Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Octopussy (1983) | Story

Plot Summary

A rogue general uses forged jewelry to increase Soviet control over Europe. His plan is as dumb and convoluted as it sounds.


Combining two Fleming short stories worked well in For Your Eyes Only. It was the second-highest grossing Bond film to date, behind Moonraker. Broccoli and Wilson returned to that formula for the next one, this time with "Octopussy" and "The Property of a Lady." Sadly, it wasn't as artistically successful this time around. That's partly because the silliness of earlier Moore films pushed its way back in, but it's mostly due to the felt need for bigger stakes than the short stories had to offer. "Octopussy" is a very personal story and it's smart of the movie to just use it as background.

"The Property of a Lady" is also a very small tale, but it has wider ramifications concerning a mole in MI6. It's too bad Octopussy didn't go that direction instead of making the auction part of an easily discovered plot by a zealous and dim-witted Soviet general.

There's a dinner scene in India that feels inspired by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but Octopussy came out the year before Temple, so I guess that's coincidence. Apparently, we all thought Indian food was nasty in the '80s. I've got some great restaurants I'd like to take '80s Us to.

There's also a Tarzan reference, but as CT brings up on Nerd Lunch's Return of the Jedi discussion (available for download next week), there's a federal law stating that any movie partially set in a jungle or forest has to include someone swinging through the trees and screaming like Tarzan.

How Is the Book Different?

The main character (other than Bond) from "Octopussy" is Dexter Smythe, a British soldier who murdered an innocent man for some Nazi gold. The movie's title character turns out to be Smythe's daughter. When she and Bond tell the story, the details of the murder are mostly the same except that it's been moved from post-WWII Europe to Southeast Asia.

And again, the auctioned Fabergé egg isn't paying off a mole in MI6 like in "The Property of a Lady," but is financing... actually, I'm still not clear on what it's financing. The relationships between the three criminal groups in the movie don't make sense and I'm never sure who's getting what out of the deal.

Moment That's Most Like Fleming

Bond catches Kamal Khan cheating at backgammon and teaches him a lesson a la Fleming's Moonraker and Goldfinger. Unlike those scenarios, Kamal is lousy at cheating (loaded dice? really?) and the game lacks any tension, but it's at least trying to evoke Fleming, so points for that.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming

It's a tie between the Tarzan yell and the gag where Vijay is whacking bad guys with a tennis racket while onlookers look from side to side like they're at a match.

Cold Open

For Your Eyes Only had gotten away from the trend of using the teaser to set up the movie's plot, but at least it had a thematic element in common with its film. Octopussy doesn't even do that. Instead, it's just a mini-adventure with no connection to anything else.

It opens at a horse show in what looks like Cuba. They never really say, but there's a military dude with a big black beard and a cigar, so let's go with that. Bond shows up at the horse show with a fellow agent named Bianca, disguises himself as a colonel, and sneaks over to the military base next door to blow up some high-tech looking weapons. He's caught, but Bianca helps him escape and he uses an Acrostar Mini Jet to buzz the base, get them to shoot a heat-seeking missile at him, outrun the missile, and lead it back to the base to blow the whole thing up. Seems like a weird, convoluted plan where tons of things could go wrong.

On second thought, it does have a lot in common with the rest of the movie.

That mini-jet is pretty impressive though, so it's still going to crack the Top Ten.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. Moonraker
3. Thunderball
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Goldfinger
6. The Man with the Golden Gun
7. For Your Eyes Only
8. Octopussy
9. From Russia With Love
10. Diamonds Are Forever

Movie Series Continuity

The hat rack trick is back for the second time in a row. This time, Bond almost throws his hat on the rack, but stops when he notices Moneypenny's new assistant, Penelope Smallbone.

We have a new M, played by Robert Brown. The movie doesn't call attention to it, so he might be playing Sir Miles Messervy or a completely new character. I like to think he's a new character, but it doesn't matter. As I've said before, there's no theory, however nerdy or implausible, that will let the Bond films work as a consistent continuity.

Bond isn't quite a know-it-all, but he knows more than the average person about Fabergé eggs. Maybe because he's not obnoxious about it, M seems impressed, but he also takes some pleasure in telling Bond something he doesn't know: that the egg is a forgery. That looks like it's coming more from M's own appreciation of dramatic reveal though than from wanting to show Bond up.

The Minister of Defense is still here for the briefings and frankly I'm getting a little tired of him. It feels like micro-managing by now and Fleming's M wouldn't have appreciated it.

Gogol is also back, but I love him and welcome him any time he wants to show up. I especially love how he contrasts with the villainous General Orlov.

Q and M are still in the field quite a bit. Especially Q, who's practically Bond's sidekick in Octopussy, but M also shows up in Berlin at one point.

And finally, there's the question of Bond's notoriety. Kamal Khan has never heard of him, which is a change from the way the series has been playing this angle so far. On the other hand, Vijay first gets Bond's attention by playing the Bond Theme on his pungi. So that tune actually exists in Bond's world and is associated with him? Maybe Kamal is just clueless. That's a distinct possibility considering the rest of his actions in the movie.

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