Roger Moore and Maud Adams in Octopussy (1983)


(director: John Glen; screenwriters: George MacDonald Fraser/Richard Maibaum/Michael G. Wilson/based on the short stories Octopussy & The Property of a Lady by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Alan Hume; editors: Peter Davies/Henry Richardson; music: John Barry; cast: Roger Moore (James Bond), Maud Adams (Octopussy), Louis Jourdan (Kamal Khan), Kristina Wayborn (Magda), Steven Berkoff (General Orlov), Kabir Bedi (Gobinda), Robert Brown (M), Desmond Llewellyn (Q), Walter Gotell (General Gogol), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Geoffrey Keen (Minister of Defense), David Meyer (Twin One), Tony Meyer (Grischa, Twin Two), Vijay Amritraj (Vijay), Douglas Wilmer (Jim Fanning); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Albert R. Brocoli; MGM/UA; 1983-UK)
“Bottom-drawer Bond.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Octopussy was the thirteenth of the James Bond films and the fifth one for Roger Moore as 007. It’s hard to make this Bond pic more silly or absurd, as it doesn’t even make the slightest effort to hold onto a bit of reality. Instead director John Glen (“A View to a Kill”/”For Your Eyes Only”/”The Living Daylights”) shoots for a schoolboy’s adventure tale that’s filled with adolescent-like sexist jokes and over-the-top action sequences stretched to the max in believability. It seems more of a self-parody than a legit action pic, as writers George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson steer it in the direction of bottom-drawer Bond. The series has hit a snag in every which way but the box office. The only buzz surrounding it, is whether it would beat its rival rogue version Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery at the box office, and that it did but only by a slight margin. The theme song is sung by Rita Coolidge.

Agent 009 is murdered in a clown’s costume while bringing a fake Faberge egg across the Berlin Wall, which signals for British intelligence that the Reds are using their national treasures stolen from the Tsar as a possible means of funding Cold War intrigue since recently four other valuable eggs were sold by them. M (Robert Brown) assigns Bond (Roger Moore) to go with an art expert (Douglas Wilmer) to an auction at Sotheby’s where a valuable egg is being auctioned off and Bond manages to switch the real one for a fake one as the new owner, an exiled Afghan prince, Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), returns with his purchase to his residence in Delhi, India. Bond follows Kamal there to see what his purpose is to overbid for the egg when Bond entered the bidding war and inflated the price.

We soon learn that there’s a divide in Russia between General Gogol’s (Walter Gotell) dovelike approach to the talks with NATO over nuclear disarmament and hardliner General Orlov’s (Steven Berkoff) desire for a continued military buildup for Russia while the West disarms. Orlov is involved in an intricate scam with the Kremlin Art Repository of stealing the real eggs and replacing them with fake eggs to barter with jewelry smugglers such as Kamal Khan. With the fake egg lost and an inventory coming up, the perturbed general needs the real egg back to save his neck. That turns out to be the reason his criminal partner Kamal was in Britain to buy it back at the auction.

When Bond flashes the real egg during a backgammon game with Kamal, the reptilian prince gets his turban wearing henchman Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) to kill Bond. This results in a cartoonish chase through the crowded Delhi streets until Bond escapes with the help of his Indian contact (Vijay Amritraj) using a supercharged rickshaw. After a seduction by Kamal’s acrobatically inclined circus performer assistant Magda (Kristina Wayborn) and planting a homing device in the Faberge egg that Bond lets Magda steal, he’s held as a prisoner in the prince’s Monsoon Palace. Then Bond must overcome such trivialities as an army of Kamal’s turban wearing pursuers, snakes, tigers and crocodiles. After all that 007 meets Octopussy (Maud Adams, the only Bond woman invited back for an encore), who dwells on her own island and presides over an international smuggling gang made up of all women and as a cover runs a traveling circus. It turns out that she partners with Kamal in the smuggling racket. When she won’t rub Bond out for personal reasons, Kamal hires yo-yo wielding assassins to give it a shot.

Not that such an nonsensical cartoonish plot really matters, but there’s an attempt to tie it up by having Bond return to East Berlin and expose the jewel thieves, fight off the psychopathic Orlov who wants to set off a nuclear war in Europe and then Bond must dismantle a nuclear bomb set by Kamal in Octopussy’s circus which is performing at an American Air Force base in Feldstadt. Since that wasn’t evidently enough action for 007, Bond must also wrestle with Gobinda atop of the wing of an airplane in flight that the evil Kamal is taking back to Delhi after the rogue Russians paid him for planting the circus bomb and Bond must also rescue Octopussy–you see, she turns out to be a good-hearted jewel smuggler who gets all indignant about nuclear war and decides to help Bond foil the really bad guys.

As a consumer warning, I can only say buyer beware of what kind of Bond you are getting!