Saturday, January 26, 2013

James Bond's Top Ten Gadgets

Gadgets Reached Their Peak in the Roger Moore Era of James Bond Films

James Bond in rocket belt Thunderball
James Bond only used the jetpack briefly in one film, but it became an enduring symbol of his spy wizardry.
As most fans know, the James Bond gadgets for each Bond film came from Q and his lab, even if they weren't actually mentioned as the source.

Q Laboratory
The Deadly Parking Meter in Q's Lab.
Many of the best gadgets, it is true, are completely impossible given current technology of even today (giant space-capsule-capturing rockets?), but a surprising number are not only feasible but even surprisingly low-tech. They usually were divided into two categories: deadly, and comical. Quite often, the two categories were combined in one silly weapon, like an umbrella that closed on its users like a claw, or exploding parking meters.

Q Laboratory
Some of Q's inventions were quite prosaic, like bulletproof vests.
The best gadgets didn't come just from Q: they also came from the invariably wealthy villains themselves. The bad guys' gadgets are way cool all by themselves and became cooler because Bond usually wound up using them himself. The aforementioned spaceship that could engulf another in "Dr. No," and the orbiting space station in "Moonraker," are examples. While coolness is in the eyes of the beholder, some gadgets went above and beyond the ordinary.

Herewith, the ten coolest gadgets portrayed in James Bond films.

Q Laboratory
James Bond examines a grenade flask.

10. The Pen Gun from Never Say Never Again

Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again
Fatima Blush, laughing at being shot by the puny pen gun.
The pen-gun gadget in "Never Say Never Again" (1983) makes the top ten more for the clever way in which it is used rather than anything spectacular about its design. Often, the circumstances of a gadget's use enhance its prominence. In the film, Villainess Fatima Blush finds it highly amusing when James Bond fired his little pen weapon at her. It appears that the gadget has failed. James Bond frowns, figuring that Q has let him down.

Pen Gun Never Say Never Again
The deadly pen gun has a Union Jack emblazoned on it.
Fatima is still smiling - and James Bond notably chastened - when the projectile finally explodes and blows her into a million pieces. The delay in the execution of the pen gun enables Sean Connery to fire off one of his last James Bond quips in "Never Say Never Again," noting the weapon "needs some work."

9. Oddjob's Bowler Hat from Goldfinger

The bowler-hat gadget in "Goldfinger" (1964) is unusual because it is used not once, but twice, and the second use is more dramatic than the first use. It has the James Bond gadget bonus of turning a seemingly ordinary, staid and even prosaic item into something of devastating and unexpected impact.

Oddjob at Fort Knox in Goldfinger
Oddjob (Harold Sakata) throwing his hat in Fort Knox.
Oddjob (Harold Sakata) was Goldfinger's driver and henchman. The bowler hat had a metal disc inside the brim which turned it into a sort of boomerang. It could slice through steel, and, as a demonstration of his deadliness, Oddjob uses it to knock the head off of a statue at Goldfinger's golf course in order to impress James Bond. Oddjob's most menacing action in "Goldfinger," though, didn't involve the hat at all - it was when the smiling Oddjob drove one of Goldfinger's associates, not to the airport as the bad guy expected, but to a car wrecker.

Oddjob, Bond, Goldfinger in Goldfinger
Oddjob demonstrating his hat-throwing skills for Bond and Goldfinger.
The bowler hat comes back into play in a much more deadly way at the film's climax in a very clever way.

8. The Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever

Moon buggy Diamonds are Forever
Sean Connery as James Bond escaping in the moon buggy.
Intruding on a fake Moon landing studio project (a throwaway joke that was very timely and remarkably provocative, given that the actual Moon landings still were in full swing at that time). James Bond finds just the thing to enable his escape from the bad guys in "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971) - a functional Moon buggy being used by the fake astronauts. Nobody ever seemed to notice that this Bond film was making a wry and cosmic joke about the pride of the United States, its space program - it was not followed up at all.

Moon Buggy Diamonds are Forever
The moon buggy breaking out.
Bond gets in and crashes it out out of the studio and into a real, not fake, desert setting. The weird vehicle's agility enables it to cross terrain that wrecks numerous police-style sedans in perhaps the best car chase in the entire series ("Diamonds are Forever" is very car-heavy that way). Sean Connery apparently liked driving the moon buggy in Diamonds are Forever so much that he bought it from a collector for $54,000 in late 2004. It must come in handy driving over the Scottish moors! He described the Moon Buggy as the "ultimate souvenir."

7. The Flying AMC Matador from The Man with the Golden Gun

Flying AMC Matador The Man with the Golden Gun
Scaramanga making his big exit in the flying Matador.
As mentioned above, sometimes the best James Bond gadgets are those of the villains. The AMC Matador in "The Man with the Golden Gun" seemed perfectly normal - until the dashboard converted from a normal speedometer to an avionics panel and the otherwise humdrum vehicle attaches to wings and a jet. Scaramanga makes his flying escape in this contraption - which in real life was completely non-functional and entirely move magic.

AMC Matador flying The Man with the Golden Gun
The Matador sure looks dangerous, but it worked - on film, anyway.
And people complain that scientists never developed a flying car as predicted so long ago!

6. Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice

Q showing Little Nellie You Only Live Twice
Q showing Bond Little Nellie.
Q makes his only venture outside of headquarters in "You Only Live Twice" to bring the "Wallis WA-116 Series 1 gyroplane" aka "Little Nellie" to Japan. James Bond needed it to scout out an enemy installation, which wound up being in a huge cavern beneath a dead volcano crater. Transported in just a few manageable suitcases, the gyrocopter was fully functional and armed to the teeth with missiles. Instead of just flying about on reconnaissance, though, Bond wound up in a dogfight with an array of flying villains.

Little Nellie flying You Only Live Twice
Bond flying Little Nellie over Japan
Like the Bell jetpack, Little Nellie was completely real, though used in a fanciful way in "You Only Live Twice" (1967). The autogyro was a Wallis WA-116 Agile, designed by former Royal Air Force Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Wallis became the world's biggest autogyro exponent, but it never became a popular product with the public.

5. The Invisible Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day

Aston Martin Vanquish invisible
The invisible Aston Martin Vanquish. Now you see it - now you don't.
The invisible Aston Martin Vanquish in "Die Another Day" (2002) was truly ingenious and theoretically possible. It used tiny cameras all around to take video, and then routed the video to the opposite side of the car to make the vehicle "invisible." The Aston Martin also had many other capabilities, including the usual ejector seat and machine guns and the like. However, the invisibility aspect by far was the coolest.

Aston Martin Vanquish Die Another Day
The Aston Martin could do a lot more than being invisible.
Pierce Brosnan had his best moments as James Bond driving the Vanquish (now not invisible) over the ice, with the window open, shirt fluttering in the breeze, maneuvering like a madman.

4. Jaws' Metal Teeth from Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only

Jaws showing teeth Moonraker
Jaws loved showing off his teeth.
Jaws was one of the most popular villains in the entire James Bond franchise, appearing in "Moonraker" and "For Your Eyes Only." The character was defined by his metallic teeth - hence, the name. Actor Richard Kiel made the device work for the film, hamming it up unmercifully every chance he got to bite something or simply flash a big shiny grin.

Jaws showing teeth Moonraker
Jaws used his metal teeth to bite people to death.
While Jaws could bite through just about anything, he never got close enough to James Bond to use his deadly teeth, though he quite impressively survived one gigantic fall after another without a scratch, the last one apparently from earth orbit. This gadget is another example of a villain having the coolest tricks, though one can argue about whether it is not a gadget at all, but rather a prosthetic device. Richard Kiel could only wear them briefly because they were very painful, but the teeth got him prominent roles in two James Bond films and almost a third (producers considered using him in the follow-up to "Moonraker," but ultimately decided against it), and that ain't beanbag.

3. The Bell Rocket Belt from Thunderball

Bell Rocket Belt in action Thunderball
James Bond escaping using a jet pack.
The "Thunderball" Bell Rocket Belt was - and is - very real, and it was used exactly as intended in the film. Developed for the United States military, it was cutting edge technology that many at the time felt held great promise. It never caught on, though it has experienced a revival in recent years for military use, though it remains extremely dangerous because of limited flight time and other factors.

James Bond landing in rocket belt Thunderball
The jetpack in action.
James Bond uses the Bell Rocket Belt to carry him to safety after killing Jacques Bouvier. The rocket belt captured the public's imagination and also became an accessory (though used only a couple of times to stunning effect) on the United States TV series "Lost in Space," which premiered not long after "Thunderball." Robbie Williams paid a memorable homage to the Rocket Belt (and Sean Connery as Bond in general) decades later in his music video for hit song "Millenium." No, Sean Connery himself never actually flew in the jetpack, but it was way cool.

2. Dagger Shoes Used By Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love

Rosa Klebb From Russia with Love
Rosa Klebb trying to get James Bond with her shoes.
The poison-tipped shoes used in "From Russia with Love" (1963) have been endlessly parodied over the years. This gadget is perhaps the most memorable weapon from the entire James Bond series, even though it also is quite possibly the lowest-tech gadget of any significance ever associated with James Bond. A blade would pop out of the front of the shoe, and then the wearer would kick his or her opponent to poison them. As with the bowler hat in "Goldfinger," the shoes make an encore appearance. One pair is used early on by Morzeny to kill Kronsteen, but that only proved to be the appetizer for Rosa Klebb's attempt to kick James Bond to death at the climax of "From Russia with Love."

Dagger Shoes From Russia with Love
Closeup of Rosa Klebb's killer shoes.
This gadget is another example of a villain's weapon providing the biggest thrills in the film, and because of the way it is used, not necessarily because it is technologically advanced. What better way to show your utter contempt for someone than to casually kick them and then stand there triumphantly laughing as they crumple to the ground? Never make fun of a woman and her shoes again!

1. The Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me

Lotus Esprit The Spy Who Loved Me
The Lotus Esprit underwater.
The Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me is most famous for its ability to convert at the touch of a button from a sleek automobile to a fully functional submarine. However, the vehicle also had been altered to include machine guns, missiles, torpedoes, and a cement blaster. Overall, this is the best looking and effective gadget of the entire James Bond series, and its surfacing on the beach in front of gawking beach-bunny onlookers is classic Roger Moore-era Bond.

Lotus Esprit The Spy Who Loved Me
The Lotus Esprit surfacing.
Nobody really thought much of the submersible Lotus. After filming, it wound up rusting away in a Long Island warehouse. Someone spotted it, realized its value, and took it home. He sold it decades later for a lot of money.

There are many, many other gadgets in the James Bond series, and nobody will necessarily agree on these ten. As an honorable mention, let's leave with a view of James Bond in an AMC Hornet jumping the corkscrew bridge in "The Man With The Golden Gun." Yes, this was a stunt rather than a gadget - but, really, who cares. It was one of the coolest moments in the entire series and made even cooler by being performed exactly as shown by a stunt driver ("Bumps" Willard).

AMC Hornet jump


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lynn-Holly Johnson: Dynamite as Bibi Dahl in "For Your Eyes Only"

Lynn-Holly Johnson: Most Athletic Bond Girl

Lynn-Holly Johnson in bathing suit in Where the Boys Are 1984
Lynn-Holly Johnson in "Where the Boys Are '84."
Lynn-Holly Johnson is one of the lesser-known Bond girls, unless you came of age in the late-70s, early-80s time frame, in which case she probably roams around somewhere in the back of your mind.

Lynn-Holly Johnson in blue leotard
Lynn-Holly Johnson as a child star.
Johnson was a "child star." She gained early fame as a professional figure skater, placing second at the novice level at the 1974 US Figure Skating Championships.

Lynn-Holly Johnson

She kept skating until 1977, then gave it all up to join the Ice Capades. Her skating training no doubt made rollerskating for Japanese magazines a breeze.

Lynn-Holly Johnson in Japanese magazine

Ice Capades was a big deal back in the '70s. It had three different touring companies under one corporate umbrella. It owned railway cars and was packaged in deals with the Harlem Globetrotters. You didn't get much bigger in the '70s family entertainment field than the Harlem Globetrotters! However, Johnson had her sights set higher.

Lynn-Holly Johnson in Japanese magazine

While Johnson no doubt was a phenomenal skater, she didn't have to skate with the Ice Capades for long - which is a good thing, since the Ice Capades went out of business in 1995 due to competition from Disney (which started mounting all of its hit animation productions on ice) and Stars on Ice, which featured skating competitions.

Lynn-Holly Johnson in Japanese magazine

Johnson was a natural for movie roles featuring skating prodigies having to surmount the usual tremendous obstacles that figure skaters in Hollywood movies have to surmount. Usually, there's a cute guy who somehow winds up as her skating partner, but he'd rather play hockey or ride dirt bikes or do just about anything other than skate with some lonely little hottie who could skate rings around him. But all the girl needs is someone that believes in her, and they'll win the championship!

Lynn-Holly Johnson in Japanese magazine

Indeed, Johnson found just such a part. Ice Capades executive Michael Kirbay and coach John Nicks mentioned Johnson to the producers of "Ice Castles" (1978), which was filmed at the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs. Johnson had a bit of experience as an actress, having done some tv commercials and minor stage work.

Lynn-Holly Johnson

The producers were going to use someone for just the skating but decided the difference between the actor and skater would be too great, so they needed a top skater who could also act. Johnson was on tour with the Ice Capades but flew to Minnesota to demonstrate her talents. A screen-test in Toronto, Canada followed a week later, and she won the part.

Lynn-Holly Johnson in Ice Castles
Ice Castles.
In "Ice Castles," Johnson plays a young girl who is on top of the skating world until she has a tragic accident. Then, she must recover her past glory, but she can only do that if people believe in her. Robby Benson was the cute guy who helped out.

Lynn-Holly Johnson signed photograph purple leotard
Signed, "Bibi Dahl."
"Ice Castles" is a big weepy melodrama with all sorts of unintentional hilarity. However, girls and their mothers often rank it right around "Gone with the Wind" or "Grease." It is one of those dividing lines in life: either you revere "Ice Castles," or you laugh throughout. Films like "Ice Castles" pop up every few years. A typical example would be "Ice Princess" (2005), starring Michelle Trachtenberg.

Lynn-Holly Johnson

They even re-made "Ice Castles" in 2012, with the same director. Lynn-Holly has a cameo that was cut out of the theatrical version but can be seen in the DVD extras. The funniest thing is that Johnson still loves to tell how the producers wanted her to do a nude scene, which sure would have spiced things up for all those mothers and daughters who watch it for inspiration.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
In any event, the original "Ice Castles" did good business, and no doubt still sells a few copies here and there today. It led to a Disney movie for Johnson, "The Watcher in the Woods." It was a typical spooky drama where a family moves into a country house and strange things start going bump in the night. It was pulled from theaters and then re-released after Lynn-Holly's next film, which raised her profile substantially. It still didn't do that well, but it wasn't Johnson's fault. Bigger things were on the way.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
Roger Moore and Lynn-Holly Johnson in "For Your Eyes Only."
By "For Your Eyes Only," Roger Moore was getting up there in years. He was older than Sean Connery, who had retired from the part of James Bond ten years earlier looking haggard. However, Roger Moore was James Bond 007 for those who grew up during the 1970s, and each time the producers or Moore started having second thoughts about him playing the role, they always found some way to bridge the difference.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
A promotional shot for "For Your Eyes Only."
Johnson was brought on board to play Bibi Dahl, a young skating prodigy financed by the bad guy, Aristotle Kristatos. Her character was intended as kind of a joke - a very sexy joke - as she comically tried and failed to seduce the much older James Bond. The producers very cleverly make Moore's age part of the gag. The Moore years were known for a subtle undercurrent of self-parody and in-jokes, and this was one of the better examples.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
Johnson plays the sex kitten to perfection. She actually doesn't do a lot of skating, it is more a question of standing around in sexy ski outfits and the like. Practically every line she delivers, though, is said with an almost mockingly sexual tone as she tries to score with the super spy. Roger Moore as James Bond parries her increasingly desperate come-ons with Moore's trademark arch-British humor and a raised eyebrow.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
Bibi: That's a laugh. Everyone knows it builds up muscle tone.
James Bond: Well, how about you build up a little more muscle tone by putting on your clothes?
Bibi: Don't you like me?
James Bond: [Wearily] Why, I think you're wonderful, Bibi... But I don't think your uncle Aris would approve.
Bibi: Him? He thinks I'm still a virgin.
James Bond: Yes, well... 
Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
The best of Johnson's scenes - and each one is a gem - comes when James Bond returns to his hotel room. Who should be waiting for him but Bibi, in bed, naked, ready to go.

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
James Bond: [after she kisses him] Do you ever come up for air?
Bibi: That's why I'll win the gold medal. Breath control.
James Bond: Yes, well... you can't lose! 
Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
Moore just manages to look annoyed as Bibi bubbles on about how they should just get down to business. He finally shuts her up, though, by telling her that he will take her into town "and buy you some ice cream." It was Moore at his best and Johnson at her best. She never had as good a role again (though "Where the Boys are '84" is almost at the cult classic stage), but Johnson handled the role of Bond girl to perfection, and that ain't bad!

Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
Bibi: Farewell Mr. Bond, but not goodbye... 
Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only 1981
For Your Eyes Only.
In "Where the Boys Are '84." Lynn-Holly Johnson plays Laurie, the car driver with the best lines.
Lynn-Holly Johnson
Lynn-Holly Johnson with her family.
Lynn-Holly Johnson suffered a stroke in 2010, but she survived and has staged a remarkable recovery. She even saved the life of her brother, an airline pilot for United Airlines, by suggesting he get a heart checkup, which found an issue. Apparently, Lynn-Holly is back to normal. We wish all the best to our favorite Bond girl, Lynn-Holly Johnson!

There is more here about Lynn-Holly Johnson in "Where the Boys Are '84."

Lynn-Holly Johnson


James Bond 007 Posing with his Cars

James Bond 007 Likes His Rides Neither Shaken nor Stirred

Sean Connery standing by his Aston Martin in Goldfinger 1964

Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig all have one thing in common: posing with hot... cars. No matter what the time period, a sporty car is a necessity for James Bond. The Aston Martin may be the enduring ride of choice, but every James Bond has to put his own personal stamp on his vehicle of choice.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery having a bit of fun.

Herewith, each James Bond 007 posing with his Aston Martin or other ride of choice.

Sean Connery

Sean Connery established the classic prototype Aston Martin as the spy vehicle of choice. Ironically, perhaps, Sean Connery's most famous driving sequence as James Bond 007 was in Dr. No. He drove a Sunbeam Alpine, a distinctly low-rent sports car, because that's the only one the producers could find in Jamaica, where the sequence was shot.

Sean Connery standing by his Aston Martin in Goldfinger 1964
Sean Connery looking very satisfied with his ride in "Goldfinger"

Sean Connery driving a Sunbeam Alpine in Dr. No
Sean Connery driving his Sunbeam Alpine.

Sean Connery in Dr. No
Sean Connery posing for "Dr. No."

Sean Connery on the run in You Only Live Twice 1967
Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice

Sean Connery with his Goldfinger Aston Martin
Sean Connery posing for "Never Say Never Again."

George Lazenby

George Lazenby was the most deprived James Bond, car-wise. He spent most of the film isolated on a remote mountain-top ski lodge accessible by helicopter. When he finally did get to drive off into the sunset - well, it didn't turn out so well. 

George Lazenby with Diana Rigg in his wedding car in On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969
George Lazenby and Mrs. James Bond

George Lazenby in a carriage in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby and Diana Rigg in a carriage.

George Lazenby with his dead wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby in the best scene of his career

Roger Moore

Roger Moore gets the prize for best and most varied rides. He may never have driven an Aston Martin as James Bond 007, but he drove just about everything else.
Roger Moore wryly breaks the fourth wall whilst driving in "For Your Eyes" Only" (1981).

The true co-star in a James Bond film starring Roger Moore never was the bad guy, the bad guy's henchman or a Bond girl - it was James Bond's Lotus or  a trick car that wound up at the bottom of a swimming pool or sawed in half (but still, of course, driveable!).

Roger Moore with his Lotus in For Your Eyes Only 1981
Roger Moore looking proud of his Lotus.

Roger Moore Aston Martin
Roger Moore on his funky-colored ride.

Roger Moore standing by a car sawed in half
The 1970s were the age of trick cars for James Bond.

Roger Moore kicking a car off a cliff
Roger Moore kicking the bad guy to the curb.

Roger Moore with rifle in Jeep
Roger Moore letting someone else drive for a change

Roger Moore in Live and Let Die
Roger Moore as the "white guy in Harlem" in "Live and Let Die."

Roger Moore with Barbara Bach with his Lotus Esprit
Roger Moore with a pretty girl, Barbara Bach, and his Lotus.

Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton didn't really do much splashy stuff in his cars. He gravitated toward jeeps and other funky vehicles that were useful for the moment. No James Bond, though, looked better standing next to his ride in a black tuxedo than Timothy Dalton.

Timothy Dalton black tuxedo standing by his car
Timothy Dalton and his classic good looks as James Bond.

Timothy Dalton on a street next to his car
Timothy Dalton rocking a trench coat with his ride.

Timothy Dalton with Maryam D'Abo
Timothy Dalton with Maryam D'abo.

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan eschewed the black tuxedo look for a more businessman like attire. He also went for expensive, sleek cars of the '90s rather than the classical look. The result was that, handsome as he was, he wound up looking more like a suburban lawyer driving to the office than the world's greatest spy.

Pierce Brosnan with his ride
Pierce Brosnan with the car every junior executive wanted.
Pierce Brosnan looking cool and collected with his ride.

Pierce did have one ride that none of the other Bonds did.
Pierce takes off in his tank.

Pierce drives a Soviet T-55 tank through the city streets of St. Petersburg in "Goldeneye" (1995). Yes, the Soviets were gone by 1995, but they built it.

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig abuses his cars more than any other James Bond. However, with so many changes taking place within the series during his tenure as James Bond - a more muscular style, fewer seductions and martinis, more fistfights - he returns to the classic Sean Connery-era Aston Martin for the symbolism.

Daniel Craig with the classic Aston Martin in Skyfall 2012
Daniel Craig may be humorless, but he has a nice car.

Daniel Craig wheeling around a motorcycle
Daniel Craig driving a motorcycle

Daniel Craig in his wrecked Aston Martin from Quantum of Solace
Daniel Craig abusing an Aston Martin.

In fact, Daniel Craig is so tough, he doesn't need no stinkin' cars!