If there’s one thing we as a society can agree on, it’s that if James Bond is given a small ceramic penguin statue that plays “la cucaracha,” he’ll find a way to kill someone with it. The History Channel takes a long look at the vehicles and devices at the legendary spy character’s disposal, from cars and boats, to jet packs and personal helicopters, to compact underwater breathing devices and x-ray glasses. However, while we may get a glimpse at the more fictional of James Bond’s gadgets, the documentary tries to spend most of its time on the various gadgets that actually work. This mostly refers to the vehicles and more specifically means the cars, which work as cars obviously, but with special upgrades like weapons and invisibility that are fabrications of the films.
A few years ago, The History Channel released a similar look at the gadgets of Batman, and while that special focused on the devices that worked in the real world, there was also a balance with looking at the theoretical practicality of some of the more crazy devices. I was expecting something similar with this special on James Bond, but instead this is more like a walk through a James Bond museum (literally, at some points). It’s very interesting for what it is, just different from my expectations. Considering I’m not particularly interested in the types of cars James Bond drives, there was a large chunk of this that missed the mark with me as its audience.
I did find it interesting that some of the devices used in the movies hadn’t been used since; until the filming of this documentary. The Q Boat from Tomorrow Never Dies for example is owned by its inventor and hasn’t been in the water since the filming of the movie, but the inventor enjoys towing it around to attract attention. He mentions that moving the boat 25 miles or so can take hours as he’ll start to pick up a convoy of fans. Eventually, he’ll pull over into a rest stop and let these fans see the boat up close and get their picture taken with it. Little tangents like that in the special made it really interesting to me.
The worst section of the special in my opinion was a drawn out discussion of one stunt in one of the films. In the movie, James Bond takes a car and does a jump, but in the air, the car does a 360 degree barrel roll. The special devotes what feels like an enormous amount of time talking about this stunt, which is impressive, but has nothing to do with the car itself, or any other of James Bond’s gadgets.
Special Features include English subtitles and the Ian Flemming episode of Biography, which talks about the parallels between the author’s life and his James Bond character. Flemming’s life as a womanizer and a spy is succinctly unfolded in this hour long special.
Available on DVD from Cinedigm on September 18.