Posted December 9, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

Octopussy


Everyone has their favourite and their least favourite. It is with a sigh then that the burden of writing about one of the least loved Bond films lays here (and is probably the least favourite for this reviewer).

 

Now this was the first Bond film that I was aware of coming out in the cinema from the footage seen on Television as a kid. It is 1983 and the TV is showing clips from both this and the rival Sean Connery fronted Never Say Never Again. It was probably the time that I latched onto the franchise as a fan and started to get excited. Sadly trips to the cinema were few and far between in those days and I didn’t get to go and see it. It was also probably where I got the misconception that Moore and Connery took it turn about to make the films, haha.

 

It was then with excitement what must have seemed like years later when I managed to get it on betamax and finally got round to watch it. But even then – as excited as I was – the plot was too political (leaping between Louis Jourdan’s villain Kamal Khan and Steven Berkoff’s Russian General Orlov) that all I cared about was the action. I never noticed that Octopussy herself was a returning Bond girl in the guise of Maude Adams. All I cared for was the razor sharp bladed discs that henchmen yo-yoed at protagonists; Bond machine gunning the bottom of a banister so he doesn’t catch his goolies on it as he slides down; the chase through the market; and the villainous circus troupe. And even back then the film was a letdown and it never occurred to me to revisit it for many, many, years to come after.

 

Moore was on the downslide of his Bond career and he was really looking it too. Viewing the film now it has an overly complicated script that like the worst of any complicated scripts is just not that interesting. It isn’t driven forward by drama, more a link up of set pieces and different locations – all of which are not really made the most of. For example Bond is literally hunted in the jungle a la “The Greatest Game On Earth” but it is over all too soon and is stitched together mainly if just random running and shoot shots. The market chases fares better – although hardly as high-speed as they might want us to think, it at least has many quirks (Vijay’s tennis racket, the guy on the cycle that speeds past between the two opposing forces, Bond chucking thousands of rupee’s out to a hungry crowd, and even the giant wall ad that conceals their location at the end.

 

There is very little to recommend here. The title song is among the very worst (“All time High”). The opening skit is also one of the worst with a rather naff looking plane hiding behind a fake horse rear in a carriage used for Bond’s nifty escape. It’s too over the top – but on the right comedic level for Moore.

 

The supporting ladies barely have time to register and Adam’s Octopussy comes in at a late stage, almost half way into the film. There is the game turn from professional tennis player Vijay Amritraj as an Indian cohort to Bond. The Indian locales look hot and exotic at the best of times and the few palace locations used are beautifully decorated and provide a spacious layout for some half decent action.

 

Khan’s henchman Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) makes an imposing presence (despite going out like a bit of a punk at the end). It is also worth noting that Bond films seem to have a habit of using the same screams when a character falls a long way to their death (off the top of my head the guy at the start of Moonraker who has his chute pinched by Bond; A guy who falls out the Zeppelin in A View to A Kill; and the main henchman from The Living Daylights who falls from the carrier all die with the same prolonged death scream. And it is a memorably hilarious one). A shame they felt the need to keep using it – much like the way Hollywood uses the ridiculous sounding Wilhelm scream.

 

Things don’t get any better when you consider some of the performances. Louis Jourdan is probably one of the most serene bad guys ever to grace the screens. Whilst we don’t expect all bad guys to lose their evil tempers – about the most range we get here is that of the sophisticated gentleman who has others to emote for him. But the worst offender is probably Steven Berkoff’s lack of restraint. We could joke about the fact that he rarely shows any – but he was hardly over-acting in Beverly Hills Cop in the lead bad guy duties he performed there. Here though, he has lost all screws and his madman is let verbally loose in almost every scene he is in.

 

We really also should save a special, embarrassed mention for James Bond himself towards the end when he finds himself perambulating around a circus dressed up in full clown get up. Can you even imagine Connery reading that in a script and agreeing to do it as James Bond!

 

So then Octopussy drops the ball in a big way. Some think that the following venture was an all time low for Bond, and whilst I won’t argue too heavily against that (it did have a decent title track at least!), it is with sorry eyes and a shake of the head that the last three Moore films at least didn’t quite meet their quota.

 

Steven Hurst


editor