I start the Bond odyssey by sitting my fiancee down to watch Bond’s first mission to the Caribbean.
Well, she took a bit of persuading.
I open my James Bond 50th Anniversary DVD box set for the first time and load the Dr. No disc into the player. As we take our places on the sofa Mel says, “Oh God.”
“Just… the women,” she replies. “Why do they have to be naked?”
I ask why Mel thinks they have to be naked?
Mel says, “To show they’re just tarts. James Bond’s all cool with his suits and stuff, and they’re just… sex.”
She peers over my shoulder at the notebook where I am scribbling notes. “Are you going to be able to read that? Cos I’m not watching them again.”
We soon reach Sean Connery’s iconic first scene as 007, introducing himself to Sylvia Trenchard. Mel says, “Right. He’s going to shag her; he’s spoken to her.”
Bond: “No objections.”
Mel: “Of course he hasn’t!”
Sylvia follows Bond as he leaves the club. “Needy bitch.”
The mood switches from sardonic to angry when Bond greets Moneypenny with a friendly pat on the rump. “(Gasp) Did he just slap her arse?!”
She’s not complaining, I say
Mel: “…he just slapped her on the arse…” Then, “She’s in love with him. And he’s just used that.”
M wonders, “When do you sleep, 007?”
Mel: “Under a woman!”
As M outlines the developing situation in Jamaica, Mel announces, “I’m officially bored now. Eleven minutes and forty-seven seconds in.”
Mel is a big fan of Judi Dench’s M in the Daniel Craig movies. I ask her what she thinks of the Bernard Lee version.
“I quite like that he’s being nasty to James Bond.”
Bond stops off at his rarely-seen flat to pack for his trip to the Carribean.
“There’ll be a woman in the there.”
Sylvia Trench is in there waiting for him.
Mel sighs.”What a slag!”
“She’s got a weird eye thing going on… Why is she slopping over him already? She doesn’t bloody know him!”
Bond lands in Jamaica and quickly attracts the attention of a female photographer.
“She’ll be the next shag-fest… I bet he shags about ten women in this film.”
I feel Mel has missed an important plot point here, so I explain that Bond has ascertained that no car has been sent to pick him up, but he’s getting in anyway. I ask what she thinks about this.
“It’s because he’s a cocky bastard,” she replies.
As Bond settles himself into the hotel room, Mel notes, “His pants are really high up.”
“It gives him a very long bum.”
“How old is he here? about 45?”
No, I reply. “That would make him 96 now!. I do a quick calculation. He’s 31 or 32 I think.
“He looks older,” says Mel.
Older than me? I ask.
Yes! (I am 34).
After a while Mel says, “This is just a bit slow. Compared to the new ones.”
One of the things I was concerned about embarking on this mission was the occasional rough treatment of women. I ask her about Quarrel threatening to break the photographer girl’s arm after she scratches his face with broken glass. “Fair’s fair.”
As Professor Dent conducts a forbidden daytime visit to Crab Quay, I suddenly remember the attempt on 007’s life involving the spider. Mel is very arachnophobic, and seizes my hand.
“Oh my —-ing God.”
As the spider then crawls over Bond’s body, she squeezes my hand tightly and claps a hand over her mouth.
“That is the first time I’ve ever felt sorry for him.”
Even when he gets his Thunderballs beaten with a rope in Casino Royale? I ask.
“Well, that’s different. Not the new ones.”
She’s not impressed with Bond’s amorous encounter with the secretary after she lures him there so that the bad guys can kill him on the way. “That’s borderline rape. I don’t like the way he grabs her, it’s very violent. He knew she was bad and he slept with her anyway. Used her. That’s two women he’s slept with already… He’s a bloody alcoholic as well.”
Enter Honey Ryder. “That’s the really famous scene isn’t it?”
Bond is looking appreciatively at Honey as she collects shells. “He’s just insatiable!”
Mel: “She’s not as thin as women in movies now, thank Goodness. Her figure’s not amazing. She just looks healthy.”
This is clearly a trap, and unlike Bond, I’m not willing to walk into it.
We learn Honey’s name. “Ridiculous.”
Mel: “Did you see that? There’s a cameraman or something.”
We have to rewind the DVD three times before I see what she means. I remember reading in Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearn’s brilliantly-researched Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang! (Batsford Film Books, 1997) that Ian Fleming and Noel Coward are hiding behind a sand dune somewhere while this scene was being shot and for a moment I thought they’d become visible in the new cleaned-up DVD release!
In the clip below, there’s a weird rotating barrel or something bobbing in and out shot in the bottom left-hand corner:
Then, in the wider shot, there’s nothing there.
I have no idea what that is. But on the plus side, it does show that she’s watching and paying attention.
Bond manhandles Honey. “The way he grabs women is just terrible. He just grabs them so hard and rives them about.”
Honey’s boat has been damaged by the gunboat.
Bond: “What are we going to do with her now?”
Mel: “You’ll shag her I’m sure.”
Honey explains her backstory to Bond.
“Oh my God. Did I just hear that right? She told him she was raped and he said it wouldn’t do to make a habit of it?!”
…Of killing men with Black Widow spiders, I say.
“Well I think she did right.”
Once our heroes have been captured, Mel is very quiet and appears quite engrossed in the movie. This is quite unexpected, and I keep checking that she is still awake. When Bond and Honey are sent from the decontamination room to the hotel-like complex where they are treated as guests, she is surprised and says, “I thought they were prisoners.”
Interestingly, in Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang! the authors say this is the point when the film changes into a different entity; from “a colourful detective story in he Our Man in Havana mould” to “a naive and sometimes rather poor science fiction flick.” If this is true, it would be the first science fiction film Mel has enjoyed! I disagree with the assessment, Bond remains a consistent presence and throughout each movie he is put into different scenarios, and sometimes genres.
Mel doesn’t say much throughout the finale, and seems to rather enjoy it. The highlight for me is when Dr.No dies in the radioactive water in his radiation suit, and Mel quips, “Boil in the bag!” A quip worthy of Roger Moore!
As the movie ends with Bond and Honey smooching in a boat, I ask Mel if she enjoyed it.
“It wasn’t as sex-filled as thought it was going to be. I quite enjoyed it.”
I ask if she likes Bond a bit more?
“Hmmm… a little bit more.”
Mel will Return… Watching From Russia With Love!
Dr. No original theatrical trailer:
Order Dr. No on DVD from Amazon:
Order Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang! from Amazon:
Next (From Russia With Love)