Friday, November 14, 2014
(June 1983, U.S.)
You know, looking back on the Summer of 1983, it's really a wonder that any other films even had a reasonable shot of competing with RETURN OF THE JEDI at the box office. I mean, there were some solid stinkers like SUPERMAN III and STAYING ALIVE (the sequel to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER). On the other hand, others like WARGAMES, FLASHDANCE and TRADING PLACE did some real respectable performance with fans and critics. In a way, the thriteenth James Bond film of OCTOPUSSY seemed to arrive as no more than an on-schedule release, as James Bond films had become an expectation every two years during the summer blockbuster season ever since THE SPY WHO LOVED ME in 1977.
Before getting into this discussion of OCTOPUSSY, you might want to take a moment to backtrack yourself and review my post for THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) in which I specifically discuss "the John Glen period of James Bond films" and how they specifically represented the decade of the 1980s, in general. Having done that, the relevance of OCTOPUSSY and it's story during an era when the Cold War period of the Ronald Reagan years was still in full force becomes clear. Despite being made during a period when director John Glen's Bond films could be accused of achieving their ultimate goal of cheesiness, OCTOPUSSYis still rather a very serious Cold War story, perhaps the most direct take on what was considered present day political paranoias since FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE in 1963. From the moment the film opens in East Berlin (back when it still existed before the wall came down twenty-five years ago in 1989) and an MI6 agent (dressed as a circus clown) is assassinated, the stage is set for what will appear as nothing more than a jewelry smuggling operation and inevitably lead to a threat by the Soviet Union (back when it still existed before...well, you know) that could ultimately lead to nuclear war. Thus, we're taken to exotic India where the ladies are enticing as ever for Roger Moore's 007 and the dangers are just as attractive. Like many other Bond films, the "super villain", or the criminal with an odd sense of strength and power, i.e. Oddjob and Jaws, is present in a very large Indian man wearing a turban who persistently stares at those he considers a threat and can easily crush a pair of loaded backgammon dice with his bare fist. As a classic Bond villain, it's very likely that the character of Kamal Khan (played by Louis Jordan) will not be remembered as anything particularly special. Compared to the likes of Dr. No, Goldfinger, Blofeld, Scaramanga (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN) and even Drax (MOONRAKER), Jordan falls very short of achieving any real sense of threat or menace, despite his evil intentions of mass murder through the use of a bomb in a circus tent that would kill thousands of innocent people. Not to say that Kamal Khan is not just as suave and charming as many other Bond villains, it's just that...how can I put this without appearing too crass...the man is a pussy(there, I said it!)! But while I consider that there's always room for the good side of negativity, I do consider Khan a somewhat improvement over other villains like Aristotle Kristatos (FOR YOUR EYES ONLY), Renard (THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) and Gustav Graves (DIE ANOTHER DAY). As for the Bond girl, Maud Adams is just fine as Octopussy herself. Fine; no better and no worse than some others.
(anyway, enough of comparing apples with oranges and Coke with Pepsi! I think you get my point and perhaps many Bond aficionados out there will agree with me.)
As a Bond film of action and suspense, OCTOPUSSYdelivers as well as many others prior to and following it. John Glen may have permitted too much cheesiness in his films, but the man knew how to deliver some solid action also. For this film, the opening as well as the final climax both offer some wild stunts in the air and conclude with the classic explosion that our hero always manages to survive. Unfortunately, I have to deduct some serious points for that silly jungle manhunt sequence (taken right off of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME) that include Bond getting a ferocious tiger to "sit" at his command and that ridiculous Tarzan yell (oh, brother!). However, despite the Bond balance sheet of what works and what doesn't, it's important to remember that in a world of Bond films that occasionally sacrifice viable story for cheap thrills, OCTOPUSSY succeeds in staying (somewhat) true to a period of political history that still caused Americans to fear the bomb and the horrible repercussions of the nuclear threat. Of course, when it's done in the style of James Bond, it's all still a whole load of fun. And I've said before, Roger Moore Bond films may not have been as popular as Sean Connery's or Daniel Craig's, but they were, in my humble Bond opinion, the most fun!
Now, one final comment, actually question, that I need to offer. Don't you all think it's time we had another Bond girl with the word "pussy" in her name? First we had Pussy Galore in GOLDFINGER and then Octopussy herself. Don't you all think the trilogy of "pussy" Bond girls should finally be completed? I'm sure it would make Daniel Craig very happy!
What do you think, Richard K.?
Favorite line or dialogue:
General Orlov: "Who are you?"
James Bond: "I'm British Secret Service."
Orlov: "You should be more concerned about getting out of here alive."
Bond: "I am more concerned about an atomic bomb exploding on a US Air Force base in West Germany! You surely can't be inviting a nuclear war? What happens when the U.S. retaliates?"
Orlov: "Against whom?
Bond: "My God...of course! Our early-warning system will rule out the bomb having come from Russia or anywhere else. Everyone will assume incorrectly that it was a American bomb triggered accidentally."
Orlov: "Yes, that would be the most plausible explanation."
Bond: "Europe and NATO will then insist on full nuclear disarmament and leaving every border undefended for you and the Warsaw Pact to walk across at will! And I suppose it doesn't matter a damn to you that thousands of innocent people will be killed in this little "accident" of yours!?"
Orlov: "Better than letting a handful of old men in Moscow bargain away our advantage in disarmament talks!"