All Time High! It is nearly 40 years since principal photography commenced on Octopussy, which later received its Royal Premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square, in London in June, 1983.
The JBIFC takes the opportunity to look back at our groundbreaking coverage of the making of the movie back in 1982, with some edited extracts from an article first published in the club’s 007 magazine vol.1, no.12.
The year 1982, of course, was a watershed moment in the evolution of Roger Moore’s tenure as 007: there had been a question mark over whether he would return as Bond, but producer Cubby Broccoli had been determined to lure him back. Moreover, EON was aware that a ‘rival’ James Bond movie from Kevin McClory, starring none other than Sean Connery, was now in production. Broccoli and director John Glen knew they had to deliver something extra special with Octopussy, and the pressure was on. All eyes were on the production almost from very first day it started filming.
Do you remember when there was no internet? James Bond news back then was hard to come by for dedicated fans. Apart from a few brief local press reports, the JBIFC were the first organisation to publish a detailed report directly from the set of Roger Moore’s sixth James Bond adventure, written by one of our members who lived in Peterborough at the time.
‘On Location in Peterborough’, from: 007 vol.1, no.12, January, 1983
When I first found out that parts of Octopussy were to be shot near Peterborough I nearly fell over with surprise. It was only when the local press began to publish reports that I actually realized it was true. In June, 1982, two local newspapers – the Peterborough Evening Telegraph (E.T.) and the Advertiser – carried reports that the Nene Valley Railway (NVR), near Peterborough, was being considered as a possible location. The E.T. announced: ‘007 Sets Sights on Ferry Meadows’, and said the line would be dressed up as a railway behind the Iron Curtain, with a mockup of the Berlin Wall at Ferry Meadows. The piece in the Advertiser said: ‘James Bond is Lined Up at Ferry Meadows’, and believed work would start during the summer of 1982 ready for filming to commence in September. Having been interested in the world of Bond for years (something of an understatement), I could not believe my luck!
On July 25, 1982, the Sunday Mirror had a large article on Roger Moore, ‘One More Time’, and one sentence said ‘… he is keenly aware that the next few months of filming in exotic locations like India, Berlin and Peterborough…’. Peterborough an exotic location!?! I laughed. The writer was either very misinformed or being very sarcastic. But seriously, on reflection the NVR did seem a good choice. Some years ago it was used for the BBC-TV wartime series Secret Army. It is a private railway for rail enthusiasts and tourists, running from Orton Mere, just outside Peterborough, through lovely countryside to Wansford Station (near the A1 motorway). Ferry Meadows is a small station between these two ends, situated in Ferry Meadows Leisure Park near some golf courses. The NVR was obviously picked because there was a wide selection of continental locomotives and carriages available for use.
During August, 1982, work began on the line to give it an ‘East German’ look. Technicians from Pinewood Studios started to build a border-post at Ferry Meadows (not a ‘Berlin Wall’ as had been rumoured) and spent about four to six weeks getting everything ready. Ferry Meadows was converted and repainted, and a large watch-tower was built out of wood, with a barrier and various guard boxes and wire-grilled fences. On August 11, the local E.T. had a report entitled ‘Nene Valley Spy Train’ and a request was put out for extras – about 20 young men to act as soldiers, 20 ‘nice-looking girls’, and circus people. Other local papers carried a similar plea.
The first photo also appeared of work on the watch tower. During these hot summer weeks I often went down to Ferry Meadows and watched the work as it progressed. On August 16, the E.T. announced that the appeal for extras had bought in over 200 applications in 24 hours for Peter Bennett, the local EON Location Production Manager, and a few days later a message went out saying applicatons for extras had now closed. EON had been snowed under with applications and were anxious to halt the constant phone calls: they were driving Peter Bennett to madness! They had about 1,000 enquiries. It was also announced that the main filming would begin on September 6. On Thursday, September 2, I went down to Ferry Meadows on a hot sunny day and found the second stage of preparation work had started. After construction of the guard posts, watch tower, wire fences and painting of the station, the finishing effects were now being added. The station had been surrounded by fir trees. New signs had been put over the Ferry Meadows signs: it was now named GUTENFURST. Near the watch tower, large signs announced ‘YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR’ and ‘YOU ARE ENTERING THE AMERICAN SECTOR’ in English, Russian, French, and German.
The local press announced that Roger Moore and the other main stars would start work at the NVR’s Wansford Station the following Monday as planned. On Friday morning I went to Wansford Station to satisfy my curiosity and find out what stage preparations had reached there. Hardly anybody was around. The station’s main level-crossing gates had been removed to give it an ‘open style’ German look, with a red and white barrier. Fir trees and German road signs had appeared, and the station had been given a ‘continental’ makeover and finish. It was now named KARL-MARX-STADT. Last minute work was being carried out by a few carpenters. I went onto the deserted station platforms and had a good look round, taking photos of everything (!), and feeling as if I was one of the first to see it all. They must have been wondering who I was, having suddenly appeared from nowhere.
And then I saw the main Octopussy train for the first time. There was a teak-bodied dining-car, a sleeping carriage and some flat wagons carrying circus equipment, together with some box-vans, which had been painted in bright red. Circus-style signs with ‘Octopussy’s International Circus’ had been added to the side of the carriages and box-vans. Two men from the Art Department were putting up posters advertising ‘Octopussy’s Circus’ as next performing at Karl-Marx-Stadt. No sooner had they put them up, than I had taken photos of them; a few minutes later the Art Dept men wripped the posters to give them a more authentic and ‘worn’ look. Various signs were also being made and they lay flat on the station platform. I noticed that on the wagons small posters advertising ‘NEXT PERFORMANCE U.S. AIRFORCE BASE FELDSTADT WEST GERMANY’. In a nearby field, a Circus tent frame had been erected to give the illusion that the circus tent was up.
The next day (Saturday) I was down there yet again! A large armoured personnel carrier had appeared. I also came across a large amoured rail car, which had been built onto a rail wagon and added to the end of the Octopussy train. I had heard about the blue-prints and prototype for this being designed and stored at Pinewood and now I was seeing the finished result for the first time. It had been built in wood on a four-wheeled wagon and had ‘filler’ on parts of it to provide it with the effect of being made of welded steel. An olive green finish made it even more impressive and small red flags adorned each corner. Large circus lorries were parked in the nearby fields. Wansford Station was all set for filming to start on Monday morning, and so was I! I assumed a lot of the Station would not be accessible to people when filming started. I returned to Peterborough bubbling with anticipation and waited for the Monday. I knew the next few days were going to be a unique opportunity to see the making of a James Bond film at close quarters…