Octopussy (1983) REVIEW
Director: John Glen
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli
Writer: George MacDonald Fraser, Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi and Steven Berkoff
All James Bond film reviews and ultimate lists can be found here or check out the drop down menu above.
Leading up to the release of Octopussy in 1983, James Bond films had become part of cinema history in a big way. Three different actors had taken up the mantle and 12 films had been released, each as popular as the film before. James Bond had adventures in the ocean waters, deep in space and beautiful landscapes across the planet. The Secret Agent fought enemies of all kinds to save the planet and encountered situations as deadly as any action hero before him, but one thing audiences never expected was about to take place, 007 was getting ready to do battle with his greatest nemesis, himself.
If you haven’t yet read my Thunderball review, you should hit the drop down menu above and check it out. I briefly make mention of the Kevin McClory legal battle over the film, and how after many back and forth, McClory was given the rights to SPECTRE, Blofeld and the original script (and all it entailed) for Thunderball. So because of this, 1983 marked the year that audiences would not only get Octopussy, but also a remake of Thunderball in the name of Never Say Never Again.
Now considering this is a review of Octopussy, and that all my James Bond reviews are only covering the official EON series, I won’t be reviewing Never Say Never Again. It’s not because I feel the film is bad or lacking in any way, it’s simply that it isn’t considered part of the official series. Sean Connery is great in the movie and cheeky like always. He’s in excellent shape especially since his last appearance in Diamonds Are Forever and I actually don’t mind the little adjustments to the script with the activation of the weapons stolen. For the most part, Never Say Never Again is enjoyable and serves its purpose well. And the opening sequence really is impressive. Needless to say, I’m a fan of the film. However the fact it’s tied down by the original Thunderball script, leaves the film with little room to manoeuvre.
Putting Never Say Never Again aside, I feel like it’s worth bringing up in detail because the fact it existed meant casting on Octopussy needed to be played a little safer than originally expected.
As mentioned in my previous review, Roger Moore’s original contract was for three films concluding with The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. Since then, all contracts worked on a film by film basis. Cubby Broccoli was happy to keep Moore in the lead as long as the actor was happy to stay. With Octopussy though, it seemed that Moore was actually going to pass on the roll. Either he was playing hard to get and wanting a little more money, or physically wanting a rest from the demanding shoots, whatever the case, Cubby had to begin looking for a James Bond replacement to get the film out on time.
Thankfully included on the Bond 50 Blu-Ray release of Octopussy, are the screen tests for the potential actor who would’ve taken over; a 41-year-old actor by the name of James Brolin. the footage really is worth checking out, which I’m sure can also be found online, just to see Brolin try his hand as 007. Being American, there was doubt, but Broccoli was happy enough with the new lead. That was until Sean Connery signed on as 007 in Never Say Never Again.
Of course this choice by Connery to be the face of a rival Bond film forced Broccoli’s hand and Moore was eventually back in the lead as 007 for Octopussy. Production ramped up tenfold and everyone was glad to have Moore return. My personal opinion is that Moore back was the safest choice Broccoli could make rather than risking a new face, and an American one at that, as the lead against seasoned James Bond himself, Sean Connery. Moore always gets compared to the original as it is and having a new face would be a tough sell.
When listening to the audio commentary from Roger Moore, he makes mention of Never Say Never Again, and explains how he and Connery were having dinner during the production of both films. They found it funny that media was making an issue of it. Moore admits he has never fully seen the film, and was delighted to know they took a queue from his own humourous take on the character.
Still with Never Say Never Again aside (my final time mentioning the film), Octopussy went to lengths to return Bond to his adventurous and fantastical roots. While For Your Eyes Only grounded 007 as much as possible after the sci-fi Moonraker, Broccoli knew he needed to give fans what they loved; an outrageous adventure with incredible stunts, gadgets and action. John Barry returned to the series as music composer bringing with him a familiar and entertaining score, as did John Glen in the directors chair. Being a former editor for the series, John Glen has a certain way of understanding the action and does a much better job second time around.
Early script work was done by George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman series of novels) where the idea and location of India was first approached. Very quickly on India, it has never been high on my list of places to visit, often comes across as too busy to actually enjoy as a tourist location, but I now apologise for those thoughts. Octopussy may only give us a minor look at India, but from what’s shown, from how the film makers bring the already bustling landscape to life, it tells me I NEED to see this place for myself. Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum eventually came on board later in the process completing a script for filming. The script is solid, but a little more complicated than I’m used to for a James Bond film, upon this latest viewing though, I find that it really holds up.
After the body of 009 is found dead and still holding a fake Faberge Egg, M believes Soviet involvement and sends Bond to an auction where the real Faberge Egg will be sold off. It’s here where Kamal Khan, exiled Afghan prince, is introduced in a funny scene and Bond, using some clever skills, realises that Kamal isn’t as legit as he claims.
While tracking Kamal, his bodyguard Gobinda and beautiful assistant, Magda to India, Bond is quickly caught up in a smuggling ring that involves a circus, Soviets and nuclear weapons hoping to bring about World War Three. It is thanks to the mysterious Octopussy and her travelling circus that Kamal’s plan is stopped at the final moments. With plenty of action scenes throughout, this may just about be one of the most enjoyable James Bond adventures yet!
Although the plot for Octopussy may seem rather simple based on the synopsis above, it’s actually quite involved and includes many different players with their own little angle and reason. Of course, James Bond comes along to mess everything up, but it doesn’t stop Octopussy from really being one of the best Roger Moore era films.
Once the nuclear warhead has been armed at the beginning of the third act, it is pretty much non-stop action. Car chases, train fights on top and inside. Lots of tense moments and some amazing stunts work up to a really exciting climax. But that’s not to say the rest of the film suffers, no way. From the opening minutes with Bond flying around escaping rockets, to the game hunt in India, Octopussy has so much to offer long time fans of the franchise.
In the past, I would always avoid late Roger Moore era Bond films because I knew in my mind he was really starting to get old. Fifty-six at the time of release, Moore doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Yes, you can tell the intense action is obviously that of stunt actor, but the undeniable thrill of seeing them overpowers the fact it’s not Moore. I do enjoy seeing the actors themselves take on the action scenes, but when his acting never falters, I can’t complain. The truth is, Roger Moore still looks and acts like James Bond and never appears bored like Sean Connery did during much of Diamonds Are Forever.
Helping sell the older James Bond is Maud Adams returning to the franchise after The Man With The Golden Gun. In that, she played Andrea Anders (sex) slave to Scaramanga, and here Maud is elevated to titular character, Octopussy. A name that many people still find humourous. Maud was originally being used opposite the potential Bond actors for screen tests, and had no thought she would be cast in the film. However when Cubby offered her the role of Octopussy, she was thrilled to accept and happy to be working alongside Roger Moore again.
Maud Adams was thirty-eight at the time of release, making her the second oldest women portraying a love interest to James Bond, and because of this, Roger Moore’s age didn’t seem as noticeable.
Being an ex-model certainly helps Maud who always looks stunning on-screen. No matter what the angle or scene, she’s always gorgeous but on top of that, she’s also a great actress. She never lets Moore steal the scene or even Louis Jourdan, who has a tendency to do that. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Maud Adams, like Kristina Wayborn (Magda) is both charming, beautiful and really holds herself well in all scenes.
Speaking of scene stealing comes Louis Jourdan playing the villain of the piece, Kamal Khan. When I mention scene stealing, don’t take that at all negative. I compliment Louis because opposite such great cast, stealing screen time is difficult. From his first moments on-screen, Kamal Khan is a presence felt by everyone. He stands tall and playfully explains his motives and coming actions to Bond while having dinner, yet doesn’t come across like the lines are forced. He has such elegance to his speech, it’s almost hypnotic.
My greatest regret is that although I watch plenty of movies, I usually don’t delve deeper into the films of past Bond actors. Louis Jourdan is one such actor I would enjoy watching past performances of.
Playing second fiddle to Kamal Khan is his bodyguard, Gobinda played by Indian actor, Kabir Bedi who is a cross between Oddjob and Jaws. The guy is a brick wall throughout the film and never questions his boss. I actually really like Gobinda and can’t help but think he’s a little underrated in the henchmen category. He rarely speaks, if ever, using his brawn to do the talking. Quick mention must go to Steven Berkoff as General Orlov. A man who shouts the majority of his introduction and always seems disgruntled with the situation and his peers. I’ve never been a big fan, and always glad when he meets his end.
Special mention must go to all the stunt work and effects involved. There is something really endearing about watching the early James Bond films and knowing that what is on-screen is genuinely done for real on set. Whether it be miniature or grand scale sets, explosions or stunt work, the James Bond franchise has always been at the top of its game, and with Octopussy, you see all those elements come together, along with acting and directing, to create one of the best Roger Moore 007 films to date.
Easily one of the best and one I’ll find myself returning to many times over.
James Bond will return in A View To A Kill