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  Dr. No under the microscope…  

LUKE G. WILLIAMS casts a critical eye over the latest James Bond-related book release from luxury publishers TASCHEN – Paul Duncan’s exhaustive examination of the first ever 007 film – 1962’s Dr. No.

TASCHEN’s recently released book James Bond. Dr. No, edited by film historian Paul Duncan, certainly fulfils the luxury price point criteria, being available in two limited numbered art editions which retail for £1,500 each – and a collector’s edition, priced at £750.

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No
TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No cover

TASCHEN (founded in 1980) have arguably managed more than any other publisher to erase the old and snobbish distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, by featuring volumes devoted not only to James Bond but also, in the cinematic field, Star Wars and Disney, as well as rock musicians, pop art, and many other varied popular cultural touchstones. Their apparent mission to democratize the concept of ‘culture’ by expanding it to encompass popular works, which loftier publishers might still look down upon, is laudable – even though the price point of many of their books renders them unaffordable for all except those with the deepest pockets.

It is undeniable that this 492-page book is a mighty achievement of 007 scholarship, for which Duncan and his publisher deserve the utmost praise. Containing 1,007 images, this jaw-droppingly gorgeous project gives new meaning to the terms ‘definitive’ and ‘lavish’. It is a particular joy to see the brilliant work of the film’s on set stills photographer Bert Cann, an often overlooked figure whose superb photography contributed much to establishing early 007 iconography, and helped ensure Dr. No was a huge commercial success. A majority of the images in the book – including some of Cann’s – were completely new to me, including many that have never before been officially published.

Text-wise, the early sections of the book are necessary, but a touch serviceable and functional – there are, for example, no fresh insights in the introductory chapters on Ian Fleming and producers Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman – therefore the information in these chapters is all familiar verbiage to die-hard 007 aficionados.

Nonetheless, once the book enters the sections dealing with the film’s day-to-day pre-production – production in Jamaica, at Pinewood Studios, and the post-production process, it truly comes into its own, with a wealth of new and valuable information emerging both in the main text and images, which include many fascinating production memos and documents.

These sections starkly convey some of the intricacies and complexities of the filmmaking process and bring much into focus. For the first time in my life I felt that I gained a sense of what it might really be like to make a major film – or at least what it was like to make a film in the old-fashioned ‘proper’ way, how films were made back in the 1960s, rather than in the 21st Century’s frustratingly CGI-fixated filmic universe!

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread pre-production

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread first day

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread double page spread

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread location shooting

Is TASCHEN’s James Bond. Dr. No a perfect volume? No, but then perfection is an ideal to strive for, rather than a nirvana that can ever be reached. It is however, for 007 connoisseurs – a brilliant and essential book.

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread cover with Enzo Sciotti 1971 Italian re-release art | Mitchell Hooks original 1962 art

Nevertheless, when a publisher releases a book with such a high retail price it is beholden upon the expert reviewer to nitpick; 007 MAGAZINE’s main complaint is that Mitchell Hooks’ magnificent 1962 original release artwork was not used for the slipcase of the numbered art edition, which instead features an inferior artwork from the film’s 1971 re-release. Other points of minor irritation include the use of too many images enlarged across double-page spreads, which in a publication this hefty inevitably leads to some of the image being lost or distorted across the page-fold ‘guttering’. During 007 MAGAZINE’s quite naturally forensic examination of the book, one image was found to be clearly flipped (left-to-right) and one black & white photograph appeared to have been computer colourised.

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread location shooting

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Pinewood Studios

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Pinewood Studios

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Publicity photos

These minor criticisms should not, however, distract from the overall excellence of this book as a whole, which without doubt provides the best and most detailed insight ever committed to print about the inner workings of a 007 film production.
TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Promotional photos
TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread US posters TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Sean Connery

If this luxurious book is currently beyond your financial reach best keep your fingers crossed that a more affordable edition will ultimately appear, as eventually happened with TASCHEN’s book The James Bond Archives, also brilliantly overseen by Paul Duncan, and which is now available in a £75 edition – another essential purchase for discerning Double-O Seven connoisseurs everywhere.

TASCHEN James Bond. Dr. No spread Production chart by L.C. Rudkin


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