By the time “Octopussy” was released in 1983, I think part of the joke was that Roger Moore, on the latter half of middle age, can survive and triumph over insurmountable odds. The crows feet show around the eyes. The hair color looks faded. He doesn’t necessarily look physically fit anymore. Yet, 007 can still outrun a pack of hunters riding elephants and shooting at him with sniper rifles. If you just accept this standard and laugh at the absurdity, you’ll likely have enjoyed “Octopussy.”
Director John Glen’s movie is a mixed bag of really good action material and a regrettably choppy storyline involving jewel thievery and a Russian nuclear bomb. Only it’s not made clear how these two connect until very late in the picture. By that point I didn’t care much.
There’s some amazing footage in “Octopussy.” Particularly, a spectacular scene where Bond manages to get on top of an airplane and stay there. With the exception of close ups for Roger Moore, this is all stunt work and my jaw drops no matter how many times I see it. Bond is trying to prevent villain Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan) from escaping with his henchman. Khan tries to shake Bond off the plane by doing aerial maneuvers including flying upside down. Glen’s camera captures his stuntman doing it all at 30,000 feet. Then the henchman goes outside of the plane! It’s a sequence that must be seen. Another all time great stunt in the series.
Oh yeah, the story! Bond travels to New Delhi, India to uncover why Khan has spent an enormous fortune on a Russian Faberge Egg at a Sotheby’s auction. Following a backgammon match where 007 outwits his opponent’s cheating with loaded dice, Bond finds himself outrunning bad guys in a street market complete with sword swallowing, a bed of nails and running on hot coals. I was waiting for him to break into song like Disney’s “Aladdin.” (Ironically, Tim Rice wrote the lyrics to the film’s song “All Time High,” performed by Rita Coolidge.)
Eventually, he catches up with Maud Adams, making her second appearance in the series; this time as the title character. She’s a jewel smuggler working with Khan, only she’s got scruples that Khan does not possess. Consider the fact that once she realizes Khan is working with a renegade Russian general (Stephen Berkoff) to detonate a nuclear bomb during a circus located on an American military base in East Berlin, Octopussy has an epiphany that she has been double crossed. This really does not seem so surprising to anyone except Octopussy.
Bond has to endure a lot in this film. Besides contending with Khan’s turban wearing henchman, he also has to fight against deadly identical twins who are experts at knife throwing. Worse yet is when he has to don a clown outfit complete with rubber nose, floppy shoes and makeup.
The action of Bond making efforts to get to the doomed circus is great as he has to leap on to a train and follow after the locomotive with a Mercedes Benz on railroad tracks. Good automobile stunt work further in this extended scene also works well.
What leaves me feeling ho hum, though, is Octopussy and her lady soldiers in red jumpsuits, all skillful in fighting techniques and weaponry ready to take on Khan’s bandoliers. Looks like an old Batman tv episode really. It’s a little eye rolling to say the least.
“Octopussy” is watchable but it’s nothing special. This film and Roger Moore’s next and final adventure as 007 are certainly two of the weakest in the series. I must persist though.