The life of a secret agent is hardly an easy one. When you’re not nursing a margarita hangover or getting that Communist-looking rash checked up at the clinic, you’re probably going to be pouring over dossiers and briefing notes before you’re shipped out to some dastardly foreign nation to ruin a bad guy’s day.
Thankfully, behind every dapper spy is a small army of nerds and scientists with one goal – to make life easy in the field. Whether it’s a car that can traverse the open sea, an explosive hair pin or a stereo that doubles as a portable missile launcher, there isn’t anything these boffins can’t throw together in the safety of their laboratory that won’t be useful at some point.
So, without further ado, let’s settle down and run through the 7 top gadgets your spy should never leave home without.
And please, don’t touch that. It’s my lunch!
001. Smoke Cigar – Danger Man (1965)
If you ever watched Danger Man, you would know that Drake was never short on ideas. In one episode, Drake is able to evade the baddies by lighting his cigar. It is, in fact, a smoke bomb – and Drake is able to escape in the ensuing chaos. Simple, effective, and the perfect set up for approximately twenty seven puns on release.
While it’s true that there are more than a few variations of this oh-so-simple gadget, whether it’s a portable dart gun, sleeping powder vessel or explosive device. It’s so common, in fact, that I wonder if this was indeed inspired by a range of existing gadgets used during the Second World War or the Cold War. In either case, smoking kills – but smoke just might save your hide this time around.
002. Latex Masks – Mission: Impossible series (1966-1973, 1996-present)
Because sometimes it just pays to look like someone else for a bit, the latex masks featured in the Mission: Impossible series are simply a work of art. Whether you’re framing someone for a crime they didn’t commit, sneaking into a high security facility or otherwise causing mischief, a good, realistic mask will help an agent in virtually every mission. What’s more, it’s likely to cause children and audiences to freak out.
I admit I don’t know much of the original sixties television series (only really that it exists, and has one of the best television themes ever), but I know the Tom Cruise films well enough and, as a kid, the magic of having someone pull their face off to reveal another underneath – I mean, wow.
003. CO2 Laser – Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Alright, so this isn’t exactly the most glamorous of gadgets, I admit. But when you’re confronted with a wire fence, a tight deadline and the fate of the world on your hands, there really isn’t much time to waste. Handheld, battery powered and extremely handy in a pinch, the CO2 Laser wielded by KGB Agent Illya Kuryakin isn’t going to win any prizes for realism, but come on now. I can think of half a dozen occasions I could have used this today, let alone if I was trying to actually break into somewhere.
Considering that the next best thing is Napoleon Solo’s super hardened boron wire cutters, sharpened with a CO2 laser, well, there’s really no competition. It also contributed to one of the more enjoyable sequences in Guy Ritchie’s fairly mediocre rehash of the classic Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 2015. A film worth watching almost exclusively for the conflict between American and Russian agents forced to work together to achieve a greater goal.
004. The Brolly – The Avengers (1961-1969)
Despite only ever being used twice on-screen, John Steed’s signature weapon of choice left a lasting impression on everyone who watched The Avengers. Never one to cause a disturbance if he could help it, John left much of the action to his partner Emma Peel (and the others, I guess, but none of them ever held a candle to Emma, as far as I’m concerned), instead preferring the task of charm and word games over a nice glass of wine.
His iconic bowler hat and umbrella presented John as a classic English Gentleman. Ready for the sudden downpour of British weather, he was rarely without his umbrella – and for good reason. Concealed within the handle is a hidden blade – or saber – that is never far from the action.
005. Dental Hygiene Kit – Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997)
Oh, you can use this stuff for work? You can use the toothpaste to blind an incompetent guard, then use the floss as a method of swinging off of an easily slow moving dipping mechanism? Well, why didn’t you say?
Yes, aside from the voluntary dental hygiene techniques available to each of us in our local Boots, these items we use daily can become part of a deadly arsenal – should you have the wit and strength to use it, of course.
006. Grapple Gun – Various.
Let’s face it, unless you’re working in the only government department that isn’t facing massive budget cuts, you’re not going to be flying around on any jetpacks any time soon. To get up high, you’re going to need to take the scenic route. That is, to get out your suction pads, it’s time to scale a wall. That is, unless, you happen to have the wonderful Grapple Gun, as featured heavily in every form of Batman piece of fiction. Just point the gun, squeeze the trigger, and you’ll soon have your hook embedded in the nearest wall – ready to let you scale the wall with minimal effort and maybe, just maybe, a celebrity cameo popping out of an open window.
If the various iterations of Batman may be too much of a stretch from your otherwise deadly serious spy-fi genre, there are plenty of good examples in other media. Like, uh, Kim Possible or Charlie’s Angels. They’ll do.
007. Laser Wristwatch – James Bond series (1983-2015)
Look, if you’re going to go and spend a load of money on a watch, you better hope it delivers. Some people might do this for the look and style, others might even be interested in telling the time. If you count yourself as one of these, then cover your eyes, because this might just blow your mind. This watch tells the time, looks great and shoots a fricking laser beam.
If there was one gadget from the enormous list of gadgets and accessories featured in the James Bond series to appear on this list, it would have to be this one. Modelled on the Omega Seamaster Quartz Professional wristwatch, this gadget was chosen for its sophisticated “Euro” feel, with a decidedly nasty bite. First appearing in Never Say Never Again (1983) and introduced properly during Pierce Brosnan’s run as Bond, the laser wristwatch went on to become a vital ingredient for a number of video games based on the suave spy – not only working as a tool to set off explosives and cut locks – but even going so far as to act as the menu, particularly on the GoldenEye game on the classic Nintendo 64.
I’ve spent a far few hours with this one, lemme tell you.
By Adam Tyler
See what else inspired Spy or Die Trying the board game, coming soon…