Joe Scaramanga’s review:
“Bond hits an all time high!” bellows Patrick Allen in the trailer for the unlucky 13th Bond extravaganza. The conceit was repeated in Rita Coolidge's forgettable theme tune.
Whilst OCTOPUSSY eventually is less than the sum of its parts (and certainly far from an all time high) it’s an entertaining diversion and further enhanced Moore’s reputation as Bond.
This latter idea was made all the more important by virtue of the fact that a certain Mr Connery was reprising the role himself in a rival Bond picture the very same year…
The history of NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN’s genesis is well documented elsewhere, so I will only add that its production meant that OCTOPUSSY was really going to have to pull out all the stops to ensure it won the ‘Battle of the Bonds’, which it did… narrowly.
Early speculation suggested that OCTOPUSSY would continue on from FOR YOUR EYES ONLY in presenting Bond as a fallible hero in a gritty cold war thriller. While the plot synopsis may back this up (Bond attempts to prevent a mad Soviet general from detonating a nuclear bomb in West Germany) the execution harks back to the razzle-dazzle, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink productions of Connery’s heyday.
Bond finds himself in India following the trail of a fake Faberge egg, which was briefly in the possession of a colleague, 009, before he was killed by a pair of knife wielding twins.
Once there, Bond quickly jumps into bed with Magda, the villain’s moll, and then follows this with a quickie with the titular Octopussy (admittedly, a woman closer his own age for a change). Meanwhile the egg (remember that) gets passed between Bond, villain, General before getting confused with the original (not the fake, keep up) which is eventually smashed. The fake ends up in a treasure trove of fakery along with the aforementioned bomb on its way with Octopussy’s circus to West Germany. If this all sounds a bit convoluted and ridiculous well… that’s because it is. But whereas confused plots had previously been a hindrance to Bond movies (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN being the best example), here it’s actually a bonus as it means we can concentrate on some good, if understated, action and some genuine suspense.
Following FOR YOUR EYES ONLY’s lead, OCTOPUSSY again features a great cast. Maud Adams returns from THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, this time bagging the female lead she richly deserved. She has great chemistry with Moore, betraying their off-screen friendship, but this helps their relationship on-screen no end producing the only really convincing Moore-Bond Girl tryst in his tenure.
Louis Jourdan, who almost played Hugo Drax in MOONRAKER, is on superbly slimy form as Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince living it up at Octopussy's expense whilst conducting his nefarious schemes behind her back.
Kristina Waybourn is gorgeous, but has little to do as Magda, expect look good in bed and make Moore look really old.
And Vijay Amritraj is an excellent ally during his brief moments on screen (hard to believe this was his first acting role…).
But for me, and against the beliefs of many others, the show is stolen by Steven Berkoff as General Orlov. I’m a huge admirer of Berkoff’s theatre work, and whilst he admits he only takes Hollywood roles to pay for his theatre projects, here is one role where he seems to not only act his socks off, but enjoy it immensely at the same time.
OCTOPUSSY works only as entertainment, and nothing else. It’s convoluted plot, confused characters (just who does Magda work for?), and occasional casual racism are easily reduced by beautiful photography, wonderful sets, relentless action (one critic said OCTOPUSSY had more climaxes than a porn film!) and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek performance from Moore. Somehow it all hangs together. Watching it now it reminds you why you loved watching Bond as a kid. Just glamour, beautiful girls, dastardly villains and outrageous action.