Should I Watch..? 'Octopussy'
What's the big deal?
Octopussy is an action spy adventure film released in 1983 and is the thirteenth production in the James Bond series. Roger Moore returns for a sixth time as 007, investigating the mysterious death of a British agent and tangling with an insane Soviet general and a wealthy Afghan prince with plans for nuclear annihilation. Although the film's story is largely original, the title comes from a short story written by Bond creator Ian Fleming. It was released the same year as the non-official Bond film Never Say Never Again which saw Sean Connery return to the role of Bond. Despite mixed reviews, the film was still successful and grossed more than its upstart rival.
What's it about?
British secret agent 009 is found dead at their embassy in Berlin, dressed like a clown and clutching a fake Faberge egg. Given the unusual circumstances, fellow agent James Bond is dispatched at once to discover the meaning behind it. Suspecting KGB involvement, Bond attends an auction where the real egg is being sought by exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan. Following Khan back to his palace in India, Bond links up with his Indian contact Vijay and discovers that Khan is working with aggressive Soviet general Orlov.
Bond soon deduces that Khan and Orlov are exchanging priceless treasures and replacing them with replicas then smuggling them via a travelling circus troupe run by Khan's lover and accomplice Octopussy. But with time counting down on a nuclear device smuggled into a US airbase in Germany, can Bond prevent a catastrophe and stop both Khan and Orlov instigating a new world war?
George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson *
Release Date (UK)
6th June, 1983
Action, Adventure, Spy, Thriller
What's to like?
Once again, the film's many action sequences are the reason anyone would watch this. The stunt team are on top form in Octopussy with scenes that make you stare at the screen in disbelief with people hanging off the side of trains or clinging to the roof of airplanes in the sky. It's also unusual for being a Bond film with a deliberately political tone to it, even if the story can't quite back it up. It's a curious mix of action thriller, Cold War shenanigans and light-hearted comedy as Moore turns his comedic side up to 11. Does he not realise that the film had the potential to be as contemporary as the story from From Russia With Love, which would make this film relevant instead of escapist nonsense?
The only other thing I liked about the film was the scenes shot in India which are as bright, colourful and chaotic as you'd expect. I especially enjoyed the tuk-tuk chase which is funny and entertaining, sort of like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on steroids. Tennis player Vijay Amritraj proves he has a decent sense of comic timing but unfortunately for him, isn't in the movie that much. He makes up for it by filling his dialogue with as many tennis references as he can and he is much more enjoyable than the increasingly arthritic Moore.
- Kabir Bedi, who plays Khan's bodyguard Gobinda, is the only Bollywood star to appear in a James Bond movie.
- This was the first Bond film released with the MGM lion logo at the beginning, as MGM had merged with United Artists in 1982 to form MGM/UA Distribution.
- All Time High, the movie's theme tune sung by Rita Coolidge, is the first Bond theme that has no mention of the film's title anywhere in the lyrics. You Know My Name from Casino Royale and Another Way To Die from Quantum Of Solace are the only other examples.
What's not to like?
The story is an absolute shambles, making no sense at all and only just manages to explain what it happening on screen (although never why - I don't even think we get the truth behind the initial murder of 009!). It's impossible to take seriously as a thriller because Moore is constantly undermining the severity of the situation, the classic example being Bond trying to defuse the nuclear device dressed in full clown costume and make-up. And that's before he dresses up in a gorilla suit... See, Octopussy should be a gripping film but instead, it's a light-hearted caper through endless clichés that's about as entertaining as a box-set of TV's worst commercials.
The devil-may-care attitude in the film's name never shows up in the movie, as though calling itself and its lead Bond girl Octopussy is some sort of invitation for giggly teenage sniggering. By the time of the now traditional assault on the lead villain's base for the climatic showdown, Octopussy had become a near-farcical addition to the Bond series with scantily-clad circus performers and gymnasts fighting alongside Bond and Q in a hot-air balloon engaged in a pitch battle with hardened terrorists with AK47s. It is every bit as bad, annoying and shameful as you might imagine.
Should I watch it?
With Moore's time slowly coming to an end, Octopussy highlights everything that went wrong under his tenure. The series had gone from genuine spy films and exploits to family-friendly adventures that visited as many far-flung corners of the world as the budget would allow. This film is a sorry state of affairs and wastes all the good work the stunt team put into the film, which frankly saves it from being a complete disaster.
Great For: action fans, Indians, carnival folk
Not So Great For: Bond fans, paying punters, Roger Moore's reputation
What else should I watch?
Moore's best Bond film by some way is The Spy Who Loved Me which is a winning blend of action, gadgets, locations, story and characters. But his time as 007 would be remembered for films which stagnated not just the Bond series but spy films in general - Moonraker and The Man With The Golden Gun have their good points but simply don't cut the mustard in the way Sean Connery did in the iconic Goldfinger.
Spy films wouldn't really become cool again until Matt Damon stepped up for The Bourne Identity which has no gadgets or goofy henchmen to concern itself with. It's an intriguing thriller with a great story at its heart, brutal action and fight sequences and winning performances from Damon and Franka Potente as his unwitting sidekick and Chris Cooper as the desperate diplomat trying to keep a lid on things. It also feels much more believable than any Bond film since From Russia With Love back in 1963.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Benjamin Cox