Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Brad0
Octopussy – Never Pay Roger Again
Octopussy holds a unique place in the James Bond canon for being the only entry to compete against another James Bond film. It opened just a few months before Sean Connery’s much-vaunted (and very poor) [Well Michael thinks it is good! – Duke] return to the role in Never Say Never Again. Though the hyped Battle of the Bonds never came to fruition due to delays on Never Day Never Again, there was no doubt who ruled at the box office – Octopussy’s global take of $188m comfortably squashed its Warner Bros-produced rival. It’s the only time I will ever give Roger Moore a win over Sean Connery.
After agent 009 is found dead in East Berlin with a fake Fabergé Egg in his possession, MI6 naturally suspects Soviet involvement. When the real egg is brought up for auction in London, James Bond is sent to discover the buyer and seller. This brings him into the crosshairs of exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan and his smuggling associate, the circus owner Octopussy. Bond’s investigations lead him to uncover a plot by a renegade Soviet general to bring Russia and the United States to a state of nuclear war.
Title Sequence and Bond Theme
As was often the case in Roger Moore’s era of 007, the film opens with a vignette totally unrelated to the rest of it. Bond and an unnamed female agent are sabotaging a radar base in a non-specific Caribbean nation, a job which Bond initially botches and gets himself captured. However, his attractive partner is able to distract the worst four guards ever, allowing Bond to escape, and make a return attempt in a miniature plane hidden inside a horse box (complete with fake horse’s arse). The enemy soldiers launch a heat-seeking missile at him, which Bond draws into the heart of the base before evading it, causing the base to be destroyed. As his plane runs out of fuel he manages to land and roll perfectly to a halt in a petrol station, asking the attendant to “fill her up, please” with the most shit-eating smirk imaginable.
That’s just bloody rubbish, isn’t it? I mean, I’ll grant you it would have been difficult to find a suitable rhyme for Octopussy, but Rita Coolidge’s All Time High has to go down as one of the least memorable James Bond themes, right? The worrying thing is it’s reported to have been the best of six possible options, which makes one wonder how poor the other five were!
The Villain and Their Plan
The twin villains here are exiled Afghan Prince Kamal Khan and renegade Soviet General Orlov. Furious at the increasing détente between the Soviet Union and the Western powers, Orlov plans to detonate a nuclear device at the heart of an American military base in East Germany. In order to accomplish his goal, he enlists Khan, a known smuggler, to use his associate Octopussy’s travelling circus as the means to smuggle the device into the base. Khan would be paid in treasures stolen from the Kremlin, hence the Fabergé Egg. Khan is played with a suave menace by French actor Louis Jordan, whilst Orlov is played by British stage veteran Steven Berkoff. Both are fine enough actors, but neither villain has enough about them to live long in the memory.
Altogether more enjoyable is Kabir Bedi as Khan’s silent Indian henchman Gobinda. Bedi has a great look to him and a fantastically expressive face, which allows him to upstage both Jordan and Roger Moore on more than one occasion. He also features in Octopussy’s best two action sequences, engaging Bond in hand-to-hand combat both on top of a moving train and outside a plane in the air.
The majority of Octopussy takes place in India, and director John Glen makes fine use of the vibrant surroundings. It’s a gorgeous-looking film, with some really cool architecture. At one point Gobinda chases Bond and his ally Vijay (Indian tennis star Vijay Amritraj, because why not?) through the streets of Rajasthan, with Bond and Vijay getting away on a rocket-powered rickshaw, and you really get a sense of the hustle and bustle of an Indian marketplace. Also noteworthy is Octopussy’s floating palace in Udaipur, which is just an absolutely gorgeous sight.
The villains get the best gadget this time out, with one of the assassins Gobinda hires to kill Bond making use of a yo-yo buzz saw. It’s an absolutely brutal gizmo which unfortunately Vijay falls foul of (though, tastefully, they didn’t show his horrifying demise). Weirdly, British toy manufacturer Wembley made a children’s version of it!
Bond’s most notable gadget, beyond the aforementioned collapsible jet plane, is his pen. It features a small vial of acid which he uses to escape imprisonment at one point, and an earpiece which corresponds to a bug planted in the Fabergé Egg. No tricked out car this time, which is sad, but he does get a one-man submarine in the shape of a crocodile, so there’s that.
Most Inappropriate/Politically Incorrect Moment
It’s Roger Moore’s James Bond. In India. How long have you got!? The most infamous of course is after Bond cleans out Khan in a game of backgammon at a casino. After collecting his winnings, he splits it three ways with his two Indian colleagues, telling them “That’ll keep you in curry for a while now, won’t it.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a smugger bit of post-colonial patronisation.
Also, it’s fucking called Octopussy. Was Pussy Galore really not enough, did we honestly need a second character whose name is pussy? Political correctness couldn’t come soon enough.
You’d think it would be Bond disarming the nuclear device with a second to spare whilst dressed as a clown, right? Wrong. Is it the bit where he beats his chest and does the Tarzan yell before swinging on a vine? Nope. The bit that’s always seemed bizarre to me is when Bond first meets Vijay, in disguise as a snake charmer, who signals him by playing the James Bond theme on his flute. This bit of fourth-wall breaking comes completely the hell out of nowhere, and has baffled me for years.
Delightfully, this one belongs to Desmond Llewellyn as Q. After Bond has gone to infiltrate Octopussy’s island palace, Vijay asks if Q can see him. “You must be joking! 007 on an island populated exclusively by women? We won’t see him until dawn!”
How Good is it Really?
Not all that bad, to be honest. There’s the usual Roger Moore horribleness that leaves you feeling in need of a good wash after you’ve watched it, of course, but beyond that it’s a fairly solid adventure. Maud Adams as Octopussy gives Moore one of his better leading ladies, and there are a few absolutely belting action scenes. At 55, Moore himself was looking worn out. He had wanted to retire from Bond with For Your Eyes Only, which would have been wise, but with Connery returning to the role in Never Say Never Again the producers wanted the established and popular Moore to front Octopussy ahead of having to introduce a new Bond. Had Octopussy proven to be the end of his tenure, it would have been a solid note to bow out on. Alas, much worse was to come.