Rewatched Aug 19, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
Its probably the moment in the pre-credits sequence where 007 flies a supersonic jet out of a mechanical horses arse that the tone of Octopussy, Roger Moore's penultimate James Bond movie, is set. Moving away from the grittier For Your Eyes Only, this one shifts the series back into a more colourful, overblown texture. Yet it also remains utterly unique - camp, OTT, at times baffling in terms of narrative and incredibly racist, it's unlike any Bond before or since and despite being the closest to outright caricature the series ever became, it retains an eccentric charm all of its own.
I must have watched Octopussy more than any other 007 movie - I absolutely loved it growing up, possibly because at times I had no idea what the fig was going on for much of it! There's a great movie myth that Louis Jourdan (excellent incidentally as silky smooth villain Kamal Khan, getting off Hugo Drax-rivalling put downs) reacted to the breaking of the Faberge egg at the heart of the plot without knowing for sure if it was real or fake - did the screenwriters know? I'm not sure but they and director John Glen pepper this Bond with such gloriously daft chutzpah it's very hard to dislike any of it, even when they feed Moore some horribly neo-colonial jibes while 007 is in India making tennis jokes with Vijay Amitraj. It's horribly of its time in places and it's interesting how comic-book the Soviet Union are drawn here - exemplified in Steven Berkoff's movie-stealing, bonkers turn as the unhinged General Orlov; it speaks to the detente feel of the era, the producers far more at ease portraying the Russian bear as a bit bloated, useless or stupid than 10-15 years ago when they were still afraid the Soviets might drop the bomb - by 1983 that fear had mostly gone away. Its worth it for Cold War caricature alone, yet the plot gets in on the madness - its a hilariously, needlessly convoluted story with an ultimately simple endgame but one that builds to a brilliantly memorable climax with a clown-faced Bond in a race against time. And if Moore and his jokes look as tired in the role as lifeless Maud Adams' eponymous Bond girl (nowhere near as ambiguous as she should have been - they got that part right 15 years later with Elektra King), it still all feels like the kind of romp that suits Moore's louche take on the role perfectly. It's not his best but it's perhaps his most signature.
It becomes very hard to rank Octopussy objectively because, I'll be honest, it's one of my favourite Bond movies - bonkers, cheesy, but moments like Q in the hot air balloon or the snake-charmer playing the Bond theme make it hard for me to see the flaws, gaping plot holes and formulaic tiredness that was infecting the series by now. It should really have been Moore's last - for me he would have gone out on an all time high!