Octopussy (1983) / Action
MPAA Rated: PG violence and sexual innuendo
Running Time: 131 min.
Cast: Roger Moore, Louis Jordan, Maud Adams, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, Kristina Wayborn
Director: John Glen
Screenplay: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
Review published April 23, 2003
After taking a less campy approach with For Your Eyes Only, the Bond series returns to the tongue-in-cheek adventures that had become the staple of the Roger Moore era. Also, for the first time there would be dueling Bonds, as Warner Bros. would release their version, Never Say Never Again, starring fan favorite Sean Connery. Although Connery's ends up being the better of the two, Moore still had the money behind him, plus the music, the babes, and all the bells and whistles that make the MGM experience unique.
For those who can't remember, this is the one with 007 investigating the murder of fellow Agent 009, beginning with the reason he had a replica of a priceless Faberge egg. In order to see who might be behind the counterfeit, Bond gets entangled in a bidding war for the real egg, and although losing, he makes a switcheroo with the fake. The winner of the auction is named Kamal, and Bond tails him to India, where he uncovers an alliance with the crazed Russian general Orlov, who is secretly planning a potential invasion of Europe, using funds accrued from fakes of the Russian national treasures. The third piece of the puzzle comes from a mysterious circus acrobat leader named Octopussy, who leads a double life of a premier jewelry smuggler.
Although it ultimately delivers all of the humor, romance and action you'd expect from a James Bond flick, Octopussy is definitely one of the weaker entries in the series, and outside of its provocative name, fairly unremarkable. Although any 007 film necessitates lots of short-cuts and contrivances to work, very rarely has there been so much use of clichés and stereotypes permeating almost every scene. When James is in India, he confronts tigers, rides elephants, deals with snake charmers, and pretty much anything and everything that comes to mind when thinking of that country from the narrow Western point of view. It's all so silly, and obviously not striving for little more than cheeseball entertainment, but there's no doubt after watching this lengthy (over two hour) semi-comedy, that the writers had little new to bring to the table except to coast on the already established formula.
The villains are colorful, but trite, and most mystifying is seeing Maud Adams in her second turn in a James Bond film (The Man with the Golden Gun was her first) playing a completely different character. Luckily, a series as superficial as this only keeps us fans going with the flow, and if we are taken aback for a moment wondering why the dead has risen to life, it takes little time to adjust to the fact that the brain-trust behind the Bond films just didn't care all that much about logic. All's well, because in the end, the characters are so wafer thin, we don't care one way or another either.
Octopussy is mainly for fans of the series, and especially for those who like Roger Moore. For those who haven't seen any Bond films, or maybe just a couple, it's probably best not to watch this until you've seen some of the better Bond films first, namely, the ones featuring Connery and Brosnan. All in all, Moore and company deliver the goods once again, but by this time it was becoming apparent that most of the juice in the campy Bonds had been squeezed out already. The same year, Connery proved that going back to a more classic approach to the series worked better, bringing to mind the axiom, "less is more," In many minds by this time, it could just as easily be heard as, "less Moore is more."
©2003 Vince Leo