Directed By: John Glen
Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan
Tag line: "Nobody does it better...thirteen times"
Trivia: James Brolin was almost given the role of James Bond when at the last minute, Roger Moore agreed to play Bond again
Comedy was a major component of Roger Moore’s 7-film tenure as James Bond, yet no movie during this period featured as much humor as 1983’s Octopussy, which relies so heavily on one-liners and witty asides that, at times, it’s a real distraction.
Working undercover at a circus in East Berlin, Secret Agent 009 (Andy Bradford), disguised as a clown, manages to steal an exact replica of an invaluable Fabergè egg, which he delivers to the British Embassy just before dying (he was stabbed in the back). After discovering that the real egg is about to go up for auction in London, MI6 sends its best man, James Bond (Moore), to root out whoever was responsible for the forgery (MI6 believes that, with their copy now gone, the person or persons behind it will want to re-acquire the original). After a brief bidding war at Sotheby's, the egg is won by the wealthy Prince, Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), who, along with his accomplice Madga (Kristin Wayborn), immediately hops on a plane and heads home to his palace in India. What they don’t know is that, during the auction, Bond replaced the real egg with the phony one. With the actual Fabergè in tow, 007 heads east to find out why such a powerful man was so interested in this priceless item. What he discovers is that Khan, who’s somehow linked to an all-female organization led by the mysterious Octopussy (Maud Adams), has been raising money for General Orlov (Steven Berkoff), a Soviet officer who’s preparing to launch an attack against the west, one he’s convinced will prove to the world the military might of the Soviet army. With the General’s plan already in motion, 007 must move quickly to prevent a catastrophe that, if carried out, will kill thousands of innocent people.
Despite the seriousness of its story (which involves nuclear weapons, a hot topic back in the 1980s), Octopussy is chock full of humor, with Moore’s Bond rattling off one-liners at a breakneck pace, and doing so throughout much of the film. While in India, Bond pays a visit to “Q” (Desmond Llewellyn), who’s testing his latest contraption: a remote controlled Indian rope trick, which, unfortunately, snaps in half before reaching the top. Without missing a beat, Bond quips “Having a hard time keeping it up, Q?” Even the action scenes have their share of jokes (during a street fight with Khan’s henchmen, Bond pulls a sword out of a sword swallowers mouth, then tosses one poor guy onto a bed of nails), and some of the humor is downright ridiculous, like when Bond is in the jungle, trying to escape from Khan and his men. Climbing a tree, he grabs hold of a vine and jumps, and as he swings through the air, the Tarzan yell fills the soundtrack!
That’s not to say Octopussy is devoid of those elements that make a good Bond picture. For one, the women are gorgeous, especially Wayborn’s Madga, who isn’t shy about using her body to get what she wants. Louis Jourdan, always a solid actor, does a fine job as this film’s villain, as does Berkoff, whose General Orlov is particularly deplorable. Partially shot in Rajasthan, the Indian locale is used to great effect, and series regulars Llewellyn and Lois Maxwell (as Moneypenny) also turn up (Llewellyn’s “Q”, who gets more screen time than usual, even takes part in the final battle). And while most of the movie features mediocre action, the entire finale, which begins with Bond trying to catch a train and ends with a traditional shoot-out, is absolutely exhilarating.
Unlike some, I don’t rank Octopussy among the worst Bond films; its thrilling climax manages to salvage much of the silliness that went before it. But with such a heavy emphasis on humor, it’s hard to deny that, at times, Octopussy comes across as one of the series’ minor efforts.