Octopussy (1983)
August 20, 2015 3:48 AM - Subscribe

A fake Fabergé egg and a fellow agent's death lead James Bond to uncover an international jewel-smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy, being used to disguise a nuclear attack on N.A.T.O. forces.

This is the 13th James Bond film adventure.

The Wikipedia entry.
ShrunkenCinema.com reviews Octopussy.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader: "Glen's willingness to give the action sequences a certain weight and seriousness produces some genuinely exciting moments, yet his work is everywhere undermined by the flatness of the characterizations and the uncertain architecture of the plot."

Variety: "Film's high points are the spectaccular aerial stuntwork marking both the pre-credits teaser and extremely dangerous-looking climax."

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: "Bond had degenerated into a male model, and something of a genial anachronism."

Time Out: "The action sequences are tighter, the visual gags more inventive, and if the plot is no great shakes, the whole thing is served up with a decent approximation to the old panache."

Vincent Canby, New York Times: "Makes no pretense of being based on anything except the Ian Fleming character and the high good humor and wit of the film makers."
posted by doctornecessiter (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you ever think about the "master image" that first pops into your mind when someone mentions a movie that you know well? I think that for every single movie that you're familiar with, there's always one little moment or shot that represents the whole thing for you personally and subconsciously...And it's often not the most iconic thing available. For this movie, for me, the master image is Steven Berkoff running after a departing train along the tracks, getting shot in the back and continuing to try to crawl toward the caboose. I really don't know what that says about my opinion of the movie, but the fact that I don't really have much more to add can't be too great.
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:37 AM on August 20, 2015

This is, for me, a very split decision. (We'll see this again if we ever get to Die Another Day, which is a perfectly fine - even top shelf - Bond film until the exact moment when Halle Berry leaps off the wall of an old Spanish fort in Havana, only to be plucked from the water by a boat and get away. And from then on, it sucks.)

Octopussy actually veers back and forth over that line. It's a perfectly... adequate Bond film whenever it isn't in India, and whenever it is in India, it sucks.

As a naive youngster, I actually blamed India for this as I'd seen other western films set in India and they tended to be annoying too. But I've since come to realize that, of course, the problem wasn't India but the way it was so often portrayed by lazy film makers, and this has to be one of the laziest.

The Q's lab scene is especially cringe-inducing. Though it was good to see Q more involved in the action and especially nice to see him ride off with a bevy of beautiful women fawning over him instead of 007 for once. (But keep in mind Roger Ebert's rule of thumb that no good movie has ever featured a hot air balloon.) Until License to Kill, I think this was easily the most involved Q had ever been.) But generally pretty much every frame of film in India has something embarrassing in it.

Oh - like the bit where Moore comes across a tiger while being chased through the jungle and makes it "sit-tuh" for him using that weird intonation thing. Anyone else remember that weird British dog trainer woman with "walkies!" and "sit-tuh"? Who the hell was that woman? I've totally forgotten her and she was enough of a big deal at the time that a Bond movie made a joke by referring to her and assuming the audience would get it. What the hell do modern audiences think that is about?

When there isn't India to condescend to, however, Octopussy can be quite good. The initial party sequence that gets crashed by a dying 00 with a Faberge egg is nice. And remember this is the pre-credits sequence where Bond wreaks havoc in the tiny Bede Acrostar jet. That was pretty cool. And I found the climactic bomb disarming sequence very gripping indeed, even though I should have known perfectly well there was no real danger that bomb was going to go off. If a Bond movie can induce that level of suspense despite starring Roger Moore - in a freaking clown get up no less - then it's doing something right.
posted by Naberius at 7:02 AM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Octopussy actually veers back and forth over that line. It's a perfectly... adequate Bond film whenever it isn't in India, and whenever it is in India, it suck

You must have some sort of disease that cause you to go deaf during the "it's a company car" line? That part most definitely does not suck.

Actually in general, I found the India stuff more sensible and compelling than everything that follows. I didn't find the bond disarming compelling, I found it silly, the ostensible main villain is dead for like half an hour before it finally wraps up and didn't get much screen time to begin with. The plot is needlessly complicated, so much so that after viewing it the other day it took me and three other people half an hour to assemble a version of the scheme that we understood and I'm still not sure that that was actually what was going on. Notice that the whole "accidental nuclear explosion leads to the Soviets invading Europe" thing has to be immediately grasped by Bond, because there is no way he gets there with normal human reason the audience could understand and follow. I mean sure, the tiger thing is dumb and the crocodile boat is absurd even by Moore era Bond, but at least it made some sense.

My ideal version of this movie would be basically all in India,* would focus on Octopussy who seems like she could be fleshed out into a decent antagonist, and would basically be about foiling a jewel theft operation without the needless nuclear weapon thing. It'd be Orientalizing and sexist as all get out, but I think it'd be better.

*Not actually, since I love Bond movies where he travels to multiple distinctive locales, but as it stands this movie has India and a circus so it's only sort of hitting that note as it is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:43 AM on August 20, 2015

doctornecessiter, there are three images from this film that stick with me. One is your Steven Berkoff image. One is that awesome fight on the outside of the plane. The last is the blank clownface of 009 with the egg rolling from his dead fingertips.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:58 AM on August 20, 2015

Yeah, as the ShrunkenCinema review notes, this really is two movies stitched together - which actually sort of makes sense as the Fleming source material is actually two different short stories that have nothing to do with each other. And which is the good one is a pretty polarizing decision.

I stand by my position that the India part sucks, but accept that my reaction may be slanted by my dislike of the Roger Moore films as a whole for their eager embrace of winking, goofball nonsense. (I swear to God, at their worst, the Moore films are like Wayans brothers movies, full of lowball jokes and lazy, instantly dated pop culture references. It's like if Craig comes up out of the sea in his swim trunks in Casino Royale and he's got a "Hakuna Matata" tattoo or something.)

The India part is chock full of that crap, while the European parts are much grittier (the gorilla suit notwithstanding) and so would naturally be more appealing to me.
posted by Naberius at 10:31 AM on August 20, 2015

The dog trainer referenced in the tiger scene is Barbara Woodhouse
posted by wabbittwax at 11:03 AM on August 20, 2015

I never knew that that "SIT-uh!" line delivery by Moore was a reference to someone specific...Always just figured it was more Moore being Moore.

I want to say "That's great!" but I don't want to be misunderstood. It's just great that I know that now.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:41 AM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anyone else remember that weird British dog trainer woman with "walkies!" and "sit-tuh"?

Barbara Woodhouse
posted by nubs at 12:46 PM on August 20, 2015

Yep, there you go. Barbara Woodhouse. She came out of nowhere and suddenly she was this huge celebrity. The wiki article calls her a household name in the UK, but she was quite well known in the U.S. as well. For a while anyway.

I suppose we should be grateful they never had Brosnan ask someone, "where's the beef?" (I'm thinking Jonathan Pryce in TND.)

"I want to say "That's great!" but I don't want to be misunderstood. It's just great that I know that now."

Very deftly put.
posted by Naberius at 1:11 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's interesting how hard this drags in parts considering that in the abstract, most of the sequences sound fun. A chase through the crowded street of Delhi! Being hunted by men on elephants! Jumping around on speeding trains! Uh, that yo-yo buzzsaw thing! A nuclear bomb at the circus! But in practice, 2/3 of the way through my interest had flagged. I think there was both too much and not enough plot. Too much to have it be a simple and obvious story and not enough to actually explain what the hell was going on. They definitely should have picked one half or the other and just made that movie instead of smashing together two 2/3 of a movies haphazardly, which it what it sounds like they did.
posted by Copronymus at 11:11 AM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The India part also gives Vijay Amritraj as Bond's contract/guide, then a very famous tennis player, which might explain why he is not the most naturalistic actor you will see, but he had more excuse than Moore.
posted by biffa at 12:01 AM on August 22, 2015

What I wouldn't give to be able to go back in time and see the original pitch meeting.

"It's called Octopussy."
"Get the fuck out."
"No, wait, hear me out..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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