MI6 Confidential examines Octopussy’s 30th anniversary

miconfidential21

MI6 Confidential, for its 21st issue, takes a look at Octopussy on its 30th anniversary.

Included in the issue is a forward by Roger Moore; an examination of how the screenplay evolved; interviews with director John Glen and cast members Maud Adams, who played the title character, Kristina Wayborn and Kabir Bedi; and a story about the television movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured a cameo by ex-007 George Lazenby as “JB,” and debuted on U.S. television two months before Octopussy arrived in theaters.

The magazine costs seven British pounds, $11 or 8.50 Euros. For more information about the issue and ordering information, CLICK HERE

EARLIER POSTS:
OCTOPUSSY’S 30TH: BATTLE OF THE BONDS ROUND 1

RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY

Octopussy’s 30th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Thirty years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work. Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more that normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.

JUNE 2011 POST: OCTOPUSSY, A REAPPRAISAL.

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

How did the 007-Heineken deal become such a big deal?

The flap over Heineken’s product-placement deal with Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, isn’t going away. How’d that happen? After all, James Bond drank beer in some of Ian Fleming’s original stories. He had beer in some movies, as recently as 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the most recent 007 flick.

"James, was this beer deal such a good idea?"
"Pass me a Heineken, Felix!"


With 20-20 hindsight, it’s not that surprising. Here’s what led to the situation:

The financial conditions of two studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns half the 007 franchise, recently was in bankruptcy court, emerging as a smaller company. It ended up cutting a deal with Sony Corp. to distribute Skyfall (and the next 007 film). But Sony has financial problems of its own. That meant:

Skyfall was going to rely heavily on product placement: The Sunday Times of London reported 11 month ago that MGM and Sony were looking to product placement deals to supply as much as one-third of Skyfall’s budget (this link shows the version of the Sunday Times story that appeared in The Australian). Months later, Skyfall star Daniel Craig tactily admitted that product placement was vital to Skyfall.

As a result, the media and some fans were on red alert: Bond movies had been criticized before for what seemed like excessive product placement. Some fans noted how 1979’s Moonraker included plenty of plugs for Marlboro cigarettes, British Airways and 7-Up. The 2006 Casino Royale movie, Craig’s debut as Bond, was noted for how it shoehorned a reference for Omega watches into a key scene with Craig’s Bond and Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who had done a film on product placement, included 007 films in his critique.

The initial announcement of Heineken’s Skyfall deal wasn’t handled well: Heineken’s Feb. 8 press release announcing the product-placement deal had a lot of chest-thumping by both the company and Eon Productions, which produces the 007 movies:

Alexis Nasard, Chief Commercial Officer of HEINEKEN said: “When two great brands like Heineken® and James Bond join together, excitement is guaranteed. We are proud of our long standing partnership. The trust that we have built has allowed us to take the partnership to a new level by linking SKYFALL directly with our award winning global ‘Open Your World’ campaign. We are confident our activation plan will ignite the conversation with our consumers and film viewers.”

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the SKYFALL producers added: “The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.”

Of course, Heineken and Eon could have mentioned that 007 had consumed beer in Ian Fleming’s novels and Eon’s movies. Evidently, they were so busy discussing how wonderful they were, that fact just couldn’t be squeezed into the press release. Make no mistake, when a press release quotes an executive, those quotes are approved by the executive ahead of time. This wasn’t an oversight. This is the message Heineken and Eon wanted to get across. Translation of said message: “We’re wonderful, you’re lucky to have us.”

Timing is everything: In this case, the timing was bad. Yes, Bond drank more than just martinis on the page and on the screen. (In Live And Let Die, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz made a point of having first-time 007 Roger Moore drink bourbon to avoid comparisons with Sean Connery.) But Bond was, for better or worse, identified with martinis in movies.

In addition, the Casino Royale reboot shook things up. The movie turned the traditional Bond formula on its head as we watched a thuggish Bond learn to be a gentleman. They could have chose to shown how a gentleman learned to become tough (this is not an original observation on our part) but the filmmakers didn’t take that approach. During Casino Royale’s marketing, we were told, the film shows “how James became Bond.” We were told by the end of the movie, the James Bond we all knew would emerge. Then, in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, we were told that James wasn’t Bond just yet. Hence, the gunbarrel scene, again, wasn’t at the start of the movie.

As a result, in the last six years, Bond fans have processed at lot of change. The Heineken deal meant yet more change and that’s been the theme of much of the coverage since the deal was first announced. Maud Adams, who appeared in two 007 films, said “this has gone too far. Martini was something elegant when I served Roger Moore and it is elegant to this day.”

Some fans say this was all planned by Heineken to get publicity. We doubt it. Most companies don’t like publicity where people dump on you. This probably will blow over. Then again, we first thought this would have blown over by now.

UPDATE: According to A YAHOO! MOVIES POST blog post, Michael G. Wilson told reporters in Mexico (he was speaking from the U.K.) that: “Bond would sup Heineken in the film, but added that he would drink Vodka Martinis as well.”

Price of access to 007?

James Bond fandom is different than others. How so? Well, one can make a living off being a fan because of 007’s longevity. But there’s a price.

The other day we wrote a post about how Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli came down hard on commentary tracks produced for early 1990s laser discs for the first three James Bond movies, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. We got a lot of reponses. The consensus was it was understandable why Eon would crack down but those commentaries provided some honest statements from some of the most important creators of the early 007 films.

That got us to thinking. If you’re going to create videos, or books or articles about the cinema world of James Bond, you have to make a choice: do you seek access to Eon Productions, the makers of 007 films? Or do you go it alone, a possibly risky path?

Some of the featurettes on DVDs of the 007 films are made in cooperation with Eon (hence credits such as, “Very Special Thanks to Dana Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson”). These featurettes are entertaining and well done. But they also are sanitized. For Licence to Kill, we’re told the 1989 film failed “to find a breakout American audience.” Translation: the film bombed in the U.S. (an $8.77 million opening weekend in the U.S. and a total $34.7 million U.S. million box office) while doing better in other markets.

Another part of the 007 film mythology is how actors are put up at five-star hotels during filming. That’s true as far as it goes. But we’re also reminded of how Maud Adams, at a fan outing in the early 2000s said that was great because “they don’t really pay you that much.” That’s not part of officially approved narrative.

Others soldiered on despite the lack of cooperation from Eon: John Brosnan wrote “James Bond In the Cinema,” published in 1972 and later updated. Steven Jay Rubin wrote “The James Bond Films,” first published in 1981, with an update in 1983 (we have both). Rubin, in particular, was one of the first to disclose details of the sometimes-rocky relationship with Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the other co-founder of Eon. Both Brosnan and Rubin wrote with affection about 007 but neither was an extnesion of Eon’s public relations machine. Both Brosnan and Rubin commented on what they viewed as weaker entries in the film series.

Meanwhile, over the years, other “professional fans” have developed business relationships with Eon. You do what you have to do what you have to do. At the same time, there is a price to be paid. You lose part of your independence. For some, that’s an easy decision. For others, well, you have to think about it.

Octopussy, a reappraisal

Octopussy, the 1983 James Bond film, doesn’t get love from some 007 fans, particularly those fans who first got the Bond habit from the Sean Connery films of the 1960s. That includes editors from our parent site, HMSS, where a survey of editors gave it no higher than a B letter grade, with mostly Cs and Ds.

Watching it again recently reminds us the film is hardly a lost cause. Granted, it doesn’t have much Ian Fleming content. The author’s Octopussy short story provides the backstory of the movie’s female lead (Maud Adams). An auction scene, is based on another short story, The Property of a Lady.

Still, there are sequences that evoke Fleming. The best example is a sequence right after the main titles, set in East Berlin, where a double-O agent attempts to pass along vital information.

For star Roger Moore, who was 54 when filming began in the summer of 1982, Octopussy was an opportunity. Under other circumstances, Eon Productions might hired a new Bond. Indeed, Eon did screen test American James Brolin for the Bond role.

But going into production, Eon knew it was going to have 007 competition in the form of Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake starring Sean Connery. Eon eventually concluded this wasn’t the time for a new actor and brought Moore back. And the “Battle of the Bonds” was underway.

Some actors may have wilted under such pressure. But Moore seems to be thriving. The actor exhibits a kind of cockiness, a confidence that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He out-cheats Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) is a game of backgammon. He later seems to be having a great time fighting off Kamal’s thugs along with MI6 operative Vijay (Vijay Amritraj):

At the same time, when Vijay ends up being the film’s “sacrificial lamb,” Moore/Bond doesn’t laugh it off; he seems quite touched by the loss of a fellow agent. Up to that point, Bond and Vijay had demonstrated good chemistry. As a result, Vijay is one of the best “sacrificial lambs” of the Eon-produced series. Even after the character’s death, Bond is reminded of him while in Berlin. John Barry’s sad music adds to the scene without overpowering it.

Is Octopussy a perfect Bond adventure? No. Its comic elements get too strong at times, in particular a Tarzan yell Bond makes while being hunted in India by Kamal’s men. Later, he gets in and out of a gorilla suit impossibly quickly. Still, there is a sense of adventure, even joy at times. Sequences set in Germany, including an extended action sequence on a train with Bond constantly in peril, tend overall to be more serious than the ones set in India.

A viewer does get the impression that Eon, because of Never Say Never Again, pulled out the stops. At one point, both the two Bond films were scheduled to come out one week apart. Never Say Never Again, however, ended up delayed until the fall of 1983. But Eon had to assume Never would meet its original summer release date.

Octopussy was made by “journeymen” such as director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum (aided in this installment by George MacDonald Fraser and Michael G. Wilson). They didn’t have the critical acclaim of recent Eon hires. But, looking at it again, Octopussy is miles ahead of films such as Quantum of Solace, which featured a critically acclaimed director (Marc Forester) and an equally critically acclaimed writer, Paul Haggis. But you can actually tell what’s happening in the action sequences (something you can’t say about Quantum). Also, at times, Octopussy has an elegance about it, another aspect Quantum lacked.

For those who don’t like any 007 film with Roger Moore (which includes some of our staff), that’s not enough. For others, Octopussy is a Bond movie that’s easy to take for granted. It shouldn’t be, though. Bond films are harder than they look to make, something “prestige” hires such as Marc Forester and Paul Haggis, should have discovered by now.

CBS promises better quality on remaining Five-O DVD sets

There’s still no official release date for the Hawaii Five-O season 11 DVD set, even though you can pre-order it on Amazon.com. But CBS promises any remaining Five-O DVD sets (only two seasons are left) will have better quality than the season 10 set that came out last year.

The company commented on the Home Theater Forum and said the following:

CBS Home Entertainment appreciates its dedicated fan base and values consumers’ desires to communicate and share information about its properties. For the remaining seasons, we will make every effort to achieve the same quality standards of seasons 1 through 9. We look forward to your continued interest in “Hawaii Five-O.”

That was a reference how the season 10 set episodes were not digitally remastered, unlike the previous nine season sets. That in turn stirred a lot of negative consumer reaction such as Amazon.com’s customer reviews for the set.

Season 10 had both Maud Adams and Luciana Paluzzi as guest stars in episodes and thus was of some interest to 007 fans. The season 11 set has former Bond George Lazenby in the season’s final episode as well as participation by former TV spies Robert Vaughn and Ross Martin (the latter in three season 11 episodes). It’s also has James MacArthur’s final series appearance. Jack Lord’s McGarrett would go Danno-less in its 12th and final season.

(Also here’s a shoutout to Mike Quigley’s Hawaii Five-O fan page, which tracks all this quite closely. It’s also where we discovered what we linked above. That page says there are rumors the season 10 consumer reaction delayed the season 11 release, originally set for last month.)

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