Saturday, July 04, 2015

Octopussy (1983) | Music

Maurice Binder's primary inspiration for the Octopussy credits was a new toy: lasers. Conceptually, the Octopussy sequence is similar to From Russia with Love or Goldfinger. Instead of the credits or scenes from the movie projected on women's bodies though, it's laser images of the 007 logo, an octopus, and the outline of Bond.

There are some cool extra bits too, like when multiple arms wrap around an image of Roger Moore (though there are only five, not eight). I also like the gun that emits a foggy light from its barrel while shooting women into the air.

Binder also uses plenty of his signature silhouettes, too. Naked women and suited men do what they usually do in these things, though Binder sometimes has their actions imitate the lyrics of the theme song. He does that with the models whose faces we can see too, like when a woman opens her eyes as Rita Coolidge sings about not wanting to waste a waking moment.

By the time Octopussy was made, John Barry had settled his tax debt with the UK and was free to work on the movies again. He wrote the Octopussy theme with Andrew Lloyd Webber's writing partner Tim Rice, who'd already done Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita by then, and who would go on to work on two of Disney's most successful animated musicals, Aladdin and The Lion King.

It was going to be impossible to write a song called "Octopussy" and have anyone take it seriously, so Barry and Rice came up with "All Time High," suggesting the romance between Bond and Octopussy and using imagery from the circus' trapeze act.

Cubby Broccoli initially wanted Laura Branigan to sing it. She was hugely popular at the time thanks to songs like "Gloria," "Self Control," and "Solitaire," as well as having songs on the Flashdance and Ghostbusters soundtracks. But Broccoli's daughter Barbara was a huge Rita Coolidge fan and was always playing Coolidge songs around the office. (Barbara was also involved in the family business and was assistant director on Octopussy). The story goes that her dad heard one of Coolidge's songs one day and asked Barbara who it was, saying that that was the sound he wanted for the theme song.

The song was pretty successful and spent four weeks at #1 on the US' Adult Contemporary charts. I remember it's being on the radio all the time in 1983 and even though I don't like it, it has nostalgic appeal to me because it reminds me of driving around my hometown at a time in my life when I had maximum freedom with minimum responsibilities. Thankfully, the trend of soft, easy listening ballads for Bond themes was going to take a major break after this one.

True to form, Barry uses the Bond Theme modestly for Octopussy. It shows up in the auto rickshaw chase, but only after Bond is seriously stabbed. I guess the point is that the mission has been fun and games up to this point, but now it gets serious. Although not really serious, because this is a typical Roger Moore film, after all.

The other couple of times the Bond Theme shows up, it's used more traditionally to highlight big action set pieces. It plays when Bond takes a car with no tires onto railroad tracks to catch a train, then again at various times during the final assault on Kamal's Monsoon Palace, including the arrival of Bond and Q in the Union Jack balloon and Bond's horseback chase to catch Kamal's plane.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. The Spy Who Loved Me ("Nobody Does It Better")
2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service instrumental theme
3. Diamonds Are Forever
4. You Only Live Twice
5. From Russia With Love (John Barry instrumental version)
6. Live and Let Die
7. Dr No
8. Thunderball
9. Goldfinger
10. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro vocal version)

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Dr No
3. Thunderball
4. Goldfinger
5. From Russia with Love
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
7. Diamonds Are Forever
8. Live and Let Die
9. Moonraker
10. Octopussy

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