One thing is for sure, Octopussy cannot be untangled from the tentacles of nostalgia. This is easily my most watched Bond film from my childhood because my Dad was “Mr. Fix It”. In the ’80s, anyone who knew my Dad with a VCR that needed the heads cleaned or a belt replaced, would drop it off at our house. He turned it into a legit business for a long while.
Since any movie we owned as a family would have been dubbed from television or rentals (Dad always had two old VCRs for dubbing rentals) all of which would all have video quality issues. So, he bought a copy of Octopussy to test VCRs out before returning it repaired. Guess who got to test many of those VCRs?
I rarely would re-watch all of Octopussy in one sitting but ten minute chunks instead. Just enough to be sure the machine was working properly. The cold open got the most play. In it, Bond infiltrates and destroys some Central American communist country’s army base with a portable plane hidden in a horse trailer. It is good times.
Director John Glen was excellent at not only putting these cold opens together, but his sense for pacing and tone during his action sequences were almost always top notch. Octopussy also has another great one in the middle where Bond is hanging on the outside of a plane. The Blu-ray bonus of how they shot this is almost as exciting as the scene itself.
Our antagonist this time is the high level General Orlov (Steven Burkoff) in the Russian Soviet Army who believes the USSR has an advantage over NATO. He is convinced if they strike now, Soviets could annex most of Europe with little effort. His superiors are not nearly as blood thirsty. Frustrated how he is unable to change the minds of his superiors, Orlov instead plans to set off a nuclear bomb on a US Air Force Base located in West Germany. The explosion will be seen as an accidental detonation by one of the American missiles already on the base and the USSR will have no choice but to take advantage of their weakened enemies.
Orlov is funding his scheme by swapping precious artifacts with fakes. James Bond (Roger Moore) is put on his trail after MI6 agent, 009, is found murdered while crossing the border from West Germany into East Germany with a fake Fabergé egg in his hands.
It is not a bad setup for a Bond film, but the plot does become sloppy at times. The relationship between Bond and Octopussy (Maud Adams) is convoluted as she is his main threat for a while, but also an admirer and eventual lover.
And it drags as Bond has to go through several levels of the black market before reaching Orlov. Bond spends the middle of the film outwitting Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan), an exiled Afghan prince living in India and chasing down his henchman Magda (Kristina Wayborn). Neither have any special talents or abilities… unless you count Magda’s move to use a saree dress to unravel while falling to the ground from a 2nd story balcony. Neat move, but hardly threatening.
The film’s cool henchmen are underused. The large Indian man, Gorbinda (Kabir Bedi) who can crush dice into powder in his hand and the twin knife throwers (David and Anthony Meyer) hardly get enough screen time. One guy even has a cool saw weapon that you can fling like a yo-yo. He isn’t even given a name and is listed as “Yo-Yo thug”.
Now, for the continuing competition with my wife, Sarah, to guess how long it would take Bond to first get laid during each of these films. We again went with the phone app to give us the “over” or “under” and it was a disaster. Usually, Bond takes anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes to seal the deal, but again he took over an hour. It seems like Bond took his time in the ’80s. The app landed on 23 minutes and Sarah chose “over”. We might go back to the dice for the next one.
But it is still another point for Sarah:
Sarah – 8
Mars – 1
Unlike For Your Eyes Only Octopussy was written with Roger Moore in mind. For some reason, this means there is a hard return to the cheese. Despite some excellent action sequences, you will be sitting through some questionable material to get to them. I kid you not, Bond hides in a Gorilla suit, there is a Tarzan yell, and he is (fittingly?) sporting a clown outfit for the apex of the film.