Technology is always growing, changing and adapting to meet the demands of the present. Technological innovations can be seen in films and television over the decades, and James Bond is no exception. Technology is a fundamental part of the franchise’s appeal, and the featured technology in the movies directly reflected society’s feelings about it at the time. Granted, many of the gadgets of the film are also highly unrealistic, but these made up gadgets represented a different kind of conceptual innovation in American morale and drive, and a creative aspect that drew in many more viewers.
The Atomic Bomb
The first atomic bomb was created on July 16, 1945, and tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Soviet Union then detonated its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949, in Kazakhstan. For many, this was considered to be the beginning of the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Tensions heightened as both nations rushed to perfect bomb technology and public fear levels were gradually on the rise.
Atomic bombs are featured in three James Bond films: Goldfinger, Thunderball, and Octopussy. In each film, the bombs are associated with being used against Communist nations that America was in opposition to. Goldfinger was released in 1964, about 20 years after the atomic bomb was created, and four years after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In Goldfinger, a powerful Latvian bullion (gold) dealer named Goldfinger works with Chinese bomb scientists to drop an atomic device on America’s gold supply in Fort Knox (1). However, in the original novel, Goldfinger works for SMERSH (the Soviet counterintelligence agency) and Russia. Chinese scientists do this with the goal of creating economic downfall in the West while Goldfinger does this to increase the value of his own gold (2). Thunderball was made just after Goldfinger in 1965, so it incorporated many of the same themes of the atomic bomb being used against the United States. The film follows Bond as he tries to find two NATO atomic bombs that were stolen by SPECTRE (a fictional global terrorist organization), as SPECTRE then threatens to bomb cities in Britain and the United States (3). Lastly, Octopussy, made in 1983, also incorporated the atomic bomb and Soviet resistance as well. A Soviet General named Orlov plots to detonate a bomb in West Germany at an American military base. He tries to do this in an attempt to blame America for the disaster so that they would be forced to leave Europe. He believes this would allow the Soviets to conquer most of Europe without opposition (4).
The Bond film’s representation of the atomic bomb conveys the importance of the weapon in American and world history. The mere fact that it is present in three films over the span of 20 years says a lot about how often the bomb was on many people’s minds. Despite the fact that innovation can be a good thing, when it forms an arms race it can insight fear in people’s minds. It’s major presence in films resonated with a fear in American minds, making the Bond series all the more relevant to the Cold War time period.
Aside from the nuclear technology present in many of the Bond films, there are also gadgets that were not only exciting on screen, but left the viewer wondering if such technology actually existed in real life. In the earlier films like Dr. No, the gadgets weren’t as high tech, but they were impressive never the less. Bond used Geiger counters and cyanide cigarettes, enhancing his appeal as a super spy because he was able to use his wit and handy gadgets to outsmart the villains. Later films got much more creative with the gadgets: in From Russia, With Love, villains and Bond alike had Garrote wire watches, which had a hidden wire to strangle victims, poison tipped shoe knives, and an Attache case, which aided Bond with 40 rounds of ammo, a flat throwing knife, gold Sovereigns, a folding sniper rifle, and an exploding tear gas cartridge. These gadgets and ever increasing technology drew in the viewers while also increasingly intriguing them, because slowly over time, many fictional gadgets became reality. For example, in From Russia, With Love, Bond had a pager, which did not exist then in 1963, but was put on the market years later.