MI6 takes a look back at how the world's media viewed Ian Fleming’s James Bond days before Dr No hits cinemas...

Time Tunnel: No, No, A Thousand Times No
22nd September 2006

If the world was waiting for a gritty thriller with a masculine anti-hero in the early 1960's, then they found it in Ian Fleming’s creation - James Bond 007. But, if Fleming’s brutal secret agent was a shock to the world, they had another thing coming in Sean Connery’s screen debut as the secret agent.

Time Magazine anticipated the phenomenon somewhat in a feature article about the upcoming debut Bond film.

"One evening next winter, at perhaps 1930 hours, the President of the United States will enter a small room. For two hours a machine will play with his emotions."

"He may groan, but he will not be physically hurt. […] his job seems relatively tame, for he will have seen Doctor No, the first attempt to approximate on film the cosmic bravery, stupefying virility, six-acre brain, and deathproof nonchalance of Secret Agent James Bond—the President's favorite fictional hero, and Writer Ian Fleming's generous gift to literature."

Right: John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, announced Ian Fleming's "From Russia With Love" on his all time favourite novels list.


Taking Bond Beyond The Limits
Dr No was just around the corner for American cinema-goers, having had just exploded on the silver screen in London. Nobody had seen anything quite like the cool, calm and collected Sean Connery brutally beating anyone who dared to cross his path. The coldness of Bond was a big issue in the press when the film opened in 1962. Nobody had seen the likes of Bond before!


Journalists were also shocked and perhaps repulsed by the openness with which the first Bond movie addressed sex and violence. One reported had this to say: "True to the book, the movie's impervious hero is machine-gunned, drugged, almost electrocuted, pressure-cooked, and licked by a flamethrower. Exaggerating the original's single conquest, he makes love to three women."

Mixed Reactions
Controversy was 007s middle name, and perhaps this is why the series got of to a rocketing start. While one journalist from the Sunday Times adored the first Bond adventure, appreciating it rule-pushing nature reported: "All good, and, I am glad to say, not quite clean fun". But on the opposing side, The Evening Standard held up the standards, so describing Dr No and 007 as: "...sadism for the family."

Left: Sean Connery and Ursula Andress explode onto the silver screen in "Dr. No"

However, journalists were clearly grateful Broccoli and Saltzman had ‘cleaned-up’ some of Fleming’s more goreish or sensual details, including that of Honey Ryder emerging from the waves, for in Fleming’s novel, Honey is completely naked except for her diving belt. Or perhaps they were grateful Dr. No’s demise was not as Fleming dictated, buried alive under a weight of bird droppings.

Above: "Dr No" was packed with iconic women for Bond to bed and villains to thwart...

A Man of Few Words
Even the author himself had mixed reactions about the first Bond film and the alterations made to his story. Time magazine carried this quote:

"Those who've read the book are likely to be disappointed," he said modestly, "but those who haven't will find it a wonderful movie. Audiences laugh in all the right places."

Fleming died in 1964 before "Goldfinger" was released in cinemas, sparking Bond Fever around the world. Who knows what Ian Fleming would have thought of the likes of Lewis Gilbert’s "Moonraker", whose sci-fi plot leaves little or no resemblance to his 1955 novel.

Right: Ian Fleming


Stay tuned to MI6 for more Time Tunnel features - looking back at past reactions to James Bond and his world.

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