Knowing of the filmmaking grind from movie history books, memoirs, and seeing various productions at work while living in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of Los Angeles for nine years, I rarely envy filmmakers and actors the experiences they have and the places they go. That is, until I saw one room of a house belonging to Doug Redenius, vice president of the Ian Fleming Foundation, in both episodes of Modern Marvels, about James Bond gadgets that makes up the History Channel DVD, James Bond Gadgets.
I envy writer/producer/director Tom Jennings and his camera crew and his sound crew the chance to go into that room, to see up close the posters, toys (most small ones still in their original plastic packaging), baseball caps and other memorabilia that line the walls and shelves of that room. Redenius also has a GoldenEye pinball machine that I’ve played before at the Pinball Hall of Fame on East Tropicana Avenue in Las Vegas, but this one is likely set to “free play,” so I still envy this production crew that made these episodes, one that aired before the theatrical release of Die Another Day in 2002, and the other after it came out.
That stunning collection of memorabilia actually matches what you’ll find in these episodes, the same sense of excitement at all that has been created in the name of James Bond. There’s the Bell Textron Rocket Belt, which was used in Thunderball, the Little Nellie autogyro from You Only Live Twice, the Q Boat from The World Is Not Enough and, of course, the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, the original of which sits in a car museum. These episodes are like wandering in that room, looking at all that memorabilia, because you not only get the vehicles and the boats and the planes, including the Acrostar Mini Jet used in the pre-credits sequence of Octopussy. You also get the stories behind their creation, how they came to be used in these movies, and interviews with some of the people who created them, the most interesting being the inventor of the Little Nellie autogyro, being that he has 19 different variations in an extensive shed on his property. He’s also the best-spoken about his life’s experiences with these autogyros, but that’s not to give short shrift to the other people in these episodes, since they’re shown demonstrating all this equipment, and talking about their uses beyond their appearances in the Bond films, to the extent that some governments find them to be useful training tools, such as the Acrostar Jet being used to simulate a missile.
James Bond Gadgets is an appropriate Bond-themed DVD by also offering as a bonus feature the Biography episode about Ian Fleming, James Bond’s famous creator, which includes archival interview clips with Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny for a little over two decades, and interviews with Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, as well as many authorities on the life of Ian Fleming. As with any Biography episode, you get a little and if you want to know more, you have enough information with which to dig deeper.
Having been a Bond movie devotee since 9th grade, it’s nice to see these vehicles and gadgets away from the movies, to learn more about what they are, what they can do, if they can even do what the movies show in action. Turns out that most of them can. Also pay close attention to the final segment in the second episode, which offers a tour of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., giving even more real-life insight into spy gadgetry, including listening devices becoming smaller and smaller as technology becomes more advanced. You’ll certainly learn a lot.