My James Bond Retrospective: Octopussy

By 1983, Roger Moore was really beginning to stretch the level of plausibility that his rendition of Bond would actually be able to effectively serve the crown. However, due to the competing Bond film set to release later that same year (which, incidentally, starred the equally implausible Sean Connery), the producers elected to stay their search for a newer, younger Bond. Instead, they stuck with what they perceived to be a winning formula (and in some cases, he certainly was).

John Glen (who had directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only) returned to direct Octopussy.

1983_1_octopussyThe film opens with the death of British Agent 009 dressed in a clown costume and carrying a fake Fabergé egg. MI6 immediately suspects Soviet involvement and sends Bond to investigate. Using his keen spy sensibility, Bond swaps the fake egg for the real one and engages in a bidding war at an auction with Afghani prince Kamal Khan. Khan pays £500,000 for the fake egg.

Bond follows Khan to his palace where the two play a little Backgammon. Bond turns the tables on Khan and beats him at his own game. Bond later discovers that Khan is working together with Orlov, a rogue Soviet general seeking to expand Russian borders into Europe.

Bond then heads to India, where he meets Octopussy, the leader of the Octopus cult.

Nothing terribly exciting ensues. We’re treated to much of the weaker characteristics of the franchise and almost none of the strong. I was excited to watch this movie knowing that Glen, who had directed three of my favorite Bond films so far, would be taking the helm on this one. Sadly, he just couldn’t fix this poorly written script. Before I berate this film too much, I will say that it was far better than The Man with the Golden Gun and Diamonds Are Forever, both of which would be better off outside my memory of the Bond franchise.

That said, I found this film to be more reliant on tricks and gimmicks than on good storytelling. And as if Bond weren’t already losing dignity by simply aging as quickly as he was, the filmmakers thought it appropriate to put him in a circus clown costume.

While I agree that Roger Moore and Maud Adams had decent chemistry in The Man with the Golden Gun (she had played the character of Andrea Anders—a fact I had left out of my review because I was just so upset with that film), I thought it was an odd casting choice. Almost as odd as Charles Gray playing Blofeld. These kinds of casting decisions make me feel like I’m watching SNL or something as actors play multiple characters throughout the course of an episode.

Octopussy is a film that’s trying too hard to exert its ownership of the Bond franchise. Likely due to the fact that Kevin McClory was releasing his own competing Bond film later that year, this film was so obviously flexing its muscles that I couldn’t see past the noise it was making.

Bond is getting old, and after watching Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, I’m really growing tired of these films.

Next up, A View to a Kill.

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