Month of Bond: Octopussy (1983) Review

The award for stupidest movie title goes too… To be fair though, Octopussy isn’t actually as ridiculous as the terrible title would suggest. It has it’s moments but it isn’t a film about crude double-entendres or the usual gratuitous exploitation of woman. In fact this is one of the rare Bond films where the girls can often be much more kick-ass than Bond himself.

It starts in the usual Bond way but builds quite nicely to a decent story. Bond is given the usual thread to follow and it is off to India to confront the first principle villain. It is here that we get some very cool action sequences set around the Rajasthan market. This includes a nice mix of comedy and action as Bond uses a bed of nails, a sword swallower’s weapon and snake charmer’s equipment to foil the henchmen. It is just comedic enough to stop it becoming the usual, silly that is so intrinsically linked with Moore’s Bond.

The action is impressive in Octopussy

It isn’t just the events in India that impress. Soon Bond is travelling to Germany and there are some very cool events involving a train. Setting a huge part of the film on-board and around the train is risky but the film manages to put Bond in all the usual dangerous positions, culminating in an impressive battle on-top of the train at speed. Considering it is the 1980s, it holds up well and could even be compared to Skyfall’s latest effort.

Bond films need more than just action though and luckily the story is a decent one. Bond becomes involved in one of the better Bond Girls in the series, in fact two of the better characters. He first involves himself with Kristina Wayborn’s Magda, who is seductive but deadly. Her escape from the clutches of Bond using fabric and gymnastics makes for an impressive set-piece.

Maud Adams makes for one of the better Bond Girls

It is the reveal of the title-character, the first Bond Girl to have such an accolade, that is well worth the wait. Maud Adams plays Octopussy and in some ways is a match for Bond. She won’t out-beat him but keeps the spy on his toes, placing herself directly in the middle of the jewel-smuggling/nuclear bomb plot that is central to the film.

It isn’t just the two central ladies that impress here either. The finale sees a female circus troupe take down the villains headquarters. It is one of the first times in a Bond film where his inclusion in the finale is really unnecessary. The mix of circus skills and ass-kicking is cool to watch and could have rounded off the movie without 007 swooping in to save the day.

A poor villain for the movie

Not that the villain is too much of an issue anyway. It isn’t clear from the beginning who the main villain of Octopussy is and there are plenty of contenders but nobody who really deserves the role. Most are nothing much more than glorified henchmen and it doesn’t make for the most threatening or tense finale to a Bond movie.

Even the master-plan itself seems slightly flawed. You can see the ambition behind Steven Berkoff’s Orlov and the plan is Bond-crazy enough but it reveals itself too late and kind of feels like a tacked on afterthought. Add to this the ridiculous way in which Bond foils it, running desperately to stop the bomb going off but taking the time to dress perfectly as a clown, including the make-up, so he can infiltrate a poorly guarded circus tent. The silly creeps back in for just a moment.

Bond the clown…

It is just a touch of silly but it jars throughout the film. The opening sequence involves a cool plane stunt but is undercut by the “fill me up” gag at the end. Bond is chased through the Indian jungle, encountering snakes and tigers but escapes with a daring Tarzan swing through the vines. Bond as a clown just finishes off these little moments which don’t feel very Bond (but fit perfectly with Roger Moore).

Nevertheless, Octopussy isn’t anywhere near the silliest of Bonds and is better for it. It balances that fine act very well and delivers one of the better, though still very flawed, Roger Moore Bond movies.

Overall, if you can get past the ridiculous name and the fact it is another Moore Bond movie, there is a lot to like about Octopussy. The action sequences are very good, the Bond Girls used in some of the best ways the series have delivered so far and culminate in one of the better finales. Still silly, just not too silly.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Better than the name would suggest
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9 comments

      • Yeah, totally with you. Moore was my first Bond, so I didn’t catch on to what should have been his last film til I was older; but you’re completely right.

        Kinda makes me a little sad, but like Gareth Mallory said: “You don’t need to be an operative to see the obvious. It’s a young man’s game.”

      • Although, Daniel Craig is getting on now as well. Older spy feels like it’s in vogue. Particularly with Damon back as Bourne as well.

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