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Thursday, December 15, 2016

A 1983 Battle Of Bonds


Could a Returning Connery Douse Moore's Octopussy Flame?

"Nobody Does Him Better," said the one-sheet, a not-subtle salvo to would-be encroacher Sean Connery, latest and least expected of upstarts who'd compete with branded Bond. Connery was back as 007, but not in Octopussy, nor for principal producer Albert Broccoli. The usurper was Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball being the sole Bond property that Broccoli nemesis Kevin McClory could mount. It's all confusing to a point where books have been written on the conflict. The legal backdrop obscures Octopussy, perhaps unfairly, as it's actually one of the better Roger Moore Bonds. There's more complication than needed, a hazard that would increase as the series dragged to coming decades, but 007 had been doing well enough since The Spy Who Loved Me to tender each as action events. Never Say Never, with its limited, and looking it, budget, could not compete on those terms. Seemed for a while they'd go head-to-head for 1983 play, but delays kept the challenger from crabbing Octopussy's lead. Moore was getting old for further Bonds, but breaking in a new one was risky, George Lazenby having been a downturn, so it made at least fiscal sense to keep RM in the spot for as long as he stayed willing and ambulatory. Grosses were good for Octopussy, though in comparison with what the series nowaday earns, it was a splash in the bucket.

7 Comments:

Blogger Donald Benson said...

"Octopussy" mixed the usual cartoon excess with a viable thriller plot -- a staged atomic disaster to force the withdrawal of nukes from NATO countries -- plus some neat touches I want to believe came from George McDonald Fraser, author of the "Flashman" books. The opening with the dying clown is nice imitation Hitchcock; a hair dryer interfering with Bond's hidden microphone is an outright gag but at the same time perfectly plausible. They also had a secondary female character sleep with Bond and NOT get killed off, which impressed me as progress. It would have been a worthy swan song for Moore, but the unfortunate "A View to a Kill" happened.

"Never Say Never Again" was amusing. Perhaps of necessity, they made English austerity a running gag. Q dispenses goods impounded from other spies and envies his freespending American counterparts; Bond is sent not to a luxurious private sanitarium but a decidedly lower-class hospital. They also joked about Bond's age and bad habits, the joke paying off as being on Connery's superiors: He seduces a nutritionist not only with sex, but the unhealthy indulgences she's trying to cure him of. I recall an interview where Lois Maxwell said she lobbied to do a cameo as a Rosa Klebb-type assassin, but the truce between producers precluded official franchise players crossing over. It might make a fun double feature with "Thunderball", inviting one to compare the parallel plot points (probably legally mandated).

5:07 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I recall, when seeing NSNA theatrically, it ended so abruptly it was as if they simply ran out of raw film stock to shoot anything more.

OCTOPUSSY, I enjoyed.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Dressing Bond up as a clown was the final insult for some of my friends, purist Fleming aficionados. But like you, I think OCTOPUSSY is actually reasonably good, would rank it with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY as the best of the Moores. Connery and Craig didn't have to grow into the part, were tops on day one (but, for my money, Sean looks pretty bored in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and NEVER SAY NEVER.) I'd also say Moore and Brosnan needed a little seasoning to become more or less acceptable, even if Brosnan's first, GOLDEN EYE, was probably the best overall movie of his set. Lazenby and Dalton hardly had time to punch in before turning in their Walther PPKs so the issue of growth in their portrayals is kinda moot.

10:34 AM  
Blogger James Abbott said...

I think Octopussy is a great Bond movie – and one of my favorites. It witty, fast, and diverting. Jourdan makes an excellent villain, and the interplay between Moore and Douglas Wilmer is very good indeed. It’s a good train movie, a good spy movie and a good circus movie.

As for all the critical backbites about Moore/Bond dressed as a clown – when Moore is trying to defuse the bomb, he is excellent. In fact, his Bond films are filled with these little grace notes (look at him getting out of the centrifugal force machine in Moonraker; or killing his friend’s murderer in For Your Eyes Only) – and, frankly, he did more daring and risky emotional takes than anything Connery did in the films. I also think that Moore’s attitude toward the role (and the films) was infinitely healthier – hell, Fleming didn’t take them seriously. If you can’t have fun as James Bond, the next thing you’ll want is a dark and serious Batman.

Regarding Octopussy and Never Say Never Again – Moore’s film is still a delightful confection, while Connery’s is flat, uninspired and terribly dated. I think the Moore Bond films are overdue for a critical reassessment.

3:48 PM  
Blogger tbonemankini said...

Saw a curio once....NSNA with the music replaced with proper Bond scores purloined from VHS rentals...all done on VCR so it was a bit crude but it worked wonders....played a lot better. Now if we could just photo shop faces and voices...and backgrounds and scenery....and plot and pacing. ...

4:43 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I think NSNA is bottom of the barrel in every way.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

The only plus with NSNA was that Connery looked far better in it than in DIAMONDS.

1:28 PM  

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