Actors and Allies
More than any other movie since Goldfinger, Bond is in full-on Blunt Instrument mode in Octopussy. He latches on early to Kamal Khan as the person behind the fake Fabergé, but doesn't know the whole story, so his tactic is to insert himself into Kamal's business and see what shakes out. I'd rather see him do more detective work, but that's very Fleming.
Roger Moore is right at his expiration date on playing Bond by this point. His being older worked well in For Your Eyes Only, but it's not addressed in Octopussy. The movie gets credit sometimes for casting an "older" Maud Adams, but she was only 38 at the time. Moore was 56. But he's still believable in the role and there's no sign of his getting tired of it like we saw in Sean Connery's last couple of films. Moore was getting tired of it, but he was too much of a pro to let it affect his performance.
Moore was only contracted for three Bond movies, so everything after The Spy Who Loved Me was negotiated on a picture-by-picture basis. He had no intention of coming back for Octopussy and the producers were already looking at Timothy Dalton (among other actors) when they got word that Kevin McClory was developing his own Bond film based on his rights to the Thunderball story. That, plus Sean Connery's returning to play Bond in it, made Broccoli and Wilson nervous enough that they didn't want to risk competing against McClory and Connery with an untested Bond of their own. They negotiated with Moore and got him back.
That history probably explains what's going on with Moneypenny's new, young assistant, Penelope Smallbone. On its surface, it seems like a real jerk move: keeping Moore, but phasing out Lois Maxwell who's the same age. It's creepy to see Bond hitting on a much younger person as a resigned and disappointed Moneypenny warns that a bouquet of roses (originally meant for her) are "all you'll ever get from him." But once you know that plans were already being made for Moore's departure, transitioning in a younger admin for the new Bond to play against makes sense. That didn't take though (maybe because Moore came back yet again for the next one?) and Octopussy is Smallbone's only appearance. The actual reasons she was introduced, but didn't stick around are mysteries.
We talked a little about the new M yesterday. I miss Bernard Lee and there's no replacing him, but I also like Robert Brown. He's less cranky than Lee was usually written. I get the sense that he's not going to put up with a lot of nonsense either, but he looks like he won't take it as personally as his predecessor. He's kind of a bureaucrat that way, for better or worse. It's refreshing in this movie, but I imagine that I'll soon want an M who's more emotionally involved.
The Minister of Defense seems shockingly okay with Bond after the Prime Minster/parrot fiasco at the end of For Your Eyes Only. Even though these movies don't reference each other that directly, it's still weird seeing the MoD welcome Bond to a briefing without grumping at him.
Q's assistant Smithers is back, played again by Jeremy Bulloch. This is his last appearance in the series, which is sad, because I like the possibilities he brought. He's always testing one of Q's contraptions and Bond seems to like him. He could have become a fun ally for Bond within Q-Branch who's able to recognize and comment on the silliness of that department. A nice foil to Q's self-seriousness.
Bond also has allies in the field, starting with Bianca, the agent he works with in the cold open. We don't know much about her, but I like how she conducts herself. She has a relaxed relationship with Bond. She's not infatuated with him and he's not condescending to her. She's cool and professional.
We also spend some time with 009, the first time another Double-O has been on screen this long. In fact, the only time we've seen another one except for the brief, not-really look at the whole group during the Thunderball briefing. 009 is a tough agent, but he doesn't seem that smart. Why does he hold onto his balloons when he's running through the forest and trying to sneak away from a pair of killers? The only person who's surprised when one of them pops is him.
Finally, we come to Vijay. I don't know why I'm not ranking Bond's allies, but Vijay would be near the top of the list. That's partly personal. When I was growing up, our family was close friends with a family from India who was somehow related to tennis star Vijay Amritraj. I didn't know who he was until I saw Octopussy, but they were very proud of him and I can see why. He's totally casual and charming. When he dies, it pisses me off and it's one of the few ally deaths in these movies that seems to mean anything to Bond. (Amritraj also plays the captain of a stranded Federation ship in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, so that's two of my favorite series that he's part of.)
Vijay also has the single best line in the whole movie. At the start of the auto rickshaw chase, Bond yells out the old cliché, "We've got company!" and Vijay responds, "No problem! This is a company car!"
"Hmm?" to Magda's comment that she needs "refilling."
"Toro? Sounds like a load of bull."
Bond uses a few gadgets in this one. The first time he tries to blow up the weapons facility in the cold open, he sneaks a bomb inside a briefcase with a secret compartment inside. And of course there's the mini jet and the fake horse trailer that carries it.
The crocodile submarine is the goofiest one and probably my favorite, but Bond gets most use out of the wristwatch/pen combo that lets him track and listen in on the bug implanted in the Fabergé egg. And for extra kicks, the pen also shoots acid.
Top Ten Gadgets
1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
5. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
6. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
7. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
8. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)
9. Ski pole rocket (The Spy Who Loved Me)
10. Magnetic buzzsaw watch (Live and Let Die)
Bond's Best Outfit
He shoulda worn this the entire movie.
Bond's Worst Outfit