24. Octopussy

The opening scene of Octopussy is among the best in the Bond series. Bond drives a small jet out the back of a horse trailer (after the fake horse ass and tail fold out of the way) and flies, tailed (no pun intended) by a missile, through a hanger which of course blows up. 007, enemy military defeated, flies to a gas station, rolls up (wings folded up) to a gas pump and says, “Fill’er up” in the way only Roger Moore could pull off.

If only the rest of the movie had the charm of the first 8 minutes.

Octopussy is not as bad as its reputation. In fact, I would say like the majority of Bond films, this one is enjoyably re-watchable. The plot is recognizably Bond and includes a convoluted villainous plan with villain double-crossing, a few twists, and exotic locations. Octopussy has all the elements of classic Bond, if done inconsistently.

My largest takeaway from this movie is: Roger Moore is old. 

I was constantly reminded of his age, from a meandering low-speed slide down a banister to the most obvious stunt double face reveal (atop the plane in the climax) in the entire run of the series. A movie about Bond getting old could be tremendous fun. (See a couple of movies in the Top 10.) This movie, however, ignores that Bond is old and inserts him in those traditional Bond positions where his age distracts from the film. And Moore’s age is too much to ignore. 

And that’s just one “too much” of many. Ultimately this movie is one of too muches. Octopussy herself is a fine character with an interesting backstory, but that name is too much. James Bond going uncover in a circus has potential, but dressed as a clown with a tear? Too much. The final nail in the too much coffin was the Tarzan yodeling sound effect while Bond is swinging on vines. Way too much. That would be too much for a Mel Brooks movie. In a Bond movie? Frustratingly too much.

The tears of a clown

Let’s get to rating Octopussy

Bond (0.5)

Say crow’s feet one more time …

Roger More was 54 when he filmed this, his final James Bond movie. He is as charming and comfortable in the role as ever; it’s not his fault the producers failed to take his age into account with the script. Moore charms women (some half his age ;/ ), nails one-liners as always, and is quite surprising in his desperation when pleading with officials that there’s a bomb planted in the circus. 

He loses half a point (though not entirely Moore’s fault) for the scene in Q’s workspace when he zooms a camera into a female colleague’s cleavage so it displays on the giant screen. #007iscancelled 

Bond girl (1)

Maud Adams was 40 when she filmed Octopussy, which by the admittedly terrible standards of Bond movies approaches refreshingly age-appropriate range. (Before patting the producers on the back, read the last paragraph of the previous section one more time.) Octopussy is a wonderful character with a terrible name, which relates to her leadership of the Octopus Cult, a smuggling outfit based in India. Her empire includes circuses and a female army of bodyguards that wear matching red leotards and help Bond avert nuclear war. (Just wait ’til we get to the Plot section ….) 

Needless to say, the plot badly lets her down. In a movie almost two and a half hours long, Octopussy doesn’t appear until more than an hour in and disappears for long stretches as numerous villains and conspirators pop in and out of the story. 

Bond villain (0.5)

How about instead of an eye patch … A GIANT EYE!

Octopussy has two main villains … I think. General Orlov, a Soviet general who traffics in phony Faberge eggs and plots a strike of a US airbase as preamble to an invasion of Western Europe. He works with smuggler Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince and member of the Octopus Cult. Khan reports directly to Octopussy and has an army of circus performers who double as assassins. 

Like the plot, the villains are confusing and the less said the better.

Song (0)

The 80s was a confusing decade. Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die, 1973) thought duets with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) and Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say”) were good ideas. On the other hand, Duran Duran made an all-time classic with the next Bond film in 1985, “A View to a Kill.”

The producers went for a non-Octopussy song title for this one, “All Time High” sung by Rita Coolidge, a low point for the franchise’s songs. A bland, boring ballad that doesn’t even have the movie title anywhere in its lyrics, this song was a failure on every level.

Plot (0.5)

After Bond attends an exciting auction where a buyer pays entirely too much for a Fabrage egg that Bond has switched out with a fake, 007 follows the buyer to India, where he immediately defeats him in backgammon. The buyer, exiled Afghan Kamal Khan, kidnaps Bond, who escapes and learns that the villain is working with Soviet General Orlov. Orlov is going to detonate a nuclear warhead at a circus performing in a US air base in West Germany. This, obviously, will lead NATO to disarm because they for the first time realize that nuclear weapons are dangerous.  With Europe unprotected, the USSR can take over. Khan is working behind the back of the leader of the Octopus Cult, Octopussy, whose father Bond had been sent to arrest (pre-movie) but allowed to commit suicide. This act ingratiates Bond to Octopussy, who refuses Khan’s request to kill the spy.

A new red army

Meanwhile, Khan has been replacing Orlov’s Russian treasures with fakes and smuggling the real ones through Octopussy’s circus, whose performers double as highly trained assassins I guess. Bond discovers this plot and it makes sense to him. He tracks Orlov to a train and gives chase only for Orlov to be shot as a defector. Bond infiltrates the US base dressed as a clown, a single black tear painted on his face. He finally convinces Octopussy and the US brass that there is a bomb that will explode and ruin the human cannonball show they are enjoying way too much. Bond disarms the bomb as Khan retreats to India.

<<movie not over>>

Bond and Octopussy and Octopussy’s red army attack Khan’s palace, killing many people. Khan takes Octopussy prisoner and takes off on his jet. Bond, with the vigor of a man half his age, jumps onto the plane and climbs above and then aboard mid-flight. After a struggle, Bond and Octopussy jump from the plane seconds before it crashes into a mountain. The explosion probably kills Khan. 

Aside from being too long, the film could have benefited immensely from a more streamlined plot. The twists and turns complicate the story needlessly. 

Miscellaneous (0)

I’m American, so forgive my ignorance. But is there big money in European and Asian circuses? Why would a criminal enterprise invest so heavily in circuses? And do hundreds of military members go to them without their children? I need to know.

At any rate, Octopussy would get an additional half ab for the opening scene but the unnecessary and unfunny cleavage on tv scene negates it.

Final rating

Two and half Swayze abs
Extra abs
  • The Soviet military leaders meet in an enormous, mostly empty board room — which rotates to view a map — to discuss invading Eastern Europe. It’s goofy, like something out of Dr. Strangelove. They even shout arguments while turning! 
  • The snake charmer in India begins playing the Bond theme to attract 007’s attention. Does James Bond have a theme in this world? Did he commission someone to write it for himself? I have so many questions.
  • Here’s the banister slide, by popular demand

25. Die Another Day

For more on my process of rating the James Bond movies, read this.

It’s easy to dump on this movie, easily the worst of the Pierce Brosnan era and, in my estimation, the worst of the entire franchise. Because it’s easy and I’m lazy, I’ll do just that. 

Pixar’s Night Surfing

The first Bond of the 21st century (and the first post-9/11), Die Another Day doesn’t look like a Bond movie: GCI replaces impressive vistas; torrents of double entendres replace witty, interesting dialog; green screen stunts replace specular feats of daring action; a Jesus-style beard replaces Bond’s clean shaven, suave look; Bond’s car literally disappears in the middle of the film. Yes: Bond has an invisible car. The movie completely abandons style (and reality) to spend several more million dollars on pointless special effects. Everything in this movie is artificial (the surf scene is obviously shot day-for-night) and it is the most (only?) Bond film that is antithetical to what makes a Bond movie.

Let’s just dive in.

Bond (0)

Did someone need a savior?

Pierce Brosnan made for an excellent Bond, convincingly charming with deeper, obvious conflicts bubbling just under the surface. However, much like the horrible CGI and ugly fake-night surf scene, the film fails at even making Brosnan looks like 007. Bond is an empty shell of cliche and boredom. The dialog with Jinx is embarrassing, lacking any subtlety to hit you over the head with “innuendo” that would make hack romance writers blush. Between the script and the direction, Brosnan is entirely wasted in his last Bond movie. I don’t blame him; how could anyone contribute their best work to this mess?

Bond girls (0)

But this time the bikini is orange!

Instead of continuing to bash Halle Berry’s Jinx in this section, I will instead use this first review to complain about something else. After the first couple of 60s Bond movies that had one-dimensional female characters intended, mostly, to bed Bond, we are treated to more complex characters who don’t fall into the black/white, good/evil camp. Lacking a clear distinction, how do I then classify Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost? She’s a double agent, working for MI6 and serving the villain. She also sleeps with Bond, which, you know, is a thing Bond girls do. So do I rate her here or under the next section? 

I’m going to cheat for this one. There is no way I can give more than 0 to a movie with this dialog:

Jinx: Wait, don’t pull it out. I’m not finished with it yet.
Bond: See? It’s a perfect fit.
Jinx: Uh-hm. Leave it in.
Bond: It’s gotta come out sooner or later.
Jinx: No, leave it in, please. Few more minutes?
Bond: We really have to get these back.
Jinx: Still the good guys, huh?
Bond: I’m still not quite sure how good you are.
Jinx: I am so good.
Bond: Especially when you’re bad.

Bond villains (0.5)

The villain’s plan (and story) is complicated and stupid, so I’m not going to summarize. Instead, I give you this Gustav Graves/James Bond back and forth:

Graves: But there have been compensations, like you floating around in peril. Granting you life day by day just to see you get wise. It’s been fun.
Bond: Well, the fun is about to come to a dead end.

And then Gustav puts on a Power Glove to virtually fight Bond and Jinx in the “epic” finale. Exciting!

I don’t even know what this is.

Song (0)

Madonna! Auto-tune! The line “Sigmund Freud, analyze this!” “Like a Virgin” this is not.

Plot (0.5)

Seeds of good ideas can be found in Die Another Day, though most of those seeds bore fruit in far better movies the preceded or followed it. 007 infiltrates a North Korean army base in the opening scene but is captured and help prisoner for 14 months, long enough to grow a Jesus beard while enduring torture. M trades one the North Koreans Bond encountered at the base for Bond’s release and he’s not in good shape, and MI6 all but accuses Bond of talking and outliving his use. A movie following that thread could be exciting. Bond vs. MI6? Bond battling PTSD? Bond as a traitor? Those could be interesting ideas for a movie.

Instead Bond escapes and the film settles into a cliche revenge plot, with Bond single-mindedly trying to find a mole in MI6 who betrayed him in North Korea and get revenge on his captures. Bond follows a lead on Gustav Graves, who turns out to be the North Korean colonel from the opening scene with a new face but the same old daddy issues. Bond kills the male villain, Jinx kills the female villain. The end.

This scene is electrifying

Miscellaneous (0)

Released during the 40th anniversary of Dr. No, Die Another Day apparently has a reference to every 007 movie that came before it. The most obvious and well-known is the scene where Halle Berry as Jinx emerges from the ocean in a bikini, an “homage” to Ursula Andress’ famous first appearance in the original Bond outing. That this call back is the most well-known part of this movie — that a ripoff of a far superior film is what this one is most remembered for — damns this movie to the invisible car dump of film history.

Final rating

One Swayze ab
Extra abs
  • Bond, taking on an entire army, announces that he has a license to kill. That’ll scare ’em!
  • I’ve focused on the negative, but the fencing scene between Bond and Graves was quite good and included zero (0) GGI.
  • John Cleese was in this one, too. I’m fairly sure he does not include it in his reel.
  • With so much product placement in this movie, interesting that they choose to literally hide the expensive car in this one.
Look, ma! No car!

A little Bond project

People around the world have reacted to the global pandemic in unique ways.  Some people have taken the forced time at home to complete ambitious projects, re-surface creative endeavors they had been too busy for, or simply revel in the unusual increase in valuable, all-too-fleeting time with family.

I myself rewatched every James Bond movie in order.

Sean Connery passed away in October 2020, serving as a catalyst for this project.

Those of you lucky enough to know me for a while may remember a previous blog in which I watched 80s movies and rated them using my unique Patrick Swayze abs system. (Coincidentally the last movie I reviewed was an 80s Bond movie.) While that system is obviously infallible, for this series of James Bond movie reviews I concocted an even more stringent set of guidelines for rating 007 outings. The scale remains 6 abs which will be awarded based on six Bond-specific aspects:

  1. James Bond: The actor, the performance, that je ne sais quoi each man brings to the role.
  2. Bond girl(s): Again: the actress, the performance, and the story (or lack thereof) developed in the film. Note: This will not be an exercise in commenting on their looks. They’re all portrayed by beautiful, famous actresses. If you want a “hot Bond girls” ranking, I’m sure Maxim or BroBible or some other site can help you.
  3. Bond villain(s): Same as the Bond girls. No need to repeatedly point out that Telly Savalas is gorgeous.
  4. Theme song: Not just the quality of the song but how it is used in the film itself beyond the trademark opening credits.
  5. Plot: Self explanatory and entirely subjective.
  6. Miscellaneous: Bonus points for creativity, casting, stunts, and anything else. Basically this is how I can create wiggle room for myself to ensure the final list is perfect. (Spoiler alert: it is.)

So in the coming weeks, you’ll be treated to multiple pictures of Patrick Swayze and, to a much lesser extent, capricious reviews of all 25 James Bond movies. (Never Say Never Again is included here … and perhaps shockingly high on this list.)

Our first review will be coming tomorrow. I anticipate zero controversy with this one. Certainly no internet Storm will be raging.

Smoke

We earned our stripes that night
amid the polka dots and cigarette butts 
and other signs of life 
clamoring for attention. 

Those stripes unfurl in 
a smoky ambivalence 
leaving tentative finger prints, 
another reminder of something 

illusory that the wind may dispel 
just as easily as fire leaves 
an ashy mark on anyone 
bold enough to reach.


© 2021 Phillip Knight Scott

Sarah asks us at dVerse Poets Pub to have a conservation with a poem we’ve read. I choose this one by Atticus. I don’t smoke and find inspiration elsewhere, though ultimately it will all blow away in time.

Vote now for my book cover (please)

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, The Alien in the Backseat, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com! It takes just a few seconds and requires nothing more than a click. Vote for my book cover here:

Click to Vote!

Buried

We buried our despair in the shade of the pine tree, 
holding hands as we turned our backs 
on those needling thoughts left in the dark. 

The hulking ogre took root, waiting 
to spring on us when we tried to take cover 
beneath the canopy of stars 
stretched too tightly that cool night. 

A possum or some other unanticipated visitor 
disturbed the tranquility, clawing at the dirt 
until the ogre — always lurking as we 
were distracted by routine — jumped out 

to terrorize us once more 
while we scrambled for a shovel
or another plot of land.


© 2020 Phillip Knight Scott

Written for the dVerse Tuesday Poetics in which we’re exploring the Gothic. “Which according to you are the deepest, darkest and most concealed of human emotions?”

Underneath (it abides)

The stone’s back hides shadows
unspotted by sunlight,
a mossy reminder that some memories abide
in the dark for good reason,
threatening to emerge if the river rises
just enough
to knock that weight
just enough
until sunlight dissolves
shadows leaking downstream
at last.


© 2020 | Phillip Knight Scott

Written for the dVerse prompt “The Dude Abides.”

Ought to be

It would be folly to consider myself 
where I ought to be, as if ‘ought’ 
could glow in your hand 
like half-eaten candy thawing 
memories under open clouds.

What hubris man to divine 
import from earth-bound particles 
bouncing among people walking 
heads down, the center of it all.  

Heavenly bodies revolve 
around some other lantern 
the same as me, sticky fingers 
sweeter from the journey.


© 2020 Phillip Knight Scott

Written for today’s dVerse prompt “folly” and the Go Dog Go Cafe prompt “in your hands

Lightness

The moonlight sang that song 
we can’t remember, invisible wings 
cascading through the valiant wind 
as the stairs insist 
on climbing up. 
Up.

Up where time remains an afterthought, 
or hangs on the moonlight 
nearly in the future. Time always comes, 
playing metronome while weightless, 
feigning lightness 
to ease the ascent.


© 2020 Phillip Knight Scott

Rest

The colorless tale revealed 
the thunder within the traveler, 
lost among thoughts of another drab day 
absent the echoing light 
normally demanding something 
approaching the end.

Rest — or the appearance 
of cloudy dreams lifting him 
above 
the gray skies 
underfoot — is weary while an end 
itself and for him,
thundering only a little longer.


© 2020 | Phillip Knight Scott

dVerse Poets Pub: MTB Lists that Google Give us. I started with “rest is…” and took some liberties with “rest is for the weary”