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At Washington's James Bond exhibit, villains are forever

A complete set of original cinema door panel posters from the film "Thunderball" are seen during a media preview of "50 Years of James Bond
A complete set of original cinema door panel posters from the film "Thunderball" are seen during a media preview of "50 Years of James Bond

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fans of fictional super spy James Bond rely on the durable film franchise for must-have elements, such as jaw-dropping stunts, great clothes, sultry women - and villains who are drop-dead evil.

An exhibition that opened on Friday makes clear that the nasty types that 007 has battled for five decades have changed but one constant remains. The only true match for the world's greatest secret agent are characters that moviegoers love to hate.

"Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains" at the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, is dedicated to the most memorable bad guys and gals in the 23-film series.

From the eponymous "Dr. No" in 1962 to the just-released "Skyfall," the exhibit shows links between fact and fiction and how villains have kept pace with an evolving world.

"Bond seems the same, but the villains have all changed. They have changed to reflect the changing times," Anna Slafer, the museum's director of exhibitions, told a news conference.

In "Dr. No," the villain schemes against the U.S. space program. Probing the nuclear fears of the 1970s, tycoon Karl Stromberg plots genocide in "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977).

The information age turns up with Max Zorin, who lusts to corner the microchip market in "A View to a Kill" (1985). In "Skyfall" cyberterrorist Silva tries to hack British intelligence computers.

THINK BIG

But some things have remained the same for the Bond villain, said Alexis Albion, a guest curator and intelligence historian.

They are highly successful, often charming, live in isolated places, generate fanatical loyalty, and think big, she said. "They are on a level that we have to send someone like James Bond after them."

They also "are off physically," Albion said. Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale" (2006) weeps blood, Dr. No has a magnetic claw in place of a hand, and the hitman Jaws in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker" (1979) is a giant with steel teeth.

A galaxy of well-known actors - and a few actresses - from around the world have faced off against the six men who have played Bond, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

Yaphet Kotto, Max von Sydow, Sean Bean, Javier Bardem, Donald Pleasence, Christopher Lee, Michael Lonsdale, Lotte Lenya, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeroen Krabbe, Christopher Walken and Telly Savalas all have gone mano-a-mano with 007, and lost.

The International Spy Museum's show was timed to the release of "Skyfall" and done in cooperation with EON Productions, which makes the Bond movies.

The exhibit, which includes more than 110 movie and historical artifacts, including Jaws' teeth, interactive stations, and videos, runs through 2014. General admission to the museum is $19.95.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Simao)

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