Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Film Review: Octopussy


Octopussy
  • Publisher: MGM / United Artists
  • Studio Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: John Glen
  • Producer: Albert R. Broccoli
  • Writers: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson, George MacDonald Frasier
  • Release: 6 June 1983 (UK), 10 June 1983 (USA)


The Girls: Octopussy (Maud Adams), jewelry smuggler, businesswoman, and leader of an all-female cult.  Her backstory, detailing how she got into the smuggling business and what she's doing with an all-female cult of minions, is dumped in one big load of easily-forgettable exposition but is otherwise inconsequential.  Fun Fact: the movie's title comes from her pet name given to her by her father, and from her young pet octopus, so don't get any ideas.  4 out of 5.  Magda (Kristina Wayborn), a shared associate of Octopussy and Kamal.  Due to her prominence in the first act of the film, it's easy to mistake her as the leading lady.  3 out of 5.

Other Allies: Vijay (Vijay Amritraj), Bond's contact from MI6's Indian branch.  Sliced up by Gobinda's hit squad.  Fun Fact: As Mr. Amritraj is a professional tennis player in real life, he uses a tennis racket as a weapon during the motor-trike chase early in the film.  4 out of 5.  Robert Brown makes his debut as the new M, and in many ways extends the persona of the late Bernard Lee's portrayal instead of making his own character.  Moneypenny also gets a new assistant, Penelope Smallbone (Michaela Clavell), but although Moneypenny's actress did get replaced a few years afterwards, Smallbone was not used for the role; in fact, she was never mentioned again.

The Villains: Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), exiled Afghan prince.  Dies in a plane crash.  A lot like Hugo Drax from Moonraker; bonus points for cheating at backgammon, like how the book's incarnation of Drax cheated at bridge.  4 out of 5.  General Orlov (Steven Berkoff), a Soviet Army general.  Shot by guards at the East-West German border.  A true madman, in both actions and acting.  5 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), Kamal's Indian bodyguard.  Knocked off a plane by Bond.  Another strongman type, but he does speak every once in a while, notably in the ending plane scene, where even he questions his boss's orders to go outside and dislodge 007 from the fuselage.  4 out of 5.  Mischa & Grischka (David & Anthony Meyer), twin knife-throwers and assassins.  Mischa is struck on the head and Grischka has a knife thrown at him, both by Bond.

The Gadgets: A personal jet plane with foldable wings, used during the pre-credit act.  A fountain pen laden with acidic liquid, used to break out of imprisonment.  A fake Faberge egg outfitted with a microphone and homer.  Two watches, one with a tracker for the aforementioned homer, and one with a CCTV display.  3 out of 5.

The Locations: The pre-credits scene takes place in an unidentified location, but as it speaks Spanish, is vaguely tropical, and is heavily militarised, it is commonly assumed to be Cuba. On top of that, we have England, India, East and West Germany.

The Theme Song: "All Time High" performed by Rita Coolidge.  Reminiscent of "Nobody Does It Better" in style, lyrical themes, and the fact that they don't use their films' name as the title, but this time around there's the slightest touch of a country flavour.  And coincidentally, this may be the most boring James Bond theme of all time.  "All time low" is more like it.  1 out of 5.  Fun Fact: To identify himself to 007 in an early scene, Vijay plays a few notes from the James Bond theme.  Do you hear that?  That's the sound of the fourth wall under attack.

The Opening Credits: Uses smoke and laser-light motifs.  Similar in execution to the Moonraker opening credits, but a tad more vivid and better-produced.  3 out of 5.

The Novel: Ian Fleming's last James Bond book was a short story collection published in 1966 after his death, entitled "Octopussy and the Living Daylights".  Of the four stories, "Octopussy" was used as a background for the film's title character, and "The Property of a Lady" (added in a 1967 reprint) was adapted for the auction scene.

The Plot: Our film opens in what is supposedly Cuba, where 007 goes incognito to blow up a military installation.  He gets found out, but breaks away from his escort, takes off in a personal airplane, and lets an enemy missile do the work for him.  Cue opening credits.  We return to East Berlin, where agent 009, disguised as a clown, is on the run from two knife-throwing KGB agents.  He survives just long enough to deliver a Faberge egg to the British embassy.  Back in London, the new M tells Bond that the egg sent by 009 was a fake, and the real one is being auctioned off later that day.  At the auction, he identifies the seller, ex-Afghan prince Kamal Khan, who buys it back for half a million pounds.  Bond has him trailed, and follows him to New Delhi, where he meets his contact Vijay.  Meanwhile in Moscow, the Soviet General Orlov tries to push his plan for a military conquest of Western Europe, which is shot down by Gogol and not-Leonid Brezhnev, whilst managing a Russian artifact forgery operation.

At his hotel, Bond meets Kamal face-to-face and fleeces him at Backgammon.  He and Vijay end up being chased by Gobinda, Kamal's bodyguard, but make it to MI6's branch HQ.  Outfitted with new gadgets, he returns to his hotel for a nightcap with Magda, whom he spotted with Kamal at the auction, but it ends with him being knocked out and imprisoned in Kamal's palace.  Come nightfall, he breaks out and picks up on Kamal and Orlov's plot to smuggle Russian jewelry into the West.  He escapes his captors during a hunting party the next day.  A free man once again, he infiltrates the palace of Octopussy, a smuggler hired by Kamal, chats it up with the lady, spends the night in her arms, and survives a hit squad which just claimed the life of Vijay.

007's next target is Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) in East Germany, where Octopussy's circus is on tour.  He sneaks on board their train, where Kamal and Gobinda are hiding the jewels.  But then Orlov comes along, and replaces the treasures with a nuclear bomb, to be detonated at the circus's next stop: a US airbase in Feldstadt, West Germany.  Orlov's hopes are that NATO will take it not as an attack, but an accidental detonation, inspiring the West to disarm their nuclear arsenals and enabling the Warsaw Pact bloc to invade through conventional warfare.  Bond fends off danger on the train, but falls off mid-way.  Meanwhile, Gogol is on the scene, discovers the jewelry, and has Orlov gunned down at the West German border.

Back to Bond, who hitchhikes his way to the airbase.  With only a few minutes left on the countdown, he finds Octopussy, who doesn't know that the jewelry was switched out for the bomb.  He manages to convince her with a treasure he took after the swap, and together they disarm the bomb.  Back in India, Octopussy's troupe invades Kamal's palace and she gives him a piece of her mind, but he abducts her.  Bond drops in and follows them to a small airplane, where he knocks Gobinda off the fuselage and disables the fuel lines - all in mid-flight - forcing the plane to crash and kill Kamal.  All said and done, Bond and Octopussy are finally alone and recovering from their injuries... or not, nudge nudge.  You are now free to turn off your TV.

Out of the James Bond films, this one certainly has the most complex plot, as there are two separate villains working together for individual goals.  As such, during my earlier, less-experienced days, I used to consider this the worst Bond movie of the bunch.  These days, I wouldn't nearly go as far, although the slapstick moments which have unfortunately become a trademark of the Roger Moore era are still present in full force.  But apart from that, this is another one of those films where you learn a little more about the plot every time you watch it.  4 out of 5.

The Call: 60% (C-)

IchigoRyu will return in
Never Say Never Again

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