Though Q was annoyed at how cavalierly James Bond treated the tech from MI6’s labs, those gadgets saved 007’s life many times.
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James Bond fans who’ve been waiting for the release of the franchise’s next installment, No Time to Die, were disappointed once again last month when the film was delayed until Oct. 8 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Directed by Cary Joji Fukinaga, and promising to globe trot from Italy to Jamaica and to Norway and Scotland, No Time to Die will be Daniel Craig’s fifth (and possibly final) turn as 007.
Hopefully, the new October release date will stick. But while we wait, we can reminiscence. Here are our favorite gadgets and technology from the James Bond movies, used either by Bond or by his enemies, as chosen by CNET writers, editors and producers.
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From Russia With Love (1963): Rosa Klebb’s dagger shoe
It’s an oldie but a goodie: It’s a simple blade in the shoe. But the first time I saw it when I was a kid, I thought, “Wow, that’s crazy!” And of course, the blade has to have a poisoned tip.
— Connie Guglielmo, editor in chief
You wouldn’t want to be driving next to this.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
Goldfinger (1964): Wheel hub tire slasher
Bond’s cars always came with a gallery of weapons to destroy henchman-driven cars. My favorite were the tire-slashing spikes that would spin out of the wheel hubs on the Aston Martin DB5 Bond drove in Goldfinger. Twenty-three years later in The Living Daylights, a laser in the wheel hub of Bond’s Aston Martin V8 would replace the spikes.
— Stephen Beacham, video podcast producer
Thunderball (1965): Rebreather
— Mitchell Chang, senior video producer
The jetpack gets all the attention, but what really wowed me watching Thunderball as a kid was all the underwater scenes. Total otherworldly adventure stuff. Besides the basic scuba gear, which was cool enough, there were the motorized sleds (some to ride behind, some to ride in) and the compressed-gas propellant on Bond’s tanks that zoomed him through the water like, well, a jetpack.
The bad guys even landed an Avro Vulcan aircraft on the water and settled it on the ocean floor. Oh, and the trap door in the hull of Largo’s Disco Volante yacht allowed divers to get in and out of the boat. Bond also had that pocket-sized mini rebreather with four minutes of air for emergencies, like escaping from the sharks in Largo’s pool. It was all such good stuff, we saw it again two decades later in the remake, Never Say Never Again.
— Jon Skillings, managing editor
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): Safecracker
Bond uses this to open the safe of Gebrüder Gumbold, the solicitor for Spectre head and archvillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. No, this isn’t a gadget you can easily carry with you — it’s so big that it has to be hoisted up to Gumbold’s office with a construction crane — and it works much slower than the safecracker Bond used in You Only Live Twice only two years earlier. But, hey, it also has a convenient photocopier function for capturing important villain documents! And when viewed on screen 50 years after the film’s release, the big-buttoned design is charmingly Space Age retro.
— Kent German, features editor
Roger Moore’s coolest 007 gadgets
Live and Let Die (1973): ‘A genuine Felix lighter’
This in-car communication device disguised as a cigarette lighter foreshadowed the entire era of wireless personal communications by a couple of decades, while presciently placing such technology in the dashboard of a car.
— Brian Cooley, editor at large
Possibly Bond’s coolest gadget: the Lotus Esprit that takes to the water in The Spy Who Loved Me.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): The car that becomes a submarine
As a kid growing up in the UK, I was bombarded with Bond reruns on TV — mainly ones from the Roger Moore era. This meant, as a youngster, I loved the worst of Bond. To this day Moonraker is still my favorite for terrible nostalgia reasons.
But nothing inspired my childish imagination like the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. Essentially a car that doubles as — get this — a submarine, the Lotus Esprit had everything: retractable wheels, fins and rudders for underwater steering. It even had radar and nautical guidance equipment.
But above and beyond being a car that transforms into a submarine, the Esprit was the ultimate in deus ex machina. It had a litany of chaos weapons at its disposal. Surface-to-air missiles, underwater mines, a periscope (naturally) and — this is my favorite — CONCRETE SPRAYERS. I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good idea, but the car had a device that let Bond spray literal concrete at his enemies as he drove. You laugh, but it was this very weapon that took out the car that Bond’s mortal enemy Jaws was pursuing him in. Magnificent.
— Mark Serrels, editorial director
For Your Eyes Only (1981): Identigraph
Before you could Google someone or check for a Facebook account, Q’s identigraph could help you track down the creepy dude who paid the hitman you were supposed to interrogate. By putting in characteristics like his eye color, hair style, nose size and the shape of his eyeglasses (octagonal, if those really exist), you could discover that he’s a pretty nasty enforcer in the Belgian underworld. And, no, I don’t mean a guy who runs a waffle truck racket.
— Kent German
It’s quite the snappy submarine.
Karen Roe/Wikimedia Commons
Octopussy (1983): Crocodile submarine
Bond used this bad boy to sneak into Octopussy’s floating palace in India. While Bond in a personal submarine disguised as a crocodile is a home run by itself, it’s the transparent little water shield that steals the show for me. When Bond needs to take a peak at his surroundings, the croc’s mouth opens nice and wide and we get a very clear and obvious view of Bond’s head. Is it impractical? Yes. Is it risky? Of course! But the visual gag wouldn’t be the same without it.
— Jesse Orrall, video producer
The Living Daylights (1987): Keyring finder
Keyring finders were a fashionable accessory for late-1980s Sharper Image-shopping yuppies. Bond’s version would help you find your keys by responding to a standard whistle, but it hardly stopped there. Need to emit a stun gas that can take out a maniacal Soviet prison guard? Then try the first bars of Rule Britannia. Need it to explode and kill a creepy narcissistic arms dealer? Then use a wolf’s whistle. And the keys on the ring would open 90% of the world’s locks. The only thing it can’t find is a plot for The Living Daylights that’s easy to follow.
— Kent German
Licence to Kill (1989): Camera gun
Q shows up in the fictional Isthmus City in South America with a suitcase full of cool tech to help murder a drug dealer. Bond climbs up to the guy’s bulletproof window, squeezes plastic explosive out of a toothpaste tube, sticks a cigarette case in it as the detonator, then gets set up with the piece de resistance, a sniper rifle disguised as a camera. Bonus! The gun only works for Bond, thanks to a fingerprint scanner.
— Nick Hide, global copy chief
This isn’t one of the coolest gadgets to come out of Q branch, but the reason the broom radio (or broom walkie-talkie) from Licence to Kill deserves a mention is that we see Q use it in the field. Disguised as a garbageman complete with a fake mustache, Q uses the broom to update Pam Bouvier on Bond’s status. Watching Desmond Llewelyn as Q incognito use a broom as a radio, complete with a telescoping antenna in the broom’s brush, is an absolute delight. And even though he scolded Bond countless times about taking care of gadgets better, what does our quartermaster do with the broom radio when he’s done? He throws it aside.
— Patrick Holland, senior associate editor
GoldenEye (1995): Explosive pen
Click this Parker Jotter pen grenade three times to arm the four-second fuse, click three more times to disarm. This is used to create some major tension later — unknowing programmer Boris Grishenko nervously twirls and clicks it while a captive Bond tries to count. The superspy ultimately sees his opportunity, knocking the pen out of Boris’ hand and creating an explosive distraction. I also vaguely recall doing a whole lot of obnoxious pen-twirling and clicking in school after watching this movie.
— Sean Keane, staff reporter
The BMW 750iL featured in Tomorrow Never Dies, which Bond controls with his Ericsson JB988 phone.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Ericsson JB988 phone
With a fingerprint reader, fingerprint copier, stun gun feature and a lock pick, this Ericsson JB988 showcased what a phone could do before the advent of phones doing absolutely everything. It could even drive his middle management BMW 750iL, which kinda foreshadowed using phones to fly drones.
— Mitchell Chang
Die Another Day (2002): Surfboard with equipment compartment
Surfing a board with a compartment full of stuff wouldn’t work, but kudos to the filmmakers for sneaking that in without anyone really batting an eye. I’d love to have a lightweight surfboard that also comes with a compartment where I can put my keys, wallet, phone, knife that also turns into a radar jammer, and who knows what else.
— Mitchell Chang
Defibrillator in the car: Casino Royale (2006)
Gear from Q branch often saved Bond’s life, but probably never more directly than in Casino Royale when Bond’s been poisoned by Le Chiffre’s crew. How fortunate that he had a portable defibrillator in the glove box of his car!
— Jon Skillings
Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation is $3.5M worth of neat gadgets
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