Friday, November 16, 2012


My one-sentence review is that this movie is long stretches of bland, interspersed with discreet bursts of abject stupidity.  Onwards and upwards.

The opening sequence is in Cuba, I take it.  In any case, there are a couple of guys who are clearly supposed to be Castro brother stand-ins.  I genuinely can’t tell what Bond’s goal is in this sequence: something about blowing up an armory, I guess, but he immediately fails at it, gets captured, and then succeeds anyway due to a number of implausible coincidences.  The sequence is really poorly edited, with a bunch of shots that don’t match at all.

Any negative things that I had to say about any song before this are immediately null and void, because this movie’s theme song, “All Time High”, is so awful and so insipid that it wipes out any other bad memories I might have had and replaces them with itself.  This is the worst song, no debate, no argument.

If I had known how much time this movie spends around circuses….  The Bond movies have real troubles with the various accoutrements of circuses, from the long sequence in the Circus Circus casino in Diamonds are forever, to Jaws falling through a circus tent in Moonraker, and then this movie.  The first thing we see after the title sequence is a clown, and it will not be the last clown in the film.

Moneypenny has a PC in her office now.  Welcome to the 80’s.

There is now officially a new M, and the movie makes no notice or mention of it.

The Soviet briefing room is supercool: there are giant Cold War-era maps, a big picture of Lenin for no particular reason and a big rotating bank of chairs around a desk.  This will be the last good set design in this film.  Our first baddie (there are, ostensibly, three villains in this movie) is introduced here, General Orlov, played by Steven Berkoff, a man who once won a lawsuit against a reporter for calling him ugly.  His performance is in the “bug-eyed crazy” range of Bond villains, and it amused me to no end that by the end of his time onscreen, when he’s chasing after Bond in a car, the filmmakers completely cut the audio out of his performance, so he’s just screaming silently at the camera.  Even they had had enough at that point.

There’s a scene where Bond takes part in a posh auction for high-priced valuables and I admit that I am a sucker for this type of scene.

Bond follows the plot to Delhi, where the Taj Mahal is for some reason.  His contact there is posing as a snake charmer because of course he is.  We meet the second villain, Kamal Khan, played by Louis Jourdan in “I don’t really give a shit about this movie” mode.  He is exactly as boring as Orlov is crazy, and the two of them together make, well, two totally shitty villains.

There’s a low speed chase with these goofy 3-wheeled cars through the crowded streets of I guess DelhiIndia is treated as “India” in this movie, obviously, not as a real place, so everywhere is all the same.  As the chase continues the streets are occupied by fire-breathers, a guy walking on coals, a guy sleeping on a bed of nails and a sword swallower.  These are the sights you see when you walk down a street in India.

In Q labs, there is a camera for Bond to dick around with and a woman in a low cut dress.  Can you guess what happens next?  This is the level of maturity we’re dealing with in this movie, in case the title wasn’t a tip off.   The only thing missing was Bond yelling “Boobies!” as he zoomed the camera in and out on her cleavage.

Bond gets seduced by the villain girl, and while they’re out to dinner a photographer takes their picture for no particular reason.  Way back in Dr. No, Connery’s Bond flipped totally the fuck out when some random woman took his picture, stole her camera and destroyed the film.  Because he’s a spy, and he doesn’t need that shit, his picture making the rounds.  Moore’s Bond, on the other hand, just banters charmingly with the photographer.  The movies, not just this one but a bunch of them going way back, pretty strongly imply that Bond is something of a celebrity.  The “spy picture” thing is part of the distant past.

Bond escapes from some danger, I honestly forget what it was, by swinging across some vines, and the soundtrack gives a Tarzan scream.  Fuck.

At some point we meet our third villain, Octopussy herself, played by Maud Adams.  Now, Adams made zero impression on me in The Man With The Golden Gun (I was fine with her there, inasmuch as she wasn’t Mary Goodnight, but I don’t even think I mentioned her in my write-up) and as Octopussy she continues to make zero impression on me.  She’s not unattractive and her performance is okay but she is just so damn bland, just like this movie.

So, the plot, such as I understood it.  Khan and Octopussy are involved in a smuggling operation with General Orlov, smuggling precious Russian treasures to the West where they sell them.  Orlov, in the meantime, is a whackjob who wants the Soviet Union to start a war with the West.  So he cooks up some plot, I still don’t quite get this, where a canister full of jewels is replaced with an American nuke set to detonate in, naturally, a circus.  Octopussy’s circus.  When the nuke goes off it will be chalked up as an American nuclear accident, after which Western Europe will unilaterally disarm and the Soviets will be able to march across the map.  Orlov is bugfuck so you could say, well, he’s just a crazy person who comes up with a crazy plan that doesn’t make sense, but it’s Bond who puts this together, so maybe Bond is actually a crazy person too.

Bond chases the bomb to the circus on board a train, and after some long-shot stunt work and brutal blue screen, Bond gets thrown off the train.  Then he has to hitchhike, and a bunch of teenagers pretend they are going to stop, then drive away.  Somehow, Bond gets a ride with two German stereotypes who are eating wieners and drinking beer while they drive.  But the final insult to Bond’s dignity is yet to come.

Writing this next part makes me sad.  In order to get into the circus and stop the bomb, Bond has to disguise himself as a clown.  The outfit, the makeup, the shoes.  He spends the ostensibly tension-filled (first) climax of the film dressed this way.  I don’t….I don’t know where to go from here.  This was without a doubt the most demoralizing thing that has happened in this marathon, even more than Moonraker’s dumb climax.  I’m going to wrap this up quickly now, because I need to forget.

There are two more climaxes, one of the “storming the lair” variety where the army is made up of Octopussy’s all-girl troupe of smugglers plus Octopussy herself.  It’s supposed to be a step forward for women in this series, I guess, but it just plays as stupid and vaguely sexist anyway, the women all in skin-tight outfits and the action being distinctively slower then usual.

The third climax involves Bond climbing on to a plane as it’s taking off.  It does involve some really harrowing stunt work, and the movie actually makes it seem like Moore's Bond is on the plane.  But in any case, I could see him doing this if he was stopping a threat, but he just does this to rescue Octopussy, which he does, and then it’s over the end. 

This movie is actually pretty racist given the Indian tableau that it dicks around with in the second act in the most stereotypical manner possible but I just can’t right now, the clown thing.  The clown thing.

Bond sleeps with two women, the villain girl and Octopussy.

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