Recently I watched Octopussy and then The Man With The Golden Gun on successive nights, which was an interesting experience as it allowed me to compare two Roger Moore Bond films from the late and then early part of his reign.
The Man With The Golden Gun is frequently ranked by fans towards the bottom of the films, although I have always had a soft spot for it simply by virtue of the fact that it was the very first Bond film I saw. It was released prior to the films being shown in TV in the UK and so my first experience of a Bond films was on the big screen – I loved it.
On the other hand, by the time Octopussy was released I didn’t bother going to see it. I’d grown bored with the many aspects of the Bond series, which were a world away from the books that I continued to love. As well as avoiding Octopussy (and Never Say Never Again) I also missed its successor, A View To A Kill and only caught up with them many years later.
The Man With The Golden Gun
Both Octopussy and The Man With The Golden Gun are a long way from Ian Fleming’s stories, with the plot of The Man With The Golden Gun entirely discarded and only the character of Scaramanga remaining intact; the locations, story, motivations and just about every facet were changed.
However, the story is straightforward and lacks the convoluted twists that many of the more recent Bond films have suffered. Roger Moore is in good form as James Bond and Christopher Lee is often admired for his portrayal of Scaramanga, as is his golden gun.
The gadgets aren’t (too) over the top, the golden gun itself being just about right and the car that turns into a plane believable. Also the film includes a rare example of Bond’s mean streak displayed during the Moore era, when he questions Andrea Anders about Scaramanga.
Of course there are a number of weaknesses with The Man With The Golden Gun, including the reappearance of Sheriff JW Pepper and Mary Goodnight’s role written as a dumb blonde. And while the 360 degree roll in the AMC Hornet is spectacular (and over the top), what really ruins the stunt is the comedy whistle that John Barry later said he regretted; otherwise the score is as atmospheric as Barry gets, although many fans dislike Lulu’s theme song.
However, I love the funhouse and the film often has moments of real suspense.
Octopussy contains some small elements from the short story after which it is named, as well as another story contained in the book, The Property of a Lady; it also contains influences from a number of other sources.
However, while Octopussy may not be the worst Bond film, it is very uneven in tone and the Flemingesque moments are offset by those moments that made me abandon cinematic 007 in the first place; the auto rickshaw stunts for example, which probably helped form my decision not to see the film when first released. Then there is the Tarzan yell, the gorilla costume, Bond dressed as a clown (admittedly though, Ian Fleming had made a note of something similar in his notebook)… what have I missed?
What Octopussy really lacks though it any atmosphere or suspense and in the end can’t decide what kind of Bond film it wants to be. That is a pity as the Flemingesque moments could have made it so much better.