Dec. 21, 2010
Octopussy (1983)
Grade: 53/100

Director: John Glen
Stars: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan

What it's about. A so-so entry in the lucrative and long-running James Bond franchise. Bond (Roger Moore) is dispatched to India and West Germany to investigate the murder of a fellow British agent, even if he was a clown. Bond uncovers a jewelry smuggling ring, a cluster of colorful bad guys, and a plot to set off a nuclear bomb.

First-billed among the many villains is the cultured Louis Jourdan, who spent decades making Hollywood movies without ever losing his sexy French accent. His right hand man is hulking and humorless Indian Kabir Bedi. In West Germany, the duo to avoid are knife-throwing twins David and Tony Meyer. Renegade Russian general Steven Berkoff has a mad scheme of detonating an atom bomb in the West, to force nuclear disarmament that will allow a Russian tank conquest of Europe. Never mind about all those American warheads in corn silos in Kansas, or on submarines in patrol in the Pacific, or on planes circling the Artic circle.

Good guys include jolly tennis player Vijay Amitraj, a British agent in India, aging crank gadget maker Desmond Llewelyn, also a British agent, and an all-babe island pseudo-nation headed by Maud Adams, who calls herself Octopussy (wink, wink) although no evidence is ever presented that she has more than one. We must forget that Adams was killed off in The Man with the Golden Gun. Her right hand woman is Kristina Wayborn.

Adams is in cahoots with Jourdan smuggling jewelry. Her legitimate business enterprises include a circus that employs the Meyer twins. Jourdan's source for pricey baubles is Berkoff, who has access to the Tsarist treasure chest.

How others will see it. Like the many other vehicles in the half-century (so far) of Bond movies, Octopussy was highly profitable, even though it had to compete against another Bond movie, Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. Contemporary reviews ranged from favorable to nearly as condescending as Roger Moore's performance.

Today, the user reviews at are surprisingly consistent across all age groups and both genders. At 6.6 out of 10, the film is considered good but not great. Bond purists are put off by our hero's humiliations: he has to wear a gorilla suit, put on clown makeup, swing on ropes screaming like Tarzan, hide in a patently fake crocodile, etc. Plus, he only gets to bed two women, one approaching middle age and the other not particularly sexy, even if she was Miss Sweden 1970.

How I felt about it. As with most if not all Bond movies, Octopussy has its implausible moments. The most blatant has Bond stealing a woman's car (you think she'd take the keys with her) when she hogs what is presumably the only phone in that West German town. Because if they were any other phones around, Bond should find one and make some calls instead of single-handedly invading an Air Force base.

With a nuclear bomb ticking down at the circus, Bond decides to ditch the military police by going into a trailer and putting on elaborate clown makeup. He might as well read a book too, "Circus Clowns 101," if he is going to waste that much time.

Also, after henchmen of Jourdan nearly kill both Adams and house guest Bond with their yo-yo buzz saw, it seems unlikely that she would continue to associate with Jourdan. He could have waited until Bond left the island, or at least until he left Adams' bedroom.

While those are the biggest plot holes, the little things bother me as well. A man is pushed off a rooftop, falls at least thirty feet, and is caught before he hits the ground by a petite woman who has her arms extended. I'm sorry, but force equals mass times acceleration, and that is not a loaf of bread she is catching.

You can argue that Bond movies are not about realism. They are escapist fun. And it is true that director John Glen understands that. The locations are picturesque, the costumes display rich color, the characters are fairly memorable, and there is plenty of action and suspense. To continue this straw man argument, everybody knows that it is a movie, and Bond must be immortal after all if he can hold onto the exterior of a plane that is performing loop-de-loops.

The problem, though, is that Bond is better as a fallible human, a man genuinely afraid that Goldfinger's laser would give him more than a simple circumcision. By 1983, Bond knows better. The laser can't even singe his trousers.

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