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Bond Pretitle Sequences: Octopussy

Simon Pitt | Film | Thursday 25th July 2013

I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.

All the Bonds. All the Gun Barrels. All the action. Well, the first five seconds of it.

I feel like I’ve entered the interminably long section of Roger Moore Bond films. Moore made seven Bond films in total. This is actually the same number as Connery (if you count Never Say Never Again, which I don’t). Somehow, though, it feels like Moore made many, many… well, more.

I misremembered the beginning to Octopussy. I thought it was 009, dressed as a clown, crashing through the window with a Faberge egg, but that’s the post-title sequence. It’s a striking and memorable sequence. Unfortunately, though, it comes after the credits, so we can’t talk about it here.

We open on a mixture of Cuban military vehicles and horse trailers. I’m not sure what’s going on here. Is this a military base-cum-horse track? I guess the Cuban economy wasn’t great so everything had to double up.

I've got a large cigar shaped object for you

A fat Cuban soldier with a cigar looks down a woman’s top, while Bond, dressed as a farmer disguises himself. I quite like his reversible jacket. I always wanted a reversible jacket when I was little, because I thought they were a fancy Bond-like gadget. Turns out they’re expensive, and more than a little rubbish.

Just in case his disguise was too realistic, Bond wears a ridiculous little fake moustache and walks into the military base. In a nice gesture, he flicks one the soldier’s uniform for being not up to standard.

In the base is an aeroplane with a weird radar thing in its nose. I may not be an expert in aeronautical engineering, but I don’t think planes really have those. And if they do, I don’t think they’d make that bleepy noise. There are soldiers everywhere. It’s a tense scene for once.

This is plane silly

Bond walks up to the bleepy radar and does a magic karate chop on the back of the man’s neck. I’d forgotten about the magic karate chop from the 80s, but it was all the rage then.

Magic karate chop

For some reason, there’s a screen around the plane, which helpfully allows Bond to plant the bomb in an open plan environment. It’s almost like a changing room. But no sooner has Bond planted the bomb than the shield is pulled away and he is caught with his pants down (not literally this time; this is one Bond film without a toilet).

I’m reminded of the beginning of Die Another Day, where Bond pretends to be the diamond seller. Then, though, he steals the man’s sunglasses. Here the real Toro has sunglasses and Bond doesn’t. I’d like to think that Bond remembers this going wrong. Then, years later, when he tries it again in Die Another Day he takes the sun glasses because he thinks that if he wears sunglasses they’ll never find him.

Bond is driven away on the back of a truck, but his lady friend has come to help. She flashes a bit of thigh, and Bond nods over to her. If you were a solider, assigned specifically to guard a prisoner and he pulled a face like the one Moore does, wouldn’t you at least be a bit dubious? Not these guards though. I suppose you have to remember, this was 1983. The internet didn’t exist then, so they had to get their eyeful when they could.

This is the face of the British Secret Service

While the guards are both checking out the thigh, Bond yanks their parachutes and they fly off the back of the van. This is a tactic Bond quite likes; he does it to Greaves at the end of Die Another Day. And to himself in The Living Daylights. I’m beginning to wonder if Die Another Day actually takes place in Bond’s head while he’s being tortured, and just consists of memories of what happened here. Die Another Day has that whole weird bit with the robotic suit in it at the end. And Madonna. That must have been a nightmare, surely?

There’s an awful bit of acting from one of the guards as his parachute goes off. In the screenshot below, you might think that I’ve picked an unflattering shot. I haven’t, he does this on screen for several seconds. Given that this is the one thing this actor has to do, you’d think they’d have been able to cast someone who was actually able to act “over balancing”. This guy looks like he’s been told to act like a Gerry Anderson puppet. Here’s a fun game to play at home: shout, “Pretend you don’t have any elbows!” at the screen and it’s as if you’re the director.

Am I acting too well?

Bond inexplicably climbs into the horse carriage and we discover, to our shock, that the fake looking horsetail that we haven’t seen move belongs to a fake horse. I’ve discussed the “philosophy” of the Bond pre-credit teaser a few times now (if you can call it a “philosophy”. Which I do). Part of the pleasure is the unexpected or original set of events. This sequence is a solid pre-credit sequence affair; the tiny plane is quite a nice twist.

Special mention, I think, should go to the Cuban general who calls for backup while pointing madly at the plane. Maybe he thinks he’s Skyping his headquarters. They’re probably not allowed to use Skype in the Cuban army, though, because it’s made by the decadent Americans.

Follow my finger

Bond’s plane, meanwhile, is targeted by a ground to air missile. There’s a protracted sequence where Bond does a number of impressive, but ineffectual stunts. Does going upside down really help you against a missile? Or going under a bridge?

The final section when Bond flies through the barn is genuinely impressive though. It’s all the more so when you realise that they did fly a real plane into a barn.
Veteran Hollywood stunt pilot and aerial coordinator J.W. "Corkey" Fornof, who in 1983 piloted a tiny BD-5 jet through an open hangar at more than 150 miles an hour for the James Bond movie "Octopussy," lamented that, today, few directors would consider such a stunt. "They'd just whip it up in a computer lab," he said.

Admittedly, the shot inside the barn is a bit of trickery, with the jet on a pole attached to an old Jaguar. You can even see the pole if you look carefully.

The effect works surprisingly well actually

The missile blows up the barn and inexplicably, that seems to mean Bond can get away. I’m not quite sure why. Didn’t we just see a whole military base there? And the ground to air missiles were certainly outside the barn. I guess they only had one.

Strangely, Bond is out of fuel already. Having that missile fired at him might have saved his life. He’d never have got all the way to Miami on that little petrol. He’d would have crashed helplessly into the sea. Q branch have taken their eye off the ball.

Budget cuts in Q Branch. You know what the price of fuel is like

Bond lands and, in a typical bit of Moore silliness, cruises up to a petrol station, leans out and says “Fill her up, please?” He doesn’t even say with what. If they put diesel in it and it takes petrol, he can kiss goodbye to escaping.

John Glen, rather sensibly, planned to cut this line. But then he watched the trailer (which had the line in it) in a cinema and after seeing how well it went down with the audience, decided to keep it. Just another reason why you shouldn’t pay attention to what people say. People are idiots.

Name Rank and Number I think he got the Point Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed? Listen Carefully 007 Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office SP will return…


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