Sunday, December 21, 2008

Film Review--Octopussy

directed by John Glen
written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
starring Roger Moore, Maude Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, David Meyer, Tony Meyer, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Robert Brown

The circus is in town and James Bond (Moore) has to disengage a nasty bomb at an air force base before it blasts a considerable number of people to smithereens. He’s certainly dressed for the part as Bond reassembles his debonair side and provides just enough of the seductive swagger to get into the necessary compromising positions. This feels like classic Bond and the look and subsequent style strike a nerve as a direct return to the ease and portability of the first installments in this freakishly long series.

The women in this film come in the form of Magda (Wayborn), a cruel and conniving lovely who tricks Bond and leaves him holding his shirt. There is also the titular Octopussy (Adams) who is a ferocious blood animal who controls a Faberge egg smuggling outfit with an iron fist even though her fists are undeniably soft and pliant. She’s the kind of ball breaker that should pose a slight challenge but of course she gives in right away with zero foreplay. It’s disappointing but what the hell else are they going to do. A-type personalities meet and the sexual tension is so palpable there is no other alternative but to strip and grind away completely oblivious to the mission at hand. Of course he’s already done Magda but that is only so she can sneak away with one of the eggs.

As with many Bond films this one contains a considerable amount of humor. They are subtle and offset the severity of the narrative as a whole.

General Orlov as portrayed by Steven Berkoff is one if not the hardest Bond villain. It’s all in Berkoff’s facial gestures and his posture. It seriously makes the film into something decidedly threatening and occasionally terrifying. Of all the Bonds I have seen (looking at them chronologically) this one has the most tension and sense of danger. The scenes where Bond is held captive are as scary as this series has been and that has to do with the editing by Peter Davies and Henry Richardson who manage to construct a film of great potency that takes advantage of its deadly premise.

The story involves rare gems and other joys which General Orloff is compiling and replacing with copies. The devious Kamal Khan (Jourdan) smuggles them from Russia to the West with the able help of Octopussy. So naturally it is absolutely essential for Bond to sneak his fingers beneath the band of Octopussy’s panties. She holds the whole thing together and must be conquered. Then during the circus at the base Khan plans on switching the jewels for a bomb. Yes, it’s sinister and cruel which makes it all the more thrilling and one of the more ghastly operations to pass through the Bond canon.

There is a tremendous amount of urgency about this film and one actually feels real emotional outbursts for Bond as he scrambles to keep his head amidst all the chaos that surrounds him. It’s formulaic and doesn’t stray too far from the pattern but this particular story has a deep resonance due to the immediacy of the scheme. It’s one thing to threaten to attack Miami Beach or to poison the planet but it’s something entirely different to cause instant mayhem to a random group of innocents who have gathered for a few laughs and excitement.

This film fits in nicely with the canon and doesn’t attempt to stray to far from its meal ticket. As with all the previous films in the franchise, it’s the gadgets and stunts that make the film worth remembering. Bond escaping as a corpse is a particularly morbid and comical example of what is possible in this series. He fights on a train, in a plane, and escapes a tight squeeze by car. These particular stunts have been attempted hundreds of times throughout the long course of cinema. They have been improved on stylistically and in terms of raw adrenaline but these adventures in the Bond franchise still manage to satisfy the audience’s requirements for pure entertainment. They do look dangerous and one wants to know everything there is to know about the specific techniques employed to pull them off. One often forgets that without these stunt actors there would be no Bond films or anything else for that matter.

The performances in this film are uniformly excellent. As mentioned Steven Berkoff is very appealing as the rogue Soviet official who gets into some rather upsetting business. Orlov is so calm and officious superficially–exacting and brutally efficient–that he is presented as a clear and logical face of pure and unadulterated tyranny. He’s contrasted with the official Soviet program and comes off as a vile little embarrassment to policy and intent. Yet he’s infinitely likable which is directly accountable to Berkoff’s nuanced performance. His charisma hides the cold, insensate mind of a cold-on killer. Kristina Wayborn is thus far the most immediately stunning Bond Girl and she presents a clever and cunning nature which only adds to her allure. She tricks Bond and leaves him gasping for answers even though he merely shrugs and goes back inside. Roger Moore does what he has done thus far in the series. He seems less robotic in this film and actually seems to develop some warmth to his character. Kabir Bedi presents a decidedly intense and menacing figure who is relentless throughout the film. He is one of the more memorable henchman to come along during this franchise. He rarely speaks but his actions are routinely deadly and he establishes himself as someone you do not want to mess with.

Overall, this film serves its purpose and contains all the necessary elements. The Bond women are impressively delectable and the stunts are worth sticking around for. Bond is put in grave danger and it seems to be more serious this go around. Roger Moore continues the set pattern and manages to express much of his character’s trademark cool without coming off as trite or hackneyed.

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