Bradford, England. It’s not exactly a place one would think of when imagining the fast paced life of a globe-trotting secret agent. In fact, I’d be quite surprised if you could even imagine Bradford in any context. However, the city is home to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television which is currently hosting the only Eon-sponsored James Bond exhibition in the world.
The exhibition opened to the press on Friday, March 22nd with an official opening to the public on Saturday, March 23rd. Hopes were high from fans and press alike for what was to be the first official James Bond exhibition since 1997.
As one entered the museum through the revolving glass doors, there sat the “most famous car in the world,” James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from GoldenEye. On the opposite side of the legendary car sat a video screen that offered fans a glimpse of the fabulous car in action—just a taste of what was in store for us Bond fans.
Upon entering the exhibit on the third floor (or UK second floor), visitors were handed a specially designed swipe card that could be to used to access information located on sporadically placed computers. Information such as cast and crew biographies, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews could all be accessed from the computers depending on which section of the exhibit you were in. There was also a challenging trivia question or two that needed to answered in order to access certain information. Of course, the difficulty of the question depended on what type of agent you selected on being at the beginning of your “mission” (general agent, agent, or special agent).
Besides the computer portals that could be found throughout the exhibition, there were a few other interactive things that were particularly interesting. Located halfway through the exhibition, the curators have built a “green screen room,” in which willing fans can latch onto a section of Golden Gate Bridge cable and re-enact the death of Zorin from “A View to a Kill”! Friends and family can witness it all happen by watching video screen on the outside wall of the room. The second interactive feature was towards the end of the exhibit. It was a room that was built to look like the nuclear reactor of a submarine. Fans could enter and take their place at one of three control stations and play around with all of the gadgets and levers. The object was to keep the submarine from having a nuclear meltdown. Unfortunately, anyone that was lucky enough to have me at the station next to them was doomed.
Readers will notice that I have yet to mention the props, costumes, and other Bond things on display, and there is a good reason—there aren’t many Bond items on display, and what Bradford has was somewhat oddly chosen. I went expecting to see a bunch of rare and cool stuff, but ended up finding things like the exact same costume designs from TWINE that were copied and offered as special edition “prizes” in the UK Special Edition Bond DVDs. I can look at those anytime I want to at home! Why didn’t they choose costume designs that we have never seen like those from “Thunderball,” “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” or “The Spy Who Loved Me?”
One of the most bizarre areas was the section that featured poster art. Anyone that owns Tony Nourmand’s The Official 007 Collection James Bond Movie Postersbook, or has ever been to a video store before will have seen these posters. I happen to have a lot of the posters that were featured in the section, like the six foot “Tomorrow Never Dies” poster of Brosnan, Hatcher, and Yeoh that was used for promotion in video stores, for example.
Admittedly, the exhibition does have some pretty cool and rare stuff, too. Things like storyboards from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” James Bond’s passport from “The Living Daylights,” the faberge egg from “Octopussy,” and Cafe Martinqué menus from “Thunderball” are all scattered throughout the exhibition just waiting to be admired by the dedicated Bond fan. One of my favorite sections from the exhibition is the “Villains” section, which is decorated like Scaramanga’s Fun House from “The Man with the Golden Gun.” The only thing missing is the honky tonk rendition of film’s theme song that should have been playing in the background!
It was a fun little exhibition, overall, but I think the curators focused too much of their attention on the interactive side of the exhibition and not enough time showcasing actual items from the Bond films. The Bond props became second banana to the interactive stuff. Bond fans come to see the props and drawings more than they come to play a trivia game, however challenging it may be. In spite of it all I still give the exhibition a ‘B,’ because it was a whole lot of fun!
For more information about the James Bond Exhibition in Bradford shoot on over to their website at nmpft.org.uk/bond.
–Jordan Charter is co-editor-in-chief of 007Forever.com.