Saturday, 13 October 2012

Now pay attention, Bond...the gadgets of 007

Yes, that old chestnut... those gizmos that save Bond's life in film after movie...you know the drill; M sends Bond off to Dr.Sinister's factory, but - just in case, here's good old Q with a handy gadget...Just as Batman annoyingly foiled villainous plots with unique-to-the-case gidgets that we never see again (or before ), so too with our man from MI6. Well, infuriating as they can seem, some of these devices were able to rise far above the laziness/poor imagination of certain screenwriters (i.e. 007 has heart attack; 007 has de-fibrillator in car; audience groans, feeling cheated). So, lets reach into our attache case and whip out our handy, erm, reading glasses as I subject you to some of my personal favourites from the twisted mind of Q...
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - Bond's Attache Case - handy-dandy indeed, this bit of history is available as a replica from SD Studios - the original had a concealed knife, a roll of gold sovereigns to use as barter and an exploding tear gas cylinder concealed in a talc tin. Open the catches the normal way and you'd get a nasty faceful.
Below; The phone bug detector Bond uses in his hotel room. Somehow the most authentic of any spy gadget, the bug detector is a well known trope that I personally find oddly re-assuring; Bond is not asleep, he is on his guard
GOLDFINGER - Yes, he's the man, the man with the Rubber Duck... I'd pay good money to have seen the look on Sean Connery's face when he read the script for this scene...


...thankfully, though, Q issues 007 with something more useful - a tracking device and it's miniature counterpart. The larger one magnetic, Bond uses it to follow Goldfinger to his factory, although the smaller ends up misleading Felix Leiter and his CIA colleague...

THUNDER-BAWLLL - Yes, Tom Jones, the Welsh answer to Elvis; rather than simply get him to shout Largo into deafness, Q provides Bond with this handy 4-minute breathing device. I was gutted (In American; badly disappointed) to learn recently that Connery simply held his breath. Britain's Royal Navy approached the film-makers for details of this secret device, presumably coming away as miffed as I was.
The most famous gadget in Thunderball, though has to be the Bell Rocket Belt - as photographed by yours truly(ish) at Beaulieu this year...

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - Chance would be a fine thing, eh? - anyhoo, the gadgets just keep a-coming here; and not all of them from Q. Bond uses a safe-cracking device to rinse Osato's safe for revealing documents. One of the best in my view.
But what's this? - those wily Japa-neeze have a Q of their very own; not surprising these days, (as Marty McFly once stated; 'All the best stuff's made in Japan' to a bemused 'Doc') but back then in sixties-a-vision it was all a bit new. To stuffy old Britain, Japan was the land of the samurai, the kamikaze and polite bows - in movie terms a 'Jap' was either a comedy character with funny specs and keyboard teeth or an honour-less World War Two officer with a penchant for beheading helpless prisoners and funny specs/keyboard teeth. It must have been a real eye-opener to see the new Japan of efficiency and industry (Albeit a Japan whose portrayal leaned heavily on stereotypes) on the screen. Among the Ninjas (Ninjas!) in this outing, 007 gets a tour of the secret training centre where age-old weapons (Shuriken, staff) are used alongside the new (Gyrojet guns, pistols) and the rocket cigarette. This latter is later used to cause a distraction by Bond himself. Activated by lighting the cigarette, the rocket (below) shot out and exploded...

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - Yes, this film featured an unbelievable item located in the Aston Martin; just behind the wheel... but enough about George Lazenby...(Hey, I liked it; personal taste and all that...). The gadgetry in this outing was, perhaps deliberately muted - as with Daniel Craig when the producers of the series feel unsure about introducing their new man, they make announcements of the 'Back to Fleming's original' kind - although even a more 'realistic' flavoured Bond needed some help from Q-branch...
The safe-cracker device Bond uses in the office scene comes complete with it's own photocopier - not exactly my idea of portable, this behemoth needed a crane to lift it up to 007...and I'm reliably told it wouldn't have worked had it been tipped around in a metal bucket either...(No picture, I couldn't get a decent one)
NOT a favourite, but here's a good 'un; the tried and trusted Minox B camera, as used by real spies during the Cold War - one of which Bond uses to photograph the 'Angels of Death' wall in Blofeld's Piz Gloria HQ...

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - (Forever...forever...) Yes, using that most basic of devices the Pound Note the producers wooed back errant Bond Connery for another bash at nasty old Blofeld. I love this outing in general; it's hugely enjoyable and Charles Grey is camp as coffee. Couldn't work out why Bond didn't have more of a beef with Blofeld though considering he bumped off poor Mrs.B in the previous filum... Moving along; gadgets here include the marvellous Electro-Magnetic RPM Controller - a ring Q wears to rinse the casino slots to amusing effect; that and the voice-changer he uses to trump Blofeld's own version are both wonderful. My favourites though?; the pocket finger-trap Bond uses to disable a baddie...
...And the Piton Gun; Bond uses this to help scale the outside of the towering Whyte House, before using it to shoot (the wrong) Blofeld after booting his cat. I like cats. Anyway, it's a brilliant thing - apparently there's no such thing, so the film folks used a flare gun...


LIVE & LET DIE - New Bond, new gadgets - again not that many here - a fairly crappy signal device in a brush and a bug detector. The stars here are the watches; a Hamilton Pulsar digital watch (Not a gadget as such, just to show us what an up to date chap Roger Moore was) and the Rolex Submariner with electro-magnet and buzz saw bevel, capable of lowering a zip or cutting a spy free from a trap...



BTW - if either Rolex or Omega are interested, I am available to model their products free of charge...o.k. I'll pay!...ahh, FOOEY...
Oh, Roger Moore (Now Sir. mind you...) had a contraption of his very own to baffle M with; as seen below, this coffee maker frothed and bubbled to M's bemusement in a nicely played comic scene. Never worked out why Bond's wardrobe was by the front door though...
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - There's really only one contender, don't you agree? - I know, it's not your favourite, (It is mine) and M is all nasty, the girl couldn't have been worse news for Bond had she been working for SPECTRE and it's not very sporting for an English Gent to push a kid off a boat. Rahdy-rahdy RA-RA... I love every minute of this maligned classic; from the opener in Scaramanga's fun palace on that gorgeous island to the stunning Maud Adams, (Maud Solveig Christina Wikström to her Mum) the heavy nods to the kung-fu craze and what has to be my favourite boaty bedroom ever. (Look, brown was fashionable then, plus I think the artwork above Scaramanga's bed is a real snapshot of seventies style and tasteful chic.) (O.K. I also think the Jungle Room at Graceland the height of style, but let's move on, shall we?. Time is money...)
I'm guessing 007 took that golden gun straight to dear old Q. I'd have built a display cabinet for the thing...
(There are replica's available from time to time, but I've seen some words of caution about the quality of some - caveat emptor dear reader, caveat emptor...)
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME - I won't go for the obvious, although it certainly qualifies as it had gadgets aplenty. You probably wouldn't want an ex-007 car in real life; imagine trying to defrost the windscreen in winter and inadvertently blowing up next door's shed. On reflection, who cares about their neighbours?; okeysmokes I'll have the Lotus then...
One of the best - as always - scenes featured Q with another gizzit I couldn't find a decent piccy of; the magnetic-levitation tea-tray decapitation device!. (And if there's a better title for a cheap B-movie than THE TEA-TRAY OF DEATH I'm a lemon...)
MOONRAKER - Well, I'm not bitter - unlike poor old Drax, who wanted nothing more than the simple things; to put Bond out of his misery. Oh, and something about killing us all and a space station. Luckily for us (Especially me as I was only 12 at the time) Roger Moore ends it all with a handy gadget and a fairly breathtaking climax involving Good Head. Yes, well...
(Odd how when Sir.Rog says these things it's witty; me, I get a knee in the happies and barred from the Pub...)
(The above is a SD Studios replica. Want one!) It doesn't end there, either, Holly
Goodhead (!) has a handbag full of lethal devicery, while Bond has a snappy little camera with '007' emblazoned on the front, the pinhole lens forming one of the '0's - not very clever if caught I'd say, but there's also this X-ray safe cracker - the prop for which featured in a 'Designing 007' exhibition in Londinium recently.

Oh alright... I was trying to shy away from vehicles in favour of gadgets - things that fit in a pocket or the boot of a DB5 (Unlike that Rocket Belt if you look carefully - Connery merely covers the contraption with the boot lid)...but its my blog, so;
http://mayaneyes.com/canboat.html

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS - The what now?, what about For Your Octopussy?
(Whilst I loved Octopussy and sat through FYEO - Topol was great - no gadgets stand out for me, by the time Octopussy hit the screens the TV in a watch wasn't that far from the shops anyway - it was nifty, but hardly worthy of Q-branch.)
, there was the (hooray!) return of the Aston Martin loaded with toys, but it's the little things (That's what the Missus says), such as the Revolving Sofa at HQ, which swallows and traps anyone unfortunate enough to sit on it. 
A Revolting Sofa.

LICENCE TO KEE-ILLL - It's a farewell to arms (A nice in-joke) and poor old James is out on his ownsome to exact revenge for the murder of Mrs.Leiter and the horrendous maiming of his old friend Felix. Even without Q, Bond proves resourceful with his use of a fake manta-ray to hide beneath. Luckily, Q 'turns up' unannounced and - Yipeee! - he's brought the goodies. I hated the signature gun - WHY? (From the looks of Skyfall teasers they haven't learned, but the Polaroid X-ray/laser camera was a laugh and the Dentonite toothpaste is bang-on - actually looks the part. Bet it tastes FOUL... 
GOLDENEYE - And wasn't that opener one of the most ball-tighteningly awesome stunts of all time? - yes, Pierce is here to save the day, with the Omega Seamaster Professional! - o.k. I had to look it up, but this is no ordinary tick-tockery, no, this is a Q-tick-tock complete with cutting laser and remote detonator to enable 00-men to blow explosives from a safe distance. Sadly for Bond, the bad-guy was also a 'Double-O' and knows how to disarm Bond's bangers...BOOO

We can't leave without a mention of the Q-scene either, with the usual background malarkey in the form of a BT phone booth. In a laboratory? - sure enough, if you are stupid enough to make a call (Haven't these fools seen the films?) the airbag goes off and stays inflated, trapping you inside...
Thats it really; the recent films have featured some gadgetry, but it is increasingly confined to watches, mobile phones and cars. With the Daniel Craig era, it seems the gadgets will be restricted to the absolute minimum, with our man forced to rely on his wits and his fists - an echo perhaps of the Bourne films, with the ever-alert EON people taking note of these thrillers and their huge success. I'm guessing the gadgets will be there, but only if and when they A; Fit in with the plot and the mood of the film and B; Are novel enough to entertain without being 'naff' or predictable...

Personally, (And is there any other honest viewpoint?) I liked the gadget-era. The whole mystique of exotic spy-gear captures the imagination of us as kids and it never really fades for a boy even when he starts turning grey. We know we shouldn't, but who inside isn't oohing and aahing when Sean Connery slides his heel open to reveal a bug?. which of us is too 'grown-up' to want a watch with a super-magnet inside?. Perhaps it all really got too predictable, perhaps with the sad passing of Desmond Lewellyn in a car crash in 1999 it was time for change. Perhaps. Even the redoubtable comedy legend John Cleese as 'Q's replacement - and his scenes were good - couldn't save the gadget. After all - It isn't what you've got, but how you use it that matters.

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