Celebrating 50 years of Designing 007

London's Barbican Museum proudly displays a waxworks James Bond and his Aston Martin DB5 as part of the Designing 007 exhibit celebrating 50 years of the super spy.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

James Bond is celebrating 50 years on our movie screens and bookshelves, and a massive exhibit  celebrating the history of the films recently ran at London’s Barbican Museum this summer before elements of it headed to Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Designing 007 – 50 Years of Bond Style documents the trends of Ian Fleming’s creation. Starting with first edition hard copies of Fleming’s books and moves through the films’ evolution.

Including displays on set design, costuming, props, stunts, gadgets, villains, posters and vehicles.  In most cases (thanks to Bond’s masters at Eon), the props, design documents, outfits and such are original props and not collectors’ replicas made just for display. Designing 007 really is a tour through cinematic history.

Some of the highlights of the Barbican version of Designing 007 included the actual door to M’s office, the original Golden Gun wielded by Christopher Lee, tuxedos worn by each Bond actor, the bikini worn by Ursula Andress in “Dr. No” and various prop Walther PPKs used throughout Bond’s history.

There are also salutes to the films' graphic design, such as an ongoing montage of their sexy opening title sequences (below).

If you’re any sort of a Bond fan – or just a movie fan – you have to appreciate the very up close and personal look at film history. You really do get a chill when you look at the very bowler hat Odd-job threw to behead pretty ladies in “Goldfinger” or the bladed shoes Rosa Krebs wore in desperate attempt to slay Bond at the end of “From Russia with Love.”

The most amusing section of the exhibit is the skiing section. I always thought it was funny that so many Bond films held an action-packed ski sequence. Most notably, there’s the pre-credit sequence from “The Spy Who Loved Me” on the slopes that featured a world-record free skydive off a mountain. The dangerous leap ended with a Union Jack-adorned parachute dropping Bond (or a stuntman) to the safety of the opening song.

I suspect the producers of the Bond films enjoyed ski holidays – so why not wedge a snowy action sequence into as many movies as possible? So, you end up with additional bloody snow in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “A View to a Kill,” “The Living Daylights” and “The World Is Not Enough.”

True to form, there are props, vehicles and outfits from all of that icy celluloid on display in Designing 007.

More than just enjoying a walk through spy movie history, the exhibit also educates on how much work goes into moviemaking. There are so many skilled craftsmen and artists working behind the scenes on 007’s mega-budget adventures, and Designing 007 gives some of them their due.

Elements of the original outstanding Barbican exhibit will be on display in Toronto through January 20, 2013.