Friday, 6 July 2012

Designing 007

If you can find your way to and around London's labyrinthine Barbican between today and September 5th, and you're a fan of the popular series of films featuring the character 'James Bond', then let me tell you my friends: you are in for the kind of treat that will make you want to find a quiet side room in which to have an absolutely MASSIVE wank.

As part of 2012's ongoing celebrations of fifty years of Bond films, the Designing 007 exhibition has taken up temporary residence at the Barbican before embarking on a three-year world tour that is certain to bring happiness and possibly world peace to everyone on the planet. I inveigled my way in to a press preview yesterday, and it was some of the most worthwhile inveigling I've ever done. And I'm a seasoned inveigler.
You're greeted at the entrance by this rather unconvincing mannequin of a Goldfinger-era Sean Connery rubbing his buttocks up against an Aston Martin DB5 like a horny dog on a nylon carpet. The car itself is clearly gorgeous, but the main attraction here is the three-piece suit, which is a replica of the 1964 version painstakingly recreated by original tailors Anthony Sinclair. They've done a bang-up job; the suit is beautiful close up, as my phone totally fails to demonstrate in this photograph.
Moving into the main part of the exhibition, the first proper room is "The Gold Room", deliberately designed to evoke Ken Adam's set designs from the early Bonds, specifically - and obviously - Goldfinger. An eerily realistic dummy of a gold-painted, naked woman spins slowly on a bed like some morbid display in an Amsterdam shop window, while on the opposite wall are mounted various sketches, storyboards and props. The highlight of The Gold Room is the golden gun from that film about the golden gun. You never really see it close up on screen, so to be able to get within inches of it and see exactly how Scaramanga fit his cigarette case, lighter, pen and cufflinks together is geek heaven.

An "M" room and a "Q" room follow, and they're jam-packed with what I'm fairly certain are every single prop from every single Bond film. EON's archives must have been stripped bare; everything's here from From Russia With Love's gadget-packed attaché case to Bond's medical report from The World Is Not Enough, signed by the frilly-knickered Dr Molly Warmflash.
Without doubt though, the centrepiece of the exhibition is The Casino, which contains about thirty original and replica costumes from the series. All the tuxedoes and posh frocks you remember are here (and one you won't - there's a dress from Skyfall on display) and they're all stunning. To be able to gawp at Sylvia Trench's blood-red dress from Dr. No or Tiffany Case's none-more-seventies Las Vegas outfit from Diamonds Are Forever for as long as I wanted was like cramming about six birthdays into 45 minutes, give or take.

If the exhibition has a fault (actually it has a couple, but more on the other one in a bit), it's that the mannequins that these beautiful creations are wrapped around look a little bit on the ridiculous side. The men's faces all look like the robots from Real Steel, and some of the hairpieces are even less convincing than the ones Roger Moore wore in the 1980s.
Remember the bit in Casino Royale where
Bond balanced a ferret on his head? Me neither

After leaving The Casino, things get a bit disjointed - back in the lobby there's a random glass case of skimpy swimwear, then a separate room of villains' props and costumes before the final room, which can only be accessed by going down two floors in a temperamental lift - and when you get there they're showing the worst bits of Die Another Day.

These minor quibbles aside, I can't recommend Designing 007 enough to any Bond geeks or casual fans out there. It's the finest, most immersive collection of Bond memorabilia I've ever seen and the perfect place to lose a couple of hours wishing you could play with or wear some of this stuff. I for one would fit right into Eva Green's Casino Royale dress for a start. You know, the one she wears while scratching her fanny in the middle of the casino.


  1. 'the worst bits of Die Another Day'... what, all two hours of them, boom, boom.

  2. Sounds G007ldenamazeballs, can't wait to visit. BTW, where's the quiet side room?

  3. No man alive or dead has ever made a suit, any suit, even an Incredible Suit, look as good as Sean Connery does. When you are standing looking at a manikin dressed in items from a film wardrobe which one of you is the dummy? Seeing the film props is like seeing Monet's pallet of paints or Renaldo's boots or Madonna's bra. It might be interesting to an historian or devoted fan but I would rather spend the time watching the films, looking at the paintings, watching the sport or hearing the music. I once attended an auction of the props used by the magician Tommy Cooper. They were worthless tat. "Button, tie, errr.. tie button." he would say and it was funny. The props, any old button or tie were just ordinary objects and try as you might you would never make them funny again so what is the point of having them? (If you offered me Elizabeth Taylor's diamonds I might be open to changing my mind.)

  4. Still the best Bond exhibition I've ever been to was at the Bradford Film Museum where you had a spy card and access to "MI6's files"... lol. It was geek heaven, especially when you're still an impressionable teenager clinging to childhood. =s Who me?

  5. I was right: it *is* Mandy Pantinkin in the Goldfinger suit! Hah!