Ranking the Films of the James Bond Series: #22 – Octopussy

Octopussy (1983)

Directed by: John Glen

Written by: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson

The 3 most significant events in the history of the James Bond franchise are: Sean Connery takes on the role of 007 in Dr. NO, George Lazenby abandons it after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which opened the door for the return of Connery in Diamonds are Forever, and Sean Connery signs on for Kevin McClory’s rival remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again.

Connery in. Connery out. Connery in. Connery out.

introducing sean connery
Introducing James Bond

Fleming shifted the backstory of Bond to make him Scottish after seeing Goldfinger, so it should come as no surprise that the biggest things in the history of Bond at the movies revolve around the whims of Sean. The effects of these moves shaped the history of the franchise.

When Connery took on the part in Dr. NO it kicked off the longest running series in movie history. It is easy to forget that Dr. NO was a longshot at the time and Connery wasn’t a household name. Dr. NO changed that.

If Connery was an unknown when he took on the part, what does that make George Lazenby, the male model with no acting experience who conned his way into the most coveted job in the world?

george lazenby
Model Bond

It was said that Lazenby was offered a 7 picture deal, which he turned down because he thought Bond was over after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If Lazenby hadn’t read the signs wrong and taken that deal we wouldn’t have had the Roger Moore Era.

Think about it, assuming they continue on the same production schedule, Lazenby would have been Bond for Diamonds Are Forever through For Your Eyes Only. Moore would have aged out of the role by that time.

In that scenario, does Connery come back for Never Say Never Again? What does the franchise look like with 8 Lazenby films in it? Does it even make it that far, or does Lazenby work himself into becoming a decent actor? Do things ever go campy?

sad clown roger.jpg
O’ Roger

From no Moore to too much. Following For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore was set to step away from Bond. He had a strange and successful run, but after 5 films it seemed like the right time for a change. And what a change they had in mind. It was rumored that James Brolin was at the top of the list of actors to take over the role, but when Connery agreed to do Never Say Never Again, EON couldn’t risk running out a new Bond when they were going head-to-head at the box office with the original. So Roger came back to do 2 more.

If Roger didn’t come back, and they cast an American, do they ever end up getting around to casting Daniel Craig?

Knowing that Octopussy needed to not only succeed at the box office but beat Never Say Never Again to validate it’s stance as the only legit Bond production, why on Earth did they put Roger Moore in a clown outfit during the high tension race against time? The mysteries of the Roger Moore Era will never be explained, but somehow it worked out.

The Cold Open:

Octopussy-Bianca-Tina-Hudson
Single Entendre

A classic Moore adventure: we get some humor, a heavy dose of charm, some crazy gadgets, lots of over-the-top sexual innuendo and a fun stunt with a cheeky gag at the end. I do enjoy Bond’s undercover escapades to disrupt the plans of a South American dictator, but I regret to admit that this was the first time I felt Roger Moore actually looked old for the part.

 

The Credit Sequence:

Silhouettes of naked ladies and an easy listening classic, the Roger Moore credit sequences really were the best. I know some people like to take the piss out of em, but I’m a big fan.

All Time High might be clinging to the sounds of the ‘70s, but it’s got that sweet saxophone riff that just pulls me right in.

I love Maurice Binder’s work on these title sequences, and the use of projections of images on women’s bodies reminds me of From Russia With Love, which is always a pleasant thought.

 

Plot:

009
009

It’s going to take me a minute to wrap my head around this one, cause it gets fuzzy at parts, but I’ll give it a try.

Thanks to one of the rare moments in the franchise where we get to see another Double-0 agent at work (009), Bond is sent on a mission to uncover the truth behind a fake Faberge egg that was smuggled out of East Berlin. After some slick sleight-of-hand work at an auction for the real egg, Bond lands in India where he discovers an exiled Afghan prince, Kamal Khan, is working with a delusional Soviet General, Orlov, to smuggle treasures out of the USSR via the mysterious Octopussy’s travelling circus. Because breaking up a smuggling ring isn’t plot enough for a Bond film, the lunatic General Orlov is secretly planning on replacing the smuggled jewels with a nuclear warhead which he plans on detonating at a circus to trigger global disarmament and the greenlight for Soviet dominance.

OCTOPUSSY auction
Auction Star

Bond films have historically been burdened by overly complicated plots as an excuse to stuff a bit of globetrotting into every adventure, this time taking the shoot to India, so I can forgive it for that, but I feel like Octopussy suffered from not only shifting back to a campy tone, it amplified it.

For what it’s worth, I actually like Octopussy. I like the idea of a rouge General looking to go all Strangelove on the world. I like Bond having a bit of a romance with an underworld vixen. I like the nods to the works of Fleming that are peppered throughout. I just wish they didn’t go so broad with the humor. It really took the legs out of an otherwise fun film.

 

The Gadgets:

acrostar jet
Acrostar Jet

I don’t know if the Acrostar Jet is technically a gadget, but because it was hidden in a fake horse’s ass, I’m going to allow it.

I actually dug the model work and stunts in that opening sequence, and the ‘fill ‘er up’ gag was a good line to lead into the title sequence.

alligator boat
Alligator Boat

From the Lotus Submarine to an Alligator Boat, o’ Roger what have they done to you?

octopussy pen.png
A good pen

As a man who loves a good pen, this sterling silver Mont Blanc 146 with the microphone amplifier and metal corroding acid is one of Q Branches classiest offerings.

seiko
Seiko Digital Watch

The Seiko G757-5020 watch is not only digital, which is a wow, it’s got a radar device that allows Bond to track the homing device he’s planted inside the fake Faberge egg. It’s pretty sweet and could be had for a mere $500 on ebay.

 

The Villains:

orlov
General Orlov

There is a version of this film playing in an alternate dimension that features Klaus Kinski in the role of General Orlov where he is just going bug-nuts insane with it. Not to take anything away from Steven Berkoff, who does an admirable job here, but all I could think about was how much Orlov reminded me of those insane Kinski characters from the Herzog days.

I really like Orlov, the communist zealot pulling from the playbook of Dr. Strangelove to shake-up the global political landscape. He’s crazy, passionate and corrupt, which makes me wish we got more of him.

Maybe it’s because I know we were nearing the end of the Cold War and villains like him were reaching the end of their run that makes me wish he was in the movie more, but I just didn’t get enough of the Mad General.

kamal khan
Khan!

For the amount of time James Bond spends busting up rigged gambling operations, you’d think he had a night job working as a pit-boss at some North Vegas dive. There’s Le Chiffe’s shady game in Casino Royale, Drax cheating in the Moonraker novel and Goldfinger hustling poolside in Miami and cheating at golf. You can run a million smuggling operations while planning to take over the world and you might piss him off. Thumb the scales in a gentleman’s game and Bond will take pleasure in wrecking your shit.

Kamal Khan cheats at backgammon. The guy wasn’t even running an elaborate system, he just had loaded dice. He was a sophisticated sleazeball, which makes him a pretty good villain overall.

cheating at backgammon
Cheating at backgammon

The Indian Oddjob, Gobinda, filled the role of the silent heavy henchman as well as this movie would allow. Remember when Oddjob crushed golf balls with his bare hands? Think that had anything to do with Gobinda turning dice into dust? Nope, that was just a coincidence.

The Bond Girl:

romancing octopussy
Octopussy

Magda might have gotten there first, but the film was called Octopussy for a reason.

Of the many things the Bond franchise is known for, bringing actors back to play a different role is one of my favorites. Charles Grey was given the honor of being the most British man in Japan in You Only Live Twice, and then two films later he got the call to suit up as Blofeld. Joe Don Baker was given the role of villain #2 in The Living Daylights, only to return as Bond’s CIA buddy Wade for the Brosnan days. As fun as those guys are, neither one of those fools can hold a candle to Maud Adams.

Maud Adams first introduced herself to the Bond crowd by playing Scaramanga’s girl in The Man With the Golden Gun and I was thrilled to see her return here. I’m all in on Maud, and I do like the idea of Bond having a bit of a romance with someone from the underworld. He did fall for Vesper after all.

octopussy jumpsuits
Octopussy Jumpsuits

Octopussy gets an extra bonus point for designing the Thing 1, Thing 2 jumpsuits she’s got her gang wearing.   

Overall Score: 2.25/5

Tune in next month for #21 on the list as we countdown the James Bond films leading up to the release of EON Productions JAMES BOND 25.

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