the agent's secretary, and steal an all-important file: the papers concerning the mysterious Dr. No. Meanwhile, back in London, the secret service become suspicious when their man doesn't contact them, and it is decided to send another agent out to see what has happened. And that man is a certain Bond - James Bond (Sean Connery).
Today it's difficult to comprehend the impact that the first James Bond film had on its first release, it was literally the first of the action blockbusters that we are treated to every summer and Christmas, and as such has a lot to answer for. This initial outing for Ian Fleming's super spy was scripted by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkley Mather, and set the template, in a less overblown way than we became used to, for the adventures to come. When we first get a glimpse of our suave hero, and the instantly-famous Connery was rarely better cast, he's at the gambling table in a casino, impressing an attractive young lady who he carries off to bed later on, so he starts as he means to continue.
As with all Bond movies, he goes to see his boss, M (Bernard Lee), to find out what he's supposed to be doing on his mission. M tells him that Cape Canaveral have been having trouble with their rockets, and they believe that one of the islands in the Carribbean holds the reason why. As the title suggests, a certain Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) is behind the conspiracy, but we won't encounter him until the last half hour (although we do briefly hear his voice). After a discussion about which gun to use, setting up Bond as having a licence to kill for the more bloodthirsty members of the audience and showing a slightly petulant streak for the spy when his bosses don't allow him to use his own pistol, Bond is off to Jamaica on business.
Once he arrives at the airport (a little product placement for Pan Am also signals the way the franchise had its eye on the money to be made), Bond is met by a chauffeur, but already his suspicions are raised and he phones the embassy to discover that no such car was sent for him. Nevertheless, Bond gets in and asks the driver to "take me for a ride"; a car chase occurs when they notice they're being followed, but Bond's advice manages to shake their pursuers and give him the excuse to draw his gun on the driver to question him. Unfortunately, the driver bites into a suicide capsule and expires before telling him anything, and the plot can be frustrating when you know that all Bond need do to solve the problem is head off to the mystery island that the locals refuse to travel to.
The pacing can best be described as leisurely throughout, with odd moments of action - that hearse again, a tarantula in the bedroom - to prevent restlessness setting in. Every so often well see Bond in danger, such as an assassination attempt, to remind us that the baddies are lurking around every corner. But Bond is more than capable, and cruel with it: witness the way he shoots a man in cold blood when his would-be killer's bullets run out. Once we get to the island, and Dr No's hidden lair, the excitement picks up, especially as 007 is joined by chance by seashell collector Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) who emerges from the sea like Venus in the film's most celebrated scene. Although the film has now lost its gloss, and the lower budget does show, it's diverting enough, and more entertaining than some historically important cinema. Music by Monty Norman, including that famous theme over the opening titles.