General Orlov: A Power Hungry Corrupt General
Lieutenant-General Orlov is the cunning and formidable Soviet General who stands as one of the principal antagonists in the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy.
As a high-ranking officer, General Orlov exudes an air of authority and ruthlessness that makes him a force to be reckoned with. Immortalized by the brilliant performance of British actor Steven Berkoff, Orlov’s character weaves a web of danger and corruption around every scene he appears in.
General Orlov, a power-hungry Soviet general, is convinced that the Warsaw Pact’s superior conventional military strength is being squandered due to détente. Dismissing diplomacy, he proposes a large-scale assault on Western Europe to assert control and challenge NATO’s supposed nuclear bluff.
However, his idea is met with strong opposition, particularly from General Gogol, who fears the catastrophic consequences of a global nuclear war and sees Orlov’s ambition as perilous.
To get around the nuclear objection, Orlov devises a plan involving the detonation of an atomic bomb at a circus event at a US Air Force base in West Germany. The explosion would resemble an American atomic bomb accident, thus encouraging nuclear disarmament in both the West and the East.
In executing his plan, Orlov partners with Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince engaged in jewelry smuggling. Orlov compensates Khan by pilfering valuable Fabergé Eggs from Soviet state vaults and replacing them with fakes. This draws James Bond’s attention when MI6 agent 009, working undercover, is killed while in possession of a counterfeit egg in West Germany.
Collaborating with Khan’s associate, Octopussy, they intend to use her circus as a cover for smuggling the authentic jewelry. Unbeknownst to Octopussy, the plan is to replace the jewelry with an atomic bomb en route to West Germany, rather than sell it in Switzerland and divide the profits.
Bond confronts Orlov, attempting to force him to halt the train carrying the bomb. However, Soviet soldiers interrupt Bond, and both he and Orlov race to reach the train. Bond unwittingly takes Orlov’s car filled with jewelry, prompting Orlov to order his soldiers to chase Bond’s vehicle, which eventually crashes into a river.
Orlov eventually catches up with the circus train but is shot by a border guard while attempting to jump aboard, as he has illegally crossed the border between East and West Germany.
General Gogol, who has discovered Orlov’s involvement in the smuggling operation, arrives on the scene and denounces Orlov as a disgrace to his uniform. With his dying breath, General Orlov insists that he will be hailed as a Soviet hero the next day, unaware that Bond is about to thwart his plans.
Steven Berkoff, born in 1937, is an accomplished English actor, author, playwright, and director. He studied drama at several institutions, including L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Berkoff’s theatre career began at Her Majesty’s Theatre and he is known for his “In-yer-face theatre” style.
His plays include adaptations of Kafka’s works and original verse plays like East, Greek, and Decadence. In film, Berkoff often played villainous characters, such as General Orlov in Octopussy and Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop. He also appeared in TV series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Doctor Who.