Martin Rayburn is a little shaken and stirred by Octopussy.
1983 was shaping up to be an epic year for Bond fans. Two brand new movies featuring (with no disrespect intended towards George Lazenby) the two most popular lead actors, both produced to capitalise on the 20th anniversary of the movie series, and both promising the usual "biggest and best Bond adventure yet". It was billed as 'The Battle of the Bonds', as Octopussy and Never Say Never Again were originally intended to go head to head. The good news for 'Cubby' Broccoli was that Kevin McClory's rival production was delayed, giving Octopussy a four month advantage and the prime Summer opening.
I'm torn so much by Octopussy, it contains both the best and worst of the James Bond franchise. On the plus side it has a very good core story which encompasses intelligent political overtones that were prevalent of the time period - it was last days of the Cold War, and they are nicely etched into the plot structure. With a nuclear crisis in the air, the East and the West, who have until now been casting suspicious
eyes over each other, must co-operate to avert disaster.
John Glen returned behind the camera for his second (of five) Bond
movies, and continues the good work he delivered in For Your Eyes Only, punctuated with some excellent action set-pieces,
including one of the best pre-credits scenes of the series. The ensemble cast is mostly impressive, with Maud Adams and Louis Jordan providing the standout characterisations. The location work is exquisite, with India looking
like a paradise. John Barry's
score is a swirl of romanticism and invention. The title song, All Time
High sung by Rita Coolidge, is among my favourite Bond theme songs. There's a larger role for the always enjoyable Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and whilst Bernard Lee is sadly missed, Robert Brown makes an impressive replacement as M.
As pure escapist fun Octupussy ranks up amongst the best Bonds. From 007's jet
shooting off pre-credits and the exhilarating missile chase, through the
car/train race, the roof fight, the car chase with the West German
police, to the explosive climax with Bond crashing through a window and
sliding down a Bannister all guns blazing to John Barry's 007 score, there's a lot to make you smile. Sadly though there are an equal amount of negatives to balance the scales of Octopussy.
Even though Roger Moore continues the higher level of Bond acting he
achieved in For Your Eyes Only, he really is looking his age here and not physically
suited to the action. Much was made of Sean Connery being too old to return to the role, but let's not forget that Moore is three years older than the Scot. When Never Say Never Again did arrive, Connery's 52 year old Bond looked a damn sight more believable than Moore's 55 year old. Moore (or rather his very busy body double) is also saddled with having to do some ridiculous things for the sake of a cheap laugh, like swinging on a vine whilst doing the Tarzan jungle yell. It's
pretty painful to watch and is just one of the moments in Octopussy when a silly bit of humour undermines
the good plotting of the film.
It's not just the fault of the leading man, as Steven Berkoff is a tad over the top as Orlov. He's given too much freedom to run with the role and becomes something of a pastiche of Bond villains. Vijay Amritraj is scarcely believable as a field agent, and seems to have only been created to include a semi-comical Indian character. And, if I'm being very critical, the film also hasn't aged overly well and now appears a little cheap by Bond standards.
Octopussy would go on to comfortably win 'The Battle of the Bonds'. Both films made monster cash, but Octopussy out-grossed Never Say Never Again with $184 million to $160 million. Although the profit margins were high, the quality wasn't so much, and those Bond fans looking forward to an epic anniversary celebration possibly felt a little disappointed, as both were more just solid installments as opposed to spectacular anniversary worthy adventures.
Octopussy delivered a bit of something for
all types of Bond fans, but in doing so it doesn't add up to a successful whole. If anything what it did show us was that Bond needed to change once again. The 20th anniversary should have signaled the end of an era and the start of a new dawn for the franchise. Indeed Roger Moore planned to retire, and undeniably it was the right decision, but another pay day beckoned and his James Bond did return...
By day, an ordinary bloke in a dull 9 to 5. By night, a tired ordinary
bloke. Martin still hasn't worked out what he wants to do when he grows
up. He is currently 47.
James Bond will return next Thursday...