“Exquisitely Evil,” an exhibit at D.C.’s Spy Museum, celebrates a half a century of villains from the James Bond franchise up to “Skyfall,” (see our REVIEW), the 23rd James Bond film which had a recent worldwide rollout and marks the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary.
“Where Bond remains the same, over 50 years the villains have changed – they’ve changed to reflect changing times,” said Meg Simmonds, archive director at Eon Productions, the company that makes the films and an advisor for the exhibit, in an interview with AFP (Agence France Presse). And yet, one constant remains, she acknowledged: each Bond villain is “wealthy, intelligent, charming on occasion, yet devious, depraved and deranged.”
Reflecting the paranoia that resulted from the Cold War, the villain Blofeld, head of the criminal organization SPECTRE, tries to oppose the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. In the seventies Karl Stromberg and Hugo Drax threaten the world with nuclear weapons in “Moonraker” and “The Spy Who Loved Me,” while our appetite for thrills got whetted with the drug-laced conspiracies of “Live and Let Die” and “Licence to Kill.” In the latter, in fact, the cocaine king Franz Sanchez, an iguana perched on his shoulder, was modeled on Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar who raised hippopotamuses on his property. Fights concerning natural resources and environmental threats provided the yarn for later James Bond films like “The World Is Not Enough” and “Quantum of Solace.”
The hundred or so items on display in “Exquisitely Evil” include the weapon-concealing high heels of a real-life Rosa Klebb, the deadly spy from “From Russia With Love,” and the bullet that inflated and exploded Dr. Kananga, the bad guy in “Live and Let Die.”
While Bond may be a poor depiction of the life of a real spy-–”he never does anything secretly,” former CIA analyst Mark Stout complained in an interview to AFP–the bad guys “are exaggerated but most have a basis in reality.”
But not all the villains have roots in real life, British espionage expert Chris Moran (who was interviewed by AFP) laughed, citing in particular Jaws, the giant, metal-mouth assassin from “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.” “When you’re seven feet five inches, it’s impossible to operate in the shadows,” he grinned (with content from AFP).
The Spy Museum, 800 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Visit the museum’s site for visiting hours (click here).