The Summer of '83: Octopussy -

The Summer of '83

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  • Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi and Steven Berkoff
  • Written by: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson
  • Directed by: John Glen
  • Studio: United Artists
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 131 minutes
  • Series:

The Summer of '83: Octopussy

"Spend the money quickly, Mr. Bond..."

By Rob Vaux     June 10, 2013

 Bond fans tend to look askance at Roger Moore’s reign in the role – still the longest with seven films – which always struck me as a little cold-hearted. Yes, Connery remains the definitive Bond, and we’ve thrilled to Daniel Craig’s hard-as-nails reboot of the character. But on some level, we need the occasional reminder that these movies are supposed to be fun. Enter Moore, who represented the character throughout the go-go 70s and upbeat 80s, and found the perfect tone for Bond’s campier excesses in the process. “Dude, lighten up, I’m a superspy! Jet packs for everyone!” You couldn’t do it now, nor would you want to, but for that time and that place, he was who we needed Bond to be.

That was never truer than with Octopussy, Moore’s second-to-last adventure that inexplicably ranks among the more reviled. It goes uproariously over-the-top at times, starting with the ridiculous title and running the gamut from an island of all-female jewel smugglers to a razor-sharp death yo-yo carried by one of the bad guys. At age 55, Moore was too old for the part, though he has a game spirit and his slightly creaky man-on-the-make routine only adds to the film’s wonderful silliness.

And that silliness doesn’t detract from a marvelously inventive premise and a host of other sterling elements in its corner. Like what, you ask? We’ll start at the beginning, when a circus clown scales the Berlin Wall with a Faberge egg in his hand, pursued by assassins and ultimately expiring at the feet of the British ambassador. As a hook, it’s the most potent since the three blind men in Dr. No: penned by Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser and connected to a fiendish plot that actually has some grounding in a plausible reality.

To it, we’ll add Maud Adams, to date one of only three two-time Bond girls, and easily the most prominent of the bunch. As the titular smuggler queen, she proves every bit Bond’s equal: dictating the terms of their encounters, dispatching his false bravado and even calling in back-up when he gets in over his head. Her wild background (the only thing culled from Ian Fleming’s original short story) seems to match Bond’s perfectly, and we get the sense that the two could actually have a long-term relationship instead of a one-time fling. Assertive Bond girls are par for the course these days, but back in 1983, they were pretty hard to find. Maud’s take-charge adventuress really felt like a proper match instead of the shallow lip service we got in the likes of The Spy Who Loved Me.

More traditional Bond elements worked exceptionally well too, from the gorgeous Indian setting to Louis Jourdan’s lounge lizard villain Kamal Khan. He and Moore first throw down over the backgammon table in a scene lifted from Fleming’s novel Moonraker, which delivers both Bond’s best gambler’s risk and one of the franchise’s more marvelous bad guy retorts. The chase scene that follows is flat-out absurd – something you could say about more than a few in this film – but it can’t detract from a couple of truly amazing sequences that put more modern efforts to shame. The climax sets a man on top of an actual airborne Cessna, hundreds of feet in the air and looking for all the world like he’s about to get blown off. We simply don’t see this kind of daring anymore – today they’d all do it on the computer – and the verite provides some grit that aptly balances out the more outlandish sequences.

And Moore himself actually lends the character a harsher edge than we might expect. Sure, the Simon Templar playboy routine doesn’t change, but watch his coldness as he dispatches the killer of another MI6 agent, or his genuine fear at being unable to stop a nuclear bomb. We rarely saw such concerns in Moore, but they make for a bracing tonic form his usual nonchalance… and more importantly, still feel completely at home with the romp that constitutes the rest of the film.

We’re tough on romps in this nihilistic age, especially those featuring a star past his expiration date and a franchise that has supposedly moved on to better things. But like Adam West’s Batman, Octopussy isn’t any less legitimate simply because it no longer fits with the times. It explores a side of the character that may never return, and does so in a way that balances our current down-and-dirty Bond with the arch free-for-alls that preceded it. For Your Eyes Only pulled off a similar trick, but with less daring than this one, and while Moore clearly went a film too far with A View to a Kill, this one makes an apt curtain call for his uniquely ebullient tenure in the character. Bring on the death yo-yos! The party just wouldn’t be the same without them. 


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Dazzler 6/10/2013 3:47:12 AM

Roger Moore is way better than Daniel Craig as bond. 

"What's that?"

"Oh that's my little Octopussy."

samurai1138 6/10/2013 5:34:47 AM

 Moore is the best Bond ever. I can understand the need to say Connery, but no one played suave, charming secret agent like Moore. Not his fault they kept him in the role after his prime. Like most action heroes today, Craig is way too serious. Moore makes you wish you were a secret agent, Craig makes me glad I'm not. 

creekwoodkid 6/10/2013 5:35:54 AM

Roger Moore has always been my favorite Bond. He has also expressed the most appreciation for the opportunity to play the character.

Davewriter 6/10/2013 7:39:20 AM

Bond was usually a great date movie.  A suave hero... half naked girls... lots of sexual innuendo... and daring do - all setting the mood for what you wanted next.  But trying to get a girl to go out with you once you tell her the name of the movie is Octopussy... you were lucky if all you got was a slap in the face.  I know the title came from a short story... and that story was first - and most famously printed - in Playboy, but really!  Couldn't they have comeup with something better?

If not only to help with my love life?

Shmoooooo 6/10/2013 8:46:44 AM

Moore is the worst Bond ever ... hands down .. I preferred Lazenby to him

Nexus6BT 6/10/2013 10:35:24 AM

 As silly as his movies could get, I agree that Roger Moore was the right Bond for the 70s and early 80s.

I took a few months last year and rewatched the whole series in order. The Spy Who Loved Me is still one of my favorites, and even A View To A Kill isn't quite as bad as I remember. And Diamonds Are Forever is worse than anything Moore ever did.


Higgy 6/10/2013 11:12:03 AM

Yup, Moore was one of my favorite Bond's, then Connery, then Brosnan.  Craig was my least favorite.  He seemed more like a mindless thug then Bond.

Wyldstaar 6/10/2013 8:28:14 PM

When I was a kid, Moore was my absolute favorite Bond.  These days I prefer Connery, and can barely stand watching any of Moore's films.  Live and Let Die is the only one that I still enjoy.

lracors 6/12/2013 4:22:34 PM

I watched this with my kids as a Bad Movie night.  They were exasperated that this was the James Bond I grew up with.  We laughed so much we were crying from the opening Bond action scene (JUDO CHOP).

domino2008 6/12/2013 6:44:06 PM

That year Never Say Never surly beat out Octopussy . Bond as a clown really suxed an his waistline was 44 ,. Other than the opening credits with the plane , this whole really almost put the the final nail in this series.

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