Octopussy (United Kingdom, 1983)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Octopussy Poster

It's probably just a coincidence, but the two Bond films that Maud Adams appeared in -- The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy -- are easily the silliest entries in the long-running series (not counting the intentional spoof Casino Royale). In a duel of dumb storylines, Octopussy loses, but only by a length. There's a fine line between wit and absurdity, and this particular movie too often falls on the wrong side.

1983 was the year of competing Bonds -- Connery against Moore; Never Say Never Again against Octopussy (the thirteenth "official" entry). Even though Connery's return was a remake of Thunderball and didn't have the John Barry/Monty Norman theme music, it was still better than Octopussy. After twelve years off, Connery was up for playing 007 again. Moore, on the other hand, had been at it for a decade, and was just going through the motions. Fatuousness replaced flair. Bond, never the most rounded character at the best of times, had become a caricature of himself.

The plot for Octopussy is so circuitous and convoluted that it doesn't make much sense. Bond movies are at their best when they have a straightforward storyline -- viewers don't want to piece together different aspects of the film. However, even deep thought won't resolve all of Octopussy's tangled plot knots. This movie mixes jewel smuggling, counterfeiting, a circus traveling through East Germany, and a maverick Soviet general bent on setting off an atomic bomb. Who else can the British government call upon than 007 to get to the bottom of matters?

There are two "top" villains in Octopussy: Kamal (Louis Jourdan), the smooth head of the smuggling/counterfeiting operation, and General Orlov (Steven Berkoff), the cold warrior who believes the time is ripe for a Soviet invasion of the West. While Jourdan is deliciously cool, Berkoff gives the worst performance, bar none, of any Bond bad guy. While a certain element of over-the-top acting is expected from everyone in a 007 adventure, Berkoff does an offensively bad job that renders every scene he's in almost unwatchable.

Despite having the title role, Maud Adams doesn't have much more to do than in The Man with the Golden Gun. The film's second Bond girl, Magda (Kristina Wayborn) is equally in the background. This isn't a film where 007 is especially concerned with the women, except to slip into and out of their beds. The on-screen camaraderie shared by Moore and his leading ladies since The Spy Who Loved Me died with Octopussy.

The film moves from India to Cuba to Germany. The most foolish elements of the film include a bizarre chase through the streets of New Delhi, Bond doing a Tarzan imitation, and an attack by circus performers on the villain's hideout. 007 has a variety of disguises here, including a mechanical crocodile, a gorilla suit, and a clown costume. Octopussy has its funny moments, but there are a few too many times when we're laughing at the movie rather than with it.

Ultimately, it's the extravagant stunts and chases that save Octopussy from the scrap heap. The pre-credits episode features a stunning race between a 12-foot long jet and a heat-seeking missile. Later in the film, there's a pulse-pounding chase-and-battle sequence that takes place on the roof of a moving train. The climactic struggle manages to top that, transpiring on a plane in flight.

After Octopussy, Roger Moore announced his intention to retire from the role. Considering his lackluster performance here, which is at least partially responsible for this film's absence of flair and energy, the decision seemed appropriate. Ultimately, however, Moore returned for one more outing, and, while that film (A View to a Kill) wasn't a positive triumph, it at least gave the actor a better story with which to depart.

Octopussy (United Kingdom, 1983)

Run Time: 2:11
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Violence, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1