AVTAK is on next Saturday. 8:00PM
Thank you. I will be watching. I am looking forward to seeing it in HD.
AVTAK at a Vue cinema last night, with a new review here: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/1047091#Comment_1047091
I first saw Octopussy during the heatwave of 1983, so it's appropriate I post my review as England hits its hottest temperature ever.
This time I saw Roger Moore’s penultimate Bond at London’s Prince Charles cinema just off Leicester Square, a stone’s throw from the Odeon when I first saw it.
That first time round coincided with The Police’s Synchronicity album and I had its haunting and brilliant number 'King of Pain' going round my head which I took into the film with me, it sort of hung over it. That the summer was relentless sunshine and heat made the film - set in India of course - ever more relevant, it seemed all pervasive, leaving aside that The Sun newspaper was doing a mammoth Bond week dedicated to the film, frankly leaving little left to know for the keen fan.
That first showing was afternoon, however, so the cinema wasn’t packed out, it wasn’t the highly charged, happy, slightly hysterical flavour of my previous viewing of For Your Eyes Only, or indeed subsequent one of A View to A Kill. I think those were evening shows - this time round you had a bit of sole male laughter from the stalls at some of Moore’s jokes, which didn’t always land.
Of course, the main event in 1983 was Sean Connery’s return in Never Say Never Again - timed to be released simultaneously with Moore’s effort, but pushed back to the fall, which should have tipped me off, and to Christmas in the UK. Until then, waiting for what would surely be the real deal, a cinematic masterpiece or at least event, we had Moore’s Octopussy first out of the traps. (For some reason, the Prince Charles cinema showed Connery’s effort last week, out of sync.)
Much of the anticipation of Moore's film was tied in with that of Never Say Never Again at the time, with the American Starlog magazine taking up the cause, though here in the UK you got the feeling it was a bit muted.
For the most part, they more than banged the drum for Connery's picture, though a fan might think - like Starmer's policies - that the information about the film and clues provided by the photographs seemed a little threadbare.
Of course, decades later we learned that the script doctors were having to make up a lot of Connery's film as it went along, plus there was the sense that the EON team might be nicking what they saw from its rival to incorporate into its own film - Bond on horseback, for instance.
Today, of course, Octopussy is topical because of Orlov - I mean Putin’s mad plan to invade Eastern Europe with his superior tank force - apparently there was no Breznev figure to caution him against it and it’s gone tits up. Of course, poor Orlov wasn’t actually in command in this film, he’s a rogue general.
That year's 007 Magazine naturally talked up the Battle of the Bonds and made no attempt to conceal its preference for Connery's Bond.
Watching Octopussy it’s clear it’s the real deal, the full-throated raw of the AcroJet across the cinema speakers affording full enjoyment - contrast that with Bond’s plastic crappy motorbike in its rival, put together at the last moment and shipped out: ‘Where are the wings? It’s meant to fly!’ Said director Irvin Kershner upon receiving it, which makes one think just what kind of movie they’d been looking to make even if things had done their way.
Later when I got home I watched the pre-credits of Die Another Day and of course it’s our hero doing much the same, using a false ID to infiltrate an enemy base to blow it up and getting caught - no AcroJet for him to escape with. Brosnan’s first appearance provoking a comment from a family member: ‘He’s a bit porky!’ And of course, he was, much like our star in this film. The scenes where Moore is meeting Maud Adams’ titular (!) star for the first time, Moore’s looks quite chunky and overweight, if he’d had a rounder face he’d be done for. That said, I don’t quite know how they film him moving from the jeep to the horsebox while it’s in full motion, it seems quite a precarious stunt for a 50-something bloke not light on his feet and I don’t see them cutting away at any point. It’s an example of his being casually impressive in this movie unlike anything you see in its rival of that year. I did like the way he dispenses with his guards, and then the drivers watch in horror as they see Bond aiming a gun at them - he only shoots their tyres of course.
Impressive stonework from the escaping hens as the villain’s jeep crashes. I mean, you do wonder how many takes they did of that - the hens don’t seem CGI as that didn’t exist back then so were they lucky on the first take or did they have a few squashed hens to contend with… okay, that’s supper sorted, line up the next lot, see if they escape this time.
A few moments in Octopussy anticipate GoldenEye - it’s the old Bond infiltrating an enemy base to blow it up thing, setting the timer, later the Russians soldiers.
Much as I enjoy the pre-credits, there are things about it that stay in the back of one’s mind, things a bit odd that only occur some time later.
It’s meant to be a South American country - possibly Cuba wherever that is, or Argentina as a nod to the recent Falklands War. The tone of the film is set a bit with a sax on the soundtrack, this is a film in which attractive young women flirt with older uglier guys as part of some scam or honeytrap - unless, of course, the person in question is James Bond himself, in which case we’re take it it’s sincere. It’s a world however of its time - sex appeal is not measured by your six-pack or youth but via a Rolex watch, a nice suit, a gold American Express card produced at a plush restaurant. Being middle-aged conferred privilege rather than odolescence.
Anyway, it’s meant to be South America but the location may as well be deepest Surrey with some swarthy looking extras bussed in - one shot seems to be staff from the local Indian restaurant (‘We’ll give you a crate of Tiger beer to take away, plus autographs from some of the stars!)
Now, that comment may seem a bit dodgy - but Octopussy is at times a bit dodgy, just the wrong side of cheeky. It’s not quite borderline racist, not quite borderline sexist - actually, strike that, it crosses the border with the speed of Orlov in pursuit of Bond’s train, borderline right wing politics. Not quite raising red flags, but the suggestion of them.
Otherwise many of the folk attending the equestrian event seem all Surrey types.
That then begs the question - what event is this? Some kind of Derby or Ascot thing? There don’t seem many there for that. It’s not like the racetrack we see in, say, Connery’s Marnie with thousands in attendance. Just as well given the fireworks Bond later sets off, we’d be worried about the civiilans being hurt.
Then one thinks, well, what exactly is a horsey event like this doing right next to some military air base? Is that normal? I suppose it’s like having a Nato base bang next to Shrublands. It might make more sense if it were a polo match with army regulars taking part, to give Bond an excuse to have his horse box there.
The local terrain isn’t too out of place but when Bond takes to the skies he seems to be in another location altogether - more like the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t quite match the local we’ve been shown earlier but it’s not like you notice that at the time, like a lot in the film it just sits there in the back of your mind, undigested or not fully processed.
At the time it didn’t quite occur to me that in having the missile blow up the hangar, Bond has achieved his mission but by another means. This could have been brought home with a bit of prior dialogue with his female accomplice - ‘I expect to see it blown sky high - but make sure you’re far away!’ Or afterwards, from Bond, ‘Mission accomplished!’
That said, it makes one wonder if there’s THAT much difference between Bond and Orlov/Khan, both are planting devices to sabotage the enemy, that latter costing thousands of civilian lives of course.
Having praised Binder’s titles for Eyes Only these fall short. He seems to be winging it. Once again, the pre-credits offered little visually to inspire him, once again it has no connection to the film as a whole. Binder can’t introduce Indian stylings or motifs because we’ve seen none of that yet and though the circus thing seems referenced a bit, that got used in Moonraker after Jaws fell into the Big Top. So what we get is some soft porn nudes who seem to be chortling inappropriately at times, there’s no class, no finesse. The gimmick is a gun that fires neon scribblings saying ‘James Bond 007’… I guess this was the era when The Sun had topless women on Page 3, everything was sleazier then, whereas now it’s a case of, ‘Want sex? Well, there’s porn you can look at, otherwise not here dearie…’
The song fits into this world of complacent lechery. It’s not bad, and Rita Coolidge didn’t sound flat on this occasion, but it’s generally unremarkable. It’s the music interlude on The Two Ronnies followed by another sketch where the 50-something suited comics are joined by busty young lovelies. You can see why Bond fans Duran Duran put themselves forwards for the gig.
It does occur to me that For Your Eyes Only was the first and last fashionable Bond film of the 1980s - it had Sheena Easton, a new director, an iconic if too sexy poster, it had young lovers Charles and Diana at at the premiere. Dalton has his fans but his film didn’t really fly like that, the fashion lay with the likes of Lethal Weapon, Arnie and Die Hard by that point.
That said, 'All Time High' is a proper song, and better than many recent efforts in, well, most of the Craig films. Possibly most of the Brosnan ones too. Diminishing returns, isn’t it?
Incidentally, the sound mix in Die Another Day is rubbish in the pre-credits, once the explosion goes off the music kicks in way down in the mix, it lent the film a horrible, eerie just plain wrong feel about it. Someone messed up.
Above: How TVTimes helped promote the Royal Premiere of Octopussy, and Below: The advertisement on its reverse side.
After the credits one expects to see Bond walking to M’s office but of course we haven’t had the plot yet, another thing that makes these films seem a bit longer than needs be. So we see poor 009 get knifed, then Orlov goes off and meet someone - oh, 009 had the Faberge egg so Khan needs to get another one to pay someone off, hence his bid at the auction. I must say the plot of this film loses me very early on, though the interest doesn’t.
The less said about the scene with Miss Moneypenny the better, though it’s amiably played, the introduction of Miss Smallbone seems pointless - at the time one had a sinking feeling that this was going to be the new Moneypenny and that she didn’t have much personality. It’s a bit like your mangey old cat being introduced the new kitten prior to be put down, a bit tactless. It’s slightly typical of the film, the tone is a bit off at times though its good humour pulls you along.
For some reason Fanning the auction expert has made a big hit on Bond Twitter, with many fans wearing a bow tie on Friday Fanning day and so on. The scenes here are all redolent of the early 80s comedy Yes, Prime Minister.
Louis Jordan is a step up from Glover’s Kristatos though he does put me in mind of a Strictly Come Dancing judge due to his camp manner. He’s another low-key villain but quite interesting because we see him not quite in command and often under stress, not unlike Casino Royale’s Le Chiffre perhaps. Again, it’s not quite clear to me why he needs to be part of a plot to blow up a US air force base given he’s a smuggler, oh, I suppose Orlov can provide them all with priceless Russian jewels in return. You do seem him playing second fiddle at times, which makes him more complex than the usual villain. As is Bond tradition, he seems to be an Indian but isn’t really, as he’s played by a Frenchman, just as Kristatos was meant to be Greek but played by an Englishman, Drax’s name suggests a German but he’s played by a Frenchman, Stromberg - who knows? - a German with an American accent, while Scaramanga has a smooth English accent. Actually, it makes the whole thing seem less xenophobic, less pointed.
But all this talk of how Kamal Khan looking like a Strictly judge made me aware of the ringing of a distant bell. Some years ago this was aired on Ajb but it slipped through the cracks and it’s no surprise. In the late 80s, when the Bond franchise was slightly going off course, there was a televised star-studded anniversary bash to celebrate our hero, held for some reason in a conference centre in Dallas, Texas, it involved a few actors in a comedy routine, a super smooth soulful boy band, kind of like The Temptations, or The Floaters.
Lured back were an ageing Joseph Wiseman, someone doubling for the late Robert Shaw, always game Christopher Lee, Michel Lonsdale and yep Louis Jordan, Yaphet Kotto declined to participate, deciding - correctly as it turned out - that it would demean him, that said he may have regretted rejecting a pay packet for an event few it turned out ever saw.
Memory is sketchy because I only saw this once and - unlike the disastrous Star Wars Christmas Special - you won’t find this on YouTube, it’s disappeared via some Stalinesque revisionism. Indeed, you won’t get the likes of Hardyboy or Barbel commenting on this, which pretty much shows what I mean.
Our actors were made to learn a dance routine AND sing, looking back it was very much in the vogue of 'Float On' by the Floaters, the chorus in particular, where each singer in turn espouses the erotic virtues of his particular starsign, before rejoining the others in their finger-clicking groove to allow the other their turn.
It is telling that we didn’t have Blofeld in the line-up, a testimony to the ongoing court case with Kevin McClory. If memory serves, it went like this…
The name is No
I won’t take No for an answer
Though I move slow
Some say I’m a pretty good dancer
I’ll give you crabs
Don’t you forget it
But don’t feel sad
It all gets cut in the final edit
And now the chorus...
Kill Bond now…
That be my proposal
I don’t care how
Use all means
At your disposal
And I aim to please
You may know the right wines
But you’re the one on your knees
This time I’m done with stalking
I’m in the mood for talking
I may have no license to kill
But I’m happy enough to slip you a pill
The name’s Big
And it’s not fair
My girl’s got me playing with myself
But they call HER Solitaire
Names is for tombstones baby
You’ve got me going crazy
Place your bets with Dr Kananga
And you won’t have no need for Scaramanga
Chorus: Kill Bond now....
The Man With The Golden Gun
And I’m a philanderer
On my holiday island in the sun
I’ll pour your favourite tipple
You’ll check out my tertiary nipple
As you drink from a golden chalice
I’ll stroke your face with a gun-metal phallus
The name’s Drax
I’ll take you to the moon
I’ll see harm comes to you
Hey babe, gonna damage your womb
(At this, I recall the other actors looking at each other a tad uneasily)
I'll set the dogs on you
Not much that you can do
Shame I can’t take the dogs into space
Things we get up to be a disgrace
(At this, the atmosphere in the hall took an odd turn, and one of the actors made ‘cut’ motions across their neck.)
The name’s Kamal Khan
And I confess
When you get to see my charms
A no soon becomes a yes
Hey girl gonna make you beg
As I pump my seed in your Faberge eggs
You’re going to major in bliss
Cos I KNOW you’ll get a bang out of this…
Hey babe gonna slap your rump
Cos I’m a camel who’s born to hump
(As some of the artists among us can tell, this is a bit longer than the other verses and the pre-recorded backing track from now on doesn’t match. There’s not much more to go because up steps none other than Benicio del Toro with a satanic look on his face, flashing a knife and smiling his diamond smile.)
I’m your pretty Valentine!
I’m gonna stick it where the sun don’t shine…
How this concluded I don’t recall as all we heard was an almighty shout and the camera landing on the floor with a crash, plus an American woman’s voice shouting ‘All right you crazy f****, I’m shutting this down!’ And then the clip goes dead.
Said clip surfaced a year or so before the release of GoldenEye, but then got shut down, with various Bond sites hit with super injunctions - presumably by EON but maybe MGM - forbidding them from even mentioning this event, let alone showing it online. Indeed, one only had to type in the words ‘Bond comedy routine villains soul singing group’ for odd things to occur - files saved to your desktop would start disappearing, etc. I was in a bedsit in Stockwell when I typed this in and received repeated silent calls on the landline - this was particularly disturbing because it had only been cut off a month earlier.
You won’t find any reference to this on any Bond website, which surely demonstrates conclusively just how comprehensive EON’s ‘clean-up’ can be when they put their mind to it.
I did try - when writing for various movie magazines, many years ago, don't PM me, I even managed to get hold of Barbara Broccoli’s email address and - one balmy, carefree summer afternoon in the office when everything seems possible - I fired off an email asking her whether this skit might appear as an extra on one of the Brosnan DVDs. Straight back, and this was alarming, it pinged a reply: ‘Hi Napoleon [I hadn’t used that name on the email] I think you should let this slide, it suggests you have rather too much time on your hands… Babs x’
Which frankly was not just RUDE but obviously patently untrue.
The following week my contract with the firm was abruptly terminated with no reason given.
During the pandemic, with lockdown at its most intense, my mobile would ring at three in the morning and answering it I’d hear - distant and muffled - the chorus of the supervillains’ song ‘Kill Bond now… That be my proposal…’ I didn’t mind that, curiously. I think it helped keep me sane throughout that whole period.
I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘Anyway….’
Back on topic... Never really sure what the blonde is doing with Khan. Is she working for Khan or is she part of Octopussy’s entourage as we later see? It’s unusual to show an early Bond squeeze not only surviving but alongside the main squeeze in the final scenes. Perhaps - to emphasise Moore’s Bond having one over Connery - they could have ended the film with a threesome on Octopussy’s barge given that they’re all still on speaking terms with each other.
Another thing that isn’t clear - and it’s taken me decades to realise this - is what the knife-wielding twins are up to. If they’re part of Octopussy’s circus troupe what are they doing with Khan? Okay, they’re all working as a team at that point. But do they get a chit to go off with Khan for the day whenever he needs a bit of work done? What are they doing going after 009 in West Berlin seeing as Octopussy’s Circus isn’t performing there? Does she know about this? Perhaps they said they were scouting the area in advance. Why are they dressed in their knife-wielding red and black outfits if the circus isn’t it town? To make them recognisable to the audience, of course. None of this matters much as you don’t think about it at the time, but like a politician’s promise, too many of these things build up in the back of one’s mind over the course of the film.
Vijay Amritage must have been very tall if he towers over a six foot two Moore.
This isn’t really the world of For Your Eyes Only nor Moonraker. Maybe a bit of The Spy Who Loved Me but mostly The Man With The Golden Gun - it has the same rather sleazy vibe going on, and its reality framework is much the same.
You’d think the ageing Bond was being subject to a honeytrap the number of young women who give him the eye in rapid succession when he checks into the hotel - maybe he is, given that Khan is strongly associated with it.
Is Moore’s Bond so past it? It’s a different world back then, as I said. He looks overweight and haggard at times. But this is a more humorous film so you can just go with it. To be fair, a good many actors have let themselves go - Connery in his last three films, Brosnan never looked as boyish as he did in GoldenEye and was portly at times in his final movie, it’s hard to know what to make of Craig - but even Dalton didn’t get his shirt off to good effect. With the salary they were on you’d think they’d make an effort but gym membership really wasn’t a thing then.
And around this time, the adulterous skirt-chasing Government minister Alan Clarke was - according to his infamous diaries - having threesomes with one wife and her daughter in a fancy hotel, and getting it where he could. He was very much of that ilk, and lived the life for real, the suggestion being that to be sexually knowing would require decades of experience not afforded to a young lad in the provinces struggling to make his way in the world, and a lucky lass would benefit from said experience and American Express Gold card.
The colonel who loses to Khan appeared briefly alongside Moore in The Man Who Haunted Himself - soon to be seen on London Live in a mint print I think - a decade earlier I think. It’s not a bad scene, something a bit provincial about the sets I can’t put my finger on. A bit pokey. Not cinematic.
The taxi chase is fairly straightforward, again we see Bond take a detour to indulge in some comical racial stereotypes. Now, for some at the time this may have been the film’s highlight but now it just breaks up the action with a lot of faffing about. ‘Get off my bed!’ Is perhaps a comic nod to family rows but like a few lines, it’s not quite on the money… Then again, ‘Shocking, positively shocking’ delivered by Connery in the Goldfinger pre-credits makes little sense now because nowadays nobody uses that phrase.
Nods to Dr No - someone taking Bond’s photograph in a public place - he seems more relaxed about this now. Again, is Magda doing this to help Khan, as the photo later is shown to Bond’s would-be assassins? Who knows?
At this point these quirks don’t matter because we in the audience don’t know what’s going on, so we gloss over it. Maybe Magda will turn out to be a total villain.
Then there is the horrible sexist scene in Q’s laboratory - relocated to India with the speed and thoroughness of Drax’s lab in Venice - where our hero zooms in on a woman’s cleavage. Oh dear. Some of Connery’s inappropriate behaviour in Thunderball provoked guffaws from the Prince Charles cinema audience, but silence greeted this, quite rightly too.
Q is in this one a lot, isn’t he. Did Desmond actually go out to India, though?
Bond gets imprisoned in Khan’s fortress. His window is, we see, overseen by three or four guards. Except when he needs to escape at night, then it’s overseen by nobody. And he leaves the light on in his room so it’s obvious everyone can see the bars bent back as he departs.
Bond eavesdropping on Khan’s plan is a bit Operation Grandslam, isn’t it? No worse for that. ‘Care for a night cap?’ Gets a bit red flag area.
The same goes for the grisly meal he’s offered by Khan. ‘It’s odd, but I find when I’m being stared at, I lose my appetite.’ That’s a good-ish line, that should be delivered diffidently, or mock diffidently, and nonchalantly in an off-had manner. Moore makes heavy weather of it. It’s just a slightly odd scene, not quite racist, but you wouldn’t vouch for it either. Does Bond eat anything or just leave it and go hungry? What does Magda have, is she similarly picky? Okay, the scene is meant to illustrate Khan’s grisly tastes and kudos I guess for having a scene taken up enthusiastically by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom two years later, assuming anyone rates that. It is unfortunate however that in all of Octopussy’s travelogue scenes, there is nothing there that intends to recommend India as a location, no Piz Gloria or Vaux Le Vicompte you’d like to visit, no truly lovely Barry music to advertise the place, no luxury restaurant or menu to sample, nor - unlike You Only Live Twice or Live and Let Die - any local female talent for Bond to sample; okay I realise Rosie Carver is black American and Solitaire may as well be from Pinner. It’s Bond visiting a location and sticking to the bottled water and not quite unpacking his suitcase.
His escape from Khan’s castle is another thing that, for reason’s that lurk in the back of one’s mind, lacks authenticity. I mean, the view of it on the hill doesn’t suggest any kind of jungle full of tigers nearby, it’s sparse and rugged terrain. The whole man hunt thing works best when used in a Flashman novel - author George Macdonald Fraser borrowed some of the plot of one of these for Octopussy - where as I recall it was set in the middle of nowhere. But Vijay pointed out Khan’s fortress on the way to the hotel, it’s basically on the city, when instead he should be pointing out some mountain top Black Narcissus venue in the misty mountains or something. It’s not obvious at the time, but how come Bond goes from this hilltop setting to a jungle with bogs and rivers all of a sudden. It lacks the authenticity of Bond’s escape from Piz Gloria and I know this is a different kind of film, but it needn’t be especially.
That said, having seen the intro to Citizen Kane, it does seem to be modelled on Kane - or is it Hearst’s? - Kubla Khan residence, where he is said to have imported tigers and built a jungle around it. But that was meant to be more artificial.
Bond subject to a man hunt? I dare say elephants can build up speed on the plains of Africa but in a jungle, one might think he could outrun them fast enough seeing as they’re bogged down with picnic baskets and so on. The main peril comes from jungle wildlife - tarantulas, tigers, alligators - none of whom seem ready to put out and offer any real threat as it turns out.
Just as women will be obligingly attracted to our man, alligators can be counted upon to disappear when he enters the water, only turning up to devour enemies. Except of course when the enemies venture out to Octopussy’s island to kill Bond, hmmm.
Dialogue revealing Octopussy’s link to Bond is hurried a bit, the A to B dialogue we saw in Glen’s previous film. You don’t quite get the sense that Maud Adams is a wicked woman heading up a jewel smugglers gang. She’s not a bad actress - film critic John Brosnan didn’t take to her, describing her as ‘Boredom City all the way’ while lavishing praise on Barbara Carrera’s Fatima Blush later that year, and she doesn’t quite set the film alight but she’s okay. Again, her troupe lack authenticity somehow. In the movie you see the one bringing Khan to her - much like Dent being escorted to No’s Crab Key - is really well stacked. It is a film that invites you to notice these things, so don’t blame me.
Bond is a bit rapey with his lead again, shame really, having just read Ronan Farrow’s excellent Catch and Kill book about exposing sex pest and rapist producer Harvey Weinstein, his modus operandi being, just persist with them, grapple with them, beg for sympathy and they’ll give in eventually - many women do because of the surprise factor or for fear of the consequences if they don’t - it doesn’t suddenly mean a bloke’s pheromones have got her besotted with lust. Still, this is a Bond film, and the measure of his sex appeal is determined in the script which has lots of women turn to look at him so it must be true, in the same way that we see an ageing star leap about in action scenes so that must be true also. Some of the dynamic is a bit Dynasty and of its time - for our younger readers, Dynasty was a lush 1980s soap opera about the oil business set in Denver, with ageing highly sexed stars like John Forsthye, Linda Evans and of course Joan Collins; in one scene a young buck called Dexter comes in and snogs Joan Collins without any preamble and while it’s outrageous, most viewers male and female would enjoy this, especially as everything suggests the characters are about to have an affair (they do). I did wonder watching it whether Joan Collins would have been a better lead in this film as her acting chops were up and running a bit more. Leaving aside her being ‘too old’, what class an English woman brings to an American soap opera might fall down in a British movie where with Rog you would essentially have two lower middle class south Londoners going on at each other.
John Barry is a welcome return but unlike You Only Live Twice he doesn’t go native - there are no lovely Indian numbers here, largely because John Glen doesn’t seem to trust himself to slow the film down to allow for them. Nor are there any great Barry cues of the kind we enjoy in his 60s films, and in Moonraker, and his last one, The Living Daylights. Barry doesn’t get to offer up one of his amazing A-B cues, where we go on a journey, be it on a biplane (Out of Africa), on a gondola (Eleanor’s Arrival in The Lion in Winter), into space (Flight into Space, Space Capsule) or to Drax’s Chateau. He struggles with a movie where - as David Lean’s A Passage to India showed - the ghost of Peter ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ Sellers was never far away.
Generally the film aims to give you the Full Indian experience which bogs it down as a thriller at times. I don’t know if I’d trust Q to keep watch for Bond, I mean what’s he going to do, whack ‘em over the head with a copy of Anglers Weekly? It reminds me of the time I asked Milton to keep watch for me while I dawned hilarious cartoons on Dog Dinnage’s blackboard one afternoon - in the Maths teacher comes, scarcely held up, not sure how poor Milton was going to signal to me, we hadn’t thought that one through.
Bond’s romantic strike rate is a bit sub par - just two in this movie, though both women survive. Does this ever happen? Usually one gets to die, even if they’re a bad ‘un, such as in A View To A Kill and Never Say Never Again. Certainly not in Live and Let Die, Golden Gun, Spy (albeit Fekkish’s wife and Naomi are a snog and a wink), Moonraker, Eyes Only… I think this almost marked a turning point because no bedmates die in Living Daylights or License to Kill. Okay, I think was it really. In contrast to Moore’s double hander, Connery beds four in his movie, none with any great distinction it must be said.
Talk of Flashman reminds us that its author George Macdonald Fraser helped write the script for this one - borrowing a fair bit from one of his Flashman novels set in India - in particular the triangle between his Indian nemesis and the local princess, plus the hunt where the protagonist is the quarry. I'm not sure Richard Maibaum offers much credit for his contritubition in his gloriously off message interview with Starlog magazine that year...
I should say these features in one magazine were a bit 'all one's Christmas's come at once' for this Bond fan, being pre-Internet and very little o recommend in Bond movie books, one tended to fork out 10p for Fleming paperbacks at the local tat shop and that was it.
Things pick up when we get to West Berlin. I can’t really fault this part of the film, even the daft stuff with the gorilla. Orlov is a great mad villain, Berkoff appeared in three of the biggest hits of the 1980s - Rambo II, this and Beverly Hills Cop.
Jordan’s Khan is very relaxed every time Bond seems to escape, however. We don’t ever see the twin’s reaction when he finds his brother is dead, do we? Again, this might slow down the film, so maybe it was filmed but jettisoned.
Orlov is going after Bond because he’s in the car with the casket of jewels, right? As well as to stop Bond? What about trying to reach the train with Bond on it? To prevent Bond from defusing the bomb, right? But he’s not exactly being quiet about it.
Usually the pre-credits is the best part of a Bond movie but this may be an exception and not because the pre-credits is bad, not at all. It’s tremendously exciting stuff, stream-lined action all the way with a real sense of momentum. There’s a genuine sense of peril and what is at stake. The train stunts are terrific - I suppose Moore’s distinctive DA hairstyle is eagerly utilised by the stuntman as a ooint of identification - and for some reason I overlook nonsense about how the car wheels match the rail tracks and how come Bond doesn’t get electrocuted. Or how come Gogol and his men are on the scene from Moscow in about five minutes. A lot of the head men in this are keen to head out into the field, aren’t they.
It’s the details. As Gobinda moves fast along the carriage, he passes one of the troupe juggling a tea cup, oblivious, heightening the tension. A long shot sees Bond running along the length of the carriage - on top - while Gobinda ‘chases’ him through the carriage, we see both of them as the train rattles along. It’s the sheer pleasure that someone thought up that shot and then took care to film it.
When Khan and Gobinda pass Bond in the car on the way to the air base, by that point they’ve nothing to gain, have they? Unbeknown to them, Orlov is dead and the jewels are in the possession of General Gogol. So letting the bomb go off doesn’t benefit them at all.
To be fair, this is a rare Bond plot where it becomes clear that the ‘villain’ is unaware of a bigger, nastier heist being planned. Octopussy is fooled into taking part in a bigger plot - this is a ruse that might have been utilised in that year’s Never Say Never Again, to have Spectre infiltrated by rogue elements keen to see the bombs actually go off, to give Bond a real countdown to forestall, rather than the usual predictable ‘Give us yer money’ bluff that Spectre do in these circumstances. It seems apt that the finale of Bond racing to the US air force base has a similarity with the finale of the conspiracy thriller Arlington Road.
Fat lad making his way through the crowd. Couldn’t they have go him to sit on the bomb? Perhaps General Orlov could have arranged for a waiter to offer him a thin after-dinner mint - that could have caused an explosion in itself.
Octopussy thought Bond was dead. She doesn’t react much to seeing him alive after all this time - a scene that might call to mind how Bathsheba Everdene also catches sight of missing presumed dead in a watery grave Sergeant Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd - I’m making you think a bit, aren’t I. One for @Hardyboy.
The film tapers off a bit after this gripping finale but you can’t carp at a film that aims to deliver such value for money. The raid by Octopussy’s troupe on Khan’s Indian residence makes no sense dramatically or in terms of plot. It’s not clear what she’s going to do when she finds Khan - bore him to death? We have a finale where it’s about a woman nagging a bloke, hardly thrilling.
Or is she about to kill him? Fair enough, but she doesn’t say so and there’s nothing in her history or in the film to suggest she’d do that. She doesn’t have that hot-blooded, piratical way about her at all. A heroine in a Flashman novel, you’d be left in no doubt. She’s played by a Scandinavian and they don’t really do hot-blooded excitement - I mean, have you read Number24’s posts? 😁 No wonder they don’t need to join NATO - they’d be too boring for Putin to invade - but then of course I forget their Lord Somerisle tendencies. A line of dialogue from Adams about the Octopussy cult and their sadistic ways of dealing with traitors - tied to a wheel while their blood runs dry, then tossed into a firestorm perhaps - before adding, ‘But we don’t do that now - at least, not recently…’ as a joke would make us more interested in what she’s going to do with Khan when she gets hold of him. Instead, no, she’s going to give him a good telling off.
Of course, why does she need to be there? They have his address - or is this the residence we saw before? It doesn’t seem the same so it’s not quite like Bond’s raid on Piz Gloria with his band of bandit brothers. Or is it, in which case why is the surrounding terrain different, with no hill top descent or tiger-infested jungle to negotiate? Why haven’t we seen this location before?
Why not get India’s armed forces to show up and arrest Khan, or are they meant to be complicit? Or is this meant to be another location only she knows about? If so, how come Bond is there. And with Q of all people. In a balloon. With a ruddy great Union flag on it. Is this movie funded by the Brexit Party? It does have that flavour. Perhaps it should feature Farrage Eggs. 😁
That all said, this is meant to be a fun romp of a movie so you could argue, if people bought all this, why not? As for giving Adams the lead role and Q a large role, one could argue it’s that age-old elite socialism - Cubby and EON have a pot of money, why not share it out among the people you like? Desmond’s pay day must have tripled, I’d have thought. Never mind a Faberge egg, it’s a nice nest egg.
These days the Octopussy raid would be made more convincing, the idea of armed female bandits indulging in karate and kickboxing, whereas back then it seemed a bit naff - models pretending to be fighters. Today’s Marvel adventures make this kind of action scene more effective, here it generally isn’t. Though a cliche, it could have done with foreshadowing - when Bond comments patronisingly of her ‘lovelies’ she should give an example of their fighting prowess, Spectre-Island style, or like the Ninjas in YOLT.
I’ve just realised the Marvel films have a walking talking shark voiced by Stallone, so they’re not that convincing.
Around this point, one might think of the phrase ‘only in a Bond film’ - usually meant as praise but not always. Only in a Bond film would the English hero in his mid-50s disguise himself in a fake alligator, or dress up in a clown suit, or have a gang of scantily clad models storm an Indian castle… And only in a Bond film set in the summer of 1983, really. By this point the films seemed to lack individual agency and were oft reacting to the last film. This continues - sort of - on from For Your Eyes Only whose whole purpose and identity was ‘Not Moonraker’ - good enough for some, but it’s a bit like Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer modelling himself as ‘Not Boris Johnson’ - a bit devoid of its own flair and charisma. I’d argue all of the 1980s Bonds were a reaction to the excess of Moonraker, a bit like a political party having to devise and image and policies to counter past image problems, the exception in my view being the much-maligned A View to A Kill which felt to me like a slick, stripped down, unapologetic upbeat action flick.
For all that, while Octopussy trades on its past a bit, it’s hard to see how the 1980s films would have recruited any new fans, while you just know every single one of the 1970s movies - even The Man With The Golden Gun - would have done. From thereon the thing seemed to be about winning back lapsed Bond fans who were irked at the likes of Moonraker, or Roger Moore himself, or the dour fun-free License to Kill and Timothy Dalton himself, or the abomination of Die Another Day, or Pierce Brosnan himself. Craig’s tenure seemed based on what exactly - he may have won back fans from previous eras but again, QoS exists as a reaction to the mega success of Casino Royale, while Spectre and No Time To Die only seem to exist as a reaction to the mega success of Skyfall. I struggle however to see how even the most highly regarded of Craig’s films would have recruited any young fans so far unfamiliar with the Bond universe. Again, it reminds me of a political party so focussed on winning back its base it forgets to try something new.
The plane finale is good stuff, fell a bit short of the Moonraker pre-credits at the time but it looks tremendous, the cinematography etc. I haven’t commented on Gobinda the henchman - he is not bad at all, though not quite given enough interesting stuff to do. No reason why having despatched him, Bond can’t climb on board and simply knock out Khan at the controls and regain control but never mind.
The ‘romantic’ finale is too bad really, Bond pretending to be infirm - he could have got a stuntman with a DA to do the scene, anyway. File it under ‘what were they thinking?’ Along with the delayed exclamatory line by our titular heroine ‘James!’ It's yet another aspect of the film that seems just a bit off, a bit icky, like Bond offering to make their drink 'a loving cup' after the promise to 'make some memories'.
Now, you can easily see how a Sean Connery Bond movie could knock this one for six - especially as there are so many eye-rolling moments - the sexism, the double-takes, the Tarzan yell, the obligatory bevy of beauties, the naffness - that one could just delete and have a satisfactory action movie. I’m afraid that year’s NSNA pulled off a trick where all the bad things I’ve listed are faithfully retained, while the charm, family feeling and undeniably high-end action and spectacle were jettisoned.
Though a Spy Who Loved Me gift set style toy thing was in shops for this movie, featuring the AcroJet, Indian Tut taxi and horse box, this was the first Bond where I was unaware of any merchandise tie-in of this kind. Eyes Only was the last fashionable Bond in a way, this one really wasn’t though it was massively hyped via the pages of The Sun, and possibly the Premiere event appearing on ITV, with clips from the movie. Rita Coolidge’s song didn’t chart much.
Upon its release, the James Bond Fan Club said it was the best Bond since The Spy Who Loved Me, preceding this with the double-edged comment of ‘If Roger Moore ever felt like quitting the role, now is the ideal time to do it, because…’ The silly stuff came in for adverse, weary comment, along with the observation of Moore ‘at times really showing his age’. Praise was lavished on his fighting moves in the scene with Khan’s bandits, however. Generally, it was thought that Connery’s return with be the Second Coming where all aforementioned flaws would be remedied. A teenager at my school with scant interest in Bond said he was looking forward to the movie, because one US critic had dubbed it ’10 times better than Octopussy…’ We in the UK had to wait for Christmas to see it, where in most theatres it played second fiddle to Jaws 3D. And where its premiere was attended by - wait for it - Prince Andrew.
I thoroughly enjoyed this reshowing of Octopussy. Perhaps one could argue that like Thunderball it is more enjoyable seen in a single sitting on the big screen, not least because despite its spectacle, it doesn’t quite offer a couple of standalone iconic action scenes that might draw one into a TV viewing. No Spy Who Loved Me ski jump, nor Lotus Bell Helcopter chase, no Live And Let Die speedboat chase, no Vegas car chase, no May Day jumping off the Eiffel Tower moment or tank chase around St Petersburg. Nor does it offer an iconic, gadget-laded motor car. Or one of those memorable Ken Adam sets. I don’t dislike the villainy or the love interest in this film at all, but neither are they standout noteworthy or memorable. The song is alright.
But the action does offer pleasing symmetry, the film bookended by a detonator set at a public event, with some horsey aerial action thrown in. Symmetry is a thing with some Bond films - see also death by electrolysis in the pre-credits of Goldfinger and in the near climactic scene with Oddjob or as @Shady Tree Tree points out, the pre-credits panic in the helicopter with that of Zorin's airship in the grand finale.
Thanks for reading. Hot tonight, isn't it? Oh, but I hear the landline is ringing...
My sides are sore with laughing so hard. Best laugh in ages, and I haven't even finished reading the rest which I'm so keen to do but just had to comment. Bravo, Napoleon!
There's a lot to take in, since there were contemporary articles to read, and that's one of the best reviews I've ever read. So sharp.
A terrific read, @Napoleon Plural I really appreciate all your contextual observations and links to magazine and TV coverage at the time.
The escaping hens business was the only moment drawing a gasp - of dismay! - from the smattering of younger people in the recent screening I attended!
Sigh... what's with the truncated pictures on my posts suddenly?
Oh, okay they've sorted themselves now.
Having enjoyed For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy at London’s Prince Charles cinema, naturally I aimed to see Moore’s final film A View to a Kill also - as a teenager I’d enjoyed it more than any Bond film since Moonraker, so be rude not to.
A View to a Kill is one of those problematic Bonds in that a lot of fans just hate it, citing the Beach Boys song over the pre-credits. For me, this is like those music fans who damn Paul McCartney because of the Frog Song and 'Mull of Kintyre', it seems a bit off really. The film’s got a lot of love on Twitter lately on its recent re-release but mostly it is put in the category of actors’ swan songs, a bad selection including Diamonds are Forever or Never Say Never Again depending on your point of view, Licence to Kill, Die Another Day and I suppose No Time To Die.
First time I saw this was at Odeon Leicester Square with a noisy, appreciative crowd or burst into delighted laughter and applause at the surf board scene. Second time round, at the Odeon in Ewell, with fewer in the audience, the scene was met with silence and it fell flat. An even worse third time was watching on telly in my first month as a student at Bristol University when it was, I think, its TV premiere. This was a less celebrated landmark in the late 80s because of course the advent of video meant you could see a Bond movie by simply renting or buying it, before it came on telly, so it a TV premiere was less of an event. Sitting alone in the losers’ TV room in the hall or residence to dutifully attend to some youthful ritual was pretty dismal.
This time round, in London’s Prince Charles cinema, the scene played out in silence of course - some jokes really only work in context, namely a rowdy audience seeing it for the first time. Now, one of the things about this cinema is that they have these great previews telling the audience not to spoil the film, using clips from cult movies, namely one showing a guffawing, cigar smoking Robert De Niro in a cinema - not sure what film this is - to say, hey, don’t be like this guy! This time round however, someone really did start guffawing and I thought, well, at last, someone has started to send this clip up a bit. Sadly, after that, the same guy - a noisy, wild-haired American in the Beetlejuice mode methinks - started up a gail of laughter at inappropriate times during the movie, though you also kind of thought, well, it’s a cinema, glad someone’s appreciating it. But it leant the film an odd vibe and of course no one on the staff intervened so on it went.
I preferred A View to a Kill to its predecessors because for once John Glen stopped trying to make a realistic gritty Bond movie - it never quite convinced imo - and made a slick bit of escapist entertainment. I like Jordan’s Kamal Khan, and Gobinda, but I prefer Walken’s Max Zorin and Jones’ May Day, they just seem more interesting. It’s a bit cartoony but you could say the same of the villainy in The Untouchables which came along a few years later. I like Vijay in Octopussy but I prefer Patrick Macnee in this. I never quite warmed to Maud Adams in the title role, at the time at least Tanya Roberts wasn’t pretentious as Stacy Sutton, she was what she was.
I prefer Barry’s score in this too, as well as Duran Duran’s title song.
So I was not minded to read Chris No 1’s review of this - he cites it as one of the worst - in the same way that Loffleholz probably wasn’t keen to read my reviews of any film since Daniel Craig took over.
The movie begins well, the music the ping ping of the transmitter all creating an atmosphere, the Russian helicopter cutting across the screen and another Putin lookalike on the prowl shortly before ending his miserable short-lived Soviet life in a fireball and icy grave.
For some reason I believe it is Moore doing these ski stunts in a way I never did in For Your Eyes Only or even in The Spy Who Loved Me - we know no Bond could ski backwards before somersaulting off a ledge and resuming skiing, it’s too much and certainly beyond Moore, while I can fantasise about doing what Moore does in this pre-credits, daft as that is. It requires cool, nerve and finesse rather than technical skiing prowess, if you see what I mean.
The location work is great too - you really believe this could be the icy far reaches of some desolate Russian land rather than it being Innsbruck with a few Russian signs stuck around.
The music comes crashing in like Bassey’s Goldfinger - a really vital sound. Binder’s credits are a vast improvement this time round - they’re minimalistic but a bit modish, the day glow makeup and so on.
Moore seemed a lot younger to me in this than in his previous two movies where he seemed a bit avuncular, a bit of the middle-aged, middle-aged spread golfer, he seemed leaner this time round.
But oh dear! Before too long I began to feel about this movie much the same way as @chrisno1 !
One problem is the lack of any real menace or horror early in the movie. In the previous film we had the death of 009 at the hands of the grisly twins, and before that the sinking of the fake shipping trawler and horrible death by drowning of its crew. Even Moonraker had the fiery deaths of the airplane crew. Okay, the Glen moments I didn’t care for at the time, they were a bit too much when I wanted to enjoy myself, a bit full on, like the cold-blooded gunning down of the navy crew at the beginning of Tomorrow Never Dies, or Bond leaving his fellow agent to die in the Skyfall pre-credits, y’know, cheer us up why don’t you.
But this time round I felt the lack of these kind of scenes and instead we sit back and watch Moore and Magee faff around a French chateau. I doesn’t help that Magee has the look and movement of the verger in Dad’s Army and you could argue that Moore with his camp, waspish manner is not unlike the late vicar.
Not does it help that the premise - the new microchip or something that could render everything from you missile programme to the toaster useless - well, use the grill then - doesn’t quite land. The Ministry of Defence have to make this sound really serious to impress upon us how bad it is but it doesn’t quite register, it’s another missing ATAC system really where we can’t quite see the damage about to be done, we have to be told.
A documentary on racism many years ago featured a white football fan telling how he’d identify a black player to his son, saying, he’s the centre forward, or he’s the one with the no 8 on his back rather than say, he’s the black guy, as if being politically correct. It seems the MI6 team take the same view, for when someone asks who the woman in the black hat and red dress is besides Zorin, rather than saying, ‘Who’s the black woman beside him?’ which would narrow it down given that this is Ascot near Windsor - and this time meant to be - with no black people in the vicinity until Meghan showed up to get hitched.
Generally it is good to see Jones’ race never mentioned once, as is customary in a Bond film tbf, until of course we get to the final disappointing reel of No Time To Die, yet another depressing aspect of that dismal film to be ticked off.
Now much has been made on the Bond on Twitter thread about this film’s similarity to Goldfinger, but it also at this point has a fair few nods to Moonraker, okay the pre-credits is Spy, even with a Union Jack (it it a Union Jack if it’s on a mobile ice flow rather than a ship?) Finale, then we have Bond heading out to investigate a leading and respected industrialist with hints of German extract (though not of course played by a German so it’s not too on the nose), in a Parisian-style chateau with equestrian nods, we have engaging in a spot of nocturnal spying along with bedroom sheanigans, being found out leads to a chase through the French forests leading to a tragic death, then an abrupt change of location. We’re also introduced to the main Bond girl at this time.
I enjoy all of this though this time my interest was flagging - Barry’s score does a lot of heavy lifting to induce drama, otherwise it’s almost a bit Midsomer Murders. Actually, watching Goldfinger on ITV today, his score does a lot of heavy lifting too in the final suspenseful scenes, the military drum beat, the throbbing music, even the whirring sound effects of the laser and the ticking bomb. The death scene of Tibbett is very well done, some nice misdirection as he checks to see the two Zorin women at the petrol pump - or should we suspect the woman in the phone booth? - only to find the danger is closer to hand, and the closing shot is impeccably done, straight out of a classy French horror film.
I can’t recall what occurs after this, does Bond go to Frisco? This is the point where I lose interest, going the loo and asking about the massively overprice snacks - small Malteser packet, £2!
At the time, a visit to Frisco docks and a bit of underwater action didn’t bother me - truth be told I was a bit sick of the usual opulent self-indulgent travelogue scenes in hot locations, which always seemed to age Moore a bit - cut to the chase, let’s have the plot instead. Ditto the other scenes in Frisco which almost anticipate The Untouchables set in Chicago - the wood-panelled State offices and so on. But it palls upon rewatching now and I prefer the sense of being in an exotic location, not having been on holiday for a while. The rather plain cinematography starts to grind a bit too.
The film does to be fair maintain the classic, timeless look we take for granted in so many Bonds - contrast with Never Say Never Again, and Jack Pettachi’s rather plain, dullsville saloon car that Fatima Blush goes after, it drearily dates it, and it was dreary at the time.
I suppose I should get around to the obvious drawbacks mentioned by fans. Again, at the time I thought Moore looked younger and tighter than in the previous two movies. I think he had a face lift, though he denied it at the time. In the scenes with M in the office he looks great and of course on must contrast it with Connery in the previous Bond film - imo Kill benefits a lot in comparison - where even with a full wig he just didn’t look right. In previous Connery films such as The Time Bandits, Outland or even Wrong is Right there might be a scene or two where you think, that’s our guy, that’s Bond there.
But come the actual Bond film, not really. It’s all so unnecessary, in an interview for the magazine Women’s Weekly I think, showing Connery at his Malibu residence with his wife Micheline, he looked lithe and virile, just bung a wig on his head and he’d look like he did in Diamonds are Forever… what went wrong? Likewise in his film there’s little I can take home, no scene to savour, it’s all bit half-arsed and second rate.
Compare that with Moore’s finale - an ingenious chase across Paris originating in the Eiffel Tower, or an escape from a submersible Rolls, or the ski chase in Siberia not to mention the Golden Gate finale, or would you prefer to see Bond and Felix get in their nonsense contraptions and flit around while impoverished natives gaze up forlornly?
Even the poster was great for A View - well, there were three of them! Each better than just about any other poster after that, we were spoilt for choice...
But today I find Moore looks as old as everyone ever said. When we first see him in the mobile ice flow, we get his jowly neck, which we don’t see in any other part of the movie, and he’s bearing down on poor Mary Stavin. It’s a bit horrible though it worked at the time… Worse, his line delivery is all wrong and stays that way for much of the movie, sort of arch and odd. It’s telling that the scenes where Moore acts well are when he’s called to show humlity, compassion or righteous anger, but called upon to be the suave ladykiller it’s like he knows at 58 he can’t really do it so sends the whole thing up rotten.
I've made the joke before about how long it would take for that mobile iceberg to dock - how many days must Bond and his companion be at sea, her charms would wane I imagine having to watch her crap in a metal bucket while she in turn might hope that her ageing freeloader head outside top deck for a piss overboard in a demise combining Scott of the Antarctic and Mirror editor Captain Bob! And why not, his daughter turns up In the pre-credits of the next one.
'Would you like to come downstairs? I have some young girls who will give you a massage?'
He now has the twinkley, amused, geriatric look in his eye that Prince Philip had in his latter years. It’s odd because in Never Say Never Again Connery never quite called to mind his past Bond in the way he moves or looks, but likewise Moore never in this film quite looks how he did in his past moves and in Binder’s credits they resort to using his stills from The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s just, you wouldn’t know he was the same guy from that film mostly.
Of course, I notice the stuntman stand-in a lot here - it was different in Octopussy when he’s hanging off a train and you can’t see his face but the Paris chase shows him up a bit and you think, with his salary, couldn’t Moore have done some of the stunts? How hard can it be to drive a severed in half car if it was set up for him? Or is it a case that as I didn’t notice at the time, should it be a problem now or is the problem me watching this film decades later? It reminds me of the online gag where one is invited to follow the ball in a basketball match only to be later told that during play, a clown or orangutan - I can’t recall - made its casual way across court and nobody ever notices (assuming that’s not a con and the second time we play it is a new recording with said interloper newly inserted.) Now it’s been pointed out the stuntman, it’s obvious, is what I’m saying. Oddly, as the stuntman looks younger however, it makes the action more realistic than if you had a 58 year old lookalike or even Moore himself doing the stunts. Thing is, it looks lazy at a time when you’re looking to give the film the benefit of the doubt, in particular even when Fiona Fullerton drives off with Gogol, it’s clearly not Walter Gothell in the car. But the first time you see the movie, you’re not expecting to see him, so it’s not noticeable. Not sure what Gogol is doing out in the field anyway but they all get around, it seems. Was Bach’s Triple X considered for this part originally? Not saying that would have worked.
That said, I do enjoy the imaginative car-parachute chase across Paris, you don’t get that in many films do you? It has a real pace and energy, it’s great fun. It’s a great way of front loading the movie with two great action scenes in a short time.
Things go pear-shaped for me this time round with the escape from City Hall, which seems so very mid 80s, the people gathered around to applause like in a superhero film. It’s the fire chase. Loved it at the time. But when I’m not being caught up in it… what exactly is Bond doing here? He’s handed himself over to the cops. Normally that means he’s home and dry. It did earlier in the film, when the Paris cops had him for breaking ‘most of the Napoleonic code’. So it was in The Man With the Golden Gun when the Hong Kong police pulled him over as Scaramanga makes his airborne getaway.
Above: Sheriff JW dimly begins to apprehend the night ahead of him when the cops introduce him to his jail cell.
Unless there was a deleted scene we don’t know about, showing Bond and Sheriff JW Pepper in the Hong Kong slammer overnight, poor JW being given the Marcellus Wallace treatment by a cop, squealing like a pig, while his mate watches on chewing gum and sweating....
... before Bond announces that the call from London has come through and they can go. 'Not so fast, boy,’ says JW. ‘I’m going to get medieval on this pointy head’s arse. I’m going to show you what a Deep South enema looks like…’
‘As Bond leaves, a voice says: ‘You still here? The call from London came through an hour ago?’ To which Moore replies in only the way he can, ‘Oh, I thought I’d sit back and enjoy the entertainment… I’m in no hurry… are you?’
I contacted Barbara Broccoli about this deleted scene some years ago, only to find etc etc
Anyway… my point is, Bond is a State agent so when he meets the cops, usually it takes a phone call and he’s off the hook. One exception is Diamonds are Forever, which leads to a Vegas car chase - here it’s implied that Blofeld/Whyte has bought up the town and corrupted the cops, so here it would make no difference so Bond has to flee. I think this was made clearer in the first draft, the sheer corruption inflicted on the city but the political Chinatown-style aspect is watered down in the final draft. Otherwise, Bond is only involved in fleeing the police when the villains are on his tail, but not here.
So really all Bond has to do is get taken in whereupon - sigh - he can put a call through like he does when he escapes Big’s poppy field in a double decker bus - and tell all. He’s just seen Zorin kill the city major and set alight to it. He can have Zorin and May Day arrested - he’s survived and he knows. He also knows about a ‘main strike’. Instead he puts in a chase. And then, of course, turns up at Zorin’s mine in the fire engine - still not having put a call through to anyone. This isn’t Bond being Bond, he’s acting like a civilian in a Hitchcock film who knows he has to solve the crime on his own because the cops won’t believe him and nor will anyone else.
But what am I saying? Why, after he escapes from the watery Rolls Royce - all he had to do is tell on Zorin to the French police, not to mention MI6 and it’s over. Zorin can be done for murder and attempted murder, arrested, case closed. There’s a dead body in a car in the bottom of a lake. Bond as witness. When Zorin scoffs at Bond, saying ‘If anything, they’ll try to cover up your embarrassing incompetence!’ Why Zorin mate, you’re too kind! For even when Bond escapes, he doesn’t actually tell anyone about it! You don’t even know the levels of his incompetence yet! Perhaps like Gogol, he likes to deny categorically the incident ever happened!
Instead, Bond prefers to let Zorin go on his merry transatlantic killing spree.
Another problem with Kill this time round is its straightforward narrative. You buy into it or you don’t. As with Moonraker or Thunderball, it has one plot only so if on the day you’re not taken by it, there’s no three-card trick or subtext to keep you distracted.
Generally I like the dynamic between Walken and Jones - of the Floaters skit I mooted earlier, Walken is the one villain you really imagine having the moves to pull it off - and it’s unusual for a villain to be granted a squeeze. Klebb is rebuffed by Tatiana, as Goldfinger is by Miss Galore. Largo is meant to be sleeping with Domino but you wouldn’t really know it and neither Blofeld or Big get any hanky panky. Scaramanga we see post-coital with Maud but only with Zorin do we really see them get it on and their chemistry is great. They’re two villains you could imagine in a Craig film, except you can’t can you, they’re too interesting and in a Craig film it’s all about him.
Zorin’s machine gun fire is toned down in the TV edit, there is a moral about-turn here. Jenny Flex and her mate we’re almost meant to sympathise with but of course they were in on Tibbett’s death. In films we see the hero often urge the bad guy to do the right thing - In Bruges, for instance, when Fiennes wrongly feels remorse and is about to turn the gun on himself, his enemy begs him not to do it while you or I would be staying silent - and so here Bond begs May Day to jump from the moving bomb-laden trolley - what, save the life of Tibbett’s murderer in place of thousands of innocents in Silicon Valley? Yet dramatically it works, one accepts the way she changes sides, this change of loyalties is Flemingesque as referenced by Kingsley Amis in his 1960s Dossier on Bond.
The film ends with the London office in mourning, a tearful Moneypenny, Bond missing presumed dead, not for the last time. So who knows, maybe No Time to Die could have ended with a closing shot of Craig’s Bond in the shower with a blonde decades younger than him (not his kid), after all he’s had a similarly inappropriate shower scene in Skyfall.
Moore’s Bond obviously doesn’t phone London to let them know he’s, er, actually alive but then this is consistent with the rest of the movie where he never phones the London office to let them know anything - say, to arrest Zorin because he’s been going around killing people.
Perhaps Moore isn’t playing Bond at all for most of the movie but the infatuated imposter Seymour from The Cannonball Run, who tailed his hero and knocked him off as he emerged from the drink - that would explain why he never phones home as it would expose he’s an imposter, plus he’s the stereotypical Jewish lad who never calls his Mom, after all. ‘Heartless brute!’ As Moneypenny says in OHMSS.
The song comes crashing in again at the end, this time the audience mostly stayed to the end to enjoy it, unlike the others. Only once would the title song be played out again at the end of the film, and that was Brosnan’s swan song, Die Another Day.
Few of the film’s actors are now alive - Moore, Maxwell, Brown, Keen, Llewellyn, Roberts, Yip, Magee - only baddies Walken, May and Doody, it seems.
Previously I’d said that For Your Eyes Only was the last fashionable Bond movie of the 1980s even though Octopussy’s coverage in the red-top press outgunned it. But whatever anyone says now, A View to A Kill won plaudits, from my mate at the time Milton (namechecked in the last review) who declared it ‘f****** excellent actually!’ And others too. Walken and Jones made it a cut above, as did the Duran Duran theme, and Moore didn’t seem that much older at the time. I got the sense it was Dalton’s films that struggled to land with audiences, not helped by the fact that the Bond cycle was on its final spin at that point, just as Hollywood was really getting going with its actioners.
Working my way through your excellent review- the guffawing, cigar-smoking Robert de Niro is from the 1991 "Cape Fear".
Edit- I also prefer John Barry's score here to that of "Octopussy".
Edit- Yes, Barbara Bach was asked to return but declined.
Edit- Even back in '85 I noticed the stuntman during the Paris scenes.
Good points about the city hall part of the film and firetruck chase not being so hot. In my recent viewing of it a few weeks back I actually skipped that entire part of the movie.
Goldfinger on Sunday. While I have always enjoyed the first half of the film, in my opinion it goes flat after Bond is taken to America up until the point he gets locked in the vault.
LTK is on on Saturday (HD) so I will be watching that. I did watch TLD but, although I enjoy certain parts, it is not one of my favourites. To me one of its faults is that there is no real strong villain.
I would have liked to have seen this!
I know AVTAK is not a favourite of many people but it has always been one of mine since I first became interested in the JB films.
The last Bond film I watched was the 1954 version of Casino Royale with Barry Nelson. My first time ever seeing it, in fact. Needless to say, it was an interesting watch.
Also, random question, but I have read online that Safin was mentioned in Spectre (the film), before appearing proper in No Time to Die. Where was Safin first mentioned though? What was the line/dialogue? I've seen Spectre twice and I never noticed that before.