Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Double Oh...13: Octopussy (1983)

d. John Glen


Octopussy preamble: Well... ugh?  This was the first James Bond film, I'm pretty sure, to be made into a video game.  I certainly remember the advertisements for the video game prominently displayed in comic books of the time.  Octopussy, and it's risque-sounding title, has been embedded in the public consciousness since the film debuted, and generally referred to in a derogatory way, as if to say it's a franchise low and the height of ridiculousness in Bond (particularly in Roger Moore's oeuvre, which has no shortage of ridiculousness) and that's not far off.  It came out in competition with Never Say Never Again and even though it's not official, I think I'd prefer to see the latter.

Villains: Ugh, here we go
- Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) is an Afghan prince in exile.  He's got gobs of money, a thirst for competition (gabmling) and is a renowned sportsman (of the hunting kind, not ball-playing).  You can bet that, at one point, he hunts Bond for sport, on elephant-back no less.
- General Orlov is renegade in the Soviet military.  He has grand plans on how Russia can dominate much of Europe, bringing it's filthy communist and socialist practices across half the globe.  Of course, the coalition of communism seemed to think these tactics would be inviting major retaliation from the US, so they shoot it down.  Orlov has other plans, funding his own communist revolution by selling off fakes of many of Russias treasures, using a traveling circus to aide in his smuggling and terrrorism.  He has a good plan conceptually, but exceptionally convoluted in the execution.
- Turban guy, Gobinda.  He's a mammoth of a man.  Not as freakish as Jaws, but very brawny.  Like Jaws, though he's exceptionally tough and strong (though not superhumanly so).
- Sawblade guy ("Thug with Yo-yo"), he's not even given a proper name, but he has this really funky (and as far fetched as Oddjob's bowler) yo-yo that's a giant saw blade.  I serious doubt it would do any real damage in real life (though it would probably not feel nice if you got hit with it).
- Mishka und Grishka are the carnie knife twins.  They're a throwing act who have expert skills with knives.  They're kind of small, and quite one-trick, so they're never much of a threat.

Bond Girls: There's two main Bond girls, Octopussy (Maud Adams back in her second Bond girl role) and Magda (Kristina Wayborn).  Octopussy is a smuggler (not the first, and not the last Bond will get with) in league with Khan and is also a circus owner/operator/performer.  She's wowed by the money and the Russian trinkets passing through her hands, completely unaware of the intent behind the smuggling.  She has a past with Bond, in that her father was a rogue MI-6 agent, and Bond was tasked to bring him in, but wound up killing him in the process.  Strangely, Octopussy doesn't hate him and seems to have had a long-time crush/fascination with him.  But, overall, there's very little to Octopussy, particularly for a main character, there's certainly no personality and dull chemistry between her and Moore.
   Magda is one of Octopussy's girls (the bulk of Octopussy's circus are girls), she's seen early on paired with Kamal Khan, leading one to think they're together, and there's a bit of a fake-out when Bond encouter's Octopussy's girls, thinking at first it's Kahn's harem.  When Bond makes Kahn aware that he has the original Faberge Egg, Magda allows herself to be seduced, sleeps with Bond and takes the egg (a very Bond thing to do), escaping out the balcony window in an acrobatic twirl of cloth.   One can tell later that Magda isn't all that taken with Bond.
   After learning that Khan betrayed her, all of Octopussy's girls mount a major assault on Khan's palace, doing lots of flipping and acrobatics, very little of which looks particularly threatening.  Of James Bond raid sequences this is the weakest of the lot.  Very cheap looking.  It starts off kind of empowering, watching these karate-chopping, high-kicking, cartwheeling women unconvincingly bust up some of Khan's goons, but then Octopussy gets captured and Bond and Q (!?) have to save the day in a hot air balloon (what?).  So much for empowerment.

Credits/Theme: Rita Coolidge sings "All Time High" over some of the cheesiest opening credits of the series.  I don't know what this era of Bond's obsession with trampolines is, but how many is this in a row now where the silhouettes are bouncing into the air?  The women are out of silhouettes in this one frequently, leading to some blatant nipple exposure (which I guess is why it's not on youtube?).  Somehow taking the women out of silhouette greatly reduces the sexiness and ups the cheese factor, mostly by having them smile and react to the lazers tracing across their bodies.  The lazers were perhaps at the time very advanced, but they look really corny now.
As for "All Time High", I don't hate it, but it's rather bland.

Bond: In the cold open, Bond once again fails at his infiltration.  I'm sensing a pattern here, that Bond doesn't really care about having or maintaining a cover.  Bond shows off some slight-of-hand capabilities, as he swaps out the recovered fake Faberge egg (he also shows off his expert eye, as he spits off his knowledge of Russian dynasty heirlooms, and spies the egg is a fake) for the real one during the auction (it shocked me that the auctioneers would allow them to handle the merchandise).  Bond's letching seems really gross in this one as he still thinks he's quite the Lothario.  I imagine the younger women of Octopussy's gang find him kind of unsettling.  At one point Octopussy offers James a job with her, but he affirms that he's a company man.

Movie: This is really one of the worst of the lot.  In a fruitless bid to try and hone in on Indiana Jones territory, Bond goes to India, fights on top of trains, eats a sheep's face, and searches for treasure (at least initially). It's overly convoluted in a thoroughly unpleasant way, to the point that one doesn't really care at all about the intricacies of its story.  The script lays the double-entendres on thick and sloppy, they're overall not very creative and Moore delivers most of them with an eye roll.  It's shocking how director John Glen can come off of one of the smartest of the Bond films and go right to the dumbest.  The circus/carnival motif is something that has appeared a few times throughout the Bond films, I wonder what that association is all about.  There have been a lot of painful, groan-inducing moments in Moore's Bond repertoire, but I think the swinging on the vines with the Tarzan jungle call is about as bad as they get.  That Bond also wastes precious minutes applying a clown costume and clown make-up then must stumble through a circus crowd seems more stupid than inventive.  Surely Bond, number one secret agent guy, can think of a better way to get into a circus tent than floppy shoes, especially since, as we've established, he's the goddamn worst at infiltrating. 

Q-gadgets: there's a mini jet plane hiding in a horse trailer that ejects out of the back end of a horse. (Blue screening in the flying sequence is some of the best in the series but then some of the worst later on).  In Q's lair, there's some Indian-themed apparatus, like a killer door, and a climbing rope that comes out of a snake charming basket.
Bond is given a fountain pen that contains a bug & receiver & metal dissolving acid in a pen
In very progressive thinking, Bond's wristwatch has LCD color TV in it
Bond infiltrates Khan's palace via a crocodile-shaped submersible (and later appears to be eaten by it when he escapes).

Classification (out of 01.0): 00.2 (it really is one of, if not the worst Bond movie.  The gauntlet has been thrown down, Die Another Day)