Septopussy – Nobody does him better…
You guessed it, this is the 007th Minute of ‘Octopussy’, personally observed by Jacques Stewart himself, counted down by the counter-thingy on his player-thingy, viciously dissected with the aid of a large glass of Indian tonic and the friendly help of Patrick Macnee’s voice.
Add your own shot of quinine in this thread.
(Adopts Patrick Macnee voice) It is the summer of 1983, the summer of the Jedi and the unbelievable opportunity – taken up at length by your correspondent (that’s me, “hi”) – for childish playground taunting in calling a corpulent chum a Big Fat Jabba. I think you can probably tell where this joke’s going to end up, so I’ll save you the inexpert fumbling and just get straight to the money shot of “…grossly overweight, leering at bikinied beauties through oily seepage, a crusty, ancient and wrinkled blob who at one point dresses up as a clown and stops a bomb going off”.
Hm. I seem to have drained the spuds a bit quickly there. I’m so sorry. If you’re submitting yourself to the girth of these 007th minutes you’ll know that’s never happened to me before; honest. If only Octopussy were that swift but no, it tries so hard to pleasure us with multiple climaxes that it neglects to realise that all we want is a bit of a kip and to be left alone. Oh, Octopussy, put it away. Just stop. Please stop. I’ve a busy day tomorrow and I really don’t want you bothering me like a greymuzzled spayed Labrador giving the dining table a listless seeing-to, dribbling gently from the moist jowls, eking it all out painfully when it would be kinder to administer the old double-tap with a clawhammer to the back of the head and hurl it into a midnighted estuary. Look, we both know that we’re too old for this and I can see the self-loathing in your eyes as you summon up The Gush yet again. All I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two. Tops. I never expected to do the things (oh God, the things) we’ve done. Things you now want to do to me again. Look, all that’ll happen is that you’ll end up a dried-out of husk of sex-pestiness. Who at one point dresses up as a clown and stops a bomb going off.
(Adopts Patrick Macnee voice again. Adopts it, but will probably tire of it and abandon it in a hedge in about a year’s time) It is the summer of 1983, the summer of two Bond films, both of them contained within Octopussy. I’m not bothering to review Never Say Never Again. A capacity for contrived abuse I may have but that does such a superb job of humiliating itself I wouldn’t really have an angle. It’s beneath my contempt. That’s more than enough attention already. Goodbye.
(Adopts Patrick Macnee voice for a third time, thus exposing critical failures in local Social Services policy) It is the summer of 1983, a significant year in Bond, not just the 21st anniversary, which seems to have spiked a grandfather’s Horlicks of a film with vıagra or whatever the 1983 equivalent was (a cocktail of Quattro – an atomic green fizzpop so unnatural it dissolved its own cans – and half a packet of Zubes), and certainly not for the massdebate over which set of cynical millionaires was going to win the game of exploiting yet more money out of an audience now entrapped in a decayed series. No, 1983 is the year springboarding the genesis of the seminal, book-of-the-year Catching Bullets by Mark O’Connell which, if you haven’t yet read, just stop subjecting your intellect to this infantile rubbish and go and read that instead, it’s a considerably more buxom venture, an immensely pleasurable act of slipping on your Bondom with pride and waggling it about for all to see.
A process of deduction means I saw Octopussy in the same Guildford cinema as Mark O’Connell – and on that basis there’s a solid chance it could even have been on the same day, which would be amusing. I would have been the child sitting with the mother who would spend the film hoarsely whispering every five minutes “Who’s that actor?” and “What did she just say?” and “I really don’t think this is very suitable; that well-combed man keeps saying “Octopooossy” which in English means Eight-Headed Pink-Lipped Custard-Sucker.” I fib a bit there; only two of those expressions would be ones my mother would use. She knows full well who the actors are. Many of Mark’s experiences from that point on (more than I would care to admit, at least to the wife) I’ve shared. Save for one.
He likes Octopussy.
I suppose I must have too, once, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, typing away “ten plus” years of a semi-anonymous life hollowly abusing the obviously-far-better-than-mine acting talents of The Actor Piers Bronson and trying to convince people that just because they have bought a book or a film, they don’t actually own all the images presented therein and, after they’ve pretended to apologise, passing on their IP addresses to the copyright holders anyway. I suppose if I hadn’t, somewhere deep down, found enjoyment value in Octoyippeebong I would now be elsewhere on the internet being grumpy in fora about Dempsey & Makepeace or moderating BringBackBegerac.com. (While I’m at it, bring back Bergerac. Lots of ghastly things from the 1980s seem to be distressingly fashionable again – class war, Cunservative governments, football racism, Jimmy Savile – so why not this? Its time is now. So do it. Yes, you. Get on with it. Come on. On second thoughts, don’t. Or at least not on that).
So, if you don’t like me (try to imagine the amount of “care” I invest in that – it needs a Supersize Hadron Collider to find it), know this – you can blame Octoladywrinkle for me, too. It bears the burden of many sins already, chief amongst them a total disregard for anything approaching sense, logic or respecting its audience as being anything other than ten years old and gawping at all the bazongas on show whilst embracing type-2 diabetes via toffee Poppets and cream soda. Bits of it I like (largely summed up in the two words Steven and Berkoff) but it’s just “bits” at best, and not terribly many of those. As a whole, very hard to love, twin films, of themselves ugly but now conjoined at the skull, halving the brain, and also at the hips and therefore now stunningly hideous and unstable, unsure whether to be cretinously stupid and flap about amusingly for our freakshow pleasure (exhibit A: absolutely everything that happens in India) or incredibly suddenly lurching into the wall marked “actual plot but you didn’t see it coming” (exhibit B: the inventive but “patently from a different, better film” Germany stuff), and, fancy that, we’re back to “coming” again. Oh, Octosquishmitten, just Stop. It. A depressingly ill-conceived hybrid of Carry On Up the Khyber and Threads, it’s too easy to abuse it as an All Time Low and to be “fair”, it isn’t; worse – much worse, Roger Worse – was to come.
“Seriously”, though, would it actually be tolerated if it didn’t have a gunbarrel on it? Save for just giving our salaries another run-through of the tedious deadweight of artisitic Tourette’s that the Bond series had nailed onto it by now, oh let’s see what they have Q do this time, oh let’s, is there any real reason for this film to actually happen? I appreciate that criticising a film that is part of a series for being the umpteenth part of that series is as redundant as Kamal Khan is to anything that happens in the film itself, but even the undernourished For Your Eyes Only seemed to follow through its peculiar tale of a European paedophile ring squabbling about a damp laptop, in an undemanding and slightly plain manner. Octopuddinghatch is just a mess, and does rather suggest that “they” thought they could get away with any old tat as long as it looked and behaved and smelt like A. Bond. Film. Still, people went to see it so I suppose that’s just super and a total justification. I suppose this isn’t really a criticism of “them”, it’s a criticism of “people”. Look at them. Look at “people”. Great ugly lumps of easily-deceived census statistic amounting to no more than a percentage in a column in the hospital’s annual record of “cause of death”. Ugh at them. Give them a gunbarrel and they’ll buy any old thing, heh heh heh, and we make lots of lovely money out of their desire to find out whether this one’s any better than the last, and we can cynically exploit that curiosity for at least another 19 years. Dress murderous middle-aged sexual predator James Bond – last seen consorting with borderline underage girls – in a clown suit and unleash him into a circus tent full of kids? No; Look. At. The. Gunbarrel. That’s there to distract you, you clod. You’re meant to gaze upon that fondly and it helps you ignore the amount of money that was spent showing you India for no reason whatsoever or from wondering why Louis Jourdan is the first completely motiveless Bond villain or what the hell Vijay Amritraj thinks he’s up to (it ain’t acting) other than having been cast in Octofiddlecove because his name sounds a bit like Vagina.
Shamelessly, Octopurplepeoplemaker doesn’t do anything to smooth over where the joins are. The melding of Risico and the titular (fnarr) short story in For Your Eyes Only is fairly inoffensive. This just smashes two different ideas together and can’t be bothered lowering itself to administer some glue; indeed, the incidents on show indicate that Octothepropertyofalady has sniffed all of it up anyway. It’s a reasonable conclusion (look, it’s me, my level of reason is not that high) that the writing process involved persons who probably didn’t meet too often to discuss whether their separate bits would actually fit. George Macdonald Fraser’s hilarious (for some deeply wrong reasons) autobiography The Light’s on at Signpost does go into some detail about the writing process of Octoclownshoe, and it’s rare enough that we get any sort of insight other than what is Eoned at us, although a word of caution on the book: he does appear to much rather bang on about how the Blair government was basically responsible for everything that went wrong in Britain after 1954 and they started the Great Fire of London and they’re all death lizards or somesuch (it’s some time since I read it). Still, it’s more enlightened than much of what comes out of other residents of the Isle of Man, who (all of them) seem to believe that homosexuals are made of firelighters, for there can be no other reason for making the wicker men burn so well. The Flashman parallel in this film of Here Comes The Empire To Smash Johnny Foreigner About A Bit is a trite one but then it’s Octocunservative and it deserves little else. In passing – Roger Moore, twenty years younger, would have been a spectacular Flashman. Shame. Ultimately the India stuff is totally unnecessary – there is no need for the film to be taking place in India other than “it can and it will and it does” and there were probably magnificent budget-saving tax breaks kicking about (yeah, thrilling) and whilst it shows us some lovely parts of the one place they went to, guff all really goes on that is germane to what’s ultimately meant to be happening.
The bomb stuff is all pretty sound – the final tickdown is a terrific little scene – but too late in the day to rescue what is basically 90 minutes of casting about trying to find something to do. On “casting” – look at the segue on that, what a beauty – a quick (Octorocketpocket style “quick” i.e. slow and nonsensical) word about the cast, largely because it’s pretty clear that the 007th minute doesn’t promise the titles this time. Specifically Louis Jourdan and “Steve” Berkoff (I bet no-one actually dares call him Steve).
What the hell is Kamal Khan for, other than giving us a slightly more front-of-house villain than Orlov and an alternative to the (potential) initial idea that Octobrosnan herself is the villain and Bond has to kill her (which really would not be very Uncle Roger-like)? Seriously, you cast Louis Jourdan and waste him completely? Bit of an insult to the man. Probably a mate of Cubby Broccoli’s and that’ll do (this is 80s Bond – “that’ll do” is the level of effort required to lure people in to watch it). What does Kamal gain by Orlov’s plan? It’s not as if there will be any more time for any more jewellery smuggling when WW3 gets under way and, additionally, the jewellery smuggling seems to be going along just fine anyway. Just seems to be some sort of fence for the stolen goods, but little else. But I still don’t get what he’s doing it for. Perhaps if the plot had been the nuclear threat between India and Pakistan there may have been some purpose to him but, other than hanging around Pinewood every afternoon to wave his loaded dice (fnarr) in front of buffoonish stereotypes, all he seems to provide are increasingly dull incidents of mild peril in India and once everything’s back in Europe again, he’s totally extraneous. Too late to rewrite it now but perhaps some explicit notion (beyond a comedy face when the car won’t start) that he realises he’s got his camply GEMS!-filled stuffed sheep’s head of a brain involved in a plot way out of its depth and tries dementedly to get out of it might have added a dimension to the character but instead, for the last hour of the film, he just hangs about waiting for Bond to kill him, which Bond does, albeit very boringly. Remove Kamal Khan from Octolapland and little of the stuff that goes towards such plot as there pretends to be, is lost. Utter waste of space and talent.
On the other hand…
Steven Berkoff. Bloody hell. His scene in the magnificently Adamesque Kremlin War Room is the absolute highlight of Octocodcanal and it’s such a shame that he’s not in this more although there would be a risk that he’d have chewed his way through the screen at some point. A totally overpowering performance, brilliantly diverting one from the nuisance of double-taking camels, Q being boring and liquid crystal zoomy breasts. Look at the way he’s flinging his arms about and getting ever more hysterical and shrieking about “Czechoslovakia”; absolute magic. Total entertainment, fantastically demented.
In the face-off between him and Moore on the train, there is only one winner. Roger Moore’s so relaxed most of the way through this – I think the correct word is “embalmed” – that the angry act sadly doesn’t convince and Berkoff just sits there, calmly, content in the knowledge that even his facial wart is a billion times more sinister than Moore’s. When Orlov dies, the film expires with him; the bombtick aside, the momentum just evaporates completely and we get to trudge through yet more train stuff, cirrrrcussss ssstufff is it over yet nooo oh here comes Innnnndia surely it’s over nowww nnnno here’s a horse chase surely that’s it nnnno here’s some aeroplane I really wanna go to sleep now, stoppp it, stoppp it Octogravyboat, stop nuzzling me like that, surely you can’t be ready to climax yet again, please leave me alone, I need to sleeeeepppp…
Orlov just doesn’t get the attention he deserves, largely because he’s only in it for fleeting glimpses of bonkersdom. Even his errors are brilliant – the smashing of the genuine egg just adds to the mania (although it would give a character less dense/better written than Kamal Khan pause to wonder whether Orlov’s really all that bothered at heart about the GEMS!). And, of course, Steven Berkoff is our lost Blofeld. He would have been incredible. You know it. He’s critical here, for without him, Octotinkleflower is a two hour dirty – filthy – bomb made from the most lethal “-ium” element of all. Tedium.
Right, so, joining the “action” at the 007th minute, what’s been splayed for our delictation so far to divert us into parting with our money in exchange for repeated stumuli of pleasure? Very bland title card for United Artists this time. I wonder if they simply ran out of money yet again? So Bond infiltrates a corrupt warmongering 1980s dictatorship – North London – and delivers the first spoilerific review of Octolipsbetweenthehips with his description of Colonel Toro. Bit too self-knowing for my liking, that, but clever that they’re so confident / hugely smug that they don’t need other people to pass judgment on their product, they can do it all themselves. Who needs critics anyway? There’s gunbarrel “plus” undemanding drossheads “timesed by” dollars “equals” happiness. Looking a bit portly here, Rog shuffles about, gets caught, does some very amusing leering and climbs into an aeroplane that is then fired from a horse’s bottom as a jet-fuelled suppository. We really have moved “some way” since Professor Dent getting shot, have we not? Oh, to have been at the script meeting when such a hilarious idea was agreed! Oh, to have been armed.
Then “they” fire a phallus at him and this chases him all over everywhere trying to explode into him like a horny gym teacher on a field trip and – oho! – James Bond’s got an idea…
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 Octodepository (and not the “Kremlin Art” type. Oh no. unless the Romanov Star is a Vajazzle. It could be. It looks like one).
Here comes the little jet, and it takes a few viewings to see that it’s a pretty good optical effect aiming straight for us. Doubtless on the blu-ray it will look dismally amateurish but – and I know I may not have given off enough of a vibe here – I may not be buying the unlovely Octofrontbum on any new/failing format. Not when there’s food, clothing, the gas bill, wine and school fees to pay for (or, in truthful order of increasing expense, clothing, food, wine, school fees and the gas bill). Lots of rushing about there by “Argentinians” or “Cubans” or whatever they’re meant to be (the Welsh?) although the people standing directly behind Colonel Toro don’t seem terribly bothered that they have a dubiously adult-toy shaped object heading with some force right into their, um, entrance. That’s it lads, shut the rear doors – I’m assuming that’s a euphemism – because that’s a really good way to stop an explosion happening.
Whoosh, and past a really clever foreground miniature the little ‘plane flies; neat little trick, repeated of course at the other end (they just didn’t shut the doors in time, did they?). It’s not easy to fault the 80s Bonds on their craftsmanship – Octotunamelt especially looks very lush and expansive, and expensive – although back projection still seems to be an issue. An unfortunate truth begins to poke its head through: aside from much that actually involves James Bond – and Roger Moore’s James Bond at that – Octogrowler is OK. Presentation values are immense, India looks smashing even if nothing actually happens there and stuff like the stuntwork with this teeny tiny jetty wetty are perfectly sound. It’s just that the story – the James Bond bit – and the close-ups in the action sequences – the Roger Moore’s James Bond bit – are both in the Arena of the Ungood. Case in point here. It’s readily evident, sadly so, that for many of the shots of Bond sitting in the ‘plane, it’s on the ground (the tree-level gives it away, horribly) and he’s being gently rocked, possibly into middle-aged post-prandial slumber. He’ll be alright after his nap. The camera moves more – much more, Roger Moore – than the ‘plane does. I’m not delusional enough to believe that they would have strapped a younger actor into the tiny jet-powered deathtrap and had him fly it for real, but this sort of cackhanded thing isn’t helping to suspend disbelief that it’s all gone slightly elderly by now. It’s an amusing stunt sequence overall, but a bit spoiled by having to show us James Bond participating in it and I can’t help feeling that’s a tadge counterproductive.
C’mon Rodge, ride that pole. Despite what I’ve just observed above – which I think holds up to scrutiny for this film and the next, unfortunately – it does appear that “they” did indeed stick a stiff-‘un right up Moore’s fuselage here and drive him through the hanger at about, ooh, a fifth of the speed at which the ‘plane entered it. Still, I wouldn’t want to have to do that so another tip of the hat of many to Sir Roger Moore. Indeed, I may as well take the hat off altogether, and leave it off and, indeed, unless I’m very much mistaken this is the last time we set Bond’s headgear in Moneypenny’s front office, unless one considers the virtual reality lousiness at the end of Die Another Day to be something along the same sort of lines.
I know Mr Glen’s on record about how proud he is that he managed to hide the erection (um) behind a lot of young men running about (um) but y’know, c’mon John, we can all see it, we all know it’s there and actually, it’s quite fun that we can. Wouldn’t be a 80s Bond Film without being “a bit crap”. Given the repeated thrusts at the end he’s not so much a director as a fluffer, Mr Glen’s handling of the actors seems to have improved for this go, although that’s probably because he’s not trying to direct children. No-one could be said to give a duff performance but – with one notable exception – there’s not much life going on. Louis Jourdan is at a loose end for things to do, the Magda character seems to just hang about without bothering to explain herself, Maud Adams is very pretty – albeit custodian of some woeful dialogue. They are indeed two of a kind; he’s been known to hang out with young athletic girls too. What does she know?
It’s nice to see MooreBond picking on someone nearer (if not that close) to his own age this time and as for Sir Roger himself, it’s a bit of a larf, innit? Some moments of resplendent cool – the “double-sixes” is very lovely – and daffy mischief – the auction scene is strongly Moore – with an odd burst of unconvincing tension but it’s beginning to look undemanding and although he himself is always watchable, the character of Bond himself is beginning to run on empty now. Same old, same older. Just veering into a bit boring now so let’s cover that up by having Bond flying something out of an equine poo-chute. Patently – and wisely – deciding that child molestation was a character beat too far, for Octocockpit they’ve pretty much turned Bond into a vacuum who turns up, stops other people’s plans and then gets a snog. What he does has become who he is and although that’s admirably existential it does betray that they’re running out of actual ideas for the character himself. Repairing this by suddenly giving him hidden savoury baking skills proves questionable.
Whoosh, and past a really clever foreground miniature etc. Bond looks around, seems to be on the ground driving around a helicopter as he does so, bit odd, and Colonel Toro, this is where you get yours, with a missile that ignites itself before it hits anything. Tchoh! Argentinian / Cuban / Welsh / Egyptian builders! And KABLOEEY. My stars, that’s a big explosion; seems to fling bits right out of the back projection. Curious reaction to the inferno – the horseriders stop and the crowd of very old English people stare, but instead of doing what I would do were there a massive exploding building close by – i.e. gawp at that and then flee – they seem to watch Bond’s little ‘plane instead. The horses themselves don’t seem terribly bothered by the massive crimson fireball (phrase copyright John Gardner, every single one of his Bonds) but then that’s because we’ve just learned that they all keep aircraft up their backsides, so it takes quite a lot to startle them. Science Fact! – the airships of A View to a Kill were transported around by horse, secreted up the anus, and then defecated out on arrival. Science Fact! – so was the script.
Bond’s victory roll, shooting off turbowhiteness everywhere, is spoiled slightly by the immediate revelation that Sir Roger Moore is still on the ground and we must have been watching someone else. Still, benefit of looking at him is that we get to see a special Roger Moore frown as the out of fuel joke lights up. How the fuel tank can be empty when it hasn’t moved is a mystery, but he’s probably been revving it at the lights or something. Oh no! If you’re caught this side of the border you’ll be captured and have your head dunked in icy water, although knowing your charm and luck, it won’t be water, it’ll be freshly shaken Martini.
Blimey, he’s flown very low over that extremely weedy looking border, which is showing off because the manner of its guarding suggests he could really just have strolled up, pointed at an interesting tree – one of the plastic palms, perhaps – and then nipped around the barrier. That said, it would have involved movement and, as can be seen from the landing manoeuvre here, it must have been written into the contract that the camera moves for him instead.
Let’s not be too churlish, it’s a neat joke to drive up to the filling station with one final spurt of explodywhite going off, although given the “fill ‘er up” joke and the later Bond/Madga dialogue about “refilling”, one wonders what it is that Bond is inviting the only man on Earth older than him to do to the ‘plane. Bringing forth the saxophone, for it is the 1980s my darlings, the titles start with the image of Bond getting clap, how apt, and we hit…
On Octoclunge goes, a lot of disconnected old rubbish, flatly filmed, under-edited and overlit again (in the main), an experience that serves little purpose other than to expose how production line it had all become by this stage. It’s probably fine as A. Bond. Film, it has a gunbarrel, it must therefore be one, but thirteen of them in and Octovag doesn’t make much of a convincing case to plough on. The leading character is all but abandoned in favour of incident and there’s a creeping robotic listlessness about it; this renders the imposition of a late and unlikely spurt of furious repeat pumping after 90 minutes of unenthused dozy foreplay a hell of an inconvenience really, you were just dropping off, and delivers some serious uncertainty about whether it’s ever actually going to end or just carry on all bloody night leaving you a bit sore and feeling slightly used. As I’ve suggested, Octoyumyum’s not wholly without merit but it’s all fumbling fits and starts rather than a deep emotional experience.
Perhaps it’s not you, Octolala, it’s me. If we’re going to have this amicable split, I think it’s only fair that I let you know how much I respect you. I like your Moneypenny (this is not a euphemism; she appears in much better nick than last time out) and your Smallbone (this plainly is a euphemism, but that’s why I like her). Your M is a fitting replacement, one of your villains is one of the very best and your actual plot, when it turns up three-quarters of the way through (I suppose delayed reaction is quite kinky) is clever and fairly exciting.
However, in fairness, I think you ought to know some home truths, my little Octotickletunnel. Q is woefully racist, but you knew that already and still you made me watch him having trouble keeping it up. I feel sullied. Bond even joins in, with some colossally inappropriate stuff about “keeping people in curry” which is crass and unforgiveable. I accept that you’re more a “caper” style Bond film, but by “caper” what I’m referring to is one of those nasty salty indigestible green bogeys kept in a jar at the back of the fridge until they develop fur. Large parts of your conversation was utterly hopeless and completely meaningless and the men you had doing the stunts were evidently about three stone lighter than the man you had saying the stuff. Some of the things you tried out have been done before and why you insist on inviting that treacherous louse Frederick Gray around for drinks I have no idea. Never liked him and now he’s chummying up to the Russians. I mean, I know he’s your friend and all but seriously, can’t you see the signals he’s sending out? He’s probably letting the KGB read them. OK, I accept that you decided to liven things up towards the end of our encounter but to be perfectly honest, I actually wanted you to stop. I’m really sorry Octopussy – and excuse that horrible vulgarity, I’ve simply run out of euphemisms – but I can’t really like you enough to be anything more than nodding acquaintances. I do want to waste a waking moment and believe me, please, I do want to sleep. Now put that thing away and grab some shut-eye. Early start tomorrow – I have to learn how to dance into the fire. G’night.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of A View to a Kill. Jacques Stewart is in so strong and so deep and by crikey it chafes.