The clown suit in Octopussy is often considered the lowest point of Roger Moore’s James Bond wardrobe, but it proves to be an effective disguise after he is identified wearing the red costume that he stole from Mischka. Since the clown suit is a disguise—complete with white makeup and a red nose—is it fair to remember Roger Moore as the James Bond who donned the clown suit? Would there be a better disguise for Bond at a circus? Earlier in Octopussy he hides inside a gorilla costume, which is even more absurd than wearing a clown suit. Whilst Roger Moore is known for being the most humourous of the Bonds, he gives one of his most serious performances of the series when he’s dressed for the circus.
The clown suit is yellow with a windowpane of turquoise lengthwise stripes and black crosswise stripes. There is an orange rectangle at the points where the stripes intersect. The suit’s pattern is printed, and the cloth is likely polyester. The button two jacket is cut like an oversized lounge suit jacket, though it is unstructured. It has notched lapels, open patch hip pockets, a welt breast pocket, a non-vented skirt and black buttons. The ultra-high-waisted trousers match the jacket and are held up by thick red braces.
The clown costume includes a white wing-collar shirt that has two large black buttons on the front. The buttons have a jagged edge. The costume also has a giant red orange bow tie with black polka dots, and there is a matching pocket square stuffed into the jacket’s breast pocket. The clown hat is a bowler with an orange ribbon and orange edge trimming. A fake yellow flower is attached to the left side of the hat, and thick orange hair is build into the hat. White gloves that button at the wrist and the oversized orange oxford shoes with white wing tips finish off the clown outfit.
Finally! I remember when I first stumbled upon this website, and you wrote that you will write about all the clothes that Bond wears, “even the clown suit”. This is a superb blog and I’ve learned a lot from the articles and also from the comments. This is my favourite Bond film, and as you say, this scene might be Moores’ most serious one. “Let me go, damn it, there’s a bomb in there!”
Keep up the good work.
Regards, Keith P.
It is also identical to the outfit 009 wore at the opening of the film. As Bond had seen 009’s crime scene photo, he must have purposefully chosen to emulate that exact make-up when he saw that the same outfit was available in the trailer. Mimicking and slightly mocking the death of a colleague? Now that’s dark! Comedy low point, be damned.
Anyone who used to watch the Brian Clemens-scripted episodes of The Avengers will tell you they were full of death and murder and clowns and wax dummies and robots and balloons and knives, it seems a fine territory for Bond to step in to, too.
Listen to the soundtrack as 009 falls in to the water – if that isn’t John Barry writing the opening fanfare of The Avengers theme into his score, I’ll eat my clown hat.
Quite how Bond had time to put on all that make up so intricately when there was a 5 minute countdown to an atomic explosion when a quick mask would have worked, that’s another matter…
Complete and total nonsense. The all time low point of the series!
Harsh words, Steve! He’s in disguise in a tent full of other clowns (police were looking for a guy in a red shirt so he had to change) so it’s perfectly justified, plus see my previous comment about the dark humour re: 009; and the bomb defusal is easily the most suspenseful scene in any Bond film since The Spy Who Loved Me’s similar atom bomb defusal scene. The guards won’t listen to him and they hold him back from doing his job, everyone in the tent and 20 miles beyond will die if they don’t let him go! It’s edge if the seat stuff. How is it a low point?
Eh. I thought that way until I actually watched it in context and it’s… fine. As silly as it sounds, it works in context: the situation is dire, he’s got to disable the bomb, the guards are on his tail and that’s the only disguise around that can get him close to the bomb.
The all time low came in Die Another Day.
But who tailored the clown suit?
But wouldn’t you say the suit is red with a bold yellow check and black and turquoise overcheck…?
I wrote it this way since yellow is the dominant colour and the fabric is printed.
And the jacket is unstructured as it is a disguise only and not formal?
It’s unstructured because it’s a cheap clown costume.
Any comments with regards to the police officers outfit though?
Bond wearing a matching tie/pocket square set? Ridiculous!
I think the jacket would be more flattering if it were single vented.
Even more flattering…?
I suppose it’s kind of valid, Matt, as it is a “suit” after all and good points made by Dan above but surely there remained more interesting and tasteful garments worn by Moore in this underrated movie before getting around to this sartorial low? I’m thinking of his the off white silk pyjamas worn on the boat for his “in-out” seduction of Maud Adams at the movie’s close.
Roll on the “Moonraker” poncho now, I suppose ;)
Dreadful costume. Dreadful film. Approaching the nadir of the entire canon. Tarzan yells while wanting through the trees, a Barbara Woodhouse “SIT!” to a roaring tiger. Ian Fleming wouldn’t ev recognize his own creation and I always wondered exactly what oind of audience this was pitched at with Thea e juvenile attempts at humour when there was a whole demographic of adults ready for an adult action/spy/drama film.
Although I agree with your comment about Fleming, I’ve always liked the film. I think it has some merit, despite it’s campiness. And it’s quite good from a sartorial standpoint, clown suit not withstanding.
Is a giant bowtie easier to tie?
It probably is. I doubt anyone tied the clown bow tie.
Must have been pre tied. I’ve seen on the documentaries that it’s an outfitter where it’s a false shirt front so the bow tie is attached to the shirt front.
My take:- they are making a point about clowns like General Orlov getting their hands on nuclear weapons. It is not likely that Bond is trying to mock his dead colleague and I was more disturbed by Bond stealing a woman’s Alfa-Romeo and the Tarzan shouts during the jungle chase. A firm called The North Face is selling a ski parka with a print very similar to that of this suit. They must believe it has a high-vis aspect which benefits skiers. There is absolutely no chance of blending in with this suit!
Nice post, Matt. And all of the recent, non-Bond suit -related posts have been informative.
I agree that the costume works perfectly in the context of the story. And Bond racing to stop the nuke is perhaps the best sequence of any Bond film of its era. Roger’s performance is right on target.
The movie itself is a bit underrated, though it rightfully takes criticism for some of the campy, India-related sequences – the safari hunt sequnce in particular. I have seen the movie twice on a 60 foot screen in recent years, and that sequence is amplified and plays horribly.
But the movie has tremondous strenghths- the precredits sequence, the hunting of 009, the auction and the backgammon game. Magda. Orlov. Gobinda (“out there?!?”). The assasination attempt in Octopussy’s bedroom. The chase for the bomb. Moore’s perfect performance (“I’m on the economy tour” and the indignant, “I’m not for hire” are perfect). Barry’s score. The cinematography. If the final assault is ridiculous, it is fun eye candy.
Totally agree that this movie is unfairly derided. Of course there’s always going to be some silliness in a Roger Moore film, but the entire third act from chasing down the train to deactivating the bomb is just pure edge-of-you-seat thrill.
Some very good points, Christian. Good to see you back too, sir!
I find it a little odd that most of the criticisms of this movie centre on the jungle scenes whilst ignoring the great moments, handled never more assuredly by Roger, and aspects to the movie which make it a very entertaining piece of light entertainment. For me, it’s far superior to Connery’s return later that year and is, all round, the best and most balanced Bond movie of that decade.
The balance is the thing; I assume the idea was, having deviated so sharply from a decade long trend for bigger and more bombastic escapism with “For Your Eyes Only”, to balance and tweak the formula with a little more of what that generation of Bond fans were used to; fantastic elements, OTT villains and, yes, humor. As Dan and yourself point out, Moore’s handling of the diffusing of the bomb as excellent. This sequence showed his versatility in the role and, for me, the movie overall balanced his penchant for humor with the slightly more realistic direction the movies were taking very accomplishedly and is a far more enjoyable piece of entertainment than his unfortunate swan song. Of course, as regards the remit of this blog, all of Moore’s 1980’s movies were bang on wardrobe wise.
Thanks, David. And I pretty much agree with your points, though I hold For Your Eyes Only in the highest regard. But Octopussy is a better balance of the Moore films, much like Goldfinger in its blend, and a few edits (and better female lead casting) away from The Spy Who Loved Me.
Also, on the movie’s strengths, I cannot fail to recognize the confrontation between Bond and Orlov on the train. Absolutely serious, well written and acted, and a priceless moment in the series.
And yes, the wardrobe is excellent, with my favorite notch lapel dinner suit and beautiful Sotheby’s auction suit as personal highlights.
Neither we nor James Bond need to like this suit. The clown suit is nothing more than a disguise that made sense given the circumstances. Alongside the extremely large bow tie, which has exceeded even the most extreme 1970s fashions, the baggy and loud suit is meant to give a funny and ridiculous appearance. It’s very fitting for a clown, and Bond looked the part convincingly!
A British secret agent dressed as a clown? Well, sorry but for me that is a bridge too far. Probably this displays my lack of imagination and is in line with the unfortunate genre of Roger’s films but it is making the series a parody of itself. Although Roger was famous for his roguish insouciance, for me the shame is that he could have equally well played1 Connery’s style in the earlier films. In other words, the real James Bond.
I’ve been a huge 007 fan since I first saw Moonraker in the theater as a kid. I’ve seen them all. I own all of them. I agree with the earlier post. This moment is the lowest point in all of the movies. James Bond is class. James Bomd is debonair. You don’t ever write a script that requires him to wear a clown outfit. It cheapens his character by portraying him as a buffoon. Roger Moore did play it serious, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s painted up to look like a fool.
The script wasn’t bad otherwise. It’s a shame they had to take that turn, because it was a good movie outside of that.
Is it really more buffoonish than Sean Connery “becoming Japanese?”
It’s one of my two favourite Moore Bonds, and one of my fave Bonds, full stop. Great mixture of serious and fun elements. The clown suit and the gorilla suit were in George MacDonald Fraser’s original script, and years later he remembered Cubby Broccoli’s anguished cry of ‘You want to put James Bond in a clown suit?’ My introduction to the series was LIVE AND LET DIE, and I tend to view the Moore movies as the type of Bonds that I want to see–big, brassy and not taking themselves too seriously.
Coming into this late in the game, but …. I love this movie.
About the clothes — I find Moore’s Bond suits in the 1980s to be far superior (and more timeless) than his 1970s garb. Moore’s face also changed, losing much of its prettiness, leaving him oddly sober and almost haunted. I think older Moore is a much better Bond than almost anyone.
As for the clown suit — as you say, it makes perfect sense in terms of the story. And Moore really shines as Bond in this outing — though dressed as a clown, this is a man who is both desperate and scared. It may be one of the best performances of the character in the canon.
And just, if I may, a few words in praise of Octopussy. Great villain in Jourdan, Orlav is completely convincing, and Douglas Wilmer is a joy. It’s a good spy picture, a good train picture, a good circus picture and a good jungle movie. All of these factors make is a keeper in my book.
Keep up the great work. I love your blog!
Interestingly he leaves the bottom button on the jacket unfastened.