In his first outing, British secret agent 007, James Bond (Sean Connery), is sent to Jamaica to investigate the mysterious disappearance of fellow agent, John Strangways (Tim Moxon), which may be linked to energy waves causing American rockets launched from Cape Canaveral to topple. The most intriguing aspect of Bond's assignment is how the undercover agent's presence is immediately known by a myriad of enemy agents -- one posing as a newspaper photographer flashes his picture on two occasions, one pretends to be a chauffeur sent by the Government House, and a trio of assassins posing as blind men attempt a hit outside of Bond's hotel and later attempt to run him off a mountain. Bond does have allies in CIA agent Felix Lieter (Jack Lord) and local fisherman Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), though both men at first mistake Bond for a double agent. It doesn't take Bond long to accumulate clues that point to a mysterious figure known around Jamaica as Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), who resides off-island in the remote Crab Key, an island feared by Jamaicans because it's guarded by a supposed fire-breathing dragon.
Dr. No is one of the classic villains of the silver screen. Like Duke Mantee in "The Petrified Forest" (1936), the evil Dr. No is talked up throughout the film, which makes his eventual entrance all the more menacing. One of the first startling truths that Bond discovers about Dr. No is the extent of fear he puts in his own henchmen. Rather than spill information to Bond, the phony chauffeur swallows a cyanide tablet and the photographer is willing to be tortured by Quarrel. In addition to his reputation, the viewer is given brief glimpses of Dr. No in other scenes in the film. When Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) journeys to Crab Key to warn of Bond's determined arrival, Dr. No's god-like voice reverberates through an emotionless prison cell (one of Ken Adam's more intriguing sets). Following Bond's capture at Crab Key, the lower portion of Dr. No's body is seen entering the mink-lined cell and admiring the lifeless body of his opponent. Like Duke Mantee, Dr. No makes his official entrance flanked by two of his henchmen. But, whereas Duke Mantee is just a heartless killer, Dr. No is bent on world domination (the recurring theme among Bond villains), a member of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). He initially spares Bond's life because he finds him a formidable foe, one who might even make a good recruit for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
Exactly the kind of arrogant logic that so often makes the Bond villains somewhat endearing (gasp!). It has always been a hallmark of the Bond films that the villains hold 007 in such high admiration, especially when they take the opportunity to use plot exposition to either tell Bond exactly how they plan to take over the world and why their plan absolutely cannot fail, and exactly what ridiculous method of torture will be used to kill Bond, usually something so elaborate that it will allow Bond plenty of time to craft a surprise escape. In the case of "Dr. No", Bond is roughhoused by a group of henchmen and later awakes in a prison cell. The only means of escape is via a ventilation duct within the cell. In the novel, the ventilation shaft is a test for Bond to endure, eventually leading him to a giant squid which he must fight, all, it is soon revealed, for the amusement of Dr. No. Perhaps the scene was too elaborate to film, or would have required a greater budget than United Artists was willing to provide, but in the film version the ventilation shaft serves only as a means of escape for Bond, presumably undetected since the shaft leads directly outside of Dr. No's control room, which Bond is able to enter by simply subduing a henchman and donning his radiation outfit. It's the one perplexity in the entire film, for the viewer is led to assume that a villain like Dr. No, who has arranged his evil lair with such precision, would not open himself to such a degree of vulnerability. Regardless of the means of getting Bond to the control room, the resulting mano-a-mano showdown between Bond and Dr. No, pitted on the edge of a radiation tank, is still fairly exciting. However, I would have liked to have seen more menacing demonstrations of Dr. No's metallic hands than simply crushing a statue, as it creates quite a contrast when his strength becomes his weakness once he is unable to climb out of the radiation tank.