Wednesday, July 4, 2012

50 Years of 007 - Octopussy

Cody struggles with the Bond film that came out the year he was born.

1981's For Your Eyes Only having successfully ushered 007 into the '80s, everything was kept on track for the next film to be released two years later, as was now the set pattern.

The thirteenth Eon Bond film would have the most risque-sounding title yet. Octopussy. Like FYEO, the title came from an Ian Fleming short story, the one that shared its title with the second collection of his short Bond stories. This second collection, originally published as "Octopussy and The Living Daylights" and shortened to "Octopussy" on later editions, was the last of Fleming's Bond works to be published, reaching bookstore shelves almost two years after his death. As its original title makes clear, when the collection first came out it only contained the stories Octopussy and The Living Daylights, with later editions - like the one I own - adding the story The Property of a Lady.

Elements of the Octopussy and The Property of a Lady stories would be incorporated into the script, but they really just account for a couple scenes, the majority of the screenplay is entirely original. Novelist George MacDonald Fraser was the first writer to work on the Octopussy script, which veteran Bond writer Richard Maibaum and executive producer Michael G. Wilson doing rewrites on the way to the shooting draft.

The main crew of FYEO was largely kept intact for the following film - director John Glen, cinematographer Alan Hume, second unit director Arthur Wooster, production designer Peter Lamont. FYEO composer Bill Conti did not come back, instead John Barry returned to work on his tenth Bond film. Moonraker assistant editor/FYEO assembly editor Peter Davies was promoted to editor, working alongside Henry Richardson, who had a career stretching back to the '50s.

There was again question as to whether or not Roger Moore would be back as James Bond. He was re-negotiating on a picture-by-picture basis at this point, and was getting a little long in the tooth for the character, by his own admission. He seemed ready to move on. Michael Billington, who appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me and was long considered a top backup choice if the deals with Moore fell through, did his final Bond screen test for this film. American actor James Brolin did a screen test, footage from which can be seen in the DVD special features. Timothy Dalton's name came up again.

But there was something unsettling on the horizon: Thunderball rights owner Kevin McClory had, after several years of development, finally been successful in getting his remake in front of cameras. The Thunderball remake, titled Never Say Never Again, would be in theatres in 1983, the same year as Octopussy, and in a blow to Eon, Sean Connery had agreed to play Bond again in the rival production.

With a Connery-Bond hitting theatres, Eon couldn't risk trying out a new actor that year. They needed a known quantity. And they got him. Roger Moore signed on to play James Bond for a sixth time.

Interestingly, all three Bonds to date ended up reprising the role in 1983. While Moore and Connery went up against each other in theatres, George Lazenby made a cameo as a suave, Aston Martin-driving spy called "JB" in the TV movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair.

Octopussy kicks off with a traditional pre-title sequence, completely disconnected from anything that follows. James Bond is on a mission in Cuba, infiltrating an air force base by first pulling in to a neighboring equestrian show under the guise of a horse owner. Out of sight, Bond turns his jacket and cap inside out, and now he's wearing the uniform of a military Colonel. This clothes switch could be a nod to the opening of Goldfinger, where Bond removed a wetsuit to reveal a white tuxedo underneath, and likely is, given some things that follow.

The man Bond is impersonating on the air force base is Colonel Luis Toro (who is played by Roger Moore's lookalike stunt double Ken Norris) and he's there to blow up an aircraft before its impending flight. We're never told just what is so dangerous about the aircraft, but with the red light on it and the beeping sounds it emits, it seems to be something special.

Bond plants a bomb on the craft, but is caught and taken prisoner by the real Colonel Toro. With the help of the distracting beauty of his assistant Bianca (Tina Hudson), Bond manages to get free of his captors and into his horse trailer, which does not actually contain a horse. The horse's ass sticking out the rear is a fake. The back of the trailer swings open and Bond comes out of it in an Acrostar jet.

These small, single-seat aircraft, the record holder for world's lightest jet aircraft, entered the marketplace in the early 1970s and during the development of 1979's Moonraker, the Bond filmmakers had considered including an aerial sequence with one in that film.

The military base doesn't react well to Bond flying his jet around their property. With some fancy flying and some impressive use of miniatures by the special effects team, Bond manages to use the rockets fired at him to his advantage and complete his mission.

The sequence ends with Bond pulling the jet into a gas station and telling the attendant to "Fill 'er up", a joke moment that John Glen had intended to cut out until he saw the film's trailer play at a movie theatre, where it got a good laugh from the audience. So it stayed in.

The Maurice Binder-designed title sequence plays out, accompanied by the song "All Time High", sung by Rita Coolidge, which understandably does not have the title of the film anywhere in the lyrics.

In East Berlin, a knife thrower chases a very frightened clown away from the circus grounds and through a forest. At one point, the clown looks back to see the knife thrower behind him, turns and runs into... the knife thrower. We have homicidal identical twin knife throwers on our hands.

A knife in his back, the clown plunges into a river and is swept away. Downstream, he crawls out of the water, stumbles to the residence of the British ambassador, and smashes through a glass door. The clown hits the floor, dead. A Faberge egg rolls out of his hand.

At MI6, Bond arrives to find that Miss Moneypenny has a youthful new assistant named Penelope Smallbone. The idea behind this scene seems to be that, since Lois Maxwell was now fifty-six, the producers knew that she wouldn't be around as Moneypenny much longer. Though, thankfully, she does come off better in this film than in For Your Eyes Only. Was there thought of retiring the character of Moneypenny along with Maxwell and replacing her with Penelope Smallbone? Smallbone is not a Fleming character, she was created for this film and named after a model who appeared in the title sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me.

Bond moves on from the scene with Moneypenny and Smallbone to a meeting with Minster of Defence Sir Frederick Gray, art expert Jim Fanning, and M. M is now played by Robert Brown, who was in The Spy Who Loved Me briefly as Admiral Hargeaves. Fans like to ponder the identity of this M. Is Robert Brown playing the same character who Bernard Lee played in the first eleven films? Is Brown's M a promoted Hargreaves? Or is this an entirely different character who's been promoted to M and just happens to be played by Brown?

Bond has been called in to be assigned to Operation Trove, replacing the deceased 009. 009 was the clown who died with a Faberge egg in his hand. His egg has turned out to be a forgery of one called The Property of a Lady, which is soon to go up for auction at Sotheby's. The Property of a Lady is being sold by an anonymous seller with a Swiss bank account, and the theory is that the vendor could be a Russian who will use the proceeds to finance covert operations or payoffs. Bond is to accompany Fanning to the auction and see if he can spot this mysterious seller.

In Russia, high-ranking officials, including General Gogol from the previous three films, are having a meeting in a room reminiscent of Ken Adam's set designs to discuss their mutual disarmament talks with NATO. Gogol is for adopting the NATO proposals. One man, General Orlov, definitely is not. Orlov goes off on an impassioned rant about the size and capabilities of the military forces under his command. With fifteen armored divisions, Orlov believes that they can conquer the European continent and have total victory against any opposing forces in just five days. NATO will not make a nuclear strike against them in fear of reprisals. The other men in the room are not supportive of Orlov's ideas.

After the meeting, Orlov is notified by one of the knife throwers and his Faberge egg counterfeiter that their reproduction of The Property of a Lady was stolen in transit. Orlov orders that another reproduction be made, and he'll contact their people in London to get the real egg back.

The Sotheby's auction is the section of the film inspired by the story The Property of a Lady, although the circumstances in the story are very different. The item up for auction in that is a Faberge work called the Emerald Sphere, which a woman who works in the communications department of the British secret service and is known to be a double agent for the Soviets has received from Russia. The sale of the Sphere is meant to earn her the pay she is owed (neither she nor or her Soviet bosses realize that she's been figured out and the service is purposely leaking misinformation through her.) Bond goes to the auction in hopes of spotting the woman's Russian contact among the bidders driving the price up.

In the film's auction scene, Bond's attention is caught by a beautiful blonde woman who takes a seat beside a man that Fanning identifies as Kamal Khan, usually a seller with dubious sources. As the bidding on the egg nears its end, Kamal starts bidding. He goes "over the top" with a bid of £400,000. Bond, now suspicious of Kamal, stirs things up with a bid of £425,000. "Let's see how badly he wants it." Kamal goes to £450,000. Bond makes a show of considering a £475,000 bid, has the egg brought over to his table so he can examine it closely. Then he bids again. Kamal goes to £500,000 and Bond lets him take it.

M chews Bond out for bidding and risking getting stuck with the egg. Bond explains that if he had won it, he would've just claimed it was a fake and not paid. The egg that Kamal now has in his possession is the fake that 009 had, Bond switched the eggs during his examination at the auction. He doesn't believe that Kamal will return the fake, he's not a legitimate buyer. After the auction, Kamal caught a flight to Delhi, India. M tells Bond to book a flight and follow him. Bond already has his ticket.

Arriving in Delhi, Bond meets up with local contact Vijay, who's posing as a snake charmer and catches Bond's attention by playing the Bond Theme on his flute. Vijay and Sadruddin, Head of Section I, escort Bond to the Shivnivas Hotel and give him some information on Kamal Khan. Exiled Afghan prince, sportsman, owns a sports club, lives in a hilltop home called the Monsoon Palace, regularly plays backgammon in the hotel casino.

In the hotel casino that evening, Kamal shows up to play backgammon and proves to have impeccable luck with the rolls of the dice, he always gets a double six when he needs it. "It's all in the wrist," he says, while doing his best to clean out the man he's playing against.

While Kamal plays his games, Bond sees that his blonde companion from the auction is also in the casino. He tries to charm her, but she brushes him off. When Kamal's backgammon opponent balks at a bet of 100,000 rupees, Bond introduces himself to Kamal - "Bond. James Bond." - and takes the man's place. Kamal rolls a double six. Bond can only win by rolling a double six as well, but he takes the chance and doubles the bet to 200,000 rupees. As his security on the bet, he places The Property of a Lady on the table.

Kamal tells him he'll need a great deal of luck to get out of this, so Bond decides to use Kamal's "lucky dice". Kamal can't refuse in front of the crowd that stands around them. Bond rolls the dice and announces what he's rolled without even looking - double sixes. Bond has won 200,000 rupees from Kamal by using his own "lucky" (loaded) dice against him.

The end of the "cheats at backgammon" scene makes it clear that this is meant to be an homage to the "cheats at cards/golf" scenes of Goldfinger - Kamal hands 200,000 rupees over to Bond, advising him to spend it quickly. He intends to. Bond pockets the egg and offers Kamal's dice back to him. Kamal's imposing bodyguard Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) takes the dice, and like Oddjob crushing the golf ball in his hand in Goldfinger, Gobinda crushes the dice in his hand, grinding them to dust.

Leaving the hotel in a tuk-tuk (an auto rickshaw), Bond and Vijay find themselves being chased by Gobinda and a bunch of other henchman through the city's crowded streets. Vijay is played by professional tennis player Vijay Armritraj, so at one point he uses a tennis racket to help fend off henchmen. As Vijay hits a henchman with his racket, it sounds like he's hitting tennis balls, and while this is happening the people standing along the road nonsensically look back and forth as if they're at a tennis match. It begins to become clear that I don't share this film's sense of humor.

The auto chase takes a break for some fisticuffs in a public square where things like firewalking, sword swallowing, and a bed of nails display just happen to be going on. All of these things are used to Bond's advantage.

The sequence ends with Bond throwing the rupees out to locals, who block his pursuers when they go into the street to collect it, and Vijay driving the tuk-tuk straight through a paper advertisement on a wall. Another advertisement immediately slides down in its place. On the other side of the wall, Vijay tips a birdcage, which causes another wall to slide open and he and Bond walk through this hidden passageway and into... a laboratory for Q Branch.

This overly elaborate set-up in the middle of town is my least favorite example of the random field offices in the Moore movies, and it leads into what is a rewrite of the Moonraker and FYEO lab scenes, so it's feeling a bit tired now.

Q gripes about being sent out into the field at a moment's notice and not having proper facilities as he leads Bond and Vijay through the lab. If Q has to go out into the field to meet with every agent the way he does Bond, he must be the busiest man in the service, especially now that he thinks he has to take his whole lab along with him. Jeremy "Boba Fett" Bulloch very briefly reprises his role as lab assistant Smithers. Bond watches some gadgets being tested and takes every opportunity to drop a quip or pun.

Q places a homing device that also works as a microphone inside the Faberge egg. The homing signal is picked up by Bond's watch, and the top of a fountain pen can be pulled off to become the ear piece through which he can listen to what the microphone picks up. If Bond twists the top of the pen rather than pulling it off, it drips an acid that can dissove all metals. Bond's attention is then caught by a camera that's hooked to both a gadget watch and a TV monitor, and he uses it to zoom in and out on a busty assistant's cleavage. Q is rightfully upset by these "adolescent antics" and sends Bond on his way.

Bond is walking through the hotel pool area when a waiter notifies him that his table is ready in the dining area and his guest is waiting for him. Bond didn't make a reservation and wasn't expecting a guest, but he follows the waiter... and finds that Kamal's blonde friend is who's waiting for him. We still don't find out her name, but I'll go ahead and say that her name is Magda, and she's played by Kristina Wayborn.

Magda has been sent by Kamal to suggest a trade to Bond - the egg for his life. Bond is able to charm her beyond this bit of business and they end up sharing postcoital champagne in his bed, where there's a shocking double entendre when she finishes a glass and says, "I need refilling." Kristina Wayborn sort of looks embarrassed to say it. Bond notices she has a tattoo of a blue-ringed octopus, an image that he spotted on a barge flag earlier. Asked what it is, Magda replies, "That's my little octopussy."

In the early morning, Magda plays into Bond's plans by stealing the egg while she's getting ready to leave. She thinks he hasn't noticed her theft, but he's aware, and checks the homing signal on his watch. It works. Magda walks out onto the balcony in her saree dress, tying one end of it to the railing. She tells Bond, "I don't know how to say goodbye." "Actions speak louder than words." He leans in to give her a goodbye kiss, but instead she tips backwards over the railing.

The saree dress slowly unravels and takes Magda down to a safe and easy landing on the ground below, now just in her underwear. Kamal is waiting for her in a car and they ride off together. As he turns back into his room, Bond is knocked out by Gobinda.

A boat powered by a team of female rowers takes Kamal out to a "floating palace", in real life the Lake Palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India. It's a beautiful place that sits on a four acre island but is built so it looks like it's floating on the water.

Two women lead Kamal through the palace, past female guards and more women lounging around the pool in the courtyard, to the room of the mysterious woman who runs the place. We see her body, clad in a robe with a blue-ringed octopus on the back, and hear her voice as she talks to Kamal, but her face is kept offscreen as if she's a female Blofeld. Kamal notifies her that "the thief" has been caught and is now a "guest" of his at the Monsoon Palace. Hearing that the thief is an Englishman named James Bond makes the woman hesitate in the middle of feeding the blue-ringed octopus that she has in an aquarium. She tells Kamal to bring Bond to her palace and orders that he not be killed.

At the Monsoon Palace, Bond is kept in his "guest room", which has steel bars in the window, until Gobinda brings him out for dinner. Bond joins Kamal and Magda at the dinner table, and we finally learn Magda's name when Kamal comments to Bond, "I believe you and Miss Magda have met."

Bond confirms that he's being kept around because Kamal intends to get more information out of him. If Bond doesn't feel like talking, there won't be torture or sodium pentothal, Kamal prefers curare with a psychadelic compound. Guaranteed results, with the unfortunate side effect of permanent brain damage.

A disgusting dinner is served - stuffed sheep's head with the eyeballs still in their sockets. Kamal immediately scoops an eye out of his sheep head and chows down on it. There was a similar disgusting dinner scene in another adventure movie set in India that was released the following year, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Returned to his room that night, Bond uses the acid from the pen Q gave him to dissolve his way through the steel bars on the window. As he sneaks around the palace, Kamal is visited by another guest - General Orlov arrives via helicopter.

Magda spots Bond following Kamal and Orlov to their private meeting in the cellar, but she's not bothered to see him free and sneaking. She smiles and goes back into her room.

In the cellar, Bond uses the pen's ear piece to listen in on Kamal and Orlov's conversation. Kamal has had enough counterfeit jewelry made for Orlov to fill a large metal cannister that is loaded onto Orlov's helicopter. There are "enormous stakes" involved with something that the men are planning to occur in Karl-Marx-Stadt in one week, and if it goes well, Orlov will then deliver the real jewelry to Kamal.

Kamal hands the Faberge egg over to Orlov, who orders that the man he got it from be eliminated at once. Saying "This fake has caused enough trouble," Orlov smashes the egg. Kamal notices the homing device/microphone among the pieces which, if I'm keeping up with this movie properly, means that Orlov actually smashed the real egg.

As Kamal and Orlov exit their meeting room, Bond hurries off to hide in another room, where he finds two dead men hanging from hooks. Who are these guys? I don't know.

While Orlov's helicopter takes off, Kamal turns to Gobinda, "Get Bond." Notified that Bond has escaped, Kamal isn't too perturbed. He won't get far, they'll track him... And as Kamal rides his elephant out on his hunting expedition, a five minute version of The Most Dangerous Game, we see that he has a lot of men willing to hunt humans with him. There are other men riding elephants and several dozen men on foot.

Bond's escape from Kamal is not handled in a way that appeals to me at all. I don't like when things get too silly and I prefer the comedic moments be clever. Bond gets out of the palace by switching places with one of the mystery corpses when a couple men bag the bodies and take them outside to be dumped down a hill onto a pile of bones. The bagged body that is Bond sits up, scaring one of the men off by making ghostly noises. He runs off into the jungle and encounters every dangerous creature imaginable. He runs into a large spider web. He gets attacked by a tiger, but says "Sit!" and the wild animal listens. A snake crawls across his legs, he says, "Hiss off." He swings along on vines while doing the Tarzan yell. Why? He falls into some water and gets a couple leeches stuck to his chest. An alligator chases him down a stream and to a larger body of water, where a tour boat is passing by.

One of the men who helps Bond onto the tour boat is executive producer and co-screenwriter Michael G. Wilson, making his now traditional cameo. This is actually his second cameo in the film, he was also one of the men at the Russian disarmament meeting, only visible in wide shots. Another Broccoli family member who'll go on to have a very important role behind the scenes gets her first screen credit on Octopussy - Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli's daughter Barbara is credited as an executive assistant. She was also an uncredited assistant director on this film and second A.D. on Moonraker.

The image of a blue-ringed octopus was used as the sign of an old secret order of female bandits and smugglers, and is now the emblem of the organization run by the woman who lives in the floating palace, a woman known only as Octopussy. Her island is entirely populated by women, no men allowed. That's a rule Bond intends to break.

An alligator floats up to Octopussy's palace. The jaws open and reveal that this is actually a ridiculous watercraft that Bond is riding inside of. I didn't mind when he wore a seagull on his head as he snuck through water in a wetsuit in Goldfinger, but this is going too far.

Bond infiltrates the palace and Octopussy's room. When he meets the woman, her face is revealed to the audience. Octopussy is played by Maud Adams, the only actress to play two different main Bond girls in the series, having previously played Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun. At thirty-eight, Octopussy is also the oldest main Bond girl the series has ever had, appropriate when Bond is being played by a fifty-five year old. It's a virtue of this film that Moore isn't paired with "barely legals" like he was in For Your Eyes Only.

Bond wants Octopussy to tell him about jewelry smuggling and why a fellow agent was killed in East Berlin, but Octopussy knows nothing of that. She does know of another assignment Bond had, when he was sent to apprehend a Major Dexter Smythe twenty years after the man stole a cache of Chinese gold. The story told about Smythe is basically a summary of the short story Octopussy, with the source of the gold changed. The Smythe of the story stole Nazi gold. Rather than have Smythe taken into custody immediately, Bond gives him some time to clear up his affairs... What goes unspoken between the men but understood is that Bond has given Smythe time to commit suicide rather than deal with a court martial and prison.

Octopussy reveals that Major Dexter Smythe was her father, and she's always wanted to meet Bond. Unlike most who lose a loved one to Bond's work, she doesn't want vengeance. She wants to thank Bond for giving her father an honorable alternative. She invites him to stay as her guest for a few days. He accepts.

When Kamal Khan arrives to tell her that Bond has escaped, Octopussy openly introduces Bond as her houseguest. Kamal tells Bond, "You have a nasty habit of surviving." "You know what they say about the fittest." Kamal requests that Octopussy give him another chance to take care of Bond personally. Octopussy says she'll take care of him, and during his stay, she does. In a completely different way than Kamal meant.

Octopussy tells Bond her life story. Her father was a leading authority on octopi, which is how she got her nickname. Octopussy was his pet name for her. The people in Hong Kong who handled his gold offered her a job smuggling diamonds, and she took it. She was so talented at smuggling that she went into business for herself, reviving the old octopus cult as her own. She recruits women who are looking for guidance in life, trains them, gives them a purpose. The organization has branched out from crime into shipping, hotels, carnivals, and circuses. The Goldfinger references just keep on coming, another Pussy had an all-female circus of sorts in that film. Snooping through drawers, Bond finds out that Octopussy's Circus is scheduled to perform in Karl-Marx-Stadt in a few days. Right around the time of Orlov and Kamal's business there.

Kamal betrays Octopussy's wishes that Bond be left alone and hires a group of assassins with the order that the woman not be harmed.

Q and Vijay are keeping watch on the floating palace from the lake shore in shifts, and it's Vijay's bad luck that he happens to be on his shift when Gobinda and the assassins arrive. The lead killer's weapon of choice is a circular saw blade yo-yo type device, and he uses it on Vijay.

The assassins infiltrate the island without the aid of a silly alligator boat. Bond and Octopussy are in bed together when the yo-yo saw comes spinning down toward their heads from the balcony above. They avoid the blade, escaping injury by rolling out of bed. Someone who didn't escape injury in this moment was the actor who plays the thug with the yo-yo, William Derrick. He fell over the balcony railing during filming and broke his arm. That didn't stop him from returning to work with a cast on to finish the scene.

Bond fights off the assassins, and his tussle with the yo-yo thug takes them both through a window. The men plunge into the lake, where they're attacked by an alligator... Which is actually just the gator boat. Bond takes it back to shore, where Q has found Vijay's body. Kneeling beside Vijay's corpse, Bond delivers the line, "No more problems." Vijay didn't seem to be a particularly troubled person, but it's a poignant line nonetheless.

Bond takes a car ride with M in West Berlin to catch his boss up on what's going on. It has been verified that Octopussy's Circus was in East Berlin when 009 was killed. They don't know why General Orlov would participate in a jewelry caper, but Bond believes there's much more to it than that. M gives him a fake I.D. to use so he can cross into East Germany - Charles Moreton, manufacturer's representative from Leeds, on a tour of furniture factories.

Bond enters East Germany and goes to Octopussy's Circus in Karl-Marx-Stadt. As he arrives, the knife throwers are performing their bit. Magda walks through the audience doing magic tricks for people. The human cannoball gets blasted through the air. Bond spots Orlov, Kamal, Gobinda, and Octopussy sitting together in the crowd.

When the villains exit the tent, Bond steals a jacket like the ones the circus's roadies wear and follows them outside... And presumably goes off somewhere to take a nap, because he arrives at night and when we cut outside it's daylight, the roadies are packing things onto a train and the performers are boarding it in their civilian clothes.

Bond watches Octopussy, Kamal, and Orlov enter a lone train car, not connected to the train everyone else is boarding. Octopussy examines the case full of jewelry, which could net them 300 million in Zurich. Meanwhile, at the National Fine Art Repository in Russia, Gogol is finding out that some of the fine art has been replaced by fakes.

One of the knife throwers welds the cannister containing the real jewelry into a metal box at the base of the human cannonball's cannon. Orlov, Kamal, and Octopussy exit the train car, and I find the following sequence to be directed in a very confusing way. I had to focus and rewind to figure out what happens because the camera angles had me all discombobulated.

The lone car with the jewelry inside is pushed into a tunnel to be switched over to the main track. (This tunnel location will also be featured in GoldenEye twelve years later.) Inside the tunnel, the car pulls up alongside a second train car with replicas of everything that's in the other car, including the cannon, which the other knife thrower is welding on the base of. Gobinda gets on the second car, where an atomic bomb is put in the place where the jewelry cannister is in the other car. As the first car is pushed away, Bond hangs around outside the second car. Gobinda and the other knife thrower are given a tutorial by an associate of Orlov's on how to activate and set the atomic bomb.

The jewelry car is pulled back into the tunnel, now on the same track as the atomic car. The vehicle pulling the jewelry car detaches from it, then pushes the atomic car out of the tunnel, where it's coupled to the circus train. Bond is left in the tunnel with the jewelry car.

Bond gets in the jewelry car and fights with the knife thrower, dropping the cannon in his head and taking his clothes. The car is then pushed out of the tunnel and Orlov's men retrieve the cannister full of jewelry. Orlov enters the car alone and Bond confronts him about what he's planning.

The next performance of Octopussy's Circus will be at the U.S. Air Force base in Feldstadt, West Germany. That's where the atomic bomb will be detonated. The bomb's effects are indistinguishable from a medium yield American bomb, so it will be assumed that the explosion was caused by one of the bombs on the base being triggered accidentally. Europe will insist on unilateral disarmament, leaving the borders open for Orlov to proceed with his dreams of conquest. While Bond and Orlov talk, they hear the circus train pulling out of the station. Orlov tells Bond that it's too late, but Bond says he can still stop it at the border.

One of Orlov's men opens the train car door to check on him, giving Orlov the opportunity to escape from Bond. This kicks off a 23 minute race against time. Bond speeds after the circus train in Orlov's car, Orlov chases Bond in a car driven by his men. Bond has to do some fancy driving to avoid the bullets being fired at him by soldiers as he goes through the station, including tipping the car to drive on two tires like he did in Diamonds Are Forever. His tires get blown out, but that just makes it easier for him to drive after the train - he drives down the track with the rims on the rails.

Bond ends up being split off onto the track beside the circus train and he has to jump from the car to the train before it gets smashed by another train coming from the other direction. He makes the jump just in time, Orlov's car gets hit and tossed into a river, ruining a fisherman's day.

Gogol has come to Germany to track down Orlov, and is there when Orlov's car is fished out of the river and the cannister of real jewelry removed from its trunk. Gogol catches up to Orlov at the border into West Germany, where Orlov has caught up to the circus train. Orlov gets out of the car he's been riding in and runs after the train, crossing the border on foot... and the border guards open fire on him. As his back is riddled with bullets, Orlov lets out a Wilhelm scream.

On the circus train, Bond tries to avoid Kamal and his henchmen. The movie loses me some more when Bond puts on a gorilla costume to hide in, but the worst indignity is yet to come. Gorilla Bond observes as the villains activate the atomic bomb. It is now 11:45, the circus begins at 3:00, the bomb's four hour delay timer is set at the max, 3:45. Kamal plans to leave the base at 3:15, they have to be at least twenty miles away when the bomb goes off.

Gorilla Bond is a klutz, he bumps into something that makes a noise and alerts Gobinda to his presence. Gobinda chops off the gorilla's head with a sword, then turns to see Bond climbing through a hatch onto the train roof.

As Bond crawls around the outside of the train, Moore is doubled by stuntman Martin Grace, who was seriously injured while filming this sequence. While he was hanging on the side of it, the train continued beyond the point that he had surveyed. He was caught in the leg by a concrete stanchion, tearing the flesh off his thigh and breaking bones, putting him in the hospital for six months.

Gobinda goes after Bond on the roof of the train, fighting him with his sword, and Kamal sends the surviving knife thrower, whose name is Grishka, out to help him. Bond is still in the other knife thrower's outfit, so when Grishka spots him from behind, he's very happy to see his brother. "Mishka!" Bond turns to look at him, and Grishka becomes very angry.

Grishka attacks Bond and their fight knocks both of them off the train. Bond is able to kill the second twin, but now it'll be a chore to catch up with the circus again and he has less than 90 minutes before the bomb goes off. He runs along the road, trying to hitchhike. Just like what happens to Donald Pleasence in 1988's Halloween 4, a carload of teenagers pulls over to give the hitchhiking old man a ride, but as he gets near the vehicle the teens take off and laugh at him. Teenage girls mocking Bond's misfortune is not something I ever wanted to see. Bond finally manages to catch a ride in a VW Bug with a sausage and beer-loving older couple.

While the circus gets set up on the air force base and the performance begins, the couple takes Bond as far as a nearby village. He runs to a payphone, but gets blocked by a woman who won't let him make his call ahead of her or cut her call short. Has he lost all his charm? Maybe it's the knife thrower outfit. He has to resort to stealing the woman's car to continue making his way to the circus.

Kamal and Gobinda leave soon after the performance has begun. They have an unnerving moment when their car doesn't start at first, but they get it going.

Car thief Bond is chased to the air force base by the local police and has to bust through the gate. With the police searching the base for him, Bond has to disguise himself to sneak into the circus... Bond disguises himself as a clown. Goofy outfit, face paint, red nose, the whole thing. The ultimate indignity. James Bond is literally a clown. I hate this. And it may be that a clown is the perfect disguise for sneaking into a circus, but Bond shouldn't be written into such a scenario.

Of course, he doesn't allow the bomb to explode. He disarms it the same way he disarms a bomb in The Spy Who Loved Me, and with not a second to spare.

Kamal has returned to India. Angry at being double crossed by him, Octopussy and her women help out in a raid on the Monsoon Palace, which Bond and Q ride into on a Union Jack hot air balloon. Victor "Man with Bottle" Tourjansky does not return, but one of Kamal's guards steals his shtick. A woman stands on a board, an elephant steps on the other end, launching the woman to the top of a stack of females that reaches the top of the palace walls. Seeing this, the guard gives an incredulous look to the bottle of alcohol in his hand.

Kristina Wayborn was injured during the palace attack sequence, breaking several toes when she kicked a weapon out of the hands of one of the guards.

The film began with an aerial stunt sequence and ends with one. Kamal and Gobinda capture Octopussy and escape in a private plane, but Bond catches up to the plane on horseback as it's heading down the runaway. Bond jumps onto the plane and clings to the outside as it takes off. Kamal can't shake him off and he disables one of the engines, so Gobinda is sent outside the plane to stop Bond before he kills them all. Moonraker skydive stuntmen B.J. Worth and Jake Lombard return to double Bond and Gobinda during their mid-air scuffle.

The comedic tag to the film is very strange. Bond rescues Octopussy and the two jump to safety together on the edge of a cliff. Octopussy goes over the edge, Bond catches her arm and pulls her back up... And the next thing we know, Bond is on Octopussy's boat, lying in bed with an arm in a sling, a leg wrapped and elevated as Octopussy cares for him. But when the possibility of sex is brought up, he springs into action, revealing that his injuries were faked. So... how did he get all the way to this bed with Octopussy thinking he was so bad off the whole time? Did he just lie on the edge of the cliff beside her, moaning and groaning until he was carted away? Like I said earlier, I don't share this film's sense of humor.

Octopussy may be my least favorite Bond film. If not on the bottom of the list, it's definitely way down there. I don't enjoy it very much. General Orlov's dream of conquest is great, there's definitely a good movie story there and Steven Berkoff gives a good, occasionally over-the-top performance as the character. But Orlov and his atomic plans are largely overwhelmed by the much less involving counterfeit jewelry plot. I don't find the sections with Octopussy or Louis Jourdan's Kamal Khan very interesting, my attention wanders. Aside from a few moments, even the action is largely underwhelming.

Then there's the tone of the film, the humor that just grates on me. The film is packed with things that I find ridiculous, horrible, and a mockery is made of Bond. Bad jokes, lame quips, teenagers laughing at him, gorilla costume, clown disguise, alligator boat, Tarzan yell, etc., etc.

There are a lot of homages to Goldfinger in this movie, and it's no Goldfinger. I mean, it couldn't be anyway, but it's not even close.

It may not be my preferred type of Bond film, but it was very successful at the box office. For that I'm glad, it kept the series going. And even though the one that follows is another of my least favorite Bond films, in the end I'm happy to have them all.

Octopussy came out in theatres in June of 1983. Never Say Never Again, that disconcerting rival Bond film starring Sean Connery, reached screens in October. NSNA did well, but Octopussy did a little better. Eon and Roger Moore won that one. Audiences had to wait four months between the films, but I'll be talking about Never Say Never Again in two weeks.


  1. Well, this was the first Bond movie to hit theaters after I'd become a confirmed fan two years previously - and I used my newly gained (like three weeks before) driver's license to take myself to the movies on opening night to see it. Maybe because of that nostalgia, or because I'm just more able to get past the misplaced humor (mostly, anyway) - I like this adventure quite a bit more than you do. I'm not here to present a counter case - so I'll simply say a couple of things and head out. Penelope Smallbone was played by author James Michener's daughter, which was touted in the press a fair amount in the pre-release period. They really promoted the stuffing out of this movie too - there was the "Bond at 21" special we've chatted about before; and my local CBS affiliate's noon news actually had a little 2-3 minute blurb about Fleming and the character and this movie as their wrapup story at the end of a broadcast one afternoon. Also, the "No more problems." line was prompted by Vijay's saying "No problem" several times when speaking with Bond. I like Vijay a lot - he's right up there with Kerim Bey for likability - and his Sacrificial Lamb scene is almost hard to watch, making the moment of mourning from Bond much appreciated. And for the record - I think Robert Brown's M is Admiral Hargreaves promoted - I think M's leave in For Your Eyes Only was his bow out from the job, and Hargreaves moves in. (I'm speaking of the character, not actor Bernard Lee.)

    Well, I wish this one rated higher for you - but there you go. Cheers!

    1. It's always nice to get comments with a more positive view, especially when they contain additional information.

      I didn't catch the "No problem"/"No more problems" bit. As I said, my attention wanders during this movie. The viewings for this article were the most focused I've ever been while watching it. Although... if everything was no problem for Vijay, then he didn't have problems to have no more of, so I was right about him not being very troubled anyway. ;) But yes, it is a poignant moment.

      - Cody