Octopussy (1983) – A Name to Remember

Now here is a Bond movie which will be remembered more for its name rather than than anything else, maybe its story or even for its Bond. Octopussy was James Bond’s 13th adventure which took him to India, the only time Bond ever went there and it showcased the country for all that is wrong. Roger Moore had fun, but the viewers surely did not save for the extravagant locales and sets. Also, there was no Bond Car.

JAMES BONDROGER MOORE (Sixth appearance)

Directed ByJohn Glen Produced byAlbert R. Broccoli
Screenplay byGeorge M FraserMichael G. Wilson Based On: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Theme Song performed byRita Coolidge
Release date: 6 June 1983 Running Time: 2 hours 13 minutes
Bond Series: 13/23 Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Budget: $27.5 million Gross Revenue: $187.5 million
Preceded by: For Your Eyes Only (1983) Succeeded by: A View To Kill (1985)


BOND GIRLS

MAUD ADAMS as OCTOPUSSY SMYTHE – Adams’ second performance as a Bond Girl after her stint in “The Man With The Golden Gun” and with this one she has gone down as one of the best Bond Girls ever.

KRISTINA WAYBORN as MAGDA

MI6 and OTHER ALLIES

M (Robert Brown) – The new M’s first movie

Q (Desmond Lewellyn) – Actively Participates

Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell)

Vijay (Vijay Amritraj) – The Tennis star is Bond’s Indian liaison

Sadruddin (Edward Moses) – MI6’s India Station Head

ANTAGONISTS

VILLAIN – Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan)

An exiled Afghan prince and billionaire, Khan lives in a sprawling palace in Udaipur, India, dealing mainly in drugs and runs smuggling operations with his associate, the corrupt Soviet general Orlov. He will go to any end and team up with anyone to make money, least bothered of its effects and will remove anyone without hesitation who stands in his path. He has a trusted henchman in Gobinda and his army of thugs trained in several unconventional weapons. He is seen taking orders only from Octopussy.

VILLAIN – General Orlov (Steven Berkoff)

A senior general in the USSR army. He is a power hungry, corrupt, greedy bigot who steals Soviet artifacts replacing them with fakes and sells them in the West through Octopussy’s traveling circus. A war monger, his great ambition is to conquer Europe by any means possible to extend Soviet supremacy throughout the World. Though heading a Communist army, he loves Western luxuries, like Mercedes Benz cars and good Whisky. Orlov also doesn’t take rejection lightly.

Associates – Octopussy (Maud Adams)

Octopussy is an incredibly beautiful woman with tall cheekbones, blonde hair and blue eyes. She owns her own travelling circus where Magda is a ringleader and heads the Octopussy cult exclusively for women, whose members are performers in the circus. She is extremely wealthy and lives on an extremely luxurious floating palace on a lake near Udaipur in India. She is also a smuggler who helps Kamal Khan and Orlov pawn their stolen wares and wields strong power over Khan. Her father was a British Army officer who studied Octopi and hence her name. It is also revealed that her father was once pursued by Bond for a theft case and committed suicide.

Henchman – Gobinda (Kabir Bedi)

Gobinda is presumably Indian and ready to do anything that Khan orders him to do. He commands a gang of thugs who are specialized in using unconventional weapons like round chainsaws, knife-discs, knives, muskets, swords etc. He is humorless, intense and cruel. The only time he falters is when Khan orders him to go out and fight Bond on the top of a flying plane, which he reluctantly obeys and leads to his death.

Villain Scheme – Orlov wants Soviet domination in Europe. He plans to achieve this by clandestinely detonating a nuclear device on a US Air Force base in West Berlin. This would be thought to be an accidental detonation of an American nuclear device within their own air base, leading to Europe pushing for Nuclear disarmament, thereby leaving the borders of the West open for Orlov to walk through. He plans to get the Nuclear device through Kamal Khan by paying for it using priceless Russian treasures including the Romanov Star. In return, Kamal Khan will be paid handsomely. Octopussy will be the carrier.

Means – A small Nuclear device, set on countdown timer and hidden in the bottom of a human cannon device used in the circus. It is primed to explode in the middle of the show, attended by several high-ranking USAF generals etc.

OCTOPUSSY 007 FACTSHEET

CARS – (No Official Bond Car) Alfa Romeo GTV6, Mercedes 250SE (Both used by Bond for chases) Rolls-Royce Phantom III (Kamal Khan)

GADGETS –  Seiko Wristwatch with radio direction finder and transmitted image receiver, Fake Faberge Egg with homing device, Pen with transmission receiver and a mixture of Hydrochloric and Nitric Acid hidden in it, Miniature concealing motorboat shaped like a crocodile.

LOCALES – London UK, Udaipur India, East Germany, Berlin West Germany, Undisclosed Latin American country.

STATISTICS – Direct Kills: 14, Vodka Martinis: 1, Captured: 1, Tight Spot Escapes: 4, Romps: 3, Chases: 5, Fights: 6

VERY PUNNY, Mr. BOND!

Kamal Khan: You seem to have this nasty habit of surviving.
James Bond: You know what they say about the fittest.

Magda: He suggests a trade. The egg for your life.
James Bond: Well, I heard the price of eggs was up, but isn’t that a little high?

James Bond: Having trouble getting it up, Q?
(When a rope climbing equipment malfunctions)

Magda: “You have an excellent memory for faces”
James Bond: “And Figures!”

MOSTLY REMEMBERED FOR

  • Exotic Indian Locales, Palaces etc.
  • The Autorickshaw Chase (watch)
  • The Train chase with Bond driving the car on train tracks
  • And of course, for the name of the movie.

STORYLINE (Caution, Spoilers!!)

In East Berlin, Agent 009 crawls into the British consulate with an almost perfect copy of a Faberge egg and dies of knife wounds. Elsewhere, the Soviet Council is in session where General Orlov proposes a plan to defeat NATO and extend Soviet borders throughout Europe using superior Soviet firepower but is put down by the council which favors disarmament. In London, M tells 007 about the 009 incident and informs him that the original of the recovered fake is being auctioned at Sotheby’s and entrusts Bond to find out what is going on. At the auction Bond manages to switch original egg with the fake he had with him and outbids Kamal Khan, forcing him to buy the (fake) egg for 500,000 Pounds. Bond follows Khan to Udaipur, India, and confronts him with the real egg. After a failed attempt at killing Bond including an epic autorickshaw chase through crowded markets, Khan has Magda seduce Bond and steal the original Egg before taking him prisoner in his Monsoon Palace. There, Bond realizes that there is more going on than just steal-and-smuggle operations when he stumbles upon Khan and General Orlov of the USSR making plans about some event in Karl-Marx Stadt, East Germany. Bond also sees them transporting precious Soviet jewels. He manages to escape and later infiltrates a mysterious island palace populated exclusively by women, where he meets Octopussy Smythe and charms her. Here, Bond learns how the smuggling ring operates, the connection between Khan and Orlov and their plan of some sort to expand Soviet borders throughout Europe. Narrowly escaping another assassination attempt, Bond leaves for Europe.

Learning that Octopussy’s Circus is performing in Karl-Marx Stadt in East Germany and then at an American Air Force base across the border in Berlin, Bond infiltrates the circus transport. He finds that a Nuclear warhead being set among circus equipment to be detonated at the base. He also finds the Soviet jewels and realizes that they were payment for the bomb. He realizes Orlov’s plan and after killing several Orlov henchmen and a lengthy train-chase, he catches up with the circus which had started performing at the USAF base. Meanwhile Orlov is shot dead by East German guards who thought he was trying to escape to the West. At the circus he convinces Octopussy to help him and disarms the warhead with only seconds to spare. Bond returns to India where with the help of Octopussy’s cult girls and Q storms Khan’s palace. Khan and Gobinda capture Octopussy and escape in a biplane. Bond throws  Gobinda off the plane after a mid-air fight and jumps to safety with Octopussy as the plane crashes, killing Khan.

OCTOPUSSY TRIVIA

  • Maud Adams’ second appearance in a James Bond movie, her role in “The Man With the Golden Gun” being the first. The two roles are unrelated.
  • Both Bond Girls are Swedish. Both Bond Girls in Maud Adams’ other movie “The Man With The Golden Gun” were also Swedish.
  • There is no connection between the movie plot and Ian Fleming’s short story “Octopussy (and the Living Daylights)” except for the reference to Octopussy’s father and the title.
  • The film’s title song “All Time High” was the first Bond title song which did not feature the name of the movie anywhere in its lyrics.
  • Robert Brown acts as ‘M’ for the first time, he was the second M of the Bond movies.
  • Q appears as an active field-participant in a Bond mission for the first time, coming out from his workshop
  • The previous movie was supposed to be Moore’s last Bond. He agreed to extend his contract at the insistence of the producers who wanted an established Bond to play in the EON production to counter the “rebel” Bond production “Never Say Never Again” featuring Sean Connery.

SHAKEN AND STIRRED (OCTOPUSSY REVIEW)

Roger Moore was 56 when Octopussy was released. He was considerably past his prime having peaked in the preceding “For your Eyes Only”. Though Moore still puts up a good show with his Bond mannerisms, the age had begun to show which is especially visible in the action scenes and his somewhat sedate performance. But the real weak point of the movie is its complicated and needlessly convoluted plot which includes smuggling, counterfeiting, the Cold War, a circus traveling through the Iron Curtain owned by a woman living in India, Nuclear disarmament, Nuclear explosions, renegade Soviet generals, exiled Afghan princes, sorority islands and what not. Add to this gaping holes in continuity and time frames and a senseless Bond-villain in Orlov. The defining factor of most Bond films is their strong and straight story line which is easy to grasp, supplementing the core element of the Bond movie – which is James Bond.

The movie starts off on a solid spy-movie-stuff note with all the glamour and other associated Bondisms but quickly takes a turn for the worse after he is captured by Khan. The plot suddenly stops to make sense and starts to confuse. I still haven’t figured out where the stash of jewels which includes Romanov’s star fits in, fakes and all, as they are meant to be payment for the Nuclear weapon but end up in Orlov’s car trunk. But in the end, Octopussy did manage to pull it off somewhat thanks to extravagant action sequences – the autorickshaw chase, the train sequence with Bond driving the Mercedes on train tracks and the final brawl where the Octopussy girls attack the palace, all the uber-extravagant settings in exotic locales, the cool Louis Jordan, Moore’s mannerisms and the scorching pace of the second half of the movie after the somewhat serene going of the first half. Vijay Amritraj did some justice to his character but the over-emphasis on his Tennis was plain silly.

The overall humor is still in place but the general 007-wit was missing. The pre-title sequence of the movie was one of the best ever, a mini-movie in itself with its own plot, spying, impersonation, witty dialogues and high speed mini-jet aerial chase. But action was never Moore’s strong point, though there was plenty in this one. What it is, is all the silliness on display in his movies, what can be called “Moore comedy”. And Octopussy is chock-a-block with them like Bond’s ridiculous “Tarzan Swings” during the equally pointless “Elephant chase” and him shooting out the globe at the end of the banister he was sliding down in Khan’s palace which both killed the suspense of the respective scenes and were laughable, yes. But in the end, these “exotic” stuff appealed to the Western audience. But the movie is still better than many other sillier ones. But the idea of an island populated exclusively by women sounds pretty cool :-)

LEGACY 

The name is the first thing that Octopussy will be remembered forCracked.com says:

“Of course as lousy as the Moore movies were at times, alls forgiven since they actually named a movie “Octopussy” during the era. If nothing else, that took some balls.”

And then for India. This was during a time when India was still not much known to the Western world except for the “oriental mysteries” of elephants, snake charmers, maharajas, palaces and beggars. Unfortunately the first part of the movie seems to concentrate only on accentuating those stereotypes as these are the only things Bond seems to come across in India, neatly packed into an autorickshaw chase first and in an “elephant safari-tiger hunt” later, all reminiscent of colonial times, again, to appeal to the nostalgia of the British audience, perhaps. Also, Kamal Khan’s cuisine suggests that all Indians eat hideous looking goat heads complete with popping eyes marinated in curry. Just some examples of cultural insensitivity, as Bond seizes the opportunity for cultural exotic tourism. But anyway, that clicked, and becomes what Octopussy is remembered for. Bond had fun in India, that is for sure.

THE VERDICT

The Good: Locales, settings and extravagance, Moore’s antics, Action Sequences, Humor.

The Bad: Convoluted and Confusing plot, Pointless characters, Plot holes, Cultural Insensitivity, Puns.

BOND-SCALE 5 Stars out of 10, 14th Best Film out of 22.

Octopussy_Poster

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  • Swaroopkaimal

    Excellent piece, as usual. Even the minutest aspects are covered and the effort is absolutely noteworthy. Would like to add couple of points here. Think this is the first film in the franchise where an M16 agent is mentioned|shown (explicitly) as getting killed. The opening sequence shows the demise here. The second time it was in “Golden Eye” where the villain is an ex-M16 guy, who gets killed subsequently. An agent (not sure whether he was from M 16) is mentioned to be killed (accidentally by Bond himself), whose lady love plans to avenge for the same, in “The Spy Who loved Me”.
    The famous chase scene where Bond escapes villains by throwing away the money into a crowd ( which he managed to win from a gambling game with Kamal Khan immediately before the run) and utters the epic one-liner, Rupaiah…..easy come, easy go! Incidentally, another Khan (Salman) in Ek Tha Tiger is seen to imitate the very same means to get his escape route. All spy logs are similar, isnt it?

    And the last scene where Bond and Octopussy are in  their room inside a manually moving boat, and the guys rowing it rhythmically say ‘in..out…in….out…’ and we hear Octopussy murmuring a  ‘Oh James’ in sheer pleasure and ecstasy.

    Thanks for this nice read. bro’…….We need more!

    Swaroop Kaimal.

    • Thank you for the comment sir! :-) Oh I actually didn’t know that case about 009 getting killed. Of course, it would not have escaped the attention of such an ardent Bond fan as yourself! Yes, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) the villain in Goldeneye was 006 and Bond’s close friend. The next post is about Goldeneye. Let me watch “The Spy Who Loved Me” today :-) I didn’t watch Ek Tha Tiger, so don’t exactly know about that…

      More will be done. I intend to feature all 22 movies and Skyfall when it comes out! :-)

      • Swaroopkaimal

        Thanks bro’. Perhaps I’d be the happiest to go through all those 22 posts. 007 is so close to heart that i’ve watched all these umpteen times (except three of them: The Lazenby starrer, In Her majesty’s Secret Service, and two of the Timothy Dalton ones, The Living Daylights and, The License to kill. Saw these three, just once. Cant actully accept and digest 007 in these guys’ appearance and mannerisms). And i have all these 22 dvds with me. My most prized collection.
        Dont know why, but every time watching a Bond movie gives me a high. Keep writing bro’….eagerly waiting for the same.

        Make us shaken and stirred!

        Swaroop. 

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