The white circles across the screen, the famous gun barrel sequence and the iconic Dr. No dots – these design elements remain staples of the 007 films to this day. Created by Maurice Binder, they set the tone and tempo for the entire James Bond franchise.
Binder worked on the main titles for the 1960 film, The Grass is Greener, starring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were in the audience at the premiere and afterwards “They asked me if I’d like to do the titles and the trailer for a little film called Dr. No. I said ‘sure’, even though I didn’t know what it was,” it was reported Binder said.
Binder famously worked to tight deadlines – sometimes pushing them so far that it later prompted Roger Moore to quip, “I often said the titles were still wet when they left Maurice’s studio – usually the night before the premiere. But Maurice would never let anyone interfere, and I think that’s why he always delivered at the last minute – so nobody had the time to.”
20 minutes before his first Broccoli and Saltzman meeting, Binder found inspiration. “I just happened to have little white price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen,” he said. His idea was that the gun barrel sequence showed 007 as a wanted man: hunted every day, always in somebody’s sight. “That was about a 20 minute storyboard I did, and they said, ‘This looks great!’”
Binder’s treatment for Dr. No was abstract and captured the ’60s pop revolution on screen. The producers were keen to secure an accessible rating for the film, so he needed to be creative. Binder’s response was to suggest themes through silhouettes and animations. “The dots are the gunfire animated across the front of the screen” he explained. It took a couple of hours to film it at Pinewood. I did all of that against a white background and added in the colour.
Audiences loved Binder’s work on Dr. No. The bright colours of the film – from the bold red of Quarrel’s shirt to the pale baby blue of Connery’s rolled up trousers – are reflected. The coloured dots change shape, move position and form patterns, while the high tempo score by Monty Norman and John Barry guides viewers through the sequence.
Cubby Broccoli described the opening saying, “It works perfectly. It was a tremendous mood-setter. By then, the audience’s pulse rate is up a couple of beats. The title sequence that follows is no more than two and half minutes, but it has the kind of visual clout, and humour that Bond movies are all about.”
The dots have stayed with the Bond franchise throughout its 60 year history. Main Titles Director on No Time To Die, Daniel Kleinman explains, “There are the Dr. No style dots at the beginning as a nod to the past, even though my dots are a little more sophisticated now than the original dots made by Maurice Binder. Technology allows me to make them fly around, then blow away and do stuff which Maurice could not do at that time, but they still purposely look like those dots. It was nice to repeat those.”
Maurice Binder’s design for Dr. No changed the future of film. Universally recognised as a modernist vision, his abstract approach is an instantly recognisable part of cinematic culture.