Roger Moore as James Bond, British government agent
India, Spring 1983
Release Date: June 6, 1983
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Emma Porteous
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Born 93 years ago today on October 14, 1927, the great Sir Roger Moore continues to hold the record for the number of films in which he starred as James Bond, playing agent 007 a total of 00-7 times. (Sean Connery also played Bond seven times, though 1983’s Never Say Never Again is considered “unofficial” as it wasn’t made by EON Productions.) In anticipation of Daniel Craig’s final 007 movie No Time to Die—its release yet again delayed for another six months—let’s explore an exciting climactic scene from Sir Roger’s penultimate film as James Bond.
Octopussy significantly expands on Ian Fleming’s short story of the same name, essentially borrowing only the title and some background details and evolving it into a globe-hopping adventure set against the post-détente years of the Cold War as 007 joins forces with the eponymous Octopussy (Maud Adams) against the suave exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) and his megalomaniac ally, Soviet General Orlov (Steven Berkoff).
The plot culminates as Bond and Q (Desmond Llewelyn) arrive via Union Jack-emblazoned hot air balloon to join Octopussy and her cult of all-female jewel smugglers in an assault on Kamal Khan’s Monsoon Palace. After Khan and his henchman Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) kidnap Octopussy, Bond pursues them on horseback, resulting in a thrilling scene as he leaps from pony to plane.
What dedication! Moore’s chemistry with Maud Adams proves to be a major asset at the core of Octopussy, no doubt aided by the two actors’ real-life friendship. Bond ending up with Octopussy would have made for a fine finish to Sir Roger’s tenure in the role, but—alas—the forces that be determined that the world needed to have A View to a Kill. (I am not one of those forces.)
Another aspect that makes Octopussy such an enjoyable installment is its embrace of the fun elements that define the 007 franchise, injecting its eye-pleasing action sequences with copious doses of the familiar James Bond theme, and balancing our hero’s reliance on gadgetry, witticisms, and (most importantly) his own resourcefulness and courage to defeat his over-the-top foe. Octopussy may not be a classic movie among the likes of Casablanca or Citizen Kane, but it’s undoubtedly classic Bond.
What’d He Wear?
As Roger Moore was elegantly tailored throughout his dozen-year duration as James Bond, he may not be remembered for his enduring casual wear, but his outfit for the climactic assault in Octopussy may be Sir Roger’s finest example of timeless, ageless dressing-down that would be just as effective even 40 years later, particularly for a sophisticated agent well into middle age.
A great read about this particular set of threads can be found penned by 007 style expert Matt Spaiser at his definitive blog, Bond Suits, where he explores the outfit in great detail and even finds parallels to the literary Bond imagined by Ian Fleming.
The white cotton shirt was almost certainly made by Moore’s usual shirtmaker, Frank Foster, and is worn with the spread collar open at the neck. Though undoubtedly a fine shirt, one of my few constructive criticisms of the outfit is that the shirt may be too dressy for the context of the scene; there’s no reason for Bond to be wearing a white shirt like he would also be wearing with one of his suits, and even a striped shirt may have been a reasonable alternative. Of course Sir Roger, arguably among the most innately debonair of the actors to portray the agent, can pull it off. (It’s also considerably more practical than Q ballooning into the fray wearing a full suit!)
The navy casual jacket from this sequence was among the latest of 007’s duds to be paid tribute by the most recent installment of Orlebar Brown’s 007 Heritage Collection with the release of the “Octopussy Harrington” in midnight blue garment-dyed woven cotton twill. This reimagined blouson, currently available for $525, features most of the details of Moore’s screen-worn jacket, though the cut is an updated slimmer fit with other modifications including a throat-latch and ribbing around the waist hem.
Moore’s navy blue jacket on screen appears to be made from a cotton or cotton-blend cloth that would wear coolly and comfortably in the warm Indian climate. The front zip is covered by a fly from the waist up to the shirt-style collar. A horizontal yoke stretches across the back with four seams that run vertically down to the hem, which is banded around the waist for a blouson-like effect.
The multitude of external pockets resembles the waist-length, multi-pocket garments often marketed as “utility jackets”, with two open-top pockets over the chest and two lower pockets that each close with a single-button flap. The set-in sleeves are finished at the cuffs with pointed tabs that each close through a single dark blue plastic button resembling those that fasten the lower pocket flaps.
Bond matches his dark navy cotton trousers to the jacket in the grand tradition of Sir Roger’s casual-wear, but it works with this outfit as it adds more of a militaresque bearing rather than dating it like a leisure suit (as in Live and Let Die), a safari suit (seen earlier in Octopussy), or a velour track suit (to come in A View to a Kill.)
The flat front trousers have straight pockets along the side seams, back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms, and Moore wears them with a black leather belt. By this time, Roger had switched from sometimes favoring side adjusters to almost exclusively wearing belts with his trousers, especially more casual slacks like these. I imagine this was a wise transition as I don’t know that I’d trust even the best tailor in the world—and, as Roger was a Douglas Hayward client by this time, that’s saying something!—to craft a pair of trousers that stay up all on their own while I’m jumping from a plane as it’s about to crash!
If my gripe with the white shirt was related to form, I do take a functional issue with Bond’s choice of footwear during what he knows will be an action-packed assault. As Moore’s time in the role coinciding with a universal inclination toward informality, his Bond was increasingly comfortable in slip-on shoes, whether wearing a blazer or black tie kit. This scene is no exception, as we see Bond slipping from Q’s hot air balloon in a pair of black leather moc-toe Venetian loafers with either black or midnight blue ribbed socks.
In his infinite wisdom, Roger Moore’s stunt double Norman Howell dressed his feet for the physical demands of leaping from horseback onto an ascending airplane, sporting a pair of lace-up shoes that appear to be all-black sneakers or trainers as evident by their profile and details like the sporty swollen collars. (Moore would wear trainers only once during the Bond series, with the aforementioned black velour FILA tracksuit in A View to a Kill.)
More than 30 years before the Apple Watch would revolutionize the way people were obsessively looking at their wrists, Seiko already had a vision for the future. The Japanese manufacturer was an unsurprising candidate for this degree of innovation, having already pioneered the world’s first quartz watch (the Astron in 1969) and racing against Casio to develop “computer watches” that would prefigure the modern smartwatch.
While these early computer watches like the Casio Databank and the Seiko Data 2000 may have appealed to the egghead-on-the-go, Seiko was also looking to capture the evidently burgeoning “active couch potato” market and developed the concept of a TV you could watch from your wrist… and thus, the Seiko TV Watch, introduced in October 1982. Based on this timing, it must have been swiftly rushed to the set of Octopussy—which had already been filming for two months—in time for Q to assign 007 with his latest timepiece, though it’s more likely that the screen-used watch was based on a prototype presented earlier in the year. (You can find an example of a commercially sold Seiko TV Watch among the vast collection showcased by 007collector.com and from The Computer Museum.)
The wrist-wearing portion of the steel-cased Seiko TV Watch hardly differs in size from the modern Apple Watch with a display measuring 1.5 inches wide by 2 inches tall, consisting of a single-row digital timekeeper along the top with a 1.2″ liquid crystal display (LCD), responsive only to direct external light. As High Techies‘ excellent write-up of the watch explains, “the brighter the light, the clearer the picture.”
Of course, there’s no watching TV at all without wiring the watch to the Walkman-sized TR02-01 receiver, shipped with the watch and designed to be worn inside the pocket… “assuming one has a convenient pocket,” of course. Q Branch appears to have modified Bond’s TV Watch to not only not require the wired receiver but also to provide an almost theatrical-quality resolution no doubt clearer than the 32-pixel display would provide in even the best light.
Feeling the need for more formidable artillery than his MI6-issued Walther P5, Bond picks up a downed guard’s Sa vz. 58 V rifle and fires it at the onslaught of henchmen as he smoothly rides down a banister in Kamal Khan’s palace, establishing a classic 007 moment… then quickly blasting at what appears to be an ornamental artichoke at the bottom of the banister to avoid serious damage to his thunderballs.
Per its name, the Czech 7,62 mm samopal vzor 58 was indeed introduced in 1958 and designated as a “submachine gun” despite arguably being a rifle. The vz. 58 was produced steadily by the the Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod arms factory in Moravia well into the 1980s with several variants including the vz. 58 V as wielded by Bond, which replaced the fixed stock with a metal folding stock referred to as “kosa” (“scythe”) by Czech soldiers, according to Wikipedia.
Though it shares cosmetic similarities with the iconic Kalashnikov-designed AK-47 assault rifles made famous by the Soviets, the Czech vz. 58 operates on an entirely different short-stroke piston than the long-stroke system of the AK, though both fire the standard Soviet 7.62x39mm ammunition.
Up to this point, Bond had been primarily armed with handguns, rifles, and the occasional submachine gun when taking on the baddies. This was the first time we ever saw Bond use what has been termed an “assault rifle”, foreshadowing Pierce Brosnan’s 007 we would meet in GoldenEye who used commandeered AK-pattern rifles almost more frequently than his own signature PPK!
How to Get the Look
Simple, functional, and timeless, Roger Moore’s 007 wears some of his finest casual attire when dressing for conflict at the end of Octopussy. That said, Bond’s white shirt and black loafers may be a bit contextually inappropriate, but his navy cotton utility jacket is ideal for the task at hand.
- Navy blue cotton utility jacket with shirt-style collar, zip-up front with covered fly, two chest pockets and two lower pockets (with button-down flaps), and single-button pointed-tab cuffs
- White cotton shirt with spread collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Navy blue cotton drill flat front trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt
- Black leather loafers
- Black ribbed socks
- Seiko TR02-01 Liquid Crystal “TV Watch” with built-in digital timekeeping display and 1.2″ LCD
The cut and cloth of Bond’s navy blouson in these scenes reminds me of a comfortable U.S. Navy-authorized windbreaker I own, made by Creighton in a blend of 65% Dacron polyester and 35% cotton and reportedly issued around the time Octopussy was released.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.