R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema: Total Bond-age, Part 007: Bond Vs. Bond

On November 20, 1963 a man named Kevin McClory obtained the rights to the Ian Fleming Bond novel Thunderball after a long court case. At the time of obtaining the rights to the novel, Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli had already turned Bond into a viable franchise after the first two entries, Dr. No and From Russia with Love, had become international hits. Following the major breakthrough success of Goldfinger, the three men reached an agreement that brought Thunderball to the big screen.

Thunderball went on to out gross Goldfinger and keep 1960’s Spymania rolling. In 1970, after the release of Diamonds are Forever, Sean Connery leaves the role of 007 for the second time, swearing to never return to the role. Connery’s replacement, Roger Moore steps into the original Bond’s shoes well and goes on to star in two of the series most financially successful films, The Spy Who Loved me and >Moonraker as well as the critically successful For Your Eyes Only.

In the late 1970’s the deal with Kevin McClory and 007 producers expired, giving rise to McClory shopping his property rights around. McClory’s dream was to begin a rival Bond series that would compete with the Eon Production’s regular 007 franchise. After many court battles, McClory won the right to bring a Bond film to the screen, but only if it was pertaining to his original production rights for Thunderball. He planned to bring 007 back to the screen with an adventure that would be reminiscent of the 1960’s adventure and be updated for new audiences.

McClory also won a major PR victory with an amazing casting coup. With the unheard of salary of $5 million Sean Connery would once again don the role of James Bond. Many had wanted to see the original Bond save the world again and this would be their chance. In the other camp, the regular 007 series was at a bit of an impasse. Roger Moore’s contract had expired after For Your Eyes Only and film makers were unsure if he would return to the role. Many actors tried out for the role, including American James Brolin who apparently tested very well. Ultimately producers believed the only one who could compete with Sean Connery was the man who had made the role his own for the past decade. At the 11th hour, Roger Moore came back for his sixth adventure representing Her Majesty’s Secret Service in, Octopussy.

Octopussy starring Roger Moore and Maud Adams. Directed by John Glen.

Cuba is the initial setting for the 13th official Bond entry. Bond is sent in to destroy a Cuban munitions hanger. Infiltrating the base dressed as a Cuban Colonel named Toro, Bond is captured after the real Toro interrupts his attempted sabotage. Fortunately 007, escapes rather quickly and is able to make a second assault on the hanger using a mini-jet. Following a daring aerial sequence with a heat seeking missile, Bond flies the mini-jet into the hanger, destroying it with its own missile, thus ending the pre credits mayhem. Bond’s next assignment comes when another 00 agent is killed in the line of duty while recovering a Faberge egg.

While trying to uncover the significance of the egg, Bond travels to India to find the egg’s owner, a woman named Octopussy. Octopussy, is the head of a smuggling ring that is utilizing a circus in Europe to steal high profile jewelry. In league with the smuggler is Kamal Khan an exiled Afghan Prince. Unbeknownst to Octopussy are Khan’s dealings with General Orlov of the Soviet Union, who has been stealing priceless Russian treasures. Bond discovers that Orlov plans to use Octopussy’s circus to transport a nuclear weapon into Allied territory and ignite it. Will Bond be in time to stop the bomb? Will Octopussy believe him and join forces? Bond must do what he can to stop Orlov’s plan for Soviet invasion of Western Europe and save Octopussy from herself and her enemies.

Despite Roger Moore’s age and contract issues, Octopussy remains a solid Bond effort. Much of the film is set in India, giving the first half of the picture an otherworldly feel. Trying to capitalize on the success of the Indiana Jones franchise, the Bond features 007 fighting through Hindu bazaars and exotic castles. One sequence has Bond running for his life as Khan has organized a hunt to eliminate the secret agent. The sequence is very reminiscent of The Most Dangerous Game and also the adventures of Dr. Jones. Also within the film is a knock down drag out circus train sequence that has Bond fighting to stay alive while battling knife throwers, lions, and Khan’s henchman Gobinda, played by Kabir Bedi.

This fantastic portion of the film is also balanced out with the portions that take place in Berlin. Bond is thrust into the heart of the Cold War as he must diffuse a nuclear bomb, and save Western Europe from Soviet domination. Octopussy is still loaded with other action sequence as the aforementioned precredits sequence is the usual stunner, and the final battle between Octopussy and Khan’s forces is good fun.

Awe-inspiring is the final showdown with Gobinda and Bond which takes place on the outside of a plane, thousands of feet in the air. If For Your Eyes Only was Bond without gadgets, Octopussy was Bond with gadgets that don’t work. Bond is constantly having gadgets break down or fail, like an earpiece that keeps encountering interference from a blow dryer.

The villains of the film work like the formula for the locations, 2/3 fantasy, 1/3 reality. As fantasy villain and henchman, Kamal Khan and Gobinda are a formidable team. Louis Jourdan’s Khan carries himself like a prince. He is a prime example of what an upper crust type Bond villain should be. Gobinda, while not in the same league with Jaws and Oddjob, is still a fearsome physical opponent for Bond and gets the better of 007 on several occasions. While Khan and Gobinda are the flamboyant heavies, it is Steven Berkoff’s General Orlov who is able to work in the shadows to try and give the USSR the upper hand in the Cold War. Berkoff’s “Decadent West” speech is also one of the best moments of the film.

One of the film’s weaknesses may be in the “Bond Girl” category. On two attempts, Maud Adams really can’t acquit herself even as the film’s title role. Fairing better is Kristina Wayborn as Octopussy’s assistant Magda. The buxom blonde is THE object of desire in the film, which Adams should have been.

Moore once again just seems likes he’s having fun. Even with the Bond team possibly hurting Moore’s image by making him hide in clown makeup to avoid capture. Overall Octopussy isn’t as good as Moore’s three previous efforts, but it is an entertaining movie that asks little of its audience except to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately for Roger Moore, a comparison he had thought he had perhaps put to rest was coming back again.

Never Say Never Again Starring Sean Connery and Klaus Brandauer. Directed by Irvin Kershner

For those that love Sean Connery as Bond, this film was thrilling. The movie begins with a sequence involving Bond rescuing a kidnapped girl. While kicking the crap out of a few guards and showing off his stuff, the sequence is revealed to be a training exercise that goes horribly wrong for 007. After being dressed down by the new M, Bond is sent to a health clinic to get his body back into shape. While there Bond discovers that another patient at the clinic may be involved with SPECTRE. Bond learns too late that SPECTRE has stolen two nuclear warheads and is holding the world hostage. At the head of this operation is SPECTRE’s number 2, Maximilian Largo. Bond begins a dangerous game of Cat and Mouse with Largo, but does his best to keep the world out of danger and save Largo’s mistress, Domino, from being an innocent victim.

If Bond films were successful solely based on who was playing 007, Never Say Never Again would be a complete success. Connery is in fine form in his secret service comeback. Instead of ignoring that Connery had put on years, film makers wisely added a layer to the character by showing 007 dealing with age. Also Klaus Brandauer is excellent as Largo. Instead of just letting an eye patch do most of the work for him like Adolfo Celi’s Largo did, Brandauer makes Largo a fully realized character who is obsessed with his lust for Domino and his passion of being well cultured.

The problem with Never Say Never is that it misses the little components that make up a Bond film. First and foremost, the film is missing the “Bond Sound”. Without being able to give the film the vaunted “007 Theme”, the film feels a bit empty. Imagine a Star Wars or Indiana Jones film without their themes and the results would be the same. The film is also devoid of the supporting players that make up a proper Bond. Edward Fox as M, Pamela Salem as Moneypenny, and Alec McCowan as the film’s Q, AKA Algernon, are all just shadows of their predecessors from the previous Bonds. Good stand-ins in the film are there however. Beside the new Largo, Max Von Sydow is excellent as Blofeld and Bernie Casey has a nice update on the role of Bond CIA ally Felix Leiter.

The “Bond Girls” of the movie are weak. Kim Basinger’s Domino is a very basic damsel in distress. Basinger is pretty enough but does not have the spark of a xXx or a Pussy Galore. Barbara Carrerra’s Fatima Blush is a very campy, over the top villain, but is almost too weird to really be taken seriously. The film’s action also just doesn’t have the punch of a regular Bond either. Perhaps due to Connery’s age, film makers didn’t want to put the actor in a situation where the stunts would look totally unbelievable, but after seeing Moore’s Bond parachute off Mountains and fight villains on the top of moving plains, the more subtle approach to Bond looks tame by comparison.

The film’s two major action sequences, a fist fight with stuntman Pat Roach (who played the bald Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the main henchman in Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom), and an extended motorcycle chase are good scenes, but not anything particularly memorable. Another disadvantage to the picture is the unfavorable comparison to the film it was remaking, Thunderball. Never Say Never Again does not have the epic scope nor the flair of Terrence Young’s original. The film just has a “been there/done that” feeling about it. Never Say Never Again deep down has a terminal case of silliness. In the future, Bond should never, and I mean never, have a life and death struggle while playing a video game.

After the dust had settled the battle of the Bonds was won by Roger Moore. Octopussy out grossed its competitor by around $50 million. On top of that, after numerous court battles and lawsuits, Kevin McClory would eventually have to relinquish his property rights to Thunderball and no rival series was able to get off the ground. Some had said that the Bonds would be better if EON productions were not the only ones making them, but Never Say Never Again only ended up being a pale imitation of what the Bond film makers had already produced. Bond now had to think about the future. Would Roger Moore return to a role that had made him a household name or would someone else finally have to take his place? Who could possibly fill his shoes? Find out next week!