The opening scene of Octopussy is among the best in the Bond series. Bond drives a small jet out the back of a horse trailer (after the fake horse ass and tail fold out of the way) and flies, tailed (no pun intended) by a missile, through a hanger which of course blows up. 007, enemy military defeated, flies to a gas station, rolls up (wings folded up) to a gas pump and says, “Fill’er up” in the way only Roger Moore could pull off.
If only the rest of the movie had the charm of the first 8 minutes.
Octopussy is not as bad as its reputation. In fact, I would say like the majority of Bond films, this one is enjoyably re-watchable. The plot is recognizably Bond and includes a convoluted villainous plan with villain double-crossing, a few twists, and exotic locations. Octopussy has all the elements of classic Bond, if done inconsistently.
My largest takeaway from this movie is: Roger Moore is old.
I was constantly reminded of his age, from a meandering low-speed slide down a banister to the most obvious stunt double face reveal (atop the plane in the climax) in the entire run of the series. A movie about Bond getting old could be tremendous fun. (See a couple of movies in the Top 10.) This movie, however, ignores that Bond is old and inserts him in those traditional Bond positions where his age distracts from the film. And Moore’s age is too much to ignore.
And that’s just one “too much” of many. Ultimately this movie is one of too muches. Octopussy herself is a fine character with an interesting backstory, but that name is too much. James Bond going uncover in a circus has potential, but dressed as a clown with a tear? Too much. The final nail in the too much coffin was the Tarzan yodeling sound effect while Bond is swinging on vines. Way too much. That would be too much for a Mel Brooks movie. In a Bond movie? Frustratingly too much.
Let’s get to rating Octopussy.
Roger More was 54 when he filmed this, his final James Bond movie. He is as charming and comfortable in the role as ever; it’s not his fault the producers failed to take his age into account with the script. Moore charms women (some half his age ;/ ), nails one-liners as always, and is quite surprising in his desperation when pleading with officials that there’s a bomb planted in the circus.
He loses half a point (though not entirely Moore’s fault) for the scene in Q’s workspace when he zooms a camera into a female colleague’s cleavage so it displays on the giant screen. #007iscancelled
Bond girl (1)
Maud Adams was 40 when she filmed Octopussy, which by the admittedly terrible standards of Bond movies approaches refreshingly age-appropriate range. (Before patting the producers on the back, read the last paragraph of the previous section one more time.) Octopussy is a wonderful character with a terrible name, which relates to her leadership of the Octopus Cult, a smuggling outfit based in India. Her empire includes circuses and a female army of bodyguards that wear matching red leotards and help Bond avert nuclear war. (Just wait ’til we get to the Plot section ….)
Needless to say, the plot badly lets her down. In a movie almost two and a half hours long, Octopussy doesn’t appear until more than an hour in and disappears for long stretches as numerous villains and conspirators pop in and out of the story.
Bond villain (0.5)
Octopussy has two main villains … I think. General Orlov, a Soviet general who traffics in phony Faberge eggs and plots a strike of a US airbase as preamble to an invasion of Western Europe. He works with smuggler Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince and member of the Octopus Cult. Khan reports directly to Octopussy and has an army of circus performers who double as assassins.
Like the plot, the villains are confusing and the less said the better.
The 80s was a confusing decade. Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die, 1973) thought duets with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) and Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say”) were good ideas. On the other hand, Duran Duran made an all-time classic with the next Bond film in 1985, “A View to a Kill.”
The producers went for a non-Octopussy song title for this one, “All Time High” sung by Rita Coolidge, a low point for the franchise’s songs. A bland, boring ballad that doesn’t even have the movie title anywhere in its lyrics, this song was a failure on every level.
After Bond attends an exciting auction where a buyer pays entirely too much for a Fabrage egg that Bond has switched out with a fake, 007 follows the buyer to India, where he immediately defeats him in backgammon. The buyer, exiled Afghan Kamal Khan, kidnaps Bond, who escapes and learns that the villain is working with Soviet General Orlov. Orlov is going to detonate a nuclear warhead at a circus performing in a US air base in West Germany. This, obviously, will lead NATO to disarm because they for the first time realize that nuclear weapons are dangerous. With Europe unprotected, the USSR can take over. Khan is working behind the back of the leader of the Octopus Cult, Octopussy, whose father Bond had been sent to arrest (pre-movie) but allowed to commit suicide. This act ingratiates Bond to Octopussy, who refuses Khan’s request to kill the spy.
Meanwhile, Khan has been replacing Orlov’s Russian treasures with fakes and smuggling the real ones through Octopussy’s circus, whose performers double as highly trained assassins I guess. Bond discovers this plot and it makes sense to him. He tracks Orlov to a train and gives chase only for Orlov to be shot as a defector. Bond infiltrates the US base dressed as a clown, a single black tear painted on his face. He finally convinces Octopussy and the US brass that there is a bomb that will explode and ruin the human cannonball show they are enjoying way too much. Bond disarms the bomb as Khan retreats to India.
<<movie not over>>
Bond and Octopussy and Octopussy’s red army attack Khan’s palace, killing many people. Khan takes Octopussy prisoner and takes off on his jet. Bond, with the vigor of a man half his age, jumps onto the plane and climbs above and then aboard mid-flight. After a struggle, Bond and Octopussy jump from the plane seconds before it crashes into a mountain. The explosion probably kills Khan.
Aside from being too long, the film could have benefited immensely from a more streamlined plot. The twists and turns complicate the story needlessly.
I’m American, so forgive my ignorance. But is there big money in European and Asian circuses? Why would a criminal enterprise invest so heavily in circuses? And do hundreds of military members go to them without their children? I need to know.
At any rate, Octopussy would get an additional half ab for the opening scene but the unnecessary and unfunny cleavage on tv scene negates it.
- The Soviet military leaders meet in an enormous, mostly empty board room — which rotates to view a map — to discuss invading Eastern Europe. It’s goofy, like something out of Dr. Strangelove. They even shout arguments while turning!
- The snake charmer in India begins playing the Bond theme to attract 007’s attention. Does James Bond have a theme in this world? Did he commission someone to write it for himself? I have so many questions.
- Here’s the banister slide, by popular demand
3 thoughts on “24. Octopussy”
You nailed this review PERFECTLY. Cringeworthy. I like long movies but this one got so convoluted.
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Thanks! I like a long movie (Lord of the Rings, Godfather), particularly a historical one (Lawrence of Arabia, The Right Stuff), but this one is just unfocused and meandering.
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Agreed. Good for some belly laughs though.
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