Friday, November 6, 2015

All About Octopussy

Yes, this is another post about Bond girls. I had to write about them for work, and the research yielded a few surprises, and the best of these by far is an explanation for why the hell anyone ever thought “Octopussy” would be an appropriate name for any human character, to say nothing of Bond’s love interest.

In Octopussy, Maud Adams plays the character whose nickname is “Octopussy,” thereby making this one film the only in the entire series to be named for female lead. Even separate from that name, she’s a standout character: She’s a moderately villainous businesswoman and jewel-smuggler who also happens to own a circus and live on a floating palace in India. Hey, get stuck with a name like “Octopussy” and you have to compensate somehow.

The film is loosely inspired by an Ian Fleming short story titled “Octopussy,” in which the name refers not to a human character but to someone’s pet octopus. And doesn’t the name make a lot more sense in that context? The story actually begins with its antagonist addressing the octopus directly: “‘You know what?’ said Major Dexter Smythe to the octopus. ‘You’re going to have a real treat today if I can manage it.’” Smythe later goes on to call the octopus both “Pussy” and “Octopussy.”

However, in reworking the story for the thirteenth James Bond film, the writers apparently thought, “No, this is a name that a human female should have. I see nothing wrong with that.” Dexter Smythe is already deceased at the outset of the film and seen only in photograph form. He’s mentioned as having been an octopus aficionado. Octopussy explains her name, kinda-sorta, with a single line that ties the film back to its source material: “My father became a leading authority on octopi. He loved them. His pet name for me was ‘Octopussy.’” Her actual name is never actually spoken within the film. (This Bond wiki page alleges that it’s Octavia Charlotte Smythe, but it’s apparently not her official real name.)

Awkward though it might be, that’s how Maud Adams ended up playing a character named “Octopussy.” The fact that she owns a circus might also be notable just in that the other Bond girl to have the word “pussy” in her name — Pussy Galore in Goldfinger — also leads a circus of sorts: Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a group of female aviators who may or may not all be lesbians.

Adams had already appeared as a secondary Bond girl in The Man With The Golden Gun: Andrea Anders, a character with a name so non-ridiculous that it’s shared by a sitcom actress. (She’s half of the trashy neighbor couple living next to Phil and Claire on Modern Family.) Adams also makes an uncredited appearance in A View to a Kill, which probably set s a record for any non-Moneypenny, non-Judi Dench Bond actress.

And that end note as as good as any to point out that Duran Duran’s theme song for A View to a Kill might just be the best Bond theme song of all — yes, even better than Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”.

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