Octopussy (1983) is the thirteenth entry in the Eon Productions James Bond film series, and the sixth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond.
The film’s title is taken from a short story in Ian Fleming’s 1966 short story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights, although the film’s plot is original. It does, however, include a scene inspired by the Fleming short story “The Property of a Lady” (included in 1967 and later editions of Octopussy and The Living Daylights), while the events of the short story “Octopussy” form a part of the title character’s background and are recounted by her.
Bond is assigned the task of following a general who is stealing jewels and relics from the Soviet government. This leads him to a wealthy Afghan prince, Kamal Khan, and his associate, Octopussy. Bond uncovers a plot to force disarmament in Europe with the use of a nuclear weapon.
Octopussy was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and was released in the same year as the non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again. The film was written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, and Michael G. Wilson, and was directed by John
British agent 009 is found dead at the British embassy in East Berlin, dressed as a circus clown and carrying a fake Fabergé egg. MI6 immediately suspects Soviet involvement and, after seeing the real egg appear at an auction in London, sends James Bond to investigate and find out the identity of the seller. At the auction, Bond is able to swap the real egg with the fake and engages in a bidding war with exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan, forcing Khan to pay £500,000 for the fake egg. Bond follows Khan back to his palace in Rajasthan, India, where Bond defeats Khan in a game of backgammon. Bond escapes with his contact Vijay, foiling the attempts of Khan’s bodyguard Gobinda to kill the pair. Bond is seduced by one of Khan’s associates, Magda, and notices that she has a blue-ringed octopus tattoo. Bond permits Magda to steal the real Fabergé egg fitted with listening and tracking devices by Q, while Gobinda captures and takes Bond to Khan’s palace. After Bond escapes from his room he listens in on the bug in the Fabergé egg and discovers that Khan is working with Orlov, a Soviet general, who is seeking to expand Soviet control into West-Central Europe.
After escaping from Khan’s palace, Bond infiltrates a floating palace in Udaipur, India, and there finds its owner, Octopussy, a wealthy business woman and smuggler and an associate of Khan. She also leads the Octopus cult, of which Magda is a member. In Octopussy’s palace, Bond finds out that Orlov has been supplying Khan with priceless Soviet treasures, replacing them with replicas while Khan has been smuggling the real versions into the West via Octopussy’s circus troupe. Orlov is planning to meet Khan at Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) in East Germany, where the circus is scheduled to perform. After turning the tables on Gobinda’s henchmen, who killed Vijay, Bond goes to East Germany.
Bond infiltrates the circus and finds out that Orlov replaced the Soviet treasures with a nuclear warhead, primed to explode during the circus show at a US Air Force base in West Germany. The explosion would trigger Europe into seeking disarmament in the belief that the bomb was a US one that detonated by accident, leaving its borders open to a Soviet invasion. Bond takes Orlov’s car, drives it along the train tracks and boards the moving circus train. Orlov gives chase, but is killed at the border by East German guards, after mistaking Orlov for a defector. Bond kills the twin knife-throwing assassins Mischka and Grischka to avenge the murder of 009, and, after falling from the train, commandeers a car to get to the airbase. Bond penetrates the base and disguises himself as a clown to evade the West German police. He attempts to convince Octopussy that Khan has betrayed her by showing her one of the treasures found in Orlov’s car, which she was to smuggle for him. Octopussy realizes that she has been tricked and assists Bond in deactivating the warhead.
Bond and Octopussy return to India and launch an assault on Khan’s palace. Khan and Gobinda flee the palace, capturing Octopussy in the process. Bond pursues them as they attempt to escape in their plane, clinging to the fuselage and disabling one of its engines. Gobinda takes a deadly plummet off the roof of the plane and Bond rescues Octopussy from Khan, the pair jumping onto a nearby cliff moments before the plane crashes into a mountain, killing Khan. While M and General Gogol discuss the transport of the jewelery, Bond recuperates with Octopussy aboard her private boat in India.
Release and reception
Octopussy’s premiere took place at the Odeon Leicester Square on 6 June 1983 in the company of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. Within five months of its premiere, it was released in 16 countries worldwide. The film earned slightly less than For Your Eyes Only, but still grossed $187,500,000, with $67.8 million in the United States alone. It also performed slightly better than Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon Bond remake of Thunderball which came out a few months later.
The film has received mixed reviews. Some reviewers disliked Bond’s clown costume, gorilla outfit and Tarzan yell during a jungle chase. James Berardinelli claimed that the movie was long and confusing, and strongly criticised Steven Berkoff’s performance, describing it as “offensively bad” and the worst performance of any Bond villain. By contrast, Louis Jourdan’s “suave” performance, the elegance of the film locations in India, and the stunts on aircraft and the train were appreciated. Jeffrey Westhoff at Rotten Tomatoes praised Roger Moore as being “sterling”. Neal Gabler and Jeffrey Lyons at the TV-show Sneak Previews praised the film and said “Octopussy delivers” and “The nice thing about Octopussy is that it’s going back-to-basics, less gadgets, more hand-to-hand combat. It’s more of an adventure movie in a more traditional sense and I like it for that”. Danny Peary wrote that Octopussy “has slow spots, little humour, and villains who aren’t nearly of the calibre of Dr. No, Goldfinger, or Blofeld. Also, the filmmakers make the mistake of demeaning Bond by having him swing through the trees and emitting a Tarzan cry and having him hide in a gorilla suit and later disguise himself as a clown (whom all the kids at the circus laugh at). It’s as if they’re trying to remind us that everything is tongue-in-cheek, but that makes little sense, for the film is much more serious than typical Bond outings – in fact, it recalls the tone of From Russia with Love.” Entertainment Weekly chose Octopussy as the third worst Bond film,while Norman Wilner of MSN chose it as the eighth worst,and IGN chose it as the seventh worst. The review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 42% rating.
Octopussy was nominated for an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Award, with Maud Adams nominated for the Saturn Award in the Best Fantasy Supporting Actress category. Entertainment Weekly ranked her as the best Bond girl of the Roger Moore James Bond films. The film won the Golden Screen Award in Germany and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing.
by simon schofield