OCTOPUSSY

Poffy The Cucumber

Eight times the vagina.

James Bond was this close to being James Brolin.

After five films as Bond, Roger Moore was ready to quit, he himself feeling that his age was becoming an untenable factor in the action-packed life of his playboy spy. After Moore’s previous film, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, Albert Broccoli’s EON Productions went hunting for another Bond – and found one! Mr. Streisand.

But suddenly – Connery!

Sean Connery was contracted to do a Bond film outside the auspices of EON, another filmic adaptation of THUNDERBALL called NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. So at the last moment, the 55-year-old Moore was cajoled into signing back on as Bond, probably saying he’d never say never again. And OCTOPUSSY, the 13th Bond film, becomes the 6th Bond film for Moore (from Ian Fleming’s 1966 short story collection, Octopussy And The Living Daylights). The film’s slogan would be “Nobody does him better,” a sly wink to this movie’s competition with the original Bond, and a callback to Carly Simon’s nostalgic song.

Bond investigates a smuggling ring in India and the screenplay somehow gets tangled up in geopolitical espionage between Russia and America. Plot within plots, but I can’t honestly say it’s an elegant or smart screenplay. Regular Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum just lets the story tumble into itself, keeping Bond in action scenes that occasionally come somewhere near the plot, while two other writers flank him (George MacDonald Fraser and Michael G. Wilson), whom I presume were there to keep him from straying too far into Stupid; I imagine them sitting cross-armed on either side of Maibaum while he typed away timidly. And get a load of the canniness of Wilson: he co-writes OCTOPUSSY, and while no one was looking, starting with MOONRAKER, he squirmed his way into an executive producer position on every single James Bond movie made by EON Productions, all the way up to 2020’s NO TIME TO DIE at time of writing!

The opening mini-plane scene is an exciting little vignette, but I can’t figure why it even exists. To clarify, many Bond movies open with a stunt-driven vignette unrelated to the movie’s main plot, but they usually make sense within their own little mini-plot. But in this senseless scene: Bond tries to blow up a Cuban prototype plane, fails, is captured and escorted off-base on an open flatbed truck, unrestrained in any way; escapes, flies this mini-plane back toward the base with no weapons on it. Was he banking on the Cubans to fire a heat-seeking missile at him so that he could lead it into the prototype’s hangar? Maibaum must’ve written this scene while those two goons were having lunch.

Opening titles, over a well-constructed ballad called All Time High, with insipid vocals by Rita Coolidge, undermining the song’s potential. I’m speculating the composers (John Barry and Tim Rice) and the producers crafted Coolidge’s lackluster vocalization based on Bond’s age. Maybe they didn’t want to misrepresent the aging Bond with a powerful vocal? (Think about how Daniel Craig’s first Bond is represented, with the scalding power of Chris Cornell; or consider how Moore’s first Bond was introduced – with the crunch of McCartney’s voodoo power chords.) All Time High could have been one of the great Bond songs with the talent of Donna Summer or Gladys Knight behind it – or bring back Carly Simon! That would have been a great tie-in with the slogan!

A new M (Robert Brown) sends Bond on a mission to investigate a stolen Faberge Egg. It has something to do with national security because Agent 009 was killed with the Egg.

The trail leads to India, where we see the Taj Mahal immediately (kinda like how you can see the Eiffel Tower no matter where you stand in France). With Egg as McGuffin (Egg McMuffin?), Bond tails art dealer Kamal Khan (played by French actor Louis Jourdan, and I honestly can’t tell whether he’s playing an Indian badly with that accent, or whether they’ve “darkened” his skin to make him look Indian.) I guess he thinks pronouncing it “Mr. Bund,” is a good stab at a Hindi accent.

Bond makes contact with the MI6 Agent in India, Vijay (played by real life tennis star Vijay Amritraj in his first movie role). Disguised as a snake charmer, to get Bond’s attention, Vijay plays the Bond Theme. A little meta; I mean, that’s the theme for the movie series, not Bond’s life! How did Bond recognize it? Has he seen those Sean Connery movies where he plays a spy?

Khan’s men, led by Gobinda (the imposing Kabir Bedi), try to kill Bond immediately, just for an action sequence, making use of all the local color in the Indian market – a bed of nails, a sword swallower, hot coal walkers – climaxing in a mini-cab chase through crowded streets. Vijay uses a tennis racket (yeh, right?) to ward off assailants, and every time he hits someone with it, even with glancing blows, we hear the sweet-spot tennis ball foley. This is the first bit of comedic idiocy that’s meant to be a laff-riot.

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is the real comedic punch of this movie, not just doing his usual cameo as weapons expert but participating as a field agent throughout the movie, bringing his cantankerous disdain to Bond’s adolescent behavior, telling Vijay, “Don’t let him teach you any of his bad habits!” It’s almost like he’s writing these sarcastic jabs himself. Q even gets to rescue a bevy of women – and reap the rewards – the old dog!

Now compare Q growing into his role (with Llewelyn at the advanced age of 69), while Moneypenny (56-year-old Lois Maxwell) was being phased out, her striking young assistant, Penelope Smallbone, catching Bond’s eye. Bond makes a few age-ist innuendos, and Maxwell can’t seem to hide her distaste, either onscreen or in interviews, for this obvious ploy to overhaul her auntiness. I’m surprised Maxwell lasted this long! She looked like Bond’s aunty in her very first appearance in DR. NO. What can I say? That’s how evolution plays men and women: past breeding age, women lose their attractiveness, while men can breed into their 60s and 70s, so retain their good looks and attraction. Am I wrong? One word: Sean Fucking Connery.

The picture says it all: Lois Maxwell was none too happy that a pretty new face was being primed to replace her. She’s so mad she’s turning from an aunt into an uncle.

And OCTOPUSSY seems intent on winnowing out the unattractive; it definitely holds the Bond record for the most beautiful women in the supporting cast – the female Octopussy cult. Eight times the pussy content of other Bond films. When they’re not acting as a strike force or rowing team, they’re all lounging around a pool scantily-clad.

And it’s India, so of course, there are mostly white women.

The body most beautiful belongs to flame-haired Kristina Wayborn as Magda, Khan’s main woman, whom Bond cannot seduce, due to her loyalty to Khan – and then she sleeps with him when Khan tells her to steal back the Egg from Bond, for which Khan spent 500,000 rupees at an auction (about $4.75 in US dollars). I’m thinking there are other ways to steal an Egg, but you do you, gurl. Magda sports a tiny blue-ringed octopus tattoo, telling Bond, “That’s my octopussy.” What’s that supposed to mean? Well, when she escapes off the balcony, unraveling her sari to reveal a shockingly slim torso you envision wrapping your palms around, we understand: it means she can take eight guys at once— okay, come on! Surely the producers explored every schoolboy innuendo that a movie named OCTOPUSSY would invoke – and then named it OCTOPUSSY anyway. I’m probably the 10-millionth schoolboy to think these thoughts. How did they get past the censors anyway, who are more dirty-minded than we are? Were we being primed all along, with Honey Ryder, Plenty O’Toole, Dr. Goodhead and Pussy Galore?

Lording over the cult as Octopussy herself is Melania Trump lookalike Maud Adams, in her second appearance as a Bond Girl; she was Scaramanga’s kept woman in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN 1973 – now, she’s the Boss. She brings a strong demeanor to differentiate from her past subjugation, but an overall tepid acting performance that reeks of the screenwriter not knowing how to impart information except through clunky exposition dialogue.

When Bond confronts Octopussy (by simply walking into her room on a heavily-guarded Women-Only island), she reveals she is grateful to Bond for allowing her criminal father an honorable way out – suicide – rather than facing prison. It’s a story out of nowhere, about a character we’ve just learned about, applied to elicit sympathy for this female felon. It was actually the original plot of the book, which Maibaum, as usual, paid no attention to, using the book’s plot as backstory simply to get Octopussy in bed with Bond.

As she feeds her pet octopus, she tells Bond her father loved octopi and his pet name for her was Octopussy. Hon, that doesn’t explain anything, matter of fact, it raises even more questions! Either your dad was naïve in the interactions of men and women, or he was banging you– oh, I get it now! Here’s the thread: Maud Adams looks like Melania, and Dumbo Donald has sex with his daughter. Got it! They knew back then.

Octo strolls with Bond trying to recruit him for her organization, then gets mad when he declines. Bond grabs her and kisses her in anger – it’s all very rapey and molesty but she seems to enjoy it after the first NoMeansNo. I think because it reminds her of her father.

Khan intrudes, hardly surprised to find Bond in Octo’s chambers, and calling her “Otte-PIS-sy” in that excellent Hindi accent, asking her permission to kill Bond (“–dude, I’m right here!”). Khan is the second man she says No to that night.

In all Bond movies, the villains tell their henchmen, “Kill Bond!” only to have the henchies bring Bond back alive to the villain, for more talking not shooting. Well, Octo specifically tells Khan ‘Do NOT kill Bond!’ and then what does he do? Actively tries to kill Bond, including hiring a guy with the oomph Bond gimmick of a yo-yo buzzsaw, where he would drop this saw on his targets from a higher balcony – meaning that he’s relying on the good graces of his victims to have higher balconies when he comes to kill them.

Why are you going to all this trouble to contravene your boss’s orders?

The most extravagant murder attempt is surely Khan and Gobinda on elephants hunting Bond. As sad as it is to see these magnificent beasts enslaved to carry fools around, it IS cool to see them tracking through the jungle; adds a unique flavor to this Bond adventure. A tiger puppet attacks Bond, intercut with a real tiger. Bond gives it the “Sit-T!” command (a piss-take on Barbara Woodhouse’s famous dog-training methodology). The other idiocy that’s meant to be a laff-riot is here, as Bond swings through the trees emitting a Ron Ely Tarzan yell. Those other two writers musta been on break again.


Like whiplash, we are in Berlin. Walter Gotell reprises his role as Russian General Gogol, at odds with conquest-crazy General Orlov (the ice-savage Steven Berkoff, whose forehead lump would become famous in this decade for appearing in BEVERLY HILLS COP and RAMBO II back to back after this film).

Orlov and Khan are smuggling jewels via Octopussy’s circus (because Octopussy owns a traveling circus out of nowhere for this third act). And then Orlov plants a bomb, which Bond deduces is set to blow up an American army base in Berlin, triggering worldwide disarmament because when it is found the bomb was not an attack via a missile, the world would attribute it to a malfunction and disarm globally, thereby allowing Orlov to march across the borders of any country and conquer them…

Which 9-year-old wrote this again? You’d have to be under drinking age to think that the world would disarm after an unidentified bomb explodes. Just like the world stopped running oil pipelines after that one oil spill in 1974, right?

Gary Oldman, method acting as Gary Oldman and Gary Oldman.

There are twin knife-throwers, Mishka and Grishka (David and Tony Meyer), who look oddly like young Gary Oldman, who are the equivalent of talking-not-shooting with knives, by throwing knives to pin Bond’s sleeves to the wall, instead of just aiming for his heart, lungs and neck from the get-go.

In the spirit of the circus act that Bond was becoming, he gets to disguise himself inside a crocodile suit, inside a gorilla suit and as a clown. And then drive a Merc along train tracks in pursuit of the train that Octopussy rides, now as a B-character in her own movie, because the Russian bomb plot has taken up all the air in the vagina.

Hanging onto the outside of the train, Bond taps on Octopussy’s window, while she’s getting a nude massage. Khan walks in, as unconcerned as you please, sees someone at the window and shoots. Octopussy wraps herself in a sheet, asking, “Did you see who it was?” instead of, “Ever heard of KNOCKING, pervert? I was getting a massage!”— Oh sorry, I keep forgetting: Melania is used to Dumbo Donald just barging in on naked women.

Bond defuses the bomb – like Sean couldn’t in GOLDFINGER. They learned from Bond’s mistakes of the past, not to make him look like a bitch.

Bond leaps onto the side of Khan’s plane! Tom Cruise, eat your heart out! Granted, that’s not Roger Moore riding the outside of this twin-prop plane, but that’s definitely the stuntman in all these death-defying exterior practical shots. Coincidentally, and ironically, the stuntguy looks like Tom Cruise!

Director John Glen is responsible for OCTOPUSSY’s overall lack of luster; he is responsible for calling a wrap to scenes where he definitely hasn’t captured the best performances. Yes, I know – budget and filmstock and light and unions, etc. but when a celebrated actor like Louie Jourdan is crashing a plane and his last yell, “Nooo!” doesn’t sound like a man going to his death, but rather, a man realizing his gym membership is cancelled, there’s a systemic problem, starting and ending with the person responsible for getting the shots and drawing out the best from his actors. You could get away with the flamboyant stunts and the Tarzan yells and the sexism and quipping if the film itself was not a patchwork of uneven performances glued together with plotholes.

It became known as The Battle of The Bonds. OCTOPUSSY out-grossed NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN at the box office. Proving one thing: You can’t lose with eight times the pussy.

END

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OCTOPUSSY (Jun 1983) | PG
JAMES BOND #13.
Director: John Glen.
Writers: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson, Ian Fleming.
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Tom Pevsner, Michael G. Wilson.
Music: John Barry.
Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, David Meyer, Tony Meyer, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, Michaela Clavell, Walter Gotell, Vijay Amritraj, Albert Moses, Geoffrey Keen, Douglas Wilmer.
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Word Count: 2,530      No. 1,546
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“All Time High” ♦ Rita Coolidge (opening titles)
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