Thursday, 16 August 2012

It's better than Never Say Never Again

Unlucky thirteen for Roger as Octopussy sees all the good work done by For Your Eyes Only wiped out by an ineffectual baddie and a dodgy Tarzan impression.  Still, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few Faberge eggs.

For Your Eyes Only was a stripped back reboot of the Bond franchise made necessary by the outlandish MoonrakerOctopussy sees a return to slapstick and nonsense, it's complete reversal only avoided by Jaws and that fucking pigeon being absent.  The circus involved is more than just a setting.  At the heart of Octopussy is a reasonably good story, a renegade Russian general wants to storm Europe with the aid of a nuclear accident.  Unfortunately, the story is a Christmas tree and the writers and producers just kept adding tacky baubles and bits of tinsel.

Octopussy doesn't actually start of all that bad.  Disregarding the pre credit sequence which really is a load of Toro the film proper begins with 009.  Oh, yes, another '00'.  He doesn't get to do much as he's dispensed with the Ferrero Rocher and ruined the ambassador's patio doors before a cunning deployment of a Faberge egg.  A fake Faberge egg as we soon find out.  The fake egg seems to be of more concern to M and (bloody Hell, yet again) the Minister of Defence, than 009's demise so Bond is sent to Sotheby's to find out what's going on.  Meanwhile General Orlov is having a right ding dong with General Gogol.  He only wins as he seems to be in charge of a revolving table.  A Pyrrhic victory as his comrades basically tell him to shut up.  Watching Steven Berkoff sulk is brilliant.

I will defeat Bond with smarm
Back at Sotheby's Bond deploys some poor sleight of hand and raises his eyebrows higher than the auction bids.  The auction is eventually won by mysterious Afghan Kamal Khan.  Naturally this is Bond's cue for a plane ride.  Destination India this time.  We now see Khan in his natural habitat.  A massive nod to Goldfinger sees Khan fleece a Fawlty Towers-esque major at the backgammon table.  Bond intervenes and takes a ridiculous pile of cash of Khan.  Trousering enough bank notes to make Zimbabwe's inflation rate look minuscule Bond annoys Khan's henchman and goes on a tuk-tuk ride downtown.  Now it's time for a random chase following in the footsteps of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.  Villains are everywhere and pour out of the crowd to chase Bond across hot coals and a bed of nails.  It's all very tiresome, especially when they needn't have bothered.  To get anything out of Moore's 70s/80s Bond all you have to do is appeal to Little Roger.  Khan's interestingly accented associate Magda has a turn between the sheets and recovers Khan's treasure before falling off the balcony.  The only intriguing part of Magda is her tattoo.  Her tattoo loses all mystery when we later hear of the women-only island.

Things are getting muddled.  We now have a bonkers Russian general passing on jewels to Khan to forge who then uses Octopussy to smuggle them around.  Octopussy has a squad of fearless fighting women but owns a circus.  She's got the hump with James Bond.  But how does any of this help Orlov make his tank divisions go east to west?  What's the point of Octopussy other than to get Bond and Andrea Anders in the same room again?  And who the bloody Hell is Rita Coolidge?

Octopussy is a mess of a film wrapped up in a game of 'That's not Roger' as myriad stunt doubles hurtle around the jungle and hold onto planes.  Real Roger pops up ebery now and then to tell a tiger to 'sit' (I know) or bugger up the planting of a listening device.  Khan smarms his way through scenes rather than offering any menace and Q is unleashed into the Subcontinent only to hold on to a native ally as he expires and fly a hot air balloon.  None of it makes any sense or makes you care about anything.  You could see why Moore really wanted to call it a day before the cameras rolled.

 Somehow we establish that Orlov has planted a nuclear bomb in Octopussy's circus and is in the process of double crossing Khan and Octopussy by running off with the valuables.  For a bloke Hell bent on world domination he is very involved in petty theft.  The Western world's hopes lie with Bond, so what does he do?  He gets on a train.  No good can come of this and, true enough, a fight with a spot welding twin kicks off.  At least Bond got out of the gorilla suit.  By now Orlov is dead, his character completely redundant and yet his bomb still counts down.  Berkoff was completely wasted as Orlov was relegated to the sidelines.  The film would have benefited from him taking over from Khan as the main villain of the piece.

What do you mean this bomb has no Waldorfs?
I'm serious
Anyway, about that bomb.  It's in the big top of course but Bond is stuck outside a phonebox in a stereotypical German town.  Bratwurst flies as he steals a car and makes his way to the US Air Force base where the circus is performing.  Whilst being hunted by base security Bond manages to apply perfect clown make up and head inside.  Not a smudge of the chalk face as Roger heads towards the base commander.  The base commander has relented on his search for a Waldorf salad and is lapping up the circus shenanigans.  You can almost see the bomb timer counting down as eventually Bond convinces people he's not part of the circus.  With predictable ease the bomb is disarmed with seconds to go.  Europe is saved!
How Roger's clown make up should have looked
Alas, a debrief on the biggest crisis since Cuba has to wait as Bond and Octopussy return to India for a dust up with Khan.  Invoking the same light aircraft which featured at the beginning of Moonraker Bond is up over the mountains.  This whole sequence only serves as a dry run for the end of The Living Daylights as Khan gets his comeuppance leaving Bond to convalesce on board Octopussy's private yacht.

Apart from the fact that Octopussy is a turgid lump in the Bond canon it's notable for one reason.  It was produced at the same time as, and went up against, Never Say Never Again and the return of Connery. It's good that Octopussy pulled in more dollars than Never... and hopefully now that MGM have the rights to Never... we'll never see it again.

Octopussy jumped up and down on For Your Eyes Only's goodwill and was a step too far for dear old Roger.  It should have been an omen that most of the crew had Delhi belly on location.  There's one more to come from Roger.  Hopefully he'll go out with a bang rather than a whimper.

James Bond will return and this time he'll be accompanied by another Avenger.

No, not one of those Avengers