Bond: Roger Moore
Release Date: 1983
Previous Film: For Your Eyes Only
Next Film: A View to a Kill
Original Story: “Octopussy”
Publication Date: Serialized in the Daily Express in 1965; released in Octopussy and The Living Daylights collection in 1966. Both dates are after Ian Fleming’s death.
Previous Story: The Man With the Golden Gun
Next Story: none; Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis under the penname Robert Markham in 1968.
Villain: Kamal Kham (Louis Jourdan); General Orlov (Steven Berkoff)
Heavy: Gobinda (Kevir Bedi), Mischka and Grishka (David & Anthony Meyer)
Bond Girls: Octopussy (Maud Adams), Magda (Kristina Wayborn), Bianca (Tina Hudson), Octopussy`s girls
Other Notable Characters: Q (Desmond Llewelyn), Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), M (Robert Brown), Minister of Defense (Geoffrey Keen), Gen. Gogol (Walter Gotell), Vijay (Vijay Amritraj), Penelope Smallbone (Michaela Clavell)
Gadgets: Q-Branch modified three-wheeled taxi with turbo; acid fountain pen with radio receiver (used by Bond); liquid crystal TV watch (used by Bond); alligator sub (used by Bond); yo-yo buzzsaw (used by unnamed hitman)
Opening Credits: “All Time High“, written by Tim Rice and John Barry, performed by Rita Coolidge.
Closing Credits: “All Time High”, reprised
Plot of Original: 007 tracks down a retired Royal Marine Major who had killed a German officer during the post-war investigations in order to get two bars of Nazi gold.
Plot of Film: After 009 dies at the British Embassy in West Germany after escaping a circus in East Berlin with a forged Fabergé egg, 007 is called in to trace the real Fabergé Egg from Sotheby’s where it is up for auction to the seller, a rogue Russian general who is using the smuggling of Russian artwork to fund his plot and to set up an atomic blast on a US Army base in Feldstat, West Germany, to frame the American government. To stop the plot, Bond infiltrates Octopussy’s Circus and finds not only the rogue general and his bankroller, but also 009’s murderers.
It may be easier to state what remained the same. Both the short story and the movie have an octopus. The short story focuses on Major Smythe, who was in the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau during and after World War II. Bond is the catalyst for the story, but doesn’t play much of a role. Smythe confesses to killing a German officer after the war in order to steal Nazi gold, then while waiting for Scotland Yard to arrive, goes hunting the scorpion fish and gets poisoned by his prey in a Pyrrhic victory over it.
The original short story becomes Octopussy’s backstory, though updated because of the era. Major Smythe served in the Korean War, and is Octopussy’s father. She is well aware of who Bond is, thanks to the events in the short story.
Octopussy pulls from one other of Ian Fleming’s short stories, “The Property of a Lady”. The auction scene at Sotheby’s plays out in a similar manner, with Bond upping the bid to flush out the seller. However, neither “The Property of a Lady” nor “Octopussy” can fill a 131 minute film. Current events in 1983 had the Cold War easing back ever so slowly. The Iron Curtain started to look rusty, and the economic standing of the Soviet Union was starting to creak. The plot involving a rogue general was within the realm of possibility, as was the potential Soviet invasion of Europe. The production pulled in elements from both short stories as a base for the movie, which went in its own direction.
The problem the film has is that all the easier stories to adapt have been done. For Your Eyes Only ran into the same issue, having used other short stories in its collection for plot elements. With Octopussy and The Living Daylights, the short stories were more character pieces or investigative, with little action. At the time, 007 movies were blockbuster spectaculars, with set action pieces in exotic locales. A quieter pace would have fit the original story, but audiences have a different image in mind for the franchise.
Octopussy also had one problem that no other EON 007 production had, a competing Bond movie. Sean Connery was in Never Say Never Again, the Thunderball remake. Octopussy was competing with the original 007. Helping was the return of John Barry to score the movie, bringing the original musical themes woven into the soundtrack.
After For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore felt he was getting too old to play 007. The search for the new Bond was continuing when Octopussy was made. Moore’s contract to play the role was over, but he was convinced to be Bond on a film by film basis. He’d play 007 one more time in A View to a Kill, making him the actor the role the most EON films with seven.
Casting notes – Robert Brown makes his first appearance as M in the film. Vijay Amritraj, a successful former tennis player, makes his film debut. Maud Adams makes her third appearance in the franchise; her first was in The Man With the Golden Gun as a supporting character, her second was uncredited in For Your Eyes Only.
The world’s best known secret agent has had a long history. Created by Ian Fleming and first published in 1953, James Bond has appeared in 57 books, including 43 by other authors, at least 29 movies, including those made outside the Eon continuity, and in comics. Bond has been portrayed by six different actors in the main franchise alone. With the sheer number of works available, the 007 movies provide a range of adaptations, from the close but not quite approaches of the early films to the in-name-only later works. One film even manages to adapt the novella as smaller portion of its longer running time.
Approaching the project will take time. Several ways of tackling the franchise exist. First is to go movie by movie. With over twenty movies in the main franchise, that will take time. a similar method would be to group the films by the actor playing Bond. That gives the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras a longer analysis, and doesn’t take into account the one George Lazenby outing. I could also group three movies together, based on the order being used.
The order, though, is another question. There’s the order of the books, starting with Casino Royale. Using this order means jumping around in the film continuity, such as it exists, and several of the movies have titles that come from other aspects of the character instead of story titles, such as The World Is Note Enough. Movie order may be easier – the films may be better known now by the general audience than the books.
Much like the History of Adaptations, the Bond project won’t be week by week. Instead, the goal will be to have an entry each month, with the intervening weeks being saved for other analyses. This will give me time to read the novels and watch the movies again without being rushed. Right now, though, I’m taking suggestions on the approach. Would the best approach be reviewing one movie at a time or grouping the movies together? What order would be best, the books or the films? And should I touch the non-franchise films? Please answer in the comments below.
This will be a big project, but I hope that it will show the range of adapting styles used in cinema.
Like the previous two gaming adaptations looked at, Star Wars and Star Trek, today’s is also based on a franchise. Unlike the previous outings, though, Victory Games’ James Bond 007 Role Playing Game, released in 1983, is set in modern times.
007 is an older franchise than either Star Wars or Star Trek, beginning with the release of Casino Royale in 1954, followed by thirteen more books, including two collections of short stories.. After Fleming’s death, other authors continued writing about Bond, including Kingsley Amis, penning Colonel Sun as Robert Markham, and John Gardner. Naturally, Bond’s adventures became popular enough to become adaptation fodder. Casino Royale was the first adapted; the first adaptation of the book was an CBS TV movie featuring “Jimmy Bond” in 1954, followed later by the 1967 parody with Woody Allen, and then in 2006 starring Daniel Craig. The latter was a reboot of the film franchise started by Cubby Broccoli in 1962 with Dr. No. All told, the franchise has seen six actors portraying James Bond, each bringing a different interpretation of the character. 007 has had many imitators, from Matt Helm to Danger!! Death Ray, and has also been the basis of many parodies, including the 1967 Casino Royale, the Austin Powers movies, and the Reboot episode, “Firewall“. Bond is an influence.
A role-playing game based on a franchise featuring a sole main character may seem odd, but Bond is just one agent of several with a License to Kill. The franchise also has recurring characters, including CIA agent Felix Leiter and fellow MI6 agent, Mary Goodnight. The novel Moonraker mentions agents 008 and 0011, and the film franchise shows agents through to 009. Goodnight represents the lower ranked agents in MI6, allowing for players who want to work towards becoming a 00 agent.
Character creation in James Bond 007 is point-based, as opposed to random dice rolls as seen in Dungeons & Dragons*, allowing for players to create an agent to their taste. The points, the number of which depend on the experience of the character, can be used to buy attributes, skills, and appearance details. The attributes – Strength, Dexterity, Willpower, Perception, and Intelligence – are more or less standard across the majority of tabletop RPGs, and are the base for skills. The twenty-four skills are those seen in the 007 books and movies, from Boating to Gambling to Seduction. Need to outrun a number of SUVs filled with mooks working for the head of a Columbian drug cartel? Driving. Need to shoot at those same mooks? Fire Combat. Need to convince the cartel head that you wanted to get his attention to become one of his lieutenants? Charisma. If a skill doesn’t quite cover what a player wants to do, there’s also the optional Fields of Experience, which provide some flavour on what an agent knows, from being able to ski to understanding a toxicological report on a rare poison. The Primary Chance of a skill is based on one or two attributes plus the number of levels bought for the character.
With the appearance details, the game introduces an interesting concept that works in the context of an espionage RPG – the more average a character is, in height, weight, and looks, the more it costs to buy the appearance. An average looking character is harder to identify, which is handled in the game with Fame points. Fame is further increased depending on the initial experience level; Rookies, like Goodnight, aren’t known while a 00-level agent, like 007, has had missions that have become known. Agent-level, the middle tier covering people like Felix Leiter, may or may not be recognized, but word of their exploits have gotten out. Bond, who is known through out the espionage world, has a high number of Fame points that even dying, as seen in the film adaptation of You Only Live Twice, still doesn’t help avoid recognition. Also affecting Fame is gender; female agents get a reduction because women aren’t as represented as agents as men are; Holly Goodhead, the CIA agent from the Moonraker movie, isn’t recognized by Bond because of this factor.
The core mechanic of the 007 RPG is based on the roll of a percentile die, or d100. However, it’s not a simple pass/fail system. Instead, the game uses Ease Factors ranging from 10, the easiest, to 1/2, the hardest. The Ease Factor is multiplied by a skill’s Primary Chance to determine the Success Chance. When the percentile dice are rolled, the result is checked against the success table, not only to see if the character succeeded, but how well, through the determination of the Quality Rating. The QR ranges from 1, best, to 4, worst but still a success. If the roll was to see if a character hit using Fire Combat, for guns, or Hand-to-Hand Combat, for melee, the Quality determines how much damage is done.
Dice, though, can be fickle. Bond seldom fails when he knows he must succeed. The 007 RPG has one more mechanic that helps, the Hero Point. Today, most games have a hero point or drama point mechanism to help players when needed. Prior to the 007 game’s release, the only hero point mechanism seen was in TSR’s Top Secret, with optional Fame and Fortune points. With 007, the hero point mechanic was part of the core. Players had to declare the use of a Hero Point, though not how many, before rolling. Hero Points improved the Quality Rating by one per point spent. A QR of 1, though, was the best possible, with no further improvements possible**. However, that Hero Point isn’t lost; getting a QR1 gets the player a Hero Point, turning the expenditure into a wash. That does mean that more experienced agents, like 007, will be getting more Hero Points on average than a Rookie, but a 00 will also be facing more challenging opponents. A Rookie shouldn’t be going up against Scaramanga on his or her first mission.
All of the above may seem complex, and the game does front-load the complexity at character creation, but once an agent has been made, the mechanics are easy to use. The provided character sheet includes all the skills and and how to calculate their base chance and even has a multiplication table for Ease Factors. All rolls are based on Ease Factors, giving players an idea of their chance of success. The game includes examples of play that show how the mechanics work using scenes from the movies and books. While the core rulebook doesn’t have room to detail all of 007’s gadgets, the supplement, Q-Manual covers everything that has appeared in the books and movies.
With weapons, vehicles, and gadgets, the core philosophy of the designers was that the character still had to be the focus. Almost every item detailed in either the core rules or the Q Manual provides a Performance Modifier, a bonus or penalty to the the task’s Ease Factor. The only exception is the automatic safecracker from the movie version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a suitcase-sized device that did the work while Bond read a magazine. The Performance Modifiers give the GM room to throw added challenges to players. A chase sequence that’d be too easy with the Q Branch provided Lotus becomes a tense scene when said Lotus explodes and the player needs to borrow a non-player character’s aged Peugeot, as seen in For Your Eyes Only.
All the above discussion about character creation and game mechanics, though, doesn’t answer the main thrust of Lost in Translation – is the game a good adaptation of the source works? The answer – yes. The game’s mechanics were pulled from the books and films. Reading the novels or watching the movies with an eye to seeing the mechanics in action reveals that the rules cover everything that happens. It is possible to see when Bond gets a QR1 result and when he spends a Hero Point. The robustness of the mechanic means that players and GMs can apply them to the 007 films released after the game went out of print. The game’s designers ensured that the rules reflected 007’s exploits.
The only lack that the game has is the hole caused by litigation over Thunderball. EON Productions, the licensors of James Bond, didn’t have the rights for SPECTRE, thus could not grant Victory Games permission to use the organization. Victory Games created a new villainous group to fill in the gap, TAROT, using the organization to fill in SPECTRE-sized hole, particularly in adventure modules based on the older movies. Characters with ties to SPECTRE were transferred to TAROT.
While the James Bond 007 RPG is out of print, and the Avalon Hill Game Company has folded the Victory Games imprint, the game itself is again available. A retro-clone, Classified published by Expeditious Retreat Press, was released in 2013. The game doesn’t have the /007/ license, but the core mechanics will allow for Bond and his contemporaries and successors.
* Point-buy in D&D has been around as an option since second edition AD&D, but was explicitly made so in the third edition.
** Except when using the Gambling skill, depending on the game of chance being played, allowing a player to beat an opponent’s 8 with a 9 in Chemin de Fer or Baccarat or an opponent’s straight flush with a royal flush in Poker.