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Cinema: The Bond Wagon Crawls Along

4 minute read
Richard Corliss

OCTOPUSSY Directed by John Glen; Screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson

You have a nasty habit of . . . surviving,” sneered Kamal Khan as perplexity twitched in his left cheek.

James Bond allowed himself to smile. Though he had only recently met this exiled Afghan prince, Bond knew the type all too well. On twelve, no, 13 previous assignments for Her Majesty’s Cinema Service, he had clenched his wits against some of the modern world’s most notorious dastards. Imposing men they were—Drax, Blofeld, mad and wily Auric Goldfinger. Somehow this Kamal, this jet-set smuggler, seemed less than they, less than a man, shrunken into his dreary sins, human villainy reduced to venality. He looked wary and frail, like an extinct bird on a porcelain vase. He would hardly be worth killing horribly.

Bond glanced up across the baccarat board and allowed his smile to widen into a yawn. “I’ll cover the bet with this Fabergé egg if you don’t very much mind.”

Kamal’s eyes acknowledged a slight pain. Perhaps he was anticipating the familiar adventures in store for them both—the dinner of stuffed sheep’s head, the full-dress safari with Bond as the prey, the chase through the bazaar, the fight with the portable buzz saw, the wing-walker aerobatics that would surely end in the Afghan’s death. Or was it just a reflex of exquisite boredom on the face of a polo player named Louis Jourdan? . . .

“You can call me Octopussy,” the woman murmured. She was, of course, gorgeous, her thin yet voluptuous body sheathed in a simple, expensive dress. Bond could sniff the perfume of her danger the moment they met. From there to bed had been the matter of a few glances between professionals, and the act itself had been high sport, the Wimbledon finals of sex. Now the match was over, and Bond, instead of steeling himself for a stray tarantula under the sheets, found himself ruminating. Was she the good woman or the bad one? In each of his assignments, it seemed, there was always one of each. That makes 24, no, 26 of them, each one flawless and passionate, each succeeding pair more considerate of his advancing age. Did spies get performance anxiety, or herpes? Or just bored with the reproduction of perfection? . . .

“Grunt! Pow! Gnar! Ouch!!!”

As he applied the precise level of thumb pressure to the temple of one of Kamal’s 7-ft. thugs, Bond turned meditative. When he had started playing this game of Save the Planet—when he was roguish Sean Connery and the world was so much younger—Bond had been a kind of role model for people of a certain class and ambition. Savoir-faire meant the aristocracy of style: which wine to decant, which brand of cigarette to smoke, which automatic weapon to carry under the armpit. Now that he was Roger Moore, 20 years later, Bond had degenerated into a male model, and something of a genial anachronism.

Oh, he still knew how to entertain, if not give pleasure. The old double-entendres could still raise a grimace, and with the help of his blessed stunt team, Bond would doubtless eel his way through tight spots until he was older than yesterday. By then he would be played by Anthony Andrews or Michael Jackson, and his adversary would be an octogenarian Norman Bates or Rocky Balboa. And the women would still be young and beautiful . . .

Another scrape, and no scratches. Another nuclear holocaust averted, and now another woman—the good one, he guessed. All’s right with NATO and so to bed, with two martinis, shaken but not stirred, like 007 himself. Bond raised his glass and looked meaningfully into What’s-Her-Name’s green eyes. “Here’s to survival, darling,” he said just before he fell asleep.

—By Richard Corliss

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