Octopussy



WHO IS JAMES BOND?
I think the only thing you need to know about James Bond is that he’s the protagonist of a movie called Octopussy.

WHAT DOES THE BAD GUY WANT? General Orlov wants to start a conventional war between the USSR and Eastern Europe. To do this, he intends to set off a nuclear bomb on an American Air Force base in West Germany. He believes the detonation of a nuclear bomb on an American Air Force base will be seen as an accident and will therefore cause, presto! nuclear disarmament. And then the USSR can invade a helpless Eastern Europe.  Can’t miss!

General Orlov is played in a Kubrickian fashion by Kubrickian actor Steven Berkoff. Which is fitting, as Orlov recalls no one so much as General Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove. And that is probably the last time you will ever see anyone use the word “Kubrickian” in a discussion of Octopussy.

Now, it turns out that Orlov is not the “A Villain” in Octopussy. That honor belongs to Kamal Khan, played by Louis Jourdan. I have told you the “B Villain”‘s plot instead of the “A Villain”‘s plot because, frankly, I can’t for the life of me figure out what the “A Villain”‘s plot is. Khan knows Orlov somehow and is connected to him via a smuggling operation (Orlov is smuggling priceless artifacts out of the USSR in order to, I think, finance his nuclear-bomb scheme. But we see in Act III that Orlov’s got both his bomb and his priceless artifacts, so what did he sell to whom and why, and what does it have to do with his bomb plot?)

Anyway, Khan is a fabulously wealthy ex-prince or something who lives in Delhi and helps Orlov smuggle his priceless artifacts out of the USSR. He does this with the assistance of Octopussy, a similarly fabulously wealthy woman who has a private island where she supports an army of beautiful young smugglers who are also circus performers. You can tell how dedicated they are to their work because they wear their circus costumes every day. Octopussy, as one might imagine, has an extremely high self image, as one must in order to carry around a name like “Octopussy.” Especially when one learns that she got this nickname from, gulp, her father. Octopussy is played by Maud Adams, who looks great since being shot dead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Um, so Octopussy is a smuggler who runs a gigantic, hugely profitable smuggling operation out of her circus.  Because you know, if you’re smuggling priceless artifacts, the last thing you want to do is attract attention to yourself, and people generally flee in terror from a circus.  (The plot begins with a circus clown being beaten and stabbed to death in the midst of a German forest, and all I could think is “Man, I’ve dreamed this a thousand times.”)

WHAT DOES JAMES BOND ACTUALLY DO TO SAVE THE WORLD?  The nicest thing I think I can say about Octopussy is that it evokes fond memories of Moonraker.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Moonraker is freaking North by Northwest compared to Octopussy.  I can’t say I really blame the screenwriters — who would bring their “a-game” to a movie called Octopussy?

For the third or fourth time, Bond is hired to check into a smuggling ring.  Why?  Because the clown we see murdered in the opening is a 00 agent, and is found clutching a stolen Faberge egg.  It is discovered that a number of stolen Russian artifacts have been showing up at auction houses and this is somehow the business of the British Secret Service.

Now then: the 00 clown is found dead in Germany, murdered by a pair of circus performers, so it’s reasonable to suspect that the 00 agent was undercover in a circus (as opposed to just happening to be dressed as a clown), and I can’t imagine that there were any other circuses in town besides Octopussy’s, and one doesn’t readily forget a circus named Octopussy’s Circus, and yet it takes James Bond, World’s Greatest Detective, over an hour to trace the bad-guy scheme to Octopussy and longer still to realize that she has a circus that is somehow central to this plot.

No, first he goes to an auction for this stolen Faberge egg, where he meets this Khan fellow, who’s buying the stolen egg, then follows this Khan fellow to Delhi, then falls into Khan’s clutches.  Only then can he escape Khan, make the connection from Khan to Octopussy, from Octopussy to Octopussy’s circus, and from Octopussy’s circus to General Orlov and his nuclear bomb plot.  Phew!

But then we’re not done!  No, after defusing the bomb and saving the world, Bond must then go after Khan, because, um, because —

— well —

because —

— because otherwise he might get away with — um —

— well, like I say, I never figured out what Khan was getting out of all this.  He’s not helping Orlov for money, he’s not helping Orlov for political gain, he’s not helping Orlov in order to spend time with Octopussy, he’s, he’s —

— well anyway.  Screenwriters take note: One villain with one goal is ideal.  One villain with two goals is weaker.  Two villains with one goal is okay, but two villains with two goals is weak.  Two villians, one with a goal and one without, weakest of all.

WOMEN?  Roger Moore is okay in my book until he starts putting the moves on the ladies; then he just screams skeeviness.  In Octopussy there is a stick-insect femme fatale and Octopussy herself.  Neither seduction is remotely believable.

HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY?  Remember how Goldfinger took time out from his evil scheme to destroy the world in order to hustle some gin rummy in Miami?  This is even less cool than that: Khan takes time out from his ill-defined scheme to do whatever the fuck he’s doing in order to hustle backgammon in Delhi.  Backgammon!  A backgammon hustler!  What’s next, shuffleboard?  And don’t get me started on the tiger hunt.

He also makes a common Bond-villain choice, one that makes no sense to me.  Once he knows Bond is onto him, he hires two competing teams of assassins to kill him.  Now, I’m no supervillain, but it seems to me you hire one team of assassins to kill a guy, and if they fail you might have a second team standing by, but why would you send both teams out at the same time?

For that matter, how many different people would a guy have to kill in a week that he has two separate teams of assassins on his payroll?

Khan also wears the classic “Dr. No” Nehru jacket, but let’s face it, Khan is no No.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Bond stumbles out of the woods, looking for a ride to the circus.  A bunch of kids in a sports car come by and slow down, waving for him to get into the car.  As he approaches, they laugh and speed off.  The image of the aging James Bond being literally left behind by a bunch of laughing teenagers is heartbreaking and the truest moment in the movie.

NOTES: To say the least, a major step backwards for James Bond after For Your Eyes Only.  It suffers from a nonsensical plot, an interminable Act II, and a motiveless villain.  It contains both a fight scene ended by a fortuitous crocodile and a thug with a circular-saw yo-yo.  The last half-hour of the movie, everything past the point where Bond is required to dress up as a clown to save the world, is just one jaw-dropping travesty after another.  The big climactic set-piece involves a team of circus performers storming the bad-guy’s fortress in their circus costumes, including a team of women in leather bikinis toting tranquilizer guns.

No wait, I almost forgot, before Bond dresses up as a clown he must dress up as a gorilla.

For some reason, the title song is not titled “Octopussy.”  Rather, Rita Coolidge sings a soft-rock number called “All Time High.”  To sing as song titled “All Time High” for a movie titled Octopussy strikes me as either the definition of hubris or the epitome of faith.

CONTEST! I invite my readers to come up with a title more childishly offensive and stupid than Octopussy. It must involve (a) a pun, (b) a Latin word for a number, and (c) a vulgar name for genitalia (male or female will do). I’ll start: Septemember. (I had another involving the word “Prime” but it was too disgusting even for this journal.)

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Comments

51 Responses to “Octopussy”
  1. “Pentagonanist” is the closest I can get in a pinch. Not a word for genitalia, but it’s got sex in it.

    • Todd says:

      The Closest I Can Get in a Pinch is a better title than Octopussy. Honestly, I was 22 when the movie came out and I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the poster, much less pay five dollars to see the damn thing. What does it say about a movie when the title is too embarrassing for a 22-year-old straight white American male?

  2. planettom says:

    I do hope you’ll review NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN in this manner, even though it’s not part of the “real” James Bond series.

    “I’ll give you a stainless steel delicatessen if you doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!”
    *PLUMMETS DOWN FACTORY SMOKESTACK*

    • Todd says:

      The “stainless steel delicatessen” scene is from For Your Eyes Only, and has provoked many bemused comments throughout the years. The line goes by so fast and is delivered so poorly that it’s impossible to figure out how it was meant. As a joke it makes no sense and it certainly doesn’t work dramatically. The only thing I can think is that it’s a private joke of Cubby Broccoli’s at the expense of his arch-enemy Kevin McClory.

      • planettom says:

        In late 1996 and early 1997, before lawsuits finally put a stop to it, McClory was trying to make yet another remake of THUNDERBALL, this time called WARHEAD 2000 A.D., with Timothy Dalton as Bond, and supposedly Sean Connery as the villain, and maybe even George Lazenby in there somewhere.

        I have to admit though, I’ve grown to appreciate NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN more over the years.

  3. black13 says:

    I’d been looking forward to your take on this, but you let me down. No word on the rape scene? (The one where Roger Moore gets at Octopussy with clear belief in his entitlement: “You’ve been in one of these before, you know it’s in my contract to have sex with anything female that walks into one of these sets.”)

    (Seriously: it never occurred to me until you started reviewing the movies that Bond seems to feel the need to rape any female character who might be uppity enough to be his equal or better.)

    And what about the toys Bond gets here? No word on the crocodile submarine he uses to sneak into Octy’s lair?

    On the other hand, I am of the firm conviction that “All Time High” was chosen as the song title because it accurately described the condition of everyone involved as they were making the movie. Does anyone have numbers on drug sales in the areas and times where and when this movie was made?

    • Todd says:

      The rape scene in Octopussy was so unconvincing that I didn’t even know that it was a rape scene. All Bond does is force a kiss on her, and she melts in his arms — seemed like fair game to me. Although maybe that look in his eyes meant “Now don’t make me force you down on the bed and almost break your arm like I did in the last movie,” which would explain a lot.

      It got tiring to list all the indignities heaped upon Bond in this movie, but the crocodile submarine was a freakin’ submersible Lotus compared to the “horse’s ass” camoflage for his mini-jet.

      I don’t have any hard numbers on the drug use on the set of Octopussy, but the villain could have been an exiled Afghan prince for a reason.

  4. black13 says:

    But the problem with the title is that it’s a title actually used by Ian Fleming.

    http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0670910503.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

    Interestingly, it seems that James Brolin was supposed to replace Moore as Bond for this one, but the producers decided to throw more money at Moore because they felt they needed him to compete with Sean Connery’s return as Bond in the simultaneous Never Say Never Again.

    (And please, please review NSNA.)

    I think, though, that this isn’t true. Brolin is American, and if the producers rejected Clint Eastwood for the part on account of that…

    The way I remember it, Kamal Khan was just a smugger/arms dealer who worked as a subcontractor for Orlov, and James Bond went after him at the end because he couldn’t endure the thought of having wasted his entire movie on someone who was actually just a glorified henchmen.

    “I’ll get you for being cooler than I!”

    • Todd says:

      I’m aware that Octopussy is a title from Ian Fleming — that still doesn’t excuse it.

      It certainly seems like Khan is just a glorified henchman for Orlov, which is why it doesn’t make any dramatic sense for Orlov to die (a) anticlimactically and (b) at the hands of someone other than Bond and (c) with a half-hour of movie left to go.

      I keep hearing about the producers threatening to cast Americans in the part of Bond, but I’m almost positive that would be the end of the series.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think that’s been a real possibility since the 70’s, when the series was still fairly young and had already become a joke. Now, they’d never think of hiring an American or a Canadian.

      • black13 says:

        I completely agree. Bond’s British-ness is essential to the character.

  5. popebuck1 says:

    I remember this one because it went all meta – Bond’s contact in the Delhi market, posing as a snake charmer, catches Bond’s attention by playing the Bond theme song on his flute! Wow – Bond actually knows his own theme song!

    The sad thing is, even coming right off of the infinitely superior For Your Eyes Only, this one STILL looks like Goldfinger compared to the next entry in the series – but I’ll let you deal with that in your own time…

    • Todd says:

      Well, of course Bond recognizes his own theme song, it’s been following him around for twenty-one years at this point. And if you ask me, a guy playing his song on a flute is nothing compared to the Tarot cards with the “007” logo on the back of them in Live and Let Die. It’s almost like the entire universe is — dare I say it? A fantasy.

      • popebuck1 says:

        I prefer to think that Bond actually had his own personalized deck of Tarot cards made up long ago (with his own face on most of the Major Arcana) and has carried them around ever since, just in case he ever needed to seduce a virginal Tarot priestess. This is Bond we’re talking about – he doesn’t have to worry about the same things you and I worry about, and he is always eminently prepared for every contingency.

  6. Roger Moore
    Is
    James Bond
    In
    Rottensnatch

    Roger Moore
    Is
    James Bond
    In
    Bushwhacked

  7. teamwak says:

    There is also the casual racism of when Bond hand his contact a big wad of cash he has just won and says “That will keep you in currys”. Shocking.

    Although I always liked the girl who swung down from Bonds balcony using just her dress, and the blue octopus-in-the-face bit. 🙂

    And how about Cocktopussy too obvious?

    • Todd says:

      The curry line was objectionable, but at least he is otherwise respectful of the locals — he doesn’t shove any indigent beggar boys out of his boat in this movie.

      Although the Indian scenes do positively erupt with cultural stereotypes — employed mostly for comic effect but still. Bond walks into a marketplace and immediately encounters a snake charmer, a fakir, a coal-walker and a sword swallower. If he were in the US, he’d get off the plane at JFK and immediately encounter a cowboy roping cattle, a baseball player and a group of Puritans celebrating the first Thanksgiving.

    • Todd says:

      Cocktopussy actually sounds like the porn-movie parody title of Octopussy.

  8. ayrn says:

    James Bond will return in A Minge is as Good as a Mille.

  9. medox says:

    QuadraDicky

    DodecaDingDong

    UnoAnus (not really genitalia slang, but it has a nice ring to it…)

  10. urbaniak says:

    QUADRUPUD
    UNICYCLIT
    PENTACLAM
    KILOTWATT
    TRICERATITS

  11. laminator_x says:

    Sadly, the yoyo-buzzsaw is the best thing about this film.

    As for the contest, only a subtle shift from the original is required for sublime perfection:

    [b]Coctopussy[/b]

  12. uthuze says:

    How about French prefixes?

    Because the first thing I thought of was Demipune.

    or maybe

    Quimadonna
    Monopole
    Pentacock
    Trilobox

    or

    Univag

    And no, I have no better use for my time.

    • teamwak says:

      Re: How about French prefixes?

      Univag?

      Isnt that a cream?

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, that’s the whole plot of the movie

        UNIVAG… the terrifying chrome-plated future of intimate hygiene.
        UNIVAG… the sleek, jet-powered horizon of feminine freshness.
        UNIVAG… the implacable atomic juggernaut of muliebral sanitation.

        NEW Industrial-Strength UNIVAG, The Thrush-Crusher! The sting means it’s working!

        • teamwak says:

          Re: Well, that’s the whole plot of the movie

          NEW Industrial-Strength UNIVAG, The Thrush-Crusher! The sting means it’s working!

          Best. Ad Campaign. Ever!

          🙂

  13. Triakebab?

    Moore recounted how the elephant he was riding on in one scene did an enormous dump and he said “Everybody is a critic”…I think he was a bit tired of the farce by now, as was Connery who had quit and then came back for Diamonds…

  14. mcbrennan says:

    Here goes. With gratuitous apologies in advance. Some of these are more sex acts than parts, some are clearly not in the Bond tradition and some of them are a little thin on the pun side. Also, please ignore any hint of desperation you may detect.

    Quinquagina
    DuodecaDong
    QuadriCunny
    PiHole
    TriskaidekaFellatiobia
    Ennealingus
    Octingentijaculation
    PentaGloryhole
    FernGully
    Euclidian GeoMeatry
    QuarterMasturbator (more of an unpleasant supervillain, really)
    Cinco-De-Myhole
    HekaTwat
    Rear Window
    TriceraCocks (apologies to Urbaniak; I suspect this movie actually exists)
    GoogolpLicks
    SperMillionaire

    • Todd says:

      Somehow I knew I could count on you to pull this off (ahem). But you left out Gash Wednesday.

      • teamwak says:

        Isnt that Mel Gibsons next?

        😉

      • mcbrennan says:

        With a versatile skill set like mine, it’s only a matter of time till I’m living in a third-floor studio apartment in the Valley, working as a grip on “Gash Wednesday”. And by “grip” I mean the person who hung the set. And by “hung” I mean…well, what I mean to say is I helped rig the “passive fill”…aw, just forget it.

        I should also tell you how much I’ve been enjoying your Bond dossiers. Like all your analyses, they’re both entertaining and tremendously instructive. I’ve been trying to beat a couple of writing deadlines and I haven’t been around here consistently enough to participate as much as I’d like. Thankfully I saw this one just in time to raise the level of discourse to an…all time high?

    • greyaenigma says:

      GoogolpLicks

      This, disturbingly, brings back memories of JP Licks, the off-kilter ice creamery in Cambridge, MA. (Their fair city.)

      • mcbrennan says:

        It’s 90-something here today (Berkeley)…I could go for some off-kilter ice cream right now.

        • greyaenigma says:

          It’s a comparatively chilly 75F here in Portland (after a bout of coolness), but I still want ice cream. I blame the orbital mind-control lasers, all 31 of them.