Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan
Director: John Glen
Writer(s): Ian Fleming, (stories) Michael G. Wilson, George MacDonald, Richard Maibaum (screenplay)
Runtime: 131 min
Hello everyone and welcome to the thirteenth installment in my series of reviews chronicling the James Bond film series. This time out the movie we will be taking a look at is none other than 1983’s suggestively titled ‘Octopussy’. This movie marked the sixth appearance in the James Bond role for Roger Moore, officially tying him at that point with Sean Connery for most outings in the role. Connery would make a brief but unofficial return to the role later that same year to make it seven movies under his belt to Roger’s six, however Roger, not to be deterred tied the score once more in his final Bond movie; that being1985’s ‘ A View To A Kill’… We will be reviewing both of those movies quite soon enough though. As for now, we have more than a handful with this present picture. The movie was directed once again by John Glen who as stated in the previous review, sat behind the director’s seat for every single official Bond film made in the 1980s. And out of all the movies he made during that decade of wild hair and insane excess, you’d be hard pressed to find one that is any sillier and downright farcical or over the top than this one. To put it simply, this movie is everything its low-key predecessor ‘For Your Eyes Only’ was not…
That fact is actually quite apparent just by taking a look at the titles of these two contrasting films (both of which were taken from the titles of Ian Fleming’s two collections of James Bond short stories). ‘For Your Eyes Only’ very much expresses a sort of dignified elegance and grace about it, while ‘Octopussy’ jumps right out at you in all its brazen and provocative glory. The first movie was an exceptional departure from the over the top gadget driven wackiness of both previous and future movies, while the latter is a full and complete return to form (albeit not to the completely out of this world extent of The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker…). Roger Moore once again plays Bond with that same dry British wit that kept people coming back year after year to his movies. However, if there is one criticism to be made here on old Roger, it is in fact, that in this movie he very much begins to look like ‘old Roger’… One could argue, which I would definitely echo whole-heartedly, that this was the movie which Roger should’ve relinquished the part to someone else, such as a young Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. He did not though, and a result we were left with these final two movies as his swan songs, which many people feel to be among the weakest in the entire franchise. Whether or not I’d go that far in my assessment of this movie, I’ll leave to the final paragraph to divulge.
I suppose we should get to the plot sooner or later. It all begins when a man dressed in a clown suit, who later turns out to be none other than agent Double O’ Nine, (a fellow British secret agent and colleague of James Bond ) crashes into a wealthy party with a priceless golden Faberge egg in his hand, quite literally, at the point of death after being chased down by a knife tossing pair of evil twin hooligans. The egg it turns out, is actually a very well crafted forgery, so well crafted in fact that of necessity whoever made it had to have also had possession of the original. So with the fake egg now in the possession of the British government, and the original up for auction, it draws the attention of both the secret service and the counterfeiters who now of course, need their egg back. Before they can get it back though, they are outfoxed by Bond who switches the real and fake eggs at the auction, and then proceeds to follow the forgers all the way back to India to find out what’s what with this clan of dastardly devils.
As it turns out, this group of forgers, lead by Prince Kamal Khan, has a close business alliance with top Russian military leader General Orlov. This general’s ultimate goal is to start World War Three by setting off a small nuclear device at an American military base, making it look like an accident and thus causing the entire world to push for complete disarmament, so his Russian forces could begin their worldwide sweep. In a related note, I’d be very interested to go back and take a glance at all my Bond reviews thus far and see how many of them did not in fact contain an allusion to either nuclear weapons, or World War Three. In any event, it’s once again up to none other than James Bond to put a stop to all this tomfoolery, and this time, he finds help from a very unlikely, but also a very beautiful ally in Ms. Octopussy herself. This lovely madam with her own private army of scantily clad assassins is revered by all the locals in her part of India as a goddess, to whom even the chief villain in this movie, Kamal Khan, is careful not to offend in any way while in her presence.
Aside from the aforementioned Ms. Octopussy, played here by Maud Adams, in this her second outing as a Bond girl, and her lovely harem of harlots, one other main Bond girl is also featured in this picture. Her name is Magda, and she is Octopussy’s second in command, as well as quite the fetching young blonde lass in her own right. It is often said that a Bond movie lives or dies with the quality or lack thereof of its villains. However, while the villains in this movie are mostly run of the mill stereotypes, (as opposed to the grand genius of former madmen like Goldfinger, Blofeld, etc…) the Bond women more than make up for that here in this film. In fact they deliver quite a few memorable scenes, aside from just being delectable scenery in their own right. Moore and Adams have very good chemistry together, and you get a sense that their two characters here see each other as equals, something quite rare for either of them to run into in their professions.
There really isn’t enough screen time between the two of them in the midst of all the mayhem and nonsense going on to really develop a true sense of feeling or intimacy between the two of them for the viewer. And I consider that a shame because I think there could’ve been something special between these two here had this little love story been dropped into a less convoluted, or at least, a less silly movie. That being said she is a more than solid companion to Double O’ Seven here and one could make a case for her as being one of the most memorable Bond girls of all time. I say memorable mind you, and not ‘best’ because with all the cartoonish elements of the movie, there isn’t really that much to sink one’s teeth into sadly on the all-important dramatic front. Magda, while not rising up to the lofty level of accomplishment of her boss and seeming religious guru, still delivers a memorable and passionate tryst with Bond. At the end of said tryst we see her leave Bond in a most revealing manner. Apparently having gotten the item she wanted she then proceeds to escape by tying off her long evening gown to the balcony of their romantic villa and repelling herself down to ground level by said gown ever so gracefully to meet her awaiting ride.
Now for a few of the usual particulars. Aside from the previously mentioned Bond gals, the usual cast of SIS supporting characters also once again joins James Bond here. First there’s good old M, here played for the first time by Robert Brown. We also have that lovable old master of gadgets, Q, played again by the legendary and irreplaceable Desmond Llewelyn who provides the usual assortment of listening devices, trick fountain pens and custom spy watches, which no secret agent in his right mind would leave home without. Even Lois Maxwell, who plays the lovely Ms. Moneypenny is here again in the same role she’d been perfecting ever since 1962’s iconic Dr. No got this whole franchise cooking. As for the henchmen, we have a bevy of those as well to supplement our fine assortment of villains. First we have Mischka and Grischka, identical twin brothers who do the bidding of Prince Kamal Khan, and who are both deadly accurate with their vast assortment of throwing knives. They wear matching blood red circus outfits and are the primary assassins used in this movie by the baddies. Joining them there’s also the ‘Yo-Yo killer’ who has a very cool saw like contraption that, as his name implies, functions just like the popular child’s toy. Then there’s the silent Indian heavy Gobinda, who wields a mean Arabian styled sword and who is the one in this movie to give Bond his obligatory thump on the back of the head, before he’s taken to the enemy’s lair.
Seriously, for a secret agent, you’d think our hero would’ve developed a slightly better sense of peripheral vision after all these years. But nope, year after year, movie after movie, some hooligan is always managing to get the drop on him and knock him out with one single blow to the back of the cranium. Why don’t you just wear a helmet James, for goodness sake? Once again there’s no real Bond car to speak of in the classic sense, but in the opening sequence we see Double O’ Seven behind the stick of a very cool mini-plane that is being chased down by a heat seeking missile. Aside from that though Bond is normally caught having to bum a ride off of someone else, such as in a late scene where we see him flying in on a blimp being flown by Q to rescue Octopussy from her attackers. The villains here as previously mentioned are kind of run of the mill. They are much more colorful than previous villains, especially the Russian general, and they more than hold up their own, but when compared to the all time greats, these guys fall far short. In the case of Kamal Khan, it’s kind of hard to be taken seriously as a real bad ass when you are shown up again and again by the main Bond girl, even if it is Octopussy.
So now it’s time to decide on a final verdict for this bizarre Bond movie. I’d be lying if I said it was anywhere near my favorite of the bunch. In fact, it’s pretty near the bottom for me, in terms of the Roger Moore movies anyway. That said there are some very entertaining tongue in cheek action sequences throughout this movie. Among them we see Bond chased through the jungle by a villain riding an elephant, and along the way running into various threats such as a snake, and a lion. The latter of which Bond bests by simply giving it a stern look and telling it in a forceful but polite manner to ‘sit!’ This is a movie that obviously never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, or even taking itself seriously at all to be honest and for that reason it never becomes tedious to watch. It’s filled with plenty of sly winks to the audience as well, such as the scene in the beginning when we see Bond’s snake charming Indian contact playing the classic Bond theme on his flute. Speaking of music, this movie also is in keeping with most other Moore Bond movies in having an absolutely awesome opening theme song, this time in the form of ‘All Time High’ by Rita Coolidge.
All that said there are a few moments here, which, even in a movie this silly I think cross the line from absurd into offensive territory. That being, in this movie we see James Bond donning two outfits that James Bond should never even have to consider wearing, that being a gorilla costume, and a clown-get up. It’s bad enough that we had to endure the wackiness that was James Bond in outer space, but at least he was able to maintain his cool up there. This however, was another story altogether, and I shudder every time I come across those scenes in which our hero, who was born to sip martinis, and wear double-breasted suits, is so demeaned as to have to put on those outrageous costumes. Then again, I don’t know why this bothers me any more than when Sean Connery had to dress up like a woman in Thunderball. Perhaps it’s because that was during a throwaway opening sequence and these offenses were committed during the big grand finale. I can’t really say for sure, but what I can say, is that aside from those horrific moments, all in all this is a thoroughly entertaining Bond film. And one I wouldn’t advise against watching on a rainy day, that is, if you don’t happen to have a better Bond movie lying around somewhere. That concludes my review of Octopussy, but make sure and keep your eyes peeled for a special treat that is coming your way next time. As we will be getting a brief reprieve from Roger Moore’s Bond antics, and get to see the master himself back in action again, as none other than Sean Connery graces our screen’s for one final time in 1983’s ‘Never Say Never Again’.