Film Reviews:


(John Glen, UK, 1983)

Roger Moore's penultimate foray into Bond territory was this colourful 1983 entry with a sprawling plot that takes in Faberge eggs, jewel thieves based in India, the Kremlin art treasures vaults, and a travelling circus headed by the mysterious female Octopussy, who lives in a magnificent palace on a floating island! The pre-credits sequence here has nothing to do with the main plot but is a cracking start with Bond trying to destroy a secret spy plane only to have his cover blown. He escapes in a 12ft jet aircraft, flying through an aircraft hanger, exiting just as the doors close. A heat-seeking missile launched to stop Bond's jet is 'tricked' into destroying the hanger (with the secret plane inside) in a massive explosion.

From this striking opening we then limp into possibly the weakest of all Bond film theme songs - All Time High. The composition is an all time low for the otherwise reliably good John Barry who must have been suffering from a temporary but complete loss of talent when writing it. Rita Coolidge's dreadful vocals on the theme song and Maurice Binder's totally cheesy credits sequence (featuring rollerskating agents (!), looking like self-parody) consign the opening credits to Octopussy as the worst on record to date for the franchise.

Fortunately, what follows, whilst struggling with an irrepressible sense of humour that threatens to go (and occasionally gets) out of control, is a glorious romp of a Bond - perfectly suited to its now mature star. The humour reaches its nadir when the sound of Tarzan's famous cry bellows from the soundtrack as Bond swings on a vine to escape the bad guys. There is plenty of plot on offer but director Glen never lets it get in the way of the action, which is as varied and daffy as anywhere in the series. A chase through the bustling streets of India in supercharged, three-wheeled rickshaws (that fly through the air with ludicrous ease) delivers an unusual but effective twist on the staple fast car chase. Sequences that find Bond on top of both a train and an aeroplane (in the climax) offer the perfect opportunity for some genuinely amazing stunt work. Kabir Bedi gives a menacing performance as the evil Gobinda and effortlessly overshadows his boss Kamal Khan played by Frenchman Louis Jourdan.

Maud Adams is a bit plain and gaunt-looking as Octopussy, and is the only leading lady to appear in two Bond films, having played Scaramanga's girlfriend in The Man With the Golden Gun. The film builds towards two set pieces. The first has the British agent trying to find a bomb hidden in a US Airforce base in West Germany and the second takes place when Octopussy and her stealth team of all-female acrobat agents storm Kamal's palace. General Golgol (Walter Gotell reprising his recurring role again) plays a good Russian - proof that things have moved on a bit (but not much!) over the years in the world of Bond. But we also have Steven Berkoff going suitably over the top as the nutty General Orlov who still can't wait to paint the entire world red. Odd trivia point: listen very closely to the music when Bond uses the acid in his watch to melt the bars on his room in Kamal's palace - it's almost identical to Howard Shore's finale in Cronenberg's Videodrome.

Rob Dyer

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