Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Favorite Era: Octopussy (1983)

The 13th 007 epic is one of my favorites, even with the flaws it admittedly has.   If Thunderball was the ultimate expression of Bond in the 60's in general and Connery's in particular, Octopussy is that for the 80's (The Spy who Loved Me is this for the seventies and both are good examples of what Moore could do when everything clicked).

A big, gaudy, over the top epic, it finds Bond going after jewelry smuggler Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) and his Russian partner General Orlov (Steven Berkoff) who plans to detonate a nuclear bomb on an American military base in Germany in order to take advantage of the ensuing unilateral disarmament that would surely follow and expand the Soviet Union across Europe.  It's a goofy, utterly mad plot and it fits right in with the overall tone of the film.  Deadly serious to an extent, but also goofy as hell in the most cheerfully enthusiastic manner possible.  Let's take a closer look.
  •  Outside of the one for The Spy who Loved Me, the pre-credit scene for this movie might be my favorite of the entire Roger Moore run.  Some nice laughs and an amazing set piece with a small airplane make for a great way to begin the festivities.
  • The main title theme "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge is pretty good though it is rather odd to have an easy listening number as the title theme for a summer action movie.
  • The thing I really love about this entry is how seamlessly it combines the humorous elements with the serious spy thriller stuff.  the first third or so is fairly straight down the middle stuff along the lines of For Your Eyes Only with Bond looking into the death of 009 who we see being stalked and killed by twin knife throwers.  The stuff with Bond at the jewelry auction that follows this is just pure fun as Bond smokes out Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) as the main baddie.  Once Bond gets to India, it's a nice blend of over the top thrills and some more or less serious intrigue.
  • Good thing too as the plot is rather thin to begin with.  The jewelery smuggling aspect sort of goes by the wayside in favor of Orlov's nuclear bomb plan and while it does tie together, the string used to tie it is a bit on the frayed side.  This is a movie that gets by on charm, which fortunately it has in spades.
  • Roger Moore is solid as usual as Bond, though to be fair his stunt team deserves just as much credit.  Especially good is the backgammon sequence where Bond takes Khan for a ton of cash plus a rare antique Faberge Egg.  Moore was always at his best when being an eternal wise ass.  The movie would have been a great swan song for him.  Hell, the last shot is more or less Bond riding off into the sunset!  Granted, I do find some enjoyment in the last film he made but still.
  • Robert Brown is pretty solid as the new M, taking over for the late Bernard Lee.  He brings a sterner tone to the character.
  • Steven Berkoff's first scene is maybe the most over the top thing in the entire series.  Stalking, shouting randomly, broad gestures, it's a wonder he didn't strain something while doing this.  Making it even better is the room full of Russian military honchos rolling their eyes at him.  It's quite overdone and entertaining as hell.
  • Louis Jourdan is his usual suave self as Kamal, he just oozes menace in every single scene.  He makes a nice contrast with Berkoff's overplaying.  I get a chuckle from the fact between 1982 and 1985, Jourdan and Berkoff played villains in at least one American movie.  Jourdan appears here and in 1982's Swamp Thing and Berkoff did this before Beverly Hills Cop in 1984 band the second Rambo movie in 1985.
  • The action is typically great with the aforementioned plane sequence at the beginning, a chase through the streets of India and a real white knuckle sequence as Bond pursues Khan at the end.  In that scene, the film manages to one-up the opening by having another plane stunt sequence, only this time Bond is hanging on for dear life onto the outside of the plane!  It's quite impressive.  The action stuff on the train is also top notch.
  • Just a bout the only action beat that doesn't quite do it for me is a car chase after the train action.  I've never really dug having civilians along for the ride in a Bond film but on the bright side, it's nowhere near as annoying as it was in Moore's first two outings.
  • Maud Adams makes her second appearance in a Bond film. this time as the title character who is a jewel smuggler in league (for the most part) with Khan.  Her character is enhanced a bit with stuff from the short story Ian Fleming wrote with the film's title.  The auction stuff is also taken from Fleming.  Adams is good in the part and so is Kabir Bedi as Khan's henchman.
  •  The thing the film does really well (though it also doubles as a minor flaw) is to let the viewer settle down into the film and let it wash over them.,  I find that this is what really draws me to a Bond film: The plot is allowed to take its sweet time while Bond is just Bond.  It works here and in stuff like Goldeneye and Skyfall.  This can also be a flaw as it does have the unfortunate effect of not letting the real tension kick in until ninety minutes in.  You know, like A View to a Kill.
  • Another minor flaw or two pop up with the villains.  Orlov is fine but is given relatively little to do and in the case of Khan, he doesn't really have much of a stake in the plot.
Octopussy manages to overcome a rather shaky, though witty script simply by being entertaining as all hell.  Good performances, action, music from John Barry and direction from John Glen help make what could have been a rather middling entry one of the better ones.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.