There’s an image in Octopussy, the 6th appearance of Roger Moore as secret agent James Bond, that has continuously fascinated me ever since I got interested in the long running franchise. I honestly believe that no other single image in cinema perfectly encapsulates everything about a subject so perfectly and succinctly than the image of Roger Moore as 007 disguised as a clown – it’s almost TOO on the nose, but here it is in all it’s “glory”, a grease painted man with a licence to kill and big floppy clown shoes to go with it trying to defuse a bomb in the middle of a big top while acrobats and generals look on with mounting tension. This is supposed to be James Bond, the man who electrocuted Oddjob with his own hat, who corkscrewed a car through a 360 degree jump and nonchalantly lightfooted his way over the backs of several hungry crocodiles – he shouldn’t be flopping over to save to day in a bow tie so big you could use it as a nappy.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, the 13th entry in the Bond canon is bad. In fact it’s badder than bad – it’s the worst and here 13 isn’t just unlucky for some, it’s unlucky for fucking all of us. After the relative calm of the admirably sensible For Your Eyes Only, we plunge back into the highly camp waters of a Bond in full on wacky mode (Roger Moore’s confirmed preference for 007) in an adventure that somehow manages to equal even the wretched Moonraker in how frequently annoying it’s going out of it’s way to be.
After getting wind of a plot that involves the forging of Faberge Eggs to finance the war hungry whims of a rogue Russian general, Bond finds himself bouncing from India to Berlin in pursuit of middle man and all round bad egg Kamal Kahn and his massive man servant (phrasing!).
In league with Kahn – but unaware of an inevitable double cross is smuggler, and leader of an all-women cult, Octopussy (no laughing at the back, there…). Teaming up with Octopussy (who shares a mysterious connection with the British secret agent) Bond races to thwart a terrorist attack in Germany that if successful, could open the doors of Europe to a full on invasion of Soviet forces.
Once we plod through the oddly low key Bond theme, All Time High (presumably what the screenwriters must have been when they typed out this drivel) which contains such a terminal level of horny sounding saxophone riffs, the song itself could be treated for sex addiction, it’s fairly apparent that we’re back in camp-land with Roger Moore figuratively winking at the camera so much you’d put money on him having a tic.
Maybe a lot of what occurs in Octopussy would be easier to digest if Moore wasn’t mincing from scene to scene while coming across as an elderly uncle with serious boundary issues and when he’s not making off-colour jokes about curry to Indians and zooming an experimental camera in on a co-workers cleavage we get to watch Bond swan around Rajasthan surrounded by abject poverty while wearing a white tuxedo. It’s upsettingly like someone has desides to make an action movie where the main character is Prince Phillip and as the movie rumbles on you start to openly wonder exactly how much of even the most basic action is a body double and how much is the (still admittedly spry-ish) aged actor.
When Bond isn’t using his stunt double to fight off thugs wielding such impractical weapons as a bandsaw yo-yo (useless without a balcony it seems), he’s indulging in such unsubtle humor it might as well be part of a Benny Hill holiday special. As the running time steadily clicks by we are reduced to witness Bond ordering an attacking tiger to “SIT!!!” (it does), travelling around in a crocodile shaped submarine and swinging on a vine while bellowing Tarzan’s trademark cry. Dignity seems to not be an option here and the legendarily spy even disguises himself in a gorilla suit to avoid detection.
The rest of the cast perform there roles to the best the material allows them with a likeable performance from former tennis pro Vijay Amritraj (yes, we get endless tennis jokes), until his character is, spoiler warning, killed because presumably he’s not white and he’s helping Bond (a disturbing trend of the series)…
As for the others? Bond villian Louis Jordan bravely goes toe to toe in a winner take all smug-off with reigning champ Roger Moore, Steven Berkoff dusts off his ludicrous Russian accent from his appearance in the second Rambo movie to play a petulant, war-mongering general who is bankrolling the whole caper and Maude Adam’s (in her second Bond girl role) is a refreshingly mature presence, even if she’s as frequently wooden as a sale in a clog store.
As much as this movie winds me up, there’s no argument that it’s more than competently filmed (by returning For Your Eyes Only director John Glen) and that the stunt team are putting top notch work – especially with a Tom Cruise baiting scene where Bond clings to the outside of a plane as it takes off and then has a bit of a fight with a henchman on the fuselage at 20,000 feet. Even some of the one liners (the ones that don’t make you cringe into oblivion, that is) are suprisingly sharp – “007 on an island populated exclusively by women? We won’t see him till dawn!” is a particularly astute zinger from Q and as ridiculous as it plays, I guess having an acrobatic female circus army aid Bond by storming the villain’s as he drifts in on a hot air balloon with a Union Jack is somewhat progressive? Maybe, maybe not but your attention will be more focused on wondering how they got the trapeze up without the guards noticing…
However, this is decidedly low-tier Bond with a literal “clown shoes” performance from it’s long in the tooth lead.
Octopussy is as immature as the snickers the title is supposed to invoke (any more childish and I would’ve been reviewing a Bond film named Starfish Vagina) and in direct counterpoint to it’s theme song proves to be an all time low.