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Flm Review No.185: Octopussy


Well, not far to go now until we’re out of the Roger Moore era of Bond films. Only one more to go after today’s film. Octopussy has a nice little history behind it. At this point Roger Moore’s contract to be Bond had ran out and so he was working on a film by film basis. In the space year 1983 a rival Bond film was being set up for release, the Sean Connery starring remake of Thunderball Never Say Never Again. Worried that it would be box office suicide to send a new Bond up against the might of Connery the producers decided to throw money at Roger Moore to continue playing Bond… despite him being 54 at the time of filming. Note that in never Say Never Again Connery plays an ageing Bond that’s retired. Moore is playing the still on duty Bond without the slightest acknowledgement of the fact he’s 3 years older than Connery. So, who wants to see Roger Moore at the age of 54 seduce a bunch of women 20 years younger than himself? Octopussy ladies and gentlemen!!

Octopussy opens with the usual stunt heavy pre-credits sequence and, despite it’s oddities (a plane hidden inside a fake horses arse, us being requested to ignore that the plane is on a pole when flying through the hanger) it’s actually one of the most memorable pre-credit scenes in the whole series. It uses some clever visual trickery via the employment of foreground miniatures to give the illusion that Bond is flying a micro-plane out of a hanger as it’s door closes followed by a cool miniature model explosion that looks pretty spot on. Shame the rest of the film can’t be this solid.

As the film starts a man dressed as a clown is running away from the circus. He’s chased by a pair of knife throwing twins who manage to nail him in the spine. They assume he’s dead because they’ve never seen a Bond film before but soon after the clown crashes through a window at a British embassy and drops a Faberge egg as he dies. Well that was odd. Upon his return to MI6 the new M (Robert Brown) updates him on these events, revealing the clown was a 00 agent, telling him that the egg was a fake and that the real one is going to auction soon. A plan is put in place to smoke out the seller but a buyer turns up who seems desperate to have the egg for himself. Bond switches the real with the fake egg and makes this buyer, Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), pay £500,000 for it. Figuring he must want the egg for nefarious means Bond follows Khan to India and sets about finding out why this egg is so important.

Bond. Dressed as a clown. Told you it happened.

So yeah, the film is about finding out who wants to make fake jewellery and eventually Bond remembers that someone killed an agent and he deals with them.. Oh also the villain is working with a mad general, General Orlov (The amazing Stephen Berkoff) that wants to nuke an American military base in order to help him lead an army through Europe. He uses a jewel smuggling operation as a cover for his bomb plot. So yeah, that’s the most stupid plot so far. The jewel smuggling ring only exists because someone obviously thought Bond should care about that stuff. Meanwhile the real issue, that being the murdered agent, goes largely unmentioned for the majority of the film. Bond eventually kills the knife throwers despite not knowing for sure it was them. General Orlov, despite being amazing, has a bomb plot which only exists to add a dramatic sequence for later in the film. He’s killed like a bitch and Bond disarms the Bond hastily whilst dressed as a clown. I’m not kidding. That happens. What’s next? Bond in a Gorilla suit? No that won’t happen… because it actually happens about 10 minutes before he dresses as a fecking clown!

This film is just a mess. It’s a series of nonsensical events tied together by the most random of events. Is Kamal Khan really so desperate for money that some smuggled jewellery is enough to get him involved in the nuking of hundreds of thousands of people and allowing the whole of Europe to be taken over by a mad man? Why couldn’t he have just done the jewel smuggling on his own. He had the people forging the jewels at his base. He has the circus used to cover his heists. He has Octopussy (Maud Adams playing a Bond girl for the second time) and her band of acrobatic arse kickers pulling this off. Why does he need the general?

General Orlov feels like a Bond villain that’s accidentally wandered into the wrong film. Stephen Berkoff plays him with such insanity that he is easily the single greatest thing in this film. The trouble with his scheme is that everyone else around him opposes his very openly presented plans for world domination. He even gives a powerpoint presentation of it all, negating to mention the nuke in case they think he’s too insane for leadership. Keep this in mind. Bond only comes across Orlov shortly before discovering his scheme which means he literally stumbles into something bigger. Why is a general using a jewel smuggling scheme to hide his plans to nuke a US army base. He wants to make it look like one of their nukes went off by accident. Did the US keep nukes in their military overseas military bases in the 80s? Surely that would be infringing on some NATO/EU rules. The whole plan is just stupid.

Another issue with the film is its constant forced humour. Not a single actions seems able to go by without some sort of buffoonery getting in the way. In one scene Bond is in the back of a tuk tuk with his local contact Vijay (Tennis star Vijay Amritraj, keep that in mind) and a Jeep racing alongside them. Bond and Vijay attempt to fight off the villains which is undermined by Vijay using a tennis racket. Why is he using that? Because he’s played by a real life Tennis player. Where did he get it from? Who the feck knows. The scene is even accompanied by onlookers turning their heads left to right along with the sound of a Tennis ball being hit every time Vijay connects. Keep in mind this scene features an amazing stunt. I say stunt… it wasn’t meant to be. Whilst filming in the busy Indian town streets where it was near impossible to clear the streets a cyclist rode directly between the tuk tuk and the Jeep completely oblivious to what was going on around him. It was caught on film and kept in. its one of the most thrilling stunts in the film. Other than the one where the stuntman shattered his leg and hip while hanging from a train and getting clocked by a concrete pillar. That part of the stunt wasn’t kept in the film but the train climb was.

The best thing in the film.

Anyway, throughout the whole of the film Moore mugs and goofs his way through scenes. The scene at the end where Bond is trying to warn everyone of a nuke while dressed as a clown even includes him kicking a guy in the nuts with his giant clown shoes. I have no idea why Bond would disguise himself as a clown, complete with make-up, wig and red nose when there’s only 5 minutes left on the timer of the nuke. Why didn’t Orlov just get a bomb he could activate remotely? When Bond disarms the bomb he does so in the last 10 seconds before it goes off. He has to remove the charge from the detonator from the bomb as he did in The Spy Who Loved Me, except this lacks any of the tension because it is done in a hurry and the scene has been brought down by the goofing about before hand.

Considering For Your Eyes Only tried to return to a gadget free and less silly Bond film format Octopussy does an amazing job of blowing any good will they could have earned out of the water. For Your Eyes Only was a step in the right direction, its main problem was how boring and weakly staged it was. Easily the most forgettable Bond film. Obviously director John Glen felt the need to ruin everything good he had done before hand. I actually feel he is responsible for a lot of the attempted humour in these films based on his interviews in the making of documentaries that come on the films discs. John Glen is a fairly capable director but clearly lacks the ability to create a cohesive tone for his films overall. You can’t have the threat of everyone getting nuked to death undercut by Bond dressing as a clown! There’s disarming the tension with humour and then there’s flat out smothering the tension in humour. And not even good humour at that.

I’ve had enough of this film. So far this is now the worst Bond film. Its only plus points are a decent opening scene and gloriously over the top performance from Stephen Berkoff. Seriously, he nearly hits M Bison levels of camp awesomeness. Shame the rest of the film wasn’t about him and had a tone that could fit his insanity. Instead we get Bond in clown shoes, Bond dressing as a Gorilla, Bond making a Tarzan yell as he swings through the jungle, Bond getting attacked by Halloween toy spiders and a stuffed Tiger… Bond… everything Bond does in this film. Next up James Bond returns in A View To A Kill! A film where a 57 year old Roger Moore nails a 37 year old Grace Jones. At least we have a memorable Bond theme to look forward to. The last few have been pants.

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About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

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