50 years ago today was the cinematic birth of the man who everyone thinks of when they think about spies: James Bond. Dr. No was released Oct. 5, 1962, and ever since James Bond has been synonymous with espionage — much to the chagrin of actual spooks, who have to work in tedious State Department cover jobs processing visa applications and recruit low-level stooges more than they get to ride around in posh cars and bed amorous, well, Bond girls. And it doesn’t matter which government you work for: You’re going to be staying in a Marriott and the per diem on travel is not going to cover those bottles of Dom Pérignon.
The early Bond films can also seem quaint to audiences today, especially when compared to the muscular antics of Daniel Craig crashing through a wall in Casino Royale or the endless Inosanto Lacoste-inspired fight scenes from the Bourne movies. Let’s face it: The old Bond would get his ass handed to him by today’s Bond, and in a world where everyone is more crazy about SEAL Team 6 and robots than they are about old-fashioned spies, it’s not even clear that people care too much about today’s Bond.
But a close reading of Dr. No reveals that Ian Fleming’s insights into the real nature of intelligence work remain valid even today. When you strip away the gadgets, and the glamour, and the sex, what remains are some surprisingly real observations about the real secret world of intelligence.
Let’s take a look at one scene from the beginning of the movie as an example: