James Bond films are often better remembered for their individual parts than the total sum. If 007 is the nucleus, surrounding him are the quips, the girls, the cars, the vistas, the villains and of course, the gadgets. Ah, Q. The perennially cynical spy-toy designer who gave us a slew of gadgets we’ll never forget. The classic ones were so good, like the Aston Martin eject button, that even Sam Mendes couldn’t help bringing it back for Skyfall.
With twenty-four films and one of the longest-running film franchises in cinematic history, it can be hard to remember all the gadgets, and you may have even pushed your memories of the bad ones to the back of your mind. Whether you’re a Connery, Moore or Craig disciple, think Lazenby should have continued the role, or wish Brosnan hadn’t stopped after Die Another Day, you’ll be surprised at the total depravity of some of Q’s designs. Some are so bad, you’ll mistake certain 007 moments as something out of Austin Powers. Who knows what kind of wacky weapons will pop up in SPECTRE, coming up this fall.
Here is our list of The 10 Lamest James Bond Gadgets:
Tailpipe Water Cannons – Thunderball
Having made Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Terence Young solidified himself as the granddaddy director of the Connery era films with the fourth film of the franchise. Thunderball is a cracking good flick, replete with jetpacks, oceanic fights and blackjack gaming between Bond and the villain, Largo, in a veritable tropical paradise.
H20 is the running theme in this fourth Bond film, and it manages to permeate Q’s world of gadgets in a ludicrous way. In what was perhaps an early design model for the Super Soaker, Bond’s Aston-Martin uses tailpipe water cannons to ward off a group of guards. While these bad boys might have been all the rage in 1965, the producers over at Eon Productions have learned one thing in the fifty years since Thunderball: leave the industrial water hoses to the fire brigade.
X-Ray Glasses – The World Is Not Enough
Most Bond fans that grew up during the Brosnan era will remember the X-Ray shades that Bond wore with such panache. In retrospect, however, these X-Ray glasses dipped far below Bond’s standards and should have never made it past the drunken brainstorming phase of the film’s development.
Beyond being bizarrely voyeuristic, they completely negated Bond’s natural ability to read his love interests like a book. Bond’s charm and wit were X-Ray glasses in human form. At the very least, the prop department could have picked something other than the Woodstock hippie-blue lenses.
The Crocodile Suit – Octopussy
There are many iconic scenes in Bond’s history, but the image of Roger Moore wearing a crocodile suit to infiltrate an island of women might encapsulate the entire series better than any other. What better way to embody Bond’s reptilian libido then to have him approach this Sapphic island as the true aquatic invader that he is?
Beyond the metaphors, the suit has no functionality and is ultimately used as a gag. Q and crew went to great lengths to put Bond in the croc-suit, but the director only shows Moore’s embarrassed face as the upper jaw mechanically opens. How he got out of that thing, we’ll never know.
Ghetto Blaster – The Living Daylights
Just as in Octopussy, the Bond producers used gadgets in The Living Daylights to comment on western culture. When Q (the affable Desmond Llewelyn) takes Bond (Timothy Dalton) around HQ, he points out a new defense mechanism: a rocket launcher built into a boom box. As the local white-coat workers dive out of the way, another non-descript employee of Q branch unloads an RPG from its side, giving a literal meaning to the boom box.
Q quickly states the weapon was designed “for the Americans” and dubs it the “ghetto blaster.” Given the differences between British and American society, perhaps more pronounced during the film’s release in 1987, this is a less than subtle jab at Yankee culture, so perhaps it’s a good thing that Bond didn’t have a chance to put the boom box to work.
Glacier Kiteboard – Die Another Day
During his four-film stretch as Bond, Pierce Brosnan owned the title role. His opening scene in Goldeneye is the stuff of legend, skydiving sans chute to enter and pilot a freefalling plane before slamming into a mountainside. Brosnan added a particular arrogance to Bond that was unrivaled by the other actors. Unfortunately, this unmitigated confidence bled into some of the gadgetry, one set of which saw James Bond kiteboarding away from a killer death-ray atop a melting glacier.
Even Brosnan’s signature grimace couldn’t make the kiteboarding look realistic. Perhaps the gadget failed because Bond himself fashioned it (as Gustav Graves tried to melt him with the death-ray), but the ludicrousness and the N64-era CGI made it impossible to believe. Let’s hope the producers don’t take us back there anytime soon.
The Brush Radio – Live and Let Die
While watching the Roger Moore Bond films, you might occasionally wonder if the producers thought cinematic cheese was the gold standard. Moore’s entries are the most unabashedly outlandish, but in deference to the creative teams behind them, they at least embraced that outlandishness in coming up with some intrepidly silly gadgets
Take the brush radio, for example, where the nutty designers behind the gadget inserted a Morse code radio into the back of a shower scrub. Rather than actually looking like a brush, it resembles a horrendous technological mistake, the ultimate hybrid product nightmare. There is no sex appeal or functionality in the brush radio, but thanks to Roger Moore’s commitment to the moment, there are some laughs to be had.
Prosthetic Nipple – The Man With the Golden Gun
For anyone out there that has a third nipple (a greater percentage of the population than you might think), they should be downright offended by this gadget. To pass for villain Scaramanga, physically recognizable to his enemy cohorts as the man with the “triangle tots,” Bond (played by Roger Moore, of course) wears a prosthetic nipple designed by Q branch. Feel free to read that last sentence again until you accept that it’s true.
Beyond the fact that the nipple is a brownish purple and looks like an areola-equipped grape, it’s not even on the same side as Scaramanga’s nipple. What a joke. As they say in Hollywood: “if the nipples don’t fit, you must acquit.”
The Invisible Car – Die Another Day
Why, Pierce? Why? First, you abandon your natural charm with the ladies for creepy, Jared Fogle X-Ray glasses, and now you’re not even willing to drive your own car? For shame. In this sorely disappointing chapter of the Bond saga, Jimmy (he doesn’t deserve to be called James right now) hails his invisible Aston Martin to drive towards him in secret.
Poor gadgetry is a byproduct of poor writing. Speaking on behalf of the entire luxury car-loving world: have some respect, Mr. Bond. You’re better than that. Ian Fleming has rolled over in his grave so many times that he’s now halfway to China.
The Swallowing Sofa – The Living Daylights
The title alone hearkens the wrong English series: “the swallowing sofa” sounds something straight out of J.K. Rowling’s brain, right up there with the Whomping Willow. During this regrettable moment in Bond’s history, Q shows 007 a couch that quickly absorbs whoever sits on it, turning mankind’s favorite resting place into a holding cell that doubles as an interrogation device.
Again, this sort of idea could understandably be on the dry-erase board during pre-production, but it’s staggering that someone was actually paid to design such a gadget. Bond, played here by Timothy Dalton, looks at Q’s device as if the man has completely lost his mind, quickly fleeing the scene to go save the world.
Pocket Lint – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby had never acted before taking on the role of James Bond. The Aussie mountebank heard executive producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli were auditioning actors to fill Connery’s shoes and proceeded to acquire a Rolex, a three-piece suit straight out of Goldfinger, and a haircut from Connery’s personal barber. His audition went off without a hitch and he had Broccoli and Saltzman quite intrigued.
It’s a shame, then, that in Lazenby’s first on-screen encounter with a Q-borne gadget, he’s given radioactive lint that sticks to suspects and allows Bond to track them. It’s essentially GPS of the dust order. Not a bad idea, but far below what we’ve come to expect from the world’s most suave spy.
There you have it! What do you think is Bond’s lamest gadget? Let us know in the comments below!