The basal ganglia contribute to the suppression and initiation of saccadic eye movements through the inhibitory connection from the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) to the superior colliculus. This mechanism consists of serial and parallel connections, which are mostly inhibitory and GABAergic. Dopamine is known to exert powerful modulatory effects on the basal ganglia function, but its nature and mechanism are still unclear, especially in relation to voluntary behavior. The purpose of this series of investigation was to study the role of dopamine in the control of saccadic eye movements. We examined, in the monkey, whether and how the deficiency of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic innervation affects saccadic eye movements. The present article is focused on spontaneous saccades that the monkey made with no incentive to obtain reward; the next paper will describe task-specific saccades. Using an osmotic minipump we infused 1-methyl-4-phenyl- 1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) unilaterally into the head-body junction of the caudate nucleus of monkeys where presaccadic neurons were clustered. Tyrosine hydroxylase activity, visualized using an immunohistochemical method, decreased locally around the injection site with some effects extending into the ipsilateral putamen and locally in the ipsilateral substantia nigra. Changes of eye movements started to appear 3–5 d after starting the infusion. Spontaneous saccades became less frequent. The area scanned by the saccades became narrower and shifted to the hemifield ipsilateral to the infusion site. The saccade amplitudes and peak velocities decreased; durations were prolonged. These effects were more prominent for saccades directed toward the side contralateral to the infusion site. These monkeys showed no obvious skeletomotor symptoms. These results suggest that the local deprivation of the dopaminergic innervation in the caudate nucleus facilitates neuronal activity of the SNr leading to suppression of saccadic eye movements.