Bond is assigned to investigate the theft of Soviet jewelry, including a Faberge egg. His investigations lead him to an exiled Afghan prince, a crazed Soviet general, and a jewel smuggler named *beleaguered sigh* Octopussy.
Bond, James Bond:
This is Roger Moore’s penultimate performance as the famous British spy, and I have pretty mixed feelings about that. Despite this being his sixth movie, he still seems to be very much enjoying himself. In the early goings of this movie, he had been captured by the army whose plane he has been sent to destroy. As the girl he is working with drives up next to their car and starts flirting with the men, and Moore just happily kind of nods at her and along with the other army men, and the look on his face is just so bright and silly that I could not help but smile along with him. The same is true as he begins to bid a huge amount of money for a Faberge egg, much to the chagrin of the British government official who went to the auction with Bond, and the look on his face when he shows M a boarding pass after M tells him to get on the next plane. Moore relishes every moment he gets to be charming and silly in these movies, and, because of this, he has moved in front of Connery on my list of favorite Bonds (Lazenby kind of gets stuck in third because of only having one performance where his line delivery was less than ideal). The fact that he seems to be enjoying himself still is even more impressive considering that this was the movie that almost saw Moore leave. They were so close that there is even test footage with Josh Brolin (boooo, American) alongside Vijay, Bond’s contact in India. Moore only agreed to come back after the production company found out that the non-canon Never Say Never Again was to be released around the same time, and that the producers wanted a familiar actor in this film.
I’m also ready to see him go because he was 55 when he was filming this movie, and it certainly shows. Any time the character has to pull of a stunt, I’m either worried for his bones or just find it so difficult to believe that he is pulling it off. Especially at the film’s end, when the villain is flying a plane that Bond is holding onto. As the villain causes the plane to do flips, and allows it to hang upside down, Bond holds on tightly to the roof of the fuselage. This would be difficult to believe for anyone, but it’s just particularly hard to believe that someone who looks as worn down as Roger Moore does would be able to do it. I’m honestly amazed he was able to come back for even one more.
This movie does unfortunately bring back my least favorite version of Bond, the one who thinks he can force kiss anyone that he wants to, even when the woman has walked away from him and shut a door behind her. Octopussy asks Bond to work for her privately in her jewelry smuggling ring, which he turns down, presumably on moral grounds. She walks away angrily, and he follows her, jerks her around, and forcibly kisses her. She pulls away, they talk a little bit, he kisses her again, and this time she’s more onboard. It all feels very gross, especially since it stands out amongst the more recent Bond films, as he had been doing a pretty good job of respecting women over the last several films, even if he was heavily flirting with someone merely seconds after they would meet. The moment sticks out like a sore thumb in this movie, one in which I liked him pretty well otherwise, and his tenure as Bond. It just doesn’t match up with what we’ve seen of him.
This movie also finds James Bond going undercover as a clown, including full makeup, which he somehow has time to do, despite being under an intense time crunch of a large warhead slowly counting down towards explosion. He wears the makeup for the rest of this sequence, and even as the chaos erupts over people realizing that there may be a bomb, the tension is cut dramatically by his clown makeup, as well as the rest of the circus nonsense going on around him. It’s all very silly. I enjoy the silly, but I will admit that the highest point of tension in the entire film is obliterated by his disguise.
Rita Collidge steps in for this Bond song, which, wisely, never includes the film’s title in the lyrics. This is a kind of slow, soft rock number that is kind of a weaker, jazzier version of Carly Simon’s number from a few films ago. I think this is typically seen as a middle of the road Bond song, but it is one I typically enjoy pretty well. These longs have almost nothing to do with the film, and could really be any kind of song, outside of the Bond franchise. The fact it feels kind of odd in comparison to the rest of the franchise makes it seem to fit in with this movie in general, especially when you consider the song’s opening lyrics: “All I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two.” I don’t think there is a more perfect way to introduce this odd film.
This movie seems to be a first in the Bond franchise when there are two actual villains, although one certainly sticks around longer and gets more screen time. The first villain I’ll talk about is the film’s secondary villain, Steven Berkoff’s Soviet General Orlov. In his first scene, he lays out his full plan in front of a board of NATO members, but I admittedly had a hard time paying attention to what he was saying because Berkoff is wildly over-the-top in this role. Listen, I like over-the-top performances sometimes. I loved Jesse Eisenberg’s weird performance in Batman vs Superman. But this guy is just way overboard. He makes Robert DeNiro’s performance in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle look like Taxi Driver. I understand that this character needed to be a crazed general, who would be willing to go over the head of his superior officer and do whatever he had to do to ensure that the Soviet army had free reign to cross the western border and begin a full invasion into Europe (I think that’s his plan). But every second this guy is on screen, he’s finding a new piece of scenery to chew, and although it fits this movie’s weirdness, it really made it difficult for me to care about anything he had to say.
The primary villain, and probably the villain I will consider when I rank each film’s villains at the end of my journey through this franchise, is Louis Jourdan’s exiled Afgan prince, Kamal Khan. Jourdan’s performance is a least a little bit easier to handle, although that makes it slightly less memorable because of it. I never fully understand what he gets out of the bombing plot line, which he is fully involved in, since his main henchperson is included. But at least he seems villainous outside of this. Dude hunts people atop of elephants, and the way he says “Octopussy” is probably the most sexual that name sounds throughout the entire movie (I think it’s the “oooo” sound on the “u”), and that at least gives him some points.
So let’s get to it. This film’s title comes from the female lead of the film, a jewel thief played by Maud Adams (who also played Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun). The role is actually a fairly decent one for Adams, who is the head of a rather large criminal syndicate that has expanded into carnivals, hotels, and circuses. I preferred the character of Anders, but this is not necessarily a terrible female lead for the franchise. Well, up until her name. We learn that Octopussy is not her real name, but she has taken the nickname to make distance herself from her beloved father, who was a spy that James arrested for treason. Instead of letting the spy go in front of a court martial, James instead lets him kill himself, giving him an opportunity to control his own destiny. Octopussy is grateful to James for doing that, and does not turn him over immediately to Khan when he comes looking for James (in fact, she flaunts James’ presence, which is a nice moment for her). However, the father connection gets a little weird when he learns that he loved octopi, and was the one who gave Octopussy her nickname. Now. I understand that it is cute and common to add a “y” sound at the end of names to make them sound cutesy. However, to do it on a word that ends in “-pus” is kind of messed up, and Fleming knew what he was doing when he wrote the Octopussy short story (he did name Pussy Galore after all). This name is messed up as it is, but to have it be a nickname given to a girl by her father makes it way worse, which is not something I really anticipated. I’m curious to know how I would have reacted to this character if I didn’t have to constantly be reminded that her name is Octopussy. Ugh.
The other major female character I want to talk about is Magda, as portrayed by Kristina Wayborn. I’m noting her because her allegiances are a bit confusing, at least they were to me. When we first meet her, and, realistically, throughout most of the first act of the film, we see her as being in Kamal Khan’s employ. It is under his instruction that she spends the night with Bond and steals the Faberge egg, and wherever she is, Khan is close by. However, it is later revealed that she is actually the ringleader for Octopussy’s circus, and she is predominantly under her employment. There is no real dramatic reveal of this, she’s just all of a sudden Octopussy’s right hand girl, when we really hadn’t seen in her that role beforehand. The performance is ok, I guess, she really doesn’t get anything complicated to do; she’s mostly just there to be a physical body for Bond to ogle at, but her somewhat confusing allegiances make her more memorable than anything else she does.
I’ll admit that when I saw a henchperson wearing a turban in this movie, I grew deeply concerned as to what kind of character I would be seeing throughout this movie. Surprisingly, Kabir Bedi’s performance is pretty subdued, especially considering the movie that he is in. Instead of an over the top and offensive performance, Gobinda is a physically imposing character who has the strength to crush a pair of dice into dust. Although he may not be as physically memorable as Jaws or Oddjob, he is one of the few mostly subdued things in this movie. I wish that he were not defeated by getting hit in the face by a plane antenna, causing him to fall off of a plane, but I generally like him in this movie a lot.
The MI6 trio is in this movie, although with a couple changes. The most significant change is Robert Brown taking over as M after the passing of Bernard Lee. He does not make a particularly great impression. I think the issue is that he just kind of looks like the menagerie of old British government officials that the film have been introducing ever since Roger Moore has come onboard as James Bond (in fact, he played a random British government official in The Spy Who Loved Me) and because of that, he does not stand out in a significant enough of a way to be M. He does not have the history to sensibly critique the way that Bond does his work, and there are even times when he was probably in the movie and I just assumed he was some other random person. It isn’t necessarily bad, but I was hoping for more for the new M.
This is probably the most that Q has to do in any of these movies. Desmond Llewelyn gets to ride into the film’s final action climax, and even gets to be surrounded by a bevy of attractive women. Usually I would be bummed out by a bunch of women flocking around a single white male, but something about Llewelyn’s dedicated performance as Q (he’s been in all but two movies up through this point), I couldn’t help but smile when the women surrounded him and he says “I don’t have time for this. Maybe later,” as he embraces one of the women.
The last two are Moneypenny, again played by Lois Maxwell, and again barely existing in this movie. In fact, this movie tries to fake us out with the idea that there is a new Moneypenny. When Bond walks into MI6 for the first time, there is a much younger woman in Moneypenny’s office, and Bond mentions how she looks better every day. And then Moneypenny pops up, and introduces James to her assistant, Penelope Smallbone, played by Michaela Clavell, and trying to ease us into the idea of a character names Moneypenny. Maxwell really has some nice work to do in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so to see her fading away in these last few movies has been a genuine disappointment.
In order to infiltrate Octopussy’s island, James sneaks inside using an alligator boat, with boat being a very complimentary term. It’s the size of a regular alligator, and I guess there are controls in it to make it swim across a lake. It’s certainly one of the more memorably weird gadgets, especially when you see Roger Moore’s head pop out of the alligator’s mouth. I’m not saying it’s the best vehicle that Bond has ever gotten to utilize, but I am saying it is the one I would most like to own.
The other major mode of transportation of this movie is a hot air balloon that Q and James use to infiltrate Khan’s residence at the end of the film. I want to note it because when I think stealthy spy, the first mode of transportation that comes to mind is not a hot air balloon that has the English flag design as the balloon itself. Again, this over the top entrance very much fits in with this film in particular, but it’s still strikingly weird. Especially just to see Q involved in the film’s final assault. That’s just weird. He’s even older than James. Surely someone else in Q branch could have gone.
Almost none of this makes any sense. Somehow Kamal Khan and Orlov have met up, and are working with Octopussy, to steal Soviet jewels and then sell them on the black market in the West. But, Khan and Orlov have access to some kind of a warhead, that they swap out with some jewels, without Octopussy’s knowledge. I don’t fully understand what Khan would get out of the bombing on an American base, because at least Orlov gets to start invading some countries. I also don’t understand why an American Army base would bring in an entire circus for entertainment. These are grown men, not small children. Why, in a time-sensitive manner, would James Bond put on clown makeup (he adds a tear!)? It’s all so deeply silly, and almost none of it makes sense, and to call it a story is an insult to actual stories. But I kind of adore this movie for all of that.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-In the cold open, James has a reversible hat. I don’t know why I find that noteworthy, but I find it noteworthy.
-The cold open ends with James’ solo plane running out of gas, him landing it, and driving it up to a regular gas station, and asking the attendant to “fill it up.” It’s just about the best way to start a movie this weird.
-We meet James’ contact in India when he is disguised as a snake charmer that randomly plays the James Bond theme song, which is alarmingly meta. Why does James know his own theme song?
-There’s a scene where Bond’s contact in India is beating up a dude with a tennis racquet (sure) and every time he hits someone with the racket, the onlooking crowd reacts as if they are watching a tennis match. I think was the point I fully realized I was in for a subtle, subdued film.
-Honestly, just take four minutes to watch this entire sequence. It is something else.
-A rope tower breaks, and James says “Having trouble keeping it up, Q?” It’s pretty gross.
-After Magda turns him down for a nightcap, James asks Gobinda if he would want one. I giggled.
-James scares people while hiding in a body bag by making a “Muh-ha-ha-ha” laughing sound.
-This movie uses a “Tarzan yell” sound as James is inexplicably riding around on vines while avoiding getting hunted. I wish anything in this movie made sense.
-Octopussy’s guards are all dressed up in red spandex jumpsuits and they would have made a better Justice League movie than the DCEU.
-A henchperson in this movie literally just carries some kind of motorsaw and throws it at people. I named him Sawy.
-One dude gets murdered in this movie when he gets facehugged by a poisonous octopus.
-James loses the tires on a car and just kind of drives along train tracks using the center casing. It makes as much sense as anything else.
-James is somehow able to hide in a gorilla costume while in a very small train car. At one point he even looks at his watch in it. It’s…it’s Octopussy.
-In order to break the lock of the case holding a bomb, Octopussy shoots the lock. I feel like that’s a good way to set off the bomb, but you do you, Octopussy.
-While sliding down a railing (sure), James gets scared of maybe getting hit in the crotch by a newel post, so, while people are shooting at him, he wastes time and bullets to shoot the newel post off of the railing. It’s Octopussy.
-Also, Octopussy’s troupe wears these random red suits that make them look like terrible superhero cosplayers. Also, they sneak around in them because subtlety didn’t exist in the 80s.
-The movie ends with James’ arms and legs being held up by medical equipment on Octopussy’s boat. She says she wishes he was better and he breaks his way out of all of it. It’s exactly how this movie should end.
Something I have discovered throughout the Roger Moore movies is that there are some deeply weird and just stupid movies (Live and Let Die, Man with the Golden Gun, this), some more normal films (The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only), and then a movie that is supposed to be weird but never really worked for me (Moonraker). Throughout those films, my most enjoyable viewing experiences are the deeply stupid ones, followed by the calmer ones, that kind of lose me in the third act, and then there’s Moonraker. But this movie gets so many things wrong, it’s so silly, that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself at the absurdity of it all. This is not a better movie than The Spy Who Loved Me or For Your Eyes Only. But I never found myself checking out of this movie like I did either of those. It’s so bad, it’s beautiful. I wish I had rated Man with the Golden Gun higher, but I was naive then. I’ll give this a 005/0010, but I would not be surprised if this somehow ended up higher on my list than the “good” Roger Moore movies.
TJ Hizer Will Return With: A View to A Kill
References Octopussy Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopussy Octopussy Gadgets on Universal Exports http://www.universalexports.net/Movies/octopussy-gadgets.shtml Robert Brown Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Brown_(British_actor) Photo Credits Cover Photo https://vinnieh.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/octopussy-poster.jpg Roger Moore https://truthfulnerd.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/img_2153.jpg Roger Moore Clown http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Octopussy-Clown-Suit.jpg Song Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=213t3YeQosE Orlov https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/villains/images/0/07/General_Orlov_by_Steven_Berkoff.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20101103030551 Kamal Khan http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Kamal-Khan-Dinner-Jacket.jpg Octopussy http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/2/75//octopussy.jpg Gobinda https://i.pinimg.com/736x/8a/05/22/8a0522d48e624ecaac88b7434bea796e--movie-characters-to-fight.jpg Alligator Costume https://s3.amazonaws.com/gs-geo-images/795e1c88-634f-46c9-b34d-ee8d3ae07e34_l.jpg India Chase Scene Clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBYFFyFOpxw Red Costumes https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a0/f6/b4/a0f6b4431a2fe3c91feb607797c670c4.jpg