Notes On James Bond, and Dr. No

Notes On James Bond, and Dr. No

Mark Chamberlain
Nov 7, 2012

It's the 50th anniversary of Ian Flemming's James Bond, and Bond is in the ether: a new Bond film just opened last week and there was an exhibit in Great Britain last summer titled Designing 007 at the Barbican. There was always a Space Age/Jet Set style to Bond, especially in those early films, which lifted him out of the ordinary and into imagination. Let's look at some film stills.

To me, James Bond enters mass consciousness when he discovers Ursula Andress stepping out of the ocean like a Botticelli Venus, wearing a bikini and a dagger. It's the very definition of danger, style and sex appeal as per the male voyeur ca. 1966. Bond and Honey Ryder are then captured and taken to the underwater lair of Dr. No, a lean, avant-garde retreat fit for an arch-nemesis.

The set is stark and modern, yet organic in the way the architecture embraces boulders, lava flows and dead tree limbs. The design includes concrete rooms and tufted leather walls, the bed lays on a plinth with a beveled reveal, there are flagstones and modern sculpture, and there's something about some of that furniture that reminds me of what I think my mother called "Spanish Mediterranean," in that era.

My favorite thing is that giant fish tank wall — how fun is that? It's almost the only color in the room, soothing underwater blue, and one could imagine sitting there watching fish forever until suddenly a shark swims up, symbolically foreshadowing what's to come. It strikes me just now how both villain and Bond alike become such arbiters of taste, with the evil geniuses in particular living in exotic locales like volcanoes, deep under the sea and in outer space.

I have a dear friend and colleague, one Benjamin Marcus, who has an extensive collection of film stills, and you absolutely must go to his website for further inspiration:

Dr. No
Diamonds Are Forever

(Images: 1. photo collage Mark Chamberlain, photos courtesy Barbican International; 2-12 film stills by Benjamin Marcus; 13. Barbican international)

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