I never thought that I would ever stand in front of Scaramanga´s golden bullet – and so close that I could read „007“ engraved in it. Then again, I never thought that I would ever actually stand in front of the thick padded door to M´s office or see all the gadgets that Q has invented or look at the tuxedos every Bond actor has worn or the glamorous dresses of all those women Bond has charmed.
But I have. In London, at the Barbican centre which hosts the exhibition „DESIGNING 007 – 50 Years of Bond Style“ which is still open until September 5th. I strongly recommend every Bond fan to see it. You will not be disappointed. And should it travel to the rest of he world (I was told the next stop could be Toronto) and you live near enough – don´t hesitate to go.
Granted, it is a bit annoying that photography is not allowed within the exhibition. Then again, it would probably be even more annoying to have constant flashlights in the different rooms. And let´s face it: you would not be able to stopphotographing since every little detail of this exhibition brings back memories of the films. The exhibition catalogue sets you back 30 pounds but is completely worth it since it really offers pictures of everything on display.
Entering the Barbican centre you will pass along a row of every movie poster (even up to the „Skyfall“ teaser) and, of course, stop for the wax figure of Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin in the famous pose from „Goldfinger“. (Here, you can actually take a photo, and, yes, you have never seen so many 60-somethings rushing towards that display, waiting with glassy eyes to be photographed by their spouses or anybody who can not flee in time.)
Then you get to the real exhibition gallery. And how could it start if not with the traditional gun barrel? After having walked through that you find yourself in the „Gold“ room. Since „Designing 007“ is not chronologically but thematically put together, „Gold“, of course, centers on „Goldfinger“ and „The Man With The Golden Gun“. Storyboards depicting Fort Knox and the Laser Room are on display, just as Oddjob´s hat, Scaramanga´s golden gun, heck, even Shirley Bassey´s gold record for „Goldfinger“. The centrepiece of this room, however, is the golden painted body of Jill Masterson, lying face down on a bed. While this is a bit creepy to look at, standing directly in front of her (wax figure) you realize that this heightens your awareness of all the iconic images of the Bond movies, making you realize how much effort and visionary craft go into every little detail to create a special kind of reality for the audience.
Following this you get a wonderful reminder where all this has come from: the pen of Ian Fleming. Or better put: the actual typewriter on which he wrote the now classic novels. Letters, photos and the covers of the hardcover editions are also on display. Then you enter „M´s Office“ with the wonderful painting of Bernhard Lee (as seen in „The World Is Not Enough“) and parts of Moneypenny´s office. Also you can look at Bond´s wallet, passports and the Walther PPK. This leads into the „Q Branch“ – and yes, everything is here: from the Attaché case to Q´s bag from „Licence to Kill“, models of all the cars, boats and balloons Bond has traveled in, accompanied by storyboards and design drawings. (And for all those „A View To A Kill“-fanatics: the so-called Snooper Dog which dared to spy into the shower to film Bond and Stacey at the end of the film is also here.)
Moving on, you find yourself in the „Casino Room“ where so many of the most memorable costumes are stored (even one Severine is wearing in „Skyfall“). And since these are the actual costumes you will be able to check out how tall (or tiny) the actors and actresses are. Of course, everyone put on screen always seems to be so much bigger (or bustier). But the women here must have been extremely small and slender – even those who played characters called Plenty. In contrast, the men must be pretty imposing. Sean Connery´s tuxedo is big and broad-shouldered. Roger Moore is almost as tall, and Timothy Dalton also towers over you. Pierce Brosnan is slimmer but still tall. And then there is Daniel Craig´s tux, looking astonishingly… small. Well, probably the cleaners made some mistake. (George Lazenby´s „Sir Hillary“-kilt, of course, is very funny, too.)
The next room combines „Foreign Territories“: Japan (design drawings from „You Only Live Twice“), San Monique (Solitaire´s table where she laid out all the right or wrong cards), Cairo & Karnak (ever wonder how Bond´s sheik costume was designed?), City in Space (which even features a storyboard of the planned „lovers in zero gravity“- shot that was not used in „Moonraker“), the Udaipur Jungle (with the complete storyboards for the „Octopussy“ hunt sequence), San Francisco (did you know that someone actually climbed the Golden Gate Bridge for the finale although it was mostly shot on ground with only the top of the Bridge recreated), Afghanistan (with storyboards and models from „The Living Daylights“), Russia/St.Petersburg (featuring the tank models from „Goldeneye“ and storyboards from the ommited roadblock sequence), Vietnam (with the Carver Banner and the actual motorbike from the chase sequence, also featuring the original costumes), Venice (with the model of the sinking palazzo from „Casino Royale“) and finally The Beach (with the famous bikinis and swimming trunks – did you ever notice that Jinx´s belt actually has a J for a closer?).
The following room is called „Villains & Enigmas“ which offers you costumes and gadgets of all the major antagonists and henchmen. Examples? Rosa Klebb´s shoes, Jaws´ teeth (which were so uncomfortable for Richard Kiel that he had to take them out after each take), Tee Hee´s arm, Elektra King´s torture chair, Mollaka´s bomb device and so on.
The last room is downstairs. And if the words „Ice Palace“ make you shudder – let me assure you, it is also worth seeing. With storyboards, costumes and props from the major ski sequences of every Bond film and even the cello from „The Living Daylights“ (bullet hole included) it is a fitting end to this masterful exhibition. What I didn´t mention before: almost every room has huge tv screens installed on which famous sequences from the films are in a constant loop. And you know what? The parasailing CGI-sequence from DAD is not so bad… if you have seen it ten times in a row and counting…
All in all – this exhibition seems to be made by Bond fans for Bond fans. And if I lived in London I would have wanted to see it more than once.