Roger Moore’s penultimate outing as Bond finds him larking about in India, pursuing a mysterious jewel smuggling ring, or something.
There’s no getting around it, Octopussy is terrible. A boring, unpleasant shambles and a strong shout for the worst Bond film in the entire series. Also, the title is gross. Seriously guys, Octopussy? What’s wrong with you? It’s not entirely without merit; the film is bookended by a couple of genuinely impressive plane-based stunts. It’s just the two hours in between that are awful.
Pretty much everything in Octopussy is horribly misjudged. The story is simultaneously confusing and moronic with the tone flip-flopping between pedestrian action and woefully unfunny comedy throughout its 130 minute running time. Being in India, Bond gets plenty of opportunity to belittle a foreign culture and as usual with Roger Moore there’s no shortage of women to be objectified, but somewhere amidst the casual misogyny, offhand racism and jokes aimed at six year olds there’s a plot about a jewel smuggling circus funding a rogue Soviet general. Maybe. It’s hard to tell for sure because the filmmakers are more interested in silliness like chainsaw yo-yos and Union Jack hot air balloons than they are in telling a story with any sense of clarity or coherence. I’m not sure if Octopussy was made by idiots or for idiots, but needless to say the boneheaded stupidity of the film is the one consistent element throughout.
The haughty colonialism and self-satisfied sexism would perhaps be acceptable if Bond and his crass, outdated behaviour was the butt of the joke. He’s not though. Instead the audience is invited to laugh along with our hero as he swans about south-east Asia acting like a bigoted old pervert. Somehow, over the course of thirteen movies 007 has mutated from a cold, steely assassin into a wise-cracking old lech with a gun, like some kind of murderous Sid James character. Roger Moore’s Bond is a parody of the character, Austin Powers fifteen years before Mike Myers unleashed his shagadelic piss-take of the icon.
If I’m honest there came a point during this where I just kind of gave up, my mind seemingly shutting down in some form of self-defence. Watching this nonsense was bad enough, but writing notes about Roger Moore being appalling only seemed to prolong the experience, making me relive scenes from moments ago that I’d already rather forget. Bond giving a wad of cash to an Indian gent and saying ‘that’ll keep you in curry for a while’ for example, or Bond swinging through the trees in a jungle and yodelling like Tarzan for another. The whole film is a procession of insulting or embarrassing shit like this for over two hours, only pausing for an obligatory sequence of Bond leering at women or doing his weird face sucking kisses on them. I felt kind of embarrassed and sad watching this.
Bond theme: All Time High by Rita Coolidge is only the second Bond theme to not share a title with the film. Which is just as well because I don’t think I want to listen to a song called Octopussy. Not that I particularly want to listen to this either, the melody is dreary and Coolidge sounds heavily sedated as she sings.
Best one liner: The whole film is filled with tiresome quips and groan-worthy jokes the best of which probably occurs when Bond is threatened with death unless he returns a priceless Faberge egg to the bad guys. ‘The egg for your life,’ he’s told. ‘I heard the price of eggs was going up, but that’s a little high,’ comes his response.
Glamorous Locations: The bulk of the film takes place in a picturesque looking India that’s filled with hackneyed ethnic stereotypes like sword swallowers and snake charmers, while the finale occurs in a grim East German city filled with ugly buildings and cars.
Girls: Maud Adams the statuesque Swede who played Scaramanga’s vengeful lover in The Man with the Golden Gun plays the titular circus master Octopussy. Interestingly, this marks the only time an actress has played two different Bond girls in two different films. Bond also seduces Magda, a member of Octopussy’s weird jewel smuggling, octopus obsessed, circus troupe.
Gadgets: The pre-credits sequence finds Bond escaping an unnamed South American country in a tiny jet plane hidden behind a fake horse’s arse in the back of a van. He also has a fountain pen that shoots acid, a tiny tracking device with inbuilt microphone and a watch that acts as a video camera. More on which later.
Classic moment: Double crossing Afghan prince Kamal Khan tries to escape in a small plane with his intimidating man servant Gobinda. Little does he realise that Bond is hanging onto the roof and trying to force it back down. What follows is an audacious aerial sequence that has two stuntmen fist fighting atop a plane. This set-piece deserves to be in a far better movie.
Low point: So much to choose from, so little space. Let’s just go with the bit when Bond tests out his new video camera by zooming in and out of a co-workers cleavage. Somehow this childish idiot is supposed to be our hero and this act of workplace sexual harassment is supposed to be funny.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… A VIEW TO A KILL