July 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Year: 1983. The 4th Bond film to be named after a villain, Octopussy was the undisputed “Worst Bond Movie Name Ever” title holder for over two decades until surrendering the belt in a first round knock-out in 2008. Despite what the title implies, the movie is in fact a PG rated action film and not some strange Human Centipede (2009) like horror-surgery flick. Octopussy? Really? Even Maude Adams, who returned to play the title role, admitted to being embarrassed by her characters moniker, only coming around to the eight-footed feline name after learning “Octopussy and The Living Daylight,” a posthumously published collection of short stories, was a title used by Fleming himself. As if that somehow makes it OK? It’s still a terrible name for a movie. All that said, when I was growing up, this was the film that for me, define Bond. In 1983 I was nine years old and my love affair with film was still in the honeymoon stage. That is to say, every freaking little thing about movies had me mesmerized. Seeing movies in the theater was like a religious experience but most of the flicks I caught at the time were on TV or home video. The arrival of the VCR in my home was a huge event, on par with buying a new cartage for the Atari 2600 or my first day of Kindergarten. Members of my family would take turns picking out the tape for Friday night movie nights and I remember counting down the days until Octopussy arrived on my video store shelf. And by video store, I mean the pharmacy section at the local Path-Mart where we also did our grocery shopping. (Our North Jersey strip-mall didn’t get a proper video store until the mid to late 80’s.) Perhaps because I saw Octopussy at the right time, for better or for worse, whenever I heard the words James Bond, this was the film that immediately came to mind. I had a bunch of images/ scenes burned in my head before rewatching it for this project; the creepy clown death of 009, the saw blade yo-yo slicing a pillow and sending feathers flying into the air, and Bond avoiding certain pain while sliding down a banister. (I played little league. Even as a kid I knew what it meant to get hit in that double O-so-sensitive spot.) But the thing that really stood out as a nine-year-old weren’t the action sequences but the Fabergé egg auction. I’d been to auctions growing up. We spent a lot of time on Cape Cod where on Saturday nights our family would go to the Sandwich Auction House. My folks would walk around and check out old furniture as the guy behind the podium shouted in the stereotypical super-fast-auctioneer-way-of-blending-all-his-words-together. The auction was held in a huge tent next to the auction house, where bidders sat on folding chairs, the items were displayed on a wooden, two-inch high stage, and two dudes would throw sold items onto a hand truck and walk them to the winners car. What I saw in Octopussy was an impossibly posh room, full of beautiful people in evening wear, and an auctioneer who spoke like a Shakespearian actor. But the thing I remember most Fabergé egg. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it. “What is that?” My parents explained it was a piece of art made many years ago in Russia and it’s part of their national treasure. Russia? The bad guys? If I’m to believe what I’ve seen in films and learned in school, Russia is a place of great poverty where people wait in lines for bread when the Army isn’t kicking in their doors and threatening them at gun point. They don’t let their people do things like make art. It just didn’t jibe. More that Stallone shouting “We all can change!” while wrapped in an American flag, more than Robbin Williams living under a make-up counter in Macy’s, more than Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen yelling “Wolverines!” this scene was a pivotal moment in my understanding of the world. Maybe ALL Russians aren’t that bad. Maybe, just maybe, the world wasn’t all black and white. Yes, I had a political awaking thanks to film named Octopussy. It’s strange what kids pick up and remember.
Film Length: 2 Hours 11 minutes
Bond Actor: Roger Moore. I own everything Bob Dylan ever recorded, even those late 70’s early 80’s “Born again” records. (I love “Changing of the Guard.” Stop rolling your eyes.) You can like Uncle Bob or hate him, it’s all subjective and I’m not here to change anyone’s mind on the Bard, but what I can’t stand is when people dismiss Dylan with the standard, cheep imitation. You know the one; singing in the mumbled, buzzing, nasally thing that has become shorthand for why he sucks. Dylan has been recording for over fifty years (his first full LP came out the same year as Dr. No when he was 19) and he might have, maybe, if your lucky, sounded like the Dana Carvey impression for six songs. But the image stuck, and people who don’t know or care to know much more about him now unfairly see Dylan as that guy. After watching Octopussy this time around, I think this movie unfairly hung a similar albatross around Roger Moore’s neck. Much like I thought of the Bond of Octopussy as the definitive 007, I think most folks think of this movie when they voice the general complaint of Roger being nothing more than a light, ethereal, wise-assed Bond. While that most certainly doesn’t fit the description of Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) it is, I’m afraid, a more than accurate criticism of his performance in Bond 13. In the last film, Bond had a chance to save a baddies life and instead kick him over the side of a cliff. Placed in the same situation in this film, Bond would hand the guy a cigar, light it for him, and step away as the gunpowder filled soggy blew up in the baddies face. Bond would then smirk proudly, chew on a carrot and ask his victim, “ehhhhh, Whats da mater Doc? A little to hot for yahs?” All the hard edges from the previous films have been rounded off. What’s left is a Bond who would be a blast at any cocktail party but he’s not the guy you would ever entrust to save the world. The script does Moore no favors in this department requiring him to drop quips left and right while running from one thrill to the next as if he’s trying to ride every rollercoaster at Six Flags in a single day. “Well that one had its UPS and DOWNS. I wonder if the next ride will be as UPLIFTING?” Moore’s physically present in the action but he’s detached from the outcome and as a result we feel no danger and the entire enterprise feels like a lark. That said, who doesn’t love a good rollercoaster and a laugh. When it comes to thrills and giggles, this film delivers in spades. And besides, it could have been much, much worse. Back in 1973 as a young man of 45 years, Moore singed a five-film deal to become one of the most recognized fictional characters in the world. When For Your Eyes Only (1981) went into the can, Sir Roger was a free agent. Like any good ball player in a contract year, he delivered a strong performance, flirted with the open market and then held out for as much money as he could get. For his part Cubby Broccoli, like any general manager worth his salt, scouted for a younger talent to replace his aging veteran; not only to inject some energy but also to fill the position at a reduced price. Once again, EON producers cast a wide net when searching for James Bond and they got so far as to draft the 4th007; a tall, dashing, American actor by the name of James Brolin.
Yes, that James Brolin, then best known know as Dr. Steven Kiley on the long running “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and the creepy dad in The Amityville Horror (1979) and today famous for being Mr. Barbra Streisand. To keep my baseball analogy alive, Moore for Brolin would be like Tom “The Franchise” Seaver to Cincinnati for Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, and Dan Norman in the infamous “Midnight Massacre.” The Mets instantly fell to the bottom of the dregs in the National League, attendance at Shea dropped to nil, and all executives involved in the trade were sent packing within two seasons. Brolin as Bond, by the by, came dangerously close to a theater near you. Broccoli flew Brolin to London, took him to the Bond barber for the right haircut, and even drove the American around town to help him find an apartment. (Or “flat” as apartments are called in England as Mr. Brolin would learn.) Thanks to the modern day marketing rule which states “put EVERYTHING we have on a DVD extra and jack up the price,” you, dear Bond fan, can now watch Brolin screen tests in the comfort of your own home. See the American actor doing a romantic scene from From Russia With Love (1963) opposite Maude Adams. Or, watch Brolin dressed in his Bond best engage in a fully choreographed fight with a baddie. I must admit, its not the train wreck I thought it would be. Right off the bat, Brolin doesn’t even attempt a British accent and that’s the right choice. He looks striking in a tux, as Bond needs to, and he handles the physical aspects of the role easily, something that could never be said of Moore. However, when it comes to delivering the dry dialog, Brolin is lost. I know it’s just a screen-test and music and editing would help his cause somewhat but you can see him acting and he has none of the timing that comes so naturally to Moore. (Even in interviews, Moore knows exactly when to cock that eyebrow for maximum effect.) As a study, these screen tests are fascinating and I highly recommend checking them out, but as a reality, I think the Brolin as Bond era would have been a disaster. Thank the movies gods Moore signed on for his 6th film at the last minute, agreeing to one movie for a reported $4 million and up to 5% of the box-office take. At 54, Moore didn’t disappoint. Yes, in his 13th movie, Bond becomes almost a caricature of himself; the indestructible superhero spy who’s always quick with a quip and never has a single hair out of place. But when Moore pulls a sword out of a street performers throat or flips off kids that fail to pick-up the hitchhiking 007, only a coldhearted partisan wouldn’t chuckle.
Director: John Glen. In the NFL, a rookie Quarterback is often called on not to lead the offence but to “manage the game.” This is coach speak that translates to keeping the play book super simple. Nothing exotic or tricky where the QB will out think himself or become bogged down with too much information. Just meat and potatoes, time tested plays designed to get the next first down and repeat. The producers and Glen were wise to take a similar approach to For Your Eyes Only for Glens debut in the director’s chair. For his second go around however, the training wheels were off and Glen throws everything he’s got up onto the screen, including the kitchen sink. As you’d expect, some of it sticks, some of it doesn’t, but man it’s exciting to watch. The movie is fast. At one point, Bond is involved in a pedicab chase through the streets of India and a crowd has gathered to watch. They look left to right and back again in unison, as if watching a tennis match. It’s the perfect metaphor for the film audience. As Bond is thrust from one action set piece to the next, we crane our necks to keep up. But this is not a modern slash and burn, shaky cam sense of speed. As he always has, Glen proves himself to be a master at assembling action sequence. I was planning on dissecting one of these scenes, the fight in Octopussy bedroom, but after three pages I realized I’m not teaching Film 101 at the local county college. Lets just say the editing, pacing, and camera angles always keep us in the moment and establish a true sense of space so we feel as if we are able to understand exactly who is where doing what to whom. This is no small thing and it’s such a treat to see action sequences that are not just story boarded but crafted with love and logic. It’s so rare to see this in action films today that the whole thing seems almost quant. Add the fact that as early as 1983 directors knew their movies were going to get killed by pan and scan when converted to the 3 by 4 ratio of home video releases and many filmmakers just gave up trying to use the full screen and proper editing to tell a story. I always think of Armageddon (1998) when it comes to an easy illustration of how not to make an action sequence. I know the movie is crazy old by now but I always return to it because it was the first time I remember literally throwing my hands up while sitting in a theater. I challenge anyone to tell me who is doing what where for the entire finally 1/3 of that film. It’s like a game of 52 pick-up, just throw images at the audience and leave it to them to sort through and make sense of it. That not a movie, it’s an assault on the eyes and brain. But I digress. The point being, Glen cares and even gives Bond fans a bunch of winks and inside jokes. We get a pidgin flying out of a window to startle Bond while he scaling a wall, much like the pidgin did when he was climbing the cliff in the previous film (I saw an interview with Glen at some point where he said he tried to get a shot of a pidgin into all his films, like a trademark akin to Hitchcock appearing in all his films. Something to keep an eye out for going forward.) We get the guy seeing an impossible Bond stunt who then stares at his bottle gag. There are reference to classic Connery moments like the eyeball reflection in Goldfinger (1964), a car on two wheels like Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Octopussy leads a circus of woman performers much like Pussy Galore lead a flying circus of female pilots, (why must women have “pussy” as part of their name to have authority in these films?) and while there is not a fist fight in a sleeping car, we do get a classic and super exciting train battle. Glen even gets meta; when Bond arrives in India, he identifies his contact, disguised as a snake charmer, when he hears the notes to the James Bond Theme played on the flute. “That’s a charming tune.”
Reported Budget: $27,500,000 (estimated) $4 million of which went directly into Moore’s pocket which I suspect EON saw as a bargain considering the 1983 release landscape. At twenty-one years old, Bond was no longer the “A game” in town. I’ve never seen anything to confirm this, but I would wager Broccoli was wise enough to know he wasn’t in the same league as Return of the Jedi (1983). Likewise, he wasn’t going after the same 13-year-old girl audience as Flashdance (1983) (the first Simpson/Bruckheimer mega-production.) However, there was one film hitting theaters that was directly in Broccoli’s crosshairs. It was imperative, from both a business and personal standpoint, that this one particular Warner Bothers release be demolished by Octopussy critically and more importantly at the box-office. While Broccoli was courting Brolin, he had to have known that in order to win this battle, Roger Moore was essential. Cubby needed a familiar face in the role of Bond, since the man who invented Bond for the big screen was once again going to don a hairpiece and play 007. Way back in 1965 Kevin McClory co-produced Thunderball (1965) and somehow, someway got his hands on the rights to make a “sequel” with license to use the Bonds character. EON and UA have always guarded the rights to Bond more tightly then FOX News guards the GOP and Broccoli sued for copyright infringement. This lead to years of legal battles that ended up, among other things, holding up The Spy Who Loved Me for years and sucking up millions in legal fees, almost sinking Broccoli right around the time the was putting more money into Moonraker (1979) than any other Bond film. Finally, by 1983 EON had lost and McClory paid a kings ransom to Sean Connery to reprise the role of James Bond in the aptly titled Never Say Never Again(1983).
Connery agreed, in part to fund his charity but also to stick it to Moore and more importantly Broccoli. For his part, Cubby was seething at the thought of the man he made a star (at least as he saw it) coming back to try to beat him at his own game. The posters for Octopussy declared “Nobody Does Him Better” under Roger Moore’s name, which wouldn’t have worked so well with Brolin’s handle on the marquee. “Nobody Does Him Americaner?” Anyway, in a conflict worthy of it’s own movie, the new and old Bond (the old Bond, who by the by, is three years younger than the new Bond) were set on a collision course that promised to collide in multiplexes in the summer of 1983, forcing the ticket buying public to pick sides, and vote with their hard earned dollar for Moore or Connery. (Ed Note: After completing every “official” release, Blog James Blog will review both Casino Royale (1969) and Never Say Never Again, films I have yet to see and the only two movies that had legal rights to James Bond outside of the EON releases)
Reported Box-office: $57,403,139 (USA) $187,500,000 (Worldwide). Coming in far short of even the domestic take of the #1 Return of the Jedi ($252 million), Octopussy landed softly between WarGames and Sudden Impact for a healthy #6 in the year end rankings. The decision to play up Moore’s assists, the never-let-them-see-you-sweet suave coupled with a wit dryer than his martini, and to play down his liabilities, being a tough guy like Connery, paid off. Moore’s younger rival, who’s Never Say Never Again was delayed and didn’t hit screens until October, came in at #14 with a $55,432,841 hall in the US and $138,000,000 worldwide. And with that, the victorious Moore drew his mighty katana and decapitated Connery who promptly vanished … only to return to 1536 AD Scotland where he once again suffer the effects of the Quickening.
Theme Song: “All Time High” performed by Rita Coolidge because “Octopussy” is a tough monkey to wrench into lyrics in the pre-Snoop Dogg daze. The tune, in my expert critical analyses, is WLITE-FM crap.
Opening Titles: We cut out of the opening action sequence and into the credits with two hands coming together to create a wipe. I feel like this method has been used to open the credits in the past few pictures. I could very easily pop in the DVD’s to confirm this nagging suspicion but I am in fact, a very lazy man. Outside of the handclap these silhouetted naked ladies have a fresh feel to them; think less secret service and more Victoria Secret. Lasers are employed not to threaten Bond’s most precious body part but to highlight said body parts on the babes. Near the end of the sequence, a reclining woman shoots a gun. A single laser beam slowly comes out of the barrel and travels down her body until it hits her naked belly, stops, and spreads out to projected “007” in laser light. The wife and I both starting cracking up because it looked just like the gun was doing something that starts with “e-jac” and ends with “u-late.” Are we both perverts reading too much into this image? Considering the lyric “I’m in so deep and so are you” is heard while this happens, I think not. Octopussy indeed.
Opening Action Sequence: The horse’s tail in the first shot. As soon as I saw the horse’s tail with the red band around it the entire open flashed back. Most Bond opens are mini-movies but there is nothing mini about this one. It’s a little longer than past opens and could be a complete three act film on it’s own. Act I opens with Bond and a girl who puts the finishing touch, a mustache, on his disguise. It’s a nice piece of fore shadowing since Bond will employ many disguises in the film. In this case, Bond becomes the Cuban General Toro. (I think they are in Cuba, this is never confirmed.) As Toro, Bond works his way into a hanger where many planes with big missiles are housed. Bond salutes/karate chops a guard before he is caught planting a bomb by his doppelganger. “So, you’re a Toro too.” The bomb is disarmed, Bond is taken prisoner, and his lady friend, in the stands watching a horse show, watches as 007 is hauled away in a jeep. End of Act I. Why is there an equestrian event happening in spiting distance of this top secrete military hanger? Shut-up and watch the movie kid. Act II, our hero tied up in the back of jeep, surrounded by men with guns. Escape is impossible, but what is that? Here comes the lady driving a convertible with a horse trailer hitched to it. A convertible sports car with a trailer hitch you ask and I again ask you to lay off any and all questions regarding horses, OK? The lady pulls up next to the jeep, shows a little leg, and catches the eye of the two men charged with guarding Bond. A quick move by our hero and the two guys are up in the air, their parachutes having been deployed and pulling them off the back of the jeep. Safely in the car with the lady Bond then forces the jeep off the road and into a chicken coop. I found it interesting that Bond let all four of these men live, perhaps out of respect for fellow oglers of woman. Bond kisses his rescuer, telling her “Ill see you in Miami” which I assume is coded “spy speak” for we will fornicate when I get to Florida. End Act II. Having been rescued, Act III is about completing the mission that was foiled so long ago back in Act I. The horse’s ass in the trailer rises and out shoots Bond in a single-seat spitfire of plane known in aviation circles as the Acrostar BD-5. As soon as Bond is airborne he sees a heat-seeking missile in his “objects are closer than they appear” rearview mirror. Three years before Maverick, Goose and the Ice Man would rip-up the friendly skies with F-16’s (not to mention melt hearts with karaoke renditions of Righteous Brothers tunes) Bond was flying under bridges and over clouds in simply breathtaking aerial shots as the missile bears down on him. This would cause panic in a mere mortal but Bond sees an opportunity to turn sidewinders into lemon-aid. That is, after all, why he gets paid the homerun money. In a stunning move that makes the helicopter-in-the-warehouse trick from the last film look like amateur hour, Bond barnstorms the hanger and bursts out the back door, sending the missile into his original target to kill two birds with one stone; he evaded the missile while destroying the original target. As the building explodes in an incredible ball of flame behind him, Bond flies off into the sunset, and scene, But wait, a coda! The jet is low on fuel. Bond makes an emergence landing on country road and comes to a stop directly in front of a gas station. Setting the humorous light-hearted tone for the rest of film, Moore waits a beat, looks at the attendant, and smirks. “Filler up please.” This high octane set piece, by far the most jam packed and, one would assume, expensive Bond open, was actually scripted for Moonraker. However, it had to be shelved due to lack of funds, partly because of the big bucks space station set at the end of the film but also because the money originally set aside for the sequence ended up going to legal bills to pay for the battle with Kevin McClory. It’s ironic (don’t you think?) that just like Bond got a twofer in his escape/competition of the mission with his single barnstorm move, the barnstorm open was implemented by EON to take on whatever McClory came up with to open his Bond film after being shelved four years earlier because of McCloy’s film.
Bond’s Mission: The film starts off with incredible intrigue. A truly creepy looking clown is running for his life from two puffy sleeved knife throwing twins who would go on to have a career as leaders of Cobras elite Crimson Guard. Tomax and Xamot manage to get a knife in the clown’s back yet the clown survives long enough to get away. In a crazy Jason Voorhees POV camera we see the clown break into the English embassy, smash through a window, and drop a Fabergé egg at the feet of an ambassador and his shrieking wife. This, we learn in the next scene, was 009’s dying act. It’s also the last time this film will make a lick of sense. Is Octopussy about smuggling jewels? Or is about unilateral disarmament? Is it about destroying a hanger of planes in Cuba? Or a circus comprised of runaway women which doubles as a team of ninjas? Is it about a rogue Russian general teaming up with an Indian prince to ignite the fuse for World War III? Or is it about Bond suffering an extensile crisis, unable to come to terms with the suicide of Professor Smyth, a disgraced former colleague whose suicide, it should be noted, was the direct result of Bonds actions? It’s about all of those things and none of those things. Except the crises bit, it’s not at all about that. Bond barely flutters an eyelash upon learning Smyth was Octopussy’s father before he proceeds to bed the dead man’s daughter in a rather aggressive manner. What this movie is really about is putting Bond in impossible circumstances, and then watching him get out. Whether bidding too high on the Fabergé egg at Sotheby’s or dragging too low under a moving train, Bond will always live to fight another day, have a quip to bridge the few seconds until his next adventure, and always look absolutely stunning while doing so. In that way, this film is kind of the movie poster version of the Bond ideal; the indestructible hero always in tux, in danger but never IN DANGER, and so unflappable that no near death experience can’t be dismissed with a well-timed one-liner.
Villain’s Name: Part of the reason Octopussy’s plot goes in eight different directions is a screenplay which forms an unholy marriage between two Fleming short stories, “Octopussy” (the Prof. Smyth stuff) and “The Property of a Lady” (The Sotheby’s auction/ Fabergé egg stuff). For Your Eyes Only also mixed and matched Fleming source material but had greater success when it came to keeping the story organic. One of the most obvious outcomes of the mashing of missions is we are left with three main villains, all of who are pressuring separate goals. To keep it simple, let’s call them the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is Octopussy. “Bring him to me” she orders when she first hears Bond’s name so she can tell 007 face to face how she admires him for his role in her father’s suicide or something. She followed old dad in the family business, smuggling, and has diversified into shipping, hotels, carnivals and circus. Speaking of the old man, Octopussy was saddled with her terrible moniker by her father, much like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.” Talk about daddy issues. The bad is Kamal Khan, an Indian Prince in the classic Bond villain mode. He’s intelligent, a snappy dresser, lives in a palace and invites Bond to dinner so he can explain everything he’s about to do. Also like so many of his brethren, he makes the mistake of first regarding Bond as a nuisance only to become increasingly unglued when it becomes apparent that Bond is the Energizer Bunny. The ugly is General Orlov, the Russian equivalent of Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove (1964). There’s a fantastic scene in the Russian war room where the doves, lead by General “socialism is to be achieved peaceably” Gogol squares off with the Hawks lead by Orlov. Orlov froths at the mouth while drawing huge red arrows across a European map he must have lifted from Hitler’s bunker while promising “total victory in five days against any possible defense scenario.” The words are spat out a syllable at a time as he not only chews the scenery, he vomits it back out and dances a jig on the remains. When his plan for world donation is shot down by the “old men who lack vision” he retunes to his chair to sulk like a three year-old who was told to go to bed without dessert. That is, until he decides to take things into his own hands Whaaa-haaaa ha ha ha ha! Orlov is by far the most fun and over the top Bond villain in some time and I wish he had a larger role. The fact the he and Bond only have one fleeting scene together is tragedy.
Villain Actor: The immortal Maud Adams who in the role of Octopussy becomes the only actress to be a Bond girl twice, but much more importantly and prestigious, she is the first on Blog James Blog to be listed in both the “Villain’s Name” and the “Bond Girl” category. So she’s got that going for her, which is nice. Kamal Khan is played by Louis Jourdan. Christopher Lee’s Francisco Scaramanga AKA the man with the golden gun was supposed to be the bad Bond but Jourdan takes the cake. He is super suave, delivers the one-liners with perfect time, and he maybe the only person in the world who can say “Octopussy” and make it sound cool. He would be a perfect Moore succor, as opposed to, oh I don’t know, James Brolin. General Orlov is Steven Berkoff, an incredibly intelligent man who’s résumé includes playwright and appearances in not only A Clockwork Orange (1971) but somehow, someway also Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) AKA “They drew first blood again for the second time Colonel. They drew second blood first.” As we said above, his cartoon Russian villain is a highlight of the film.
Villain’s Plot: The Hermitage in St. Petersburg is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. Orlov has been ripping off state treasures from the joint for some time and replacing the artifacts with skillfully crafted forgeries. He plans on employing Octopussy to smuggle the jewels out of the country and into free Germany. Despite all of the above taking place off-screen, it somehow drives the first three quarters of the film and is never properly explained. It is not until page 90 that we understand the General’s real plan, a plan that by-the-by has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above. Orlov has secretly teamed up with Indian Prince Kamal Khan to hide a nuclear bomb on a train headed for a US Army base. The idea is to blow the thing up hoping the US and Russia will blame each other, WWIII will begin in earnest, and Orlov’s hawkish policies will win the day. Khan, by-the-by, has zero motive to start the catastrophic war outside of making off with a few jewels, which (A) he sure as hell doesn’t need, he could by anything he wants at auction and (B) may or may not be fake in the first place. More on that later. In the meantime, the train with nuke is owned by Octopussy and transports her traveling circus from town to town; in this case, starting in the town of Karl Marx Stadtt bound for a US Army encampment in West Germany. The question of how a known smuggler could drive a train, one filled with animals, circus performers, and a big-ass canon, onto a US base on foreign soil when originating in East Germany is … hold the phone. Is the name of the town really Karl Marx Stadtt? Is there such a place, really, in this world called Karl Marx Stadtt? Does Rupert Murdoch know about this? I’m sorry, hold on. I need to look this up. In the meantime enjoy Johnny Cash live from San Quentin performing “A Boy Named Sue”
Well holy shit and shove me in it, what do you know? According the Wikipedia “the Bezirk Karl-Marx-Stadt, also known as Bezirk Chemnitz, was a district (Bezirk) of East Germany. The administrative seat and the main town was Karl-Marx-Stadtt, renamed Chemnitz after the reunification of Germany.” This is truly amazing. Forget naming streets after people, let’s rename neighborhoods. The Upper East Side could be Woody Allen Stadtt and the Lower East Side could by Joey Ramone Stadtt. West Hollywood really should be Groucho Marx Stadtt. The possibilities are endless.
Villain’s Lair: Two of the three baddies get their own Indian palaces, neither of which would look out of place sitting next to the Bellagio on Las Vegas Boulevard. The pool at Octopussy’s floating palace has more hot chicks lounging around it than Rehab the Hard Rock on a Friday night. The spacious rooms, the floor to ceiling windows, the endless balconies and the perfectly appointed furnishings and are all out of a storybook but are also grounded in reality as many of the sets in the past few Bonds have been. She also has a bitchin private train car that comes complete with a masseuse. Kamal has the Monsoon Palace which sits high above the city and is equally impressive, thought the talent level in the female department is far below the high standard set in the house across town. Orlov on the other hand seems to never be out of his uniform and exists only in war rooms and shady underground forger workshops.
Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: All Orlov needs is his own sneering mug and sweaty bald cranium with a distinct spot on it to show he means business. When his entire head begins to glow red, well, it would be best to slowly, carefully, proceed toward the door backwards as to not take your eye of the man. While Orlov is all apocalyptic hell fire, Kamal is cool as a cucumber, at least externally. He hunts tiger from elephant back and when the situation calls for it, British secrete service agents. When said agent escapes, Kamal’s internal angry threatens to boil over, but he never lets them see him sweet. “Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed, soon to be made extinct.”
Badassness of Villain: For badassnessness we will focus on Kamal since General Orlov is more in the “Bat-shit crazy” mold than badass and Octopussy just needs some time on the couch to get over her daddy issues. Kamal, on the other hand, is a guy who rolls around town with a “Khan 1” license plate. He owns a slave ship and used women to man the oars. He makes guards escort him to his vault and then kills them so they won’t know where it is. Being raised a Prince he is accustomed to getting what he wants, like soufflé served at the optimal temperature for consumption. But above all, this is a son of royalty who has known nothing but privilege his entire existence and simply does …not….lose. Take his hunting trip; an entire village armed to the teeth against one tiger… what’s the book in Vegas on that one? He’s not above cheating at backgammon or using his considerable wealth to outbid all comers at Sotheby’s; not so much so he can own the object as to simply avoid being beat. This is a guy who has never suffered even a minor defeat, so when Bond shows up and starts pissing on his ice cream, he’s not quite sure how to hand it. Kamel first encounters 007 at the auction where he views the Englishman’s attempt to outbid him as rather rude. When Bond later calls him out for gambling with load dice, the Prince becomes rather miffed. By the time Kamal is cock-block by a martini shipping Bond in Octopussy bedroom a synapse can audibly be heard blowing in the deep reaches of the villain’s brain. The next thing you know he’s sitting Octopussy next to the hidden ticking time atom bomb. A bit harsh perhaps, but revenge is a dish best served nuclear.
Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: All the asides in this film are thinner than one dimensional and distinguishable from other characters thanks to (a) a signature uniform and (b) a signature action. We’ve got the evil knife tossing twins Tomax and Xamot AKA Mischka and Grischka who loomed very large in my memory of this film but in reality spend very little time on screen. These two use more hairspray than any Bond girl and work for … I don’t know exactly. They do a blind folded knife throwing act in Octopussy’s circus, they dutifully kill 009 but they take orders from both Kamal and Orlov so it’s unclear who wanted the agent offed in the first place. Gobinda on the other hand is firmly in Kamal’s corner. The physical heavy to Kamal’s intellectual baddie, he’s kind of a turban sporting Jaws who’s able to crush dice with his bare hands and has expert balance whether navigating the exterior of a speeding train or a spinning plane. For her part Octopussy surrounds herself with nothing but woman, “runaway’s mostly,” and trains them in the ancient arts of smuggling, circus acrobatics, and sieging Indian Palaces like an Orc army at Helms Deep. This bevy of beauties dress in form fitting red jumpsuits reminiscent of Dr. Suisse’s Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Bond Girl Actress: Octopussy is played by Maud Adams who is the only Bond girl to get a curtain call. In The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Adam’s Andrea Anders was the adult in the room opposite the empty headed Goodnight. Here, she plays a similar role as a woman who is sexy in her experience. She’s worldly, classy, and goes about her business as a professional while also enjoying the fringe benefits, much like Bond himself. The other woman this time is one of her circus asides, Kristina Wayborn. As Magda, she is a hard headed woman who plays the seduction game more expertly and professionally than most Bond women.
Bond Girl’s Name: Octopussy and Magda, like Cher and Madonna, need but one name. (After all, what would be an apt surname of Octopussy? Smyth just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard.) Octopussy, like Blofeld before her, has her face hidden when we first encounter her. However, unlike the bald baddie she is beautiful and prefers her pets to be more exotic than a lap cat, opting for a deadly, purple and gold octopus. Being an astute businesswoman, she knows a good thing when she sees it and attempts to hire Bond away from the organization she still blames for her fathers death. Bond, of course, can not be bought and she takes the rejection harshly. Magda first sees Bond at the auction, rejects his advances at a casino bar, but then turns up at his hotel. Bond, dressed for a four star meal as always, enters his hotel and is approached by the maitre d’. “Your table is ready.” “I didn’t reserve one…” “Your guest is waiting.” When Bond approached the table, he finds Magda who thanks to some unfortunate framing appears to have her breast resting in two water glasses. When Bond sits down he does not engage in the typical song and dance but cuts right to the nut. “What does Kamal want?” “The egg or your life.” At this very moment, both parties know they will be sleeping together later in the evening, and that by morning the egg will be in Kamal’s hands. The rest is simply going through the motions but what the hell, we’re here, the moonlight is beautiful, and the wine aint so bad either. I really enjoyed how Moore and Wayborn handled this scene, the unspoken understand was broadcast expertly. One more note about these ladies; other than the panic upon learning a nuclear bomb is 10 second away from going off, neither of these Bond girls is ever in the thankless role of the victim. They kick ass in a fight, stand up to the men, and yes, Octopussy must be saved by Bond in the end, but she never comes across as a damsel in distress. She plays the scene more like a partner that needs to be bailed out this time, and then she will have her partners back the next round. As my Great Uncle King would have said, “I like those gals, they’ve got spunk.”
Bond Girl Sluttiness: Magda and Bond’s horizontal bop is simply foreplay leading up to the dramatic over-the-balcony escape of the Fabergé egg. “In exchange for the Macguffin, you get some good luvin’” There is nothing at all wrong with this, especially in the James Bond universe where two consenting adults often agree to a similar tit for tat. The initial bedding of Octopussy is another matter entirely. Clad only in her bathrobe, Octopussy finds Bond in her bedroom, uninvited. She pours him a drink, lights a cigarette and tells the tale of her father. Next, she puts the sales job on Bond but he’s not buying, refusing to compromise his commitment to King and Country. Octopussy is clearly hurt and offended that after opening up to him so emotionally, he wouldn’t even consider the offer. In her eyes, Bond chose a nation that had a hand in her father’s death over her. She reacts by calling Bond an assassin and slamming the door to the part of her bedroom containing the bed (remember, it’s a palace) in his face. Any other man would have taken the hint, went down stairs, quietly packed, and found enough money for the bus fare out of town (This being an island, perhaps he would need ferry fare which just sounds weird.) Now, I realize Bond is not just any man and I don’t even necessarily blame him for pursuing Octopussy into the other room. When he enters she is stand next to her bed with her back tuned, misstep number one for Glen and co. When Bond forcibly approached her, garbs her and spins her into him, it’s almost implied that by standing by the bed, in her robe, she is, as they say, asking for it. But she most certainly not. She pushes Bond and rejects him with a forceful “No!” as he tries to silence her protests by shoving his tongue down her throat. We see her fist tighten, and then as the music swells, her grip softens until she finally embrace Bond. The film is trying to tell us all is well now, she’s cool. This is completely irresponsible on the part of the filmmakers; make no mistake, this is a sexual assault. Yes, Bond in the past has aggressively advanced on women who didn’t necessarily welcome him with open arms, hence the MHT. These women put up token protests but it was always done in a context that showed the women considering giving into Bond. More importantly, the ladies acquiesced after being taken over by Bonds charm, not his physical domination. There is nothing charming about his approach or execution here. Juxtaposed to the breezy tone of the rest of the film, this scene stands out as a creepy bit of business that could be presented as exhibit A by critics arguing the case that Bond is card carrying misogynist.
Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: Bond “What is that?” Magda “That’s my little Octopussy.” They are talking about her tattoo.
Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: When Bond later encounters Magda he is Kamal’s prisoner. Gobinda is escorting Bond to his room when they pass Magda’s quarters. Bond cavalierly asks Magda if he can come in for a nightcap. When the door is shut in his face, he turns to Gobinda. “I don’t suppose you would care for a nightcap? No, I guess not.” Moore at his best.
Number of Woman 007 Beds: 2. Magda and Bond go two rounds before she gets all Cirque du Soleil and tumbles her “little Octopussy” tattoo out of Bond’s dreams and into Kamal’s car. This would make it appear as if she was all business but later on when she sees Bond escape the Monsoon Palace, she doesn’t sound the alarm. Bond also has two goes with Octopussy and unlike the creepy first encounter the second is sweet, humors and fits nicely into Bond’s wheelhouse. After jumping out of a plane and nearly tumbling over a cliff Bond is quite understandably beat up. However, in a film that sees Bond never with a hair out of place, much less suffer as much as a scratch, it’s a bit jarring when we see our hero in traction. Octopussy is doting on him when she coos “I wish you weren’t in such a weekend condition” and like Lazarus back from the dead, Bond is instantly alive and kicking off all the medical devices to a squeal of “Oh James!” followed by an even more enthusiastic “Oh James” delivered off camera. That’s right, 007 was cured by the Octopussy. (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I’ve actually shown incredible restraint. Do you know how hard it was to go this far without resorting to such cheep tactics? It’s like jokes about my former representative Anthony Weiner texting photos of his wiener! You would be disappointed if I DIDN’T get puny at some point.)
Number of People 007 Kills: 14 plus a few dozen with two more unconfirmed. The few dozen would be the men we see running around in the hanger moments before the big opening splosion. In a chase scene which involves motorized pedicabs racing though crowed Indian city streets Bond forcibly throws a baddie into a vender. Not sure if he was expired so that would be unconfirmed #1. Later however, he flips another bad guy onto a street performer’s bed of nails (the street performer was not on the bed at the time) for a rather inventive and semi humors demise. Later, during a battle in Octopussy’s boudoir Bond smashes the octopus tank with a baddie’s face which results in said baddie looking not unlike Kane after his walkabout on LV-427.
Continuing the death by animal theme another baddie becomes crock food. In more conventional action film killings Bond shots three Russian soldiers. What’s unconventional is the manner in which he shoots them. All three of these chaps have automatic machine guns and Bond, alone, has only his trusty PPK. The first guy is felled by a single shot to the head, next is a single shot to the heart, and the last is hit while James is under a train, shooting at a guy who is up a flight a stairs over 100 yards away and bulls-eye! Hey, he’s James freaking Bond. He also takes out four more dudes with a machine gun while sliding down a banister before saving his own two dudes. There is also a moment where he jumps off a car and onto a moving train moments before the car gets launched into the air by a second train and lands on a boat in the river below. Here is where we have a second unconfirmed kill as one of the two anglers in the row boat appears to get clipped by the car. According to the DVD extras the stuntman in the boat was in fact late on his cue and did get hit. They also discus another major stunt injury where a guy hanging off the side of a speeding train got hit by a trackside pole and broke several bones. The first of the knife tossing twins is killed by a canon but not at all in the way you think. Bond pulls a lever so the barrel of the big gun shifts and knocks the guy in the head. Kind of anti-climatic hey? Well, wait to you here about how his brother is killed. No seriously, wait…. OK? You ready? Cool. Bond is being chased though the woods by the alive twin while he’s dressed like the dead twin. When a knife get thrown and stuck in tree just inches from Bonds head the image is clearly meant to reference the chase though the woods that ended with a knife in 009’s back. This is a nifty device and the tension builds. “This is exactly how 009, another skilled agent, was killed. I wonder what 007 will do to avoid the same fate? Oh man, this is going to be good!” The twin finally catches up to Bond and with a few strategically thrown knifes he has Bond nailed to the door of a cabin in the middle of the woods. One more knife and by-by Bond “This is for my brother” declares Xamot right before he throws the final knif … what? He charges Bond for the final stab? Bond makes like a matador and simply steps aside opening the door? The guy runs past him and falls on his face and Bond throws a knife at him? “This is for 009?” How the hell does that work? This is a character that has done nothing, nothing but throw knifes the entire film. Why now, would he choose to stab someone? This would be like Wolverine sucking in his claws and shooting his opponent with a ray gun. It’s completely out of character. Anyway, Bond and Gobinda end up fighting on top of a Lear jet at 25,000 feet. Don’t worry, it makes no sense in the film either. Bond grabs the antenna on top of the plane and pulls it back, lets it go, and smacks Gobinda in the face, sending him hurling into the mountains below. Bond also had the forethought to cut the fuel line while monkeying around out on the plane’s wing so Kamal, the pilot, crashes the plane into the side of a mountain. Action sequences are Glen’s bread and butter and almost every one in this movie is expertly crafted, very exciting, and quite memorable, save one.
Most Outrageous Death/s: I’d like to touch on another movie that came out in 1983. Much like Octopussy, this other movie was part of an extremely popular franchise that had succeeded in creating a vivid world with its own rules inhabited by broadly drawn charters that stood for good or evil. This movie, like Bond, was greeted in the summer by an adoring fan base that was pretty much willing to take the ride to wherever the film went, as long as the movie didn’t (a) ruin the world that they loved or (b) so defy the logic of the world that fans would feel as if filmmakers lost touch with what made the movies great in the first place. For most of the first hour or so of the movie all was right within the world. That was until the films creator, lets just call him George, showed such contempt for his product and it’s consumers that George felt it was ok for teddy bears who lived in trees to defeat an army (an army, by the way, that was powerful enough to control the known universe) with sling shots and sticks. Sorry, but when a filmmaker does that, all the coolness of a hovering speeder-bike chase scene gets sucked out of the theater and ticket buyers are left with Wicket playing Storm Trooper helmets like congas in Corona Ad. Well, Octopussy’s army of female circus performers overcoming machine gun tooting palace guards by performing a Mary Lou Retton floor routine is just as implausible.
By the time Q and Bond show up in a hot air balloon with the Union Jack painted on it, lets just say the movie got off at the wrong exit and was now lost in Crazytown. Any of the multiple solders taken out during this unnecessary and unentertaining battle could qualify as your most outrageous death.
Miss. Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell, the only actor to appear in every Bond to this point, looks old in Octopussy. I don’t mean this as a negative in the least. We are, all of us, getting older everyday, tis the way of things. What I love about the Moneypenny character is she’s given the tools by filmmakers to age with dignity. I think of casting in today’s actions film where 28 is considered too old. The term Hollywood uses today is “reboot” which really means lets recast this thing with younger, visually appealing (and less experienced therefore cheaper and easier to control) talent. So, good-by Ms. Megan “2-D 2009” Fox and hello Mrs. Rosie “3-D 2011” Huntington-Whiteley who will be replace in Transformers: Lord of Saturn’s Rings (now in Smell-O-Vision 5-D!) by the third runner up on “The Voice.” Glen was skewering this idea of the young hot thing pushing out the old way back in 1983. When Sir Roger, no spring chicken himself, mistakes Moneypenny’s new young assistant for the genuine article he’s embarrassed (a rare Bond emotion) and finds himself backpedaling fiercely. Of course he recovers in splendid fashion, “Dear Moneypenny, there never has been, there never will be anybody but you,” and manages to charm both women, leaving them sighing in his wake. The scene, while played for humor, has some emotional renaissance. Within the cozy confines of Moneypenny’s office, Bond is aloud to be sweet or embarrassed or whatever.
Bond inhabits a cynical world where no one can be trusted and it’s kill or be killed. Only when he is with Moneypenny can 007 be simply James. As for Moneypenny, she treasures these little moments and then demonstrates her eternal generosity by recognizing that once again, her James must leave and be Bond, James Bond for the rest of the world. One more note, for the past two films now (and maybe even more?) Moore has entered Moneypenny’s office with the classic Connery toss of the hat onto the hat rack. Outside of a gorilla mask, Moore is never seen wearing anything upon his head other that a perfectly manicured quaff. Is this Glenn winking at the audience? Does Bond only put the hat on for Moneypenny? Didn’t he leave without grabbing it? If anyone has any answers, forward them along. We at Blog James Blog like to get to the bottom of these things…
M: Robert Brown becomes the second M in the series and will sit behind the desk for the next four films. Like Maude Adams, Brown was in a previous Bond film in another role, appearing in The Spy Who Loved Me as Admiral Hargreaves. For the record, M’s return is to be applauded as we are rid of that twit, Chief of Staff Tanner, who served on an interim bases. Brown plays M relatively straight, with the typically huffing and puffing over the unorthodox methods 007 employee’s, (“What would you have done if you ended up with the highest bid on the egg?”) and then backing down when presented with positive results, (“I would have clamed it was a fake and gotten my money back sir.”) M’s job is to give Bond what he needs and generally stay out of the way and Brown fills that role admirably. He even sneaks in a knowing smirk when he orders Bond to book a flight to New Deli only to learn 007 has tickets in hand. General Gogol (who has become my favorite reoccurring character of the series) returns, this time playing the voice of reason countering General Orlov warmongering. Here we see a Gogol who truly see communism as a force of good in the world, a character that runs counter to everything Americans and Brits were trying to paint Soviet military men as at time. I’m sure he agrees with Orlov that the “west is decant” but you also get the feeling he’s ready to wait NATO out and watch the capitalist empire collapse like Rome before it. (The General may still get his wish.) Later, when Gogol finds the stolen jewels in Orlov’s trunk (which sound like a euphemism for butt-sex but is not,) he is outraged to learn there is a “common thief” who is a “disgrace to the uniform” in his ranks and goes after the man himself. In dramatic fashion, Gogol shoots Orlov dead on the train tracks that transverse the no-mans land between East and West Germany. Orlov, delusional to the last, sees himself as a martyr. “Tomorrow I will be hero of the Soviet Union.” And what’s is Gogol reward for foiling the plot? He is left to handle PR and apologizes for the incident on behalf of the Soviet government. A good soldier to the last.
Q: Q is grumpy, and even the yellow lay Bond presents him with doesn’t cheer the old fellow. He’s pissed because 007 has mislaid his PPK (some kid could pick that up.) Also his rope-coming-out-of-a-basket contraption is not working so well. Better is the “smashing” door and the “latest liquid crystal TV” which provides another opportunity for Glen to turn Bond into a lecherous old man. There is something depressing about watching Bond shed all his suave and zoom a camera in on a woman’s chest as a cranky Q shuffle around. While Glen was extremely kind to Lois Maxwell in her scene, the aging Desmond Llewelyn gets no such consideration. One shot shows a close up of Q’s hands using tweezers to put a microscopic component into the Fabergé egg. While performing the delicate procedure, Llewelyn’s hands shake uncontrollably reminding us of just how much time has passed since we first met him back in From Russia With Love (1963). Do you mean to tell me there wasn’t a grip or extra or anyone around who could lend his hands to the single shot and save the great man his dignity? Things improve as Q once again goes out into the field, this time serving as a lookout for Bond. During this assignment, Q is lucky to dodge a bullet, or should I say Black n Decker yo-yo, that fell his counterpart. (More on that below) By the end of the film, Q is simply jubilant. He gets to pilot a balloon into the middle of a battle. Bond “I trust you can handle this contraption Q?” Q “It goes on hot air.” Bond “Oh, then you can.” And then when the balloon lands, Q is surround by Octopussy’s harem and even gets a little flirting time for good measure. See, it’s not just Bond who has all the fun.
List of Gadgets: The horse’s ass gadget maybe a perfect metaphor for the film at large. It’s 100% unexpected and super exciting the first time you see it but it also serves no real purpose outside of the action sequence and it kind of looses it’s magic if you give it a second thought. Why are they having an equestrian event on a military base housing these important weapons, which are in full view of the spectators? How did Bond drive a plane past the security? Where the hell are we anyway, Cuba? What, you thought perhaps I mean the horse’s ass was a metaphor in another way? Yah, that might work too. The bomb Bond plants on the plane in this sequence is hidden in a briefcase which brought back warm fuzzy memories of the very first gadget, the brief case in Form Russia With Love. – Back to this movie, now pay attention 007. This little thing is not only a microphone but it’s also a homing device. It’s goes into the egg like so and you can use the very 1983 blips on your watch to follow the egg. – Like an Easter egg hunt hey Q? – Really, 007. Now twist the top of this pen and an acid that can dissolve all metals will be released. So, say you’ve been captured by an Indian Prince who locks you up in a room at his palace and guard outside has fallen asleep. You can use this to melt away the bars on the window and climb out. – The pen I mightier than the swo… – Yes yes, now the pen also has an ear piece you can use to listen to the microphone in the egg, kind of like another project I have in prototype form called a ‘Bluetooth headset.’ Its works just fine but it’s ugly as sin. I simply will not have our agents going out into the field looking like an alien from Star Trek. I mean really, anyone with one of those things hanging out of their head would just look like a complete jackass. – The bugged egg actually serves as a nice plot device to get around what Ebert calls the “talking villain syndrome” which I’m sure he coined with Bond villains in mind. Now, instead of the villain explaining everything over a bottle of Dom, Bond gets to hear the plan while hiding in the next room; that is until Magda uses her hair dryer and disrupts the signal.
Women, you know what I’m saying? In addition to the watch that tracks the egg Bond also has a LCD TV watch, good for spying from a balloon or zooming in on women’s breasts. The film also gives a nice little nod to the seagull hat Connery used as cover when swimming in Goldfinger. When Moore swims up to the floating palace for his nighttime raid he is hidden in the mouth of a plastic alligator. All the above stuff is cool but the most impressive gadget of the entire series is debuted in Octopussy; the green screen. This nifty doohickey allows AARP member Moore to out fly missiles and leap out of airplanes with a single bound. Which got me to thinking about what technology did not exists in 1983. Much of this movie was shot on location in India, which was not the tech capital it is today. Telephones were not common (no cell phones yet kids) so PAs had to run back into town to find a phone to talk to the suits back in London. And then, if something did need to be delivered from the UK it was at the very least a 20 hour flight away. On the DVD extras we get peaks of rewrites being done in the jungle on typewriters that had to be carried in. It’s truly incredible when you put these “in the field” challenges next to the Will Smith hubbub this summer. For those not in the know, half of population of my beloved Queens is pissed at Mr. Smith for taking up 4 city blocks with his mansion of a trailer for days at time while shooting Men In Black III. Not the movie making part of the production, but just his trailer shutdown neighborhoods where local business had to be closed and people couldn’t get to their homes. Now think about Bond producers hunched over typewriters in the middle of the jungle. (By the by, how close are we to a full-on Will Smith backlash? Six months away?)
Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: At one point Bond is stabbed only to be saved by a wad of cash in his pocket that he won playing Backgammon “Thank God for hard currency.” While our hero was unhurt the same could no be said for his suit jacket which was fixed up by one of Q’s people. He also “mislaid” that PPK. All things considered, the British tax payer got off fairly ease on this adventure.
Other Property Destroyed: Foreign property is another matter. There is the hanger and the millions of dollars of weaponry inside. He also ran some of those (Cuban?) jeeps and motorcycles off the road. A fight in Octopussy’s room sees a fish tank being destroyed by Bond as well as some other furniture but the real damage in this battle is done by the saw blade yo-yo. When I was kid and I dreamed of walking the dog or going around the world with deadly results. Octopussy’s pillow becomes a cloud of feathers when the saw slices the spot where her hard lay just seconds before. A table is cut in two and doors sliced to pieces. Outside of Oddjobs bowler this thing might be my favorite villain weapon yet. Anyway, Bond beaks some windows and generally destroys the Monsoon Palace near the end of the film, including taking a marble decoration off the end of a banister in a quick thinking moment of self preservation. Finally, in a singular impressive move Bond manages to ram a car head first into a train, which sends the car flying of a bridge and smashing into a boat below in an incredible 3 for 1.
Felix Leiter: Ladies and gentlemen, if you will please direct your attention to your program. For tonight’s performance the part of Felix Leiter will be played by Vijay who is played by Vijay Amritraj. Amritraj joins us while on break from the pro tennis circuit for this, his first appearance film. Producers use the casting stunt as another opportunity to get meta. Vijay’s character, Vijay, is an agent who’s cover is working as a tennis pro at Kamal’s private club “What have you learned so far?” Bond asks, “Well, my back hand has improved.” He even assaults a baddie by whacking him with a racket. Compare to Felix “the wet blanket” Leiter, Vijay is the life of the party. When he and Bond are being chased James announces, “I think we have company.” “No problem” Vijay responds “this is a company car.” In fact, “no problem” is Vijay’s mantra. If Bond asked for the moon Vijay would smile, say “No Problem” and promptly go about getting the moon. He’s a perfect sidekick to Bond and the two function almost like partners in a buddy-cop film. However, this is a partnership not meant to last. Poor old Vijay was taking over watchman duties from Q when he is grabbed and restrained by three men. A fourth, none other than Kamal’s right hand Gobinda, appears above him, staring down with those piercing eyes. Even worse for Vijay, he’s yielding the deadly saw blade yo-yo. A quick flick of the wrist, a horrible “snicked” sound, and a quick cut to birds flying out of a tree and we know that Vijay is no more. Game, set, match.
Best One Liners/Quips: This films chuck full of ‘em. “No ma’am, I’m with the economy tour,” “Having problems keeping it up Q,” “You better stick this back yourself” and even a perfectly time “umffff” when Bond is hiding in a body bag hoping to pass as a cadaver. But my favorite has to be when Bond comes across a tiger in jungle. The thing jumps out in front of Bond causing even the great 007 much concern. The look on Moore’s face is a perfect blend of fear, of shock, of annoyance, and of what the hell do I do next. Bond squares to the giant cat and though clinched teeth his hisses “SITTTTTTT – A!” and the tiger promptly obeys.
Bond Cars: Bond doesn’t get a car in this go around but chases ensue on trains, planes, and automobiles. The automobile is General Orlov’s car but the coolest chases uses the motorcycle rickshaws. Keep an eye out for a guy on a bicycle who almost gets run over during this chase, he was not an extra, but a resident of the town that haplessly peddled onto the set and almost got killed.
Bond Timepiece: Mercifully, the watch is a gadget with a tracker so the digital nature is forgiven … barley. It’s another Seiko but this one has a sold band and enough esoteric buttons to give it some girth and make it appear substantial. Later on in the film Bond ends up with the LCD TV watch. One of the best gags in the film features Bond hiding in an ape suit while in a train car with some baddies discussing how much time to put on the nuclear time bomb. When Kamal announces, “it is now 11:45” the gorilla in the room instinctually looks to his wrist.
Other Notable Bond Accessories: Even in his advanced years, Moore looks wonderful in a tux, even if it’s a white one accessorized with a yellow flower lay. Bond also finds himself dressed as a Cuban General, a carnival knife thrower, a clown, a gorilla and a dead guy in a body bag. Another stray observation, for some reason Bond hasn’t had a smoke in the past few films. However, there are several shoots of Moore on the DVD extra puffing away on his beloved cigars when not in character. 1983 is well before the current hysteria that holds anyone lighting up on camera responsible for the destruction of the youth of America. So I wonder why the choice was made to have Bond butt out? Again, if anyone knows, let us know. I for one think Bond deserves an occasionally smoke with this drink. And besides, we all know smoking makes you cooler.
Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 3. Bond’s evening with Magda starts with champagne pool side and ends with “a loving cup” in bed. When 007 breaks into Octopussy’s room she shakes and serves a martini before Bond even makes the request.
Bond’s Gambling Winnings: When two or more people are knocked out at my poker game, the backgammon board quickly makes an appearance and calls of “I double you” can be heard. I tell this story not to paint my friends and myself as degenerate gamblers but to say I appreciate the gamesmanship behind proper use of the doubling cube (as well as the extra bucks it can net.) Well, Jimmy B’s moves at the backgammon board in Octopussy rank as some of the best we have seen Bond make in a gambling den. Proudly following the tradition started by Connery in Diamonds Are Forever, Moore puts on the white tux when it’s time to carouse the casino floor. Our hero finds Kamal playing with the Major, who at present has the upper hand and giddily announces “you’ll have a job beating that.” “I feel lucky” the slippery Kamal counters “shall we double?” The Major takes half a beat, thinks his opponent mad, and agrees to 20,000 rubies. Kamal promptly hits his sixes to win the game. “It’s all in the wrist” he announces not knowing Bond spotted him introducing dirty dice into the game. “Shall we have another go?” “Yes” the Major replies “you luck has got to run out sometime.” (It should also be noted the Major is into Kamal for 200,000 rubies.) In short order the Major has once again backed Kamal into a corner and once again the prince wants to make it interesting, this time to the tune of 100,000 rubies. The Major feels his testicles crawl back into his inguinal canal and forfeits the game. “I can’t accept, not with your luck.” “I would have taken that double myself” Bond announces in one of his better introductions to a villain. Kamal, in black, arches his eyebrow and gestures to the empty seat across the table. “Why don’t you take the Majors position Mister ….” “Bond, James Bond. Thank you I’d be delighted” say Moore with a shit-eaten grin on his face screaming Ohhhhhh, you are going down BITCH! Game on. Have I mentioned I love when Bond gambles? Right, so the hero in white, the villain in black, the villain thinking he’s got this thing cinched with his loaded dice and the hero well aware the villain is cheating. Sitting back in his chair looking like a man who knows he can’t lose, Kamal casually rolls his double six. “It’s not such a good double to accept after all.” Bond does a little Hollywooding and swallows hard before picking up the betting cube to double. Kamal, not quite believing someone could be such a rube accepts. “You can only win with a double six. The stake is 200,000 rubies, do you have the cash?” Everything leading up this moment has been coming up Kamal, so when Bond places the very same Fabergé egg that Kamal had won at auction on the table as collateral, well… it’s the Gillette game changer and everyone in the room knows it. Kamal, for his part, keeps his poker face completely intact. “Play Mr. Bond, you need a great deal of luck to get out of this” states the cocky Kamal in a drastic overplay of his hand. Bond, who was shaking his own tumbler and about to roll dramatically stops and looks around until focusing on Kamal. “Luck? Well then I shall use player’s privilege and use your lucky dice.” And with that he grabs Kamal’s tumbler. The two lock eyes as Bond starts his roll. “It’s all in the wrist” Bond says without a hint of sarcasm and rolls. While never breaking eye contact with Kamal to look at the dice Bond announces “double sixes, fancy that, 200,000 rubies.” By this time half the population of India has gathered around the table so Kamal has no chose but to pay the man. He gestures for his checkbook when Bond pipes up “I prefer cash.” “Spend the money quickly Mr. Bond” and with that the gauntlet has been thrown down. As Bond leaves the table he passes the giggling Major and declares “It’s not really in the wrist you know.” A complete and utter take down on all fronts; never has there been such a decimation of an opponent. Any other man who received such a shellacking would slink home, crawl into a bottle of Jim Beam, and never go within 10 miles of a casino for the rest of his life. Kamal, however, is arrogant enough to think this is simply a bump in the road and continues to plow ahead like the Titanic in the northern Atlantic.
List of Locations: India. It’s kind of incredible our hero had yet to stamp his passport in this visually rich country; it seems like a no brainer. Well, now that he’s here, it was worth the wait. The majority of the film was shot in around the city of Rajasthan half way between New Deli and Bombay. Founded in 1599 and known to locals as “The Sun Rise City” Rajasthan is possibly the most visually striking location to a Bond film yet. It’s almost like a different film stock was used as everything we see pops is a way that somehow makes everything feel more fantastic but more real at the same time. Much like the last film and The Spy Who Loved Me the locations here are organic and fit into the film as opposed to being simply pretty wallpaper. Also like those two movies, many of the key locations are real, Octopussy’s Floating Palace is just outside town on Lake Pichola. Kamal Khan lair is actually called the Monsoon Palace, so named because it was commissioned to shield the Prince of Mewar from the deadly storms. Built high above the rest of the city to avoid flooding, water still proved to be the palaces demise when transporting H2O up the mountain proved too difficult and the structure was abandon. The other key location in the film is the famed “Checkpoint Charlie” in West Germany. Crews actually shot some footage of the real thing and dressed up the Berlin Wall in free Berlin to look like the Soviet side as armed guards watched from the towers. While the cold war served as the back drop to many a Bond film, this is perhaps the first time we see the physical everyday implications of the conflict, a cities population split in two. In another example of real life politics seeping into Bond’s world, the open was shot at a Royal Air Force field in England. To make the base look like it was located in a Caribbean banana republic, producers shipped in palm trees. According to ledged, when locals saw the tree being imported to the base, they thought England was training her troops for a battle at the Falkland Island.
Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: You get the feeling that if Bond walked into M’s office and the boss man asked “What do you know about Babe Ruth 007?” Bond would cock his brow and respond “The sultan of swat sir? Born in Baltimore, George Herman Ruth Jr. started his Major League career pitching for the Red Sox where he threw seventeen innings including a Game 1 shutout for an ERA of 1.06 in the 1918 World Series before being sold to the Yankees where the three time MVP shifted to right field and hit .349 while slugging an unheard of .711 in twelve seasons to become what many consider the best to ever play the game. Hence the so called ‘Curse of the Bambino’ which wasn’t broken until Boston swept St. Louis in four on October 27th 2004. Why do you ask?” Well, that’s what he does in Octopussy but with Fabergé eggs. “Top marks 007!” He also manages to (deep breath) use slight of hand to steel an item from Sotherby’s, balance Spiderman like on the sides of buildings, avoid death while being hunted by an entire village not only from the men but also spiders, crocks, snakes, leaches, lizards and one big tiger, impersonated a dead man, a clown and gorilla, hang Spiderman like on the side of a speeding train, steal a car, break onto an army base, disarm a nuclear bomb, hang Spiderman like on a Lear jet, make love while in traction, and book a flight to Delhi before it is even official he is going. It’s this last thing that truly makes Bond Bond; he is always, without exception, one step ahead of everyone else. This is to say nothing of Bonds every growing list of stuff he can pilot, sail, operate, jockey and drive from point A to point B. In The Man with the Golden Gun we saw Bond
piloting a beachcomber single prop plane. Here, he not only expertly twists and twirls a supersonic jet under bridges, over mountain and through airline hangers, but does so while being pursued by a sidewinder missile. When behind the wheel of a car he leaves doughnuts on cobblestone and when he loose his rubber he rides the rims onto railroad tracks and like Casey Jones, keeps driving that train. He also can ride a horse (I believe the first time we’ve seen this) so expertly that he can catch an airplane.
Final Thoughts: With a new Sean Connery Bond filming opening across the street, Glen, Broccoli and Co. wanted to build the better Bond; film that is. They went back to the Bible of Bond, housed in a climate controlled glass room somewhere in Q’s lab at Pinewood studios, and looked up the first commandment. “When in Doubt, Thou Shall Go BIG!” EON went forth and delivered a Bond film in the year of 1983 with a cast of thousands, set in one of the more exotic locations on all of earth, featuring larger than life, beautiful, broadly drawn characters all on an exciting treasure hunt while simultaneously threatened with a nuclear Apocalypse. Big enough for yah mate? This is a wiz bang adventure in which the plot is not even a second thought; it’s simply nonexistent. What the film is about, if anything, is rushing Jimmy B from one action sequence to the next while never breaking a sweat. Octopussy is in many ways a throwback to the classic Technicolor MGM epics of Hollywood’s golden age only on HGH; Around the World in 80 Minutes. That is to say, Octopussy is certainty the most “fun” Bond film, and the most ridiculous. Yet, I found myself more forgiving of the film than say the dismal (and not really all that fun) You Only Live Twice (1967). Mainly because the amazing production value coupled with quick action and quicker humor creates an inertia that sweeps the audience along; it’s nearly impossible not to just sit back and simply enjoy the ride. But there is also a nagging uneasiness that seeps into the cracks between all the breakneck action. What I didn’t pick-up on as a kid and I can’t ignore as an adult is that there aint very much Bond in this Bond. By going all in on the First Commandment, producers forgot the second, “Thou Shall Protect the ‘Bond Brand’ at All Costs.” Somewhere between filling a slave ship rowed by bikini clad woman and crashing airplanes into the side of mountains producers forgot the most important piece of the “Bond Brand” is Royal Navy Commander James Bond, Agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Things like having Bond screech like Tarzan before swinging on vines and arriving with Q via hot air balloon to join the Ewok raid on the Monsoon Palace are sins of bad taste. But other transgressions are much more grave; take the two “things” Bond is chasing, a nuclear bomb and a Fabergé egg. First off, putting both of these objectives in the same film muddies the mission beyond belief. But even taken separately, both are handled terribly. The nuclear bomb is so clumsy shoehorned into the third act that I challenge anyone to explain how it even remotely ties in with the smuggling storyline. By the time the nuke is pulled off the train I simply couldn’t care if it went off or not. Part of the problem is Moore’s blasé performance but I need to hang the failure back on Glen who gives his leading man zero support. Look, no movie, not even one directed by Michael Bay, is cynical enough to nuke a circus tent full of children. Additionally, Bond is forced to run around this circus tent and convince army generals, policemen and poodle juggling acrobats that they are all in grave danger … while dressed as a clown. And by the way, why are we are even at a circus in the first place? The other big object of interest is the Fabergé egg which somehow manages to be even more confusing. At one point Orlov smashes an egg and the microphone Q hid in it falls out. We saw Q hide the microphone in the “real” egg while Kamal was in possession of the “fake” egg. Since Magda stole back the “real” egg, the egg that Bond used to track her and Kamal, it’s now understood that when the microphone falls out, the “real” egg was the one being smashed. Yet for the rest of the film, the movie plays like the “fake” egg was destroyed … kind of. I’m still not sure? Even worse, the egg plot line is just kind of left to die on the vine. This is the thing that got 009 killed and set Bond off on his mission, what the hell happened to it? James Bond would never, ever let a mission go unfinished. Add the unforgivable boarder-line rape and I can’t help but wonder if anyone involved in this film remembers who the hell James Bond is. With Connery breathing down your neck this is not the way to protect the brand boys. Hell, EON even screwed up the name of the next film in the closing credits which announce “Coming Next – From a View to a Kill.” (I know the title most like changed after this movie was finished but stand back man, I’m ranting.) Ultimately, these crimes are all the more frustrating because the banister slide, the saw blade yo-yo and the Indian locations are classic Bond. It all becomes more disheartening when you start thinking about what could have been. The idea of 007 teaming up with Gogol to stop a rouge Russian general hell bent on starting WWIII or Bond navigating the world of high art and smuggling are intriguing ones I would love to see explored, but this film shows little interest in either. Oh well, we will always have a supersonic jet blasting out of a horse’s ass to keep us smiling till the next movie.