John Glen, 1983
Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Steven Berkoff, Desmond Llewelyn
Bond is sent to investigate the death of 009, who was found in East Berlin carrying a fake Fabergé egg. The real egg turns up at an auction house in London, where Bond instigates the buyer, Afghan prince Kamal Khan, and switches the real with the fake. Bond follows Khan to India and is introduced to his lady friend, Magda, who has an unusual octopus tattoo. She seduces him and steals the original egg, which Q has implanted with a tracking device. Bond is captured by Khan and his bodyguard Gobinda, but escapes and learns that Khan is secretly working with Soviet General Orlov. Bond finds his way to the floating place of Octopussy, the wealthy, beautiful owner of several businesses and the leader of a smuggling ring. Her carefully guarded palace is solely outfitted with dangerous, attractive women, all of whom belong to her octopus cult and are marked with peculiar tattoos. Octopussy, Khan and Orlov plan to rendezvous for a jewelry smuggling operation in East Germany during a performance of Octopussy’s circus troupe, but Orlov has other plans. He intends to set off a nuclear warhead at a performance in a US Air Force base, either instigating a war or an opportunity for the Soviets to invade. It is up to Bond and Octopussy to stop him.
I’m happy to say that though Octopussy isn’t the highest point in Moore’s career, it maintains some of the seriousness found in For Your Eyes Only, while including some of the humor and over the top action sequences from in previous entries. Though the title is taken from a Fleming story, the plot is mostly original, but borrows from Fleming’s “The Property of a Lady.” The fun action sequences and exotic locales rank as the top two reasons to see this film. Though not attempting to go to quite as big as Moonraker, Octopussy ranks high on the spectacle scale and includes an Indian jungle hunting scene, a rickshaw chase and elaborate fight scene in an Indian marketplace, and quite a lot a lot of airplane shenanigans (airborne adventures in general, if you take the hot air balloon into consideration). There are some perplexing, slightly ludicrous scenes that take place in the circus, but if you’ve ever longed to see Bond dress up as a clown, here’s your chance. The film also greatly benefits from the beautiful, colorful central location in Udaipur, India, where the locals were apparently completely supportive of the production and exciting by the idea of Bond in their midst. There is also the very fortunate return of John Barry as the composer, which makes this film seem much less dated than either For Your Eyes Only or A View to a Kill.
Moore is obviously aging, but is still on good form here and is willing to put up with a number of indignities, including wearing a bear suit, dressing up as a clown and swinging through the jungle on a vine, giving a Tarzan-like yell. Bernard Lee is finally replaced as M with the unmemorable but inoffensive Robert Brown. It is particularly nice to see Q (played by beloved long time Bond regular Desmond Llewelyn) so much in this film. He travels to India with 007 and even involves himself in the violent conclusion. Maud Adams is quite appealing as Octopussy and it’s nice to see a Bond girl closer to Roger Moore’s age. While she doesn’t do a whole lot, she’s an intriguing character and is mostly placed on equal standing with Bond. Her subordinate Magda is also very lovely and her scenes seducing and stealing from Bond are a fine early point in the film.
Like For Your Eyes Only, there is no strong central villain. This actually hurts the film, though the charming Louis Jordan as Khan does his best, as does Steven Berkoff as General Orlov. They have a number of compelling, if predictable henchmen, including Gobinda, who is basically the Indian version of Odjobb, a troupe of scary gentlemen with some exotic bladed weapons, and a pair of Russian, knife-throwing twins. Octopussy is certainly flawed, mostly by its inane plot, long running time and ineffectual villains, though these are all things we have come to expect from the series at this point. Despite these elements, it is a delightful, fun entry and comes highly recommended. It is certainly Moore’s last good Bond film, which is remarkable, considering he intended to retire after The Spy Who Loved Me, but was convinced to stick around for four more films. It is also certainly better than the non-Eon Bond film released the same year, Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery’s bizarre final appearance in the series.
Octopussy is available on a number of DVDs, including the Ultimate Edition two-disc, which is also part of the Ultimate Edition box set volume four. As usual, this release is loaded with special features, including a commentary track from director John Glen, a documentary, Inside Octopussy, narred by Patrick Macnee, and a short feature about Peter Lamont’s design work on the Bond series. Octopussy is also available on Blu-ray.