Website last updated: 7-5-2024

Review of James Chapman's book Dr. No: The First James Bond Film

By: Brian Smith
Dr. No: The First James Bond Film
Responding to the charge that Bond films are ‘formulaic and repetitive’, James Chapman points out in his introduction that when Dr. No (1962) was made, there was no formula. It may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s worth reminding the reader as so many of the conventions of what would become the ‘formula’ were already present and correct from the off.

Writing in the same appealing style that made his previous foray into Bond – Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History Of The James Bond Films – so readable, James Chapman turns his attention to the production of the first of the Eon Productions Bonds to ‘relocate the film within its original historical and cultural contexts.’ Prior to this book, and the recently released BFI Film Classics From Russia With Love by Llewella Chapman, the only other Bond film to have received serious individual study was Adrian Turner on Goldfinger (Bloomsbury, 1998). And like those books, this is more than a ‘making of’. Chapman discusses Dr No in its ‘wider contexts of the production and its reception,’ beginning with an exploration of Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of the creative and practical journey the film went through to completion.

Chapman deconstructs the myths and corrects inaccuracies that have pervaded since the series started, such as the James Bond films (and this one in particular) not being successful in America until Goldfinger (1964), or the idea that even the producers and the studio (United Artists) had little faith in their product. Over the years various parties have retrofitted their recollections while untruths and half-truths have been repeated as fact. James Chapman has done an admirable job of using original scripts, production correspondence and contemporaneous interviews to provide an insightful account of the development, filming and marketing of Dr No. Chapman especially makes good use of the archive of completion guarantor Film Finances, the company founded in 1950 to provide finance to independent producers.

James Chapman’s book is the perfect case study in Bond film making, and an essential addition to your Bond library.

Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2023 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
Available editions of Dr. No: The First James Bond Film:

>Hardback edition
>Paperback edition



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