Review: 'Octopussy' (1983) Dir. John Glen
Updated: Aug 20
A decade as James Bond shows Roger Moore still aims and scores high for family-friendly action and adventure fusing politics with the escapism of global world domination...
When MI6 agent 009 is found dead in East Berlin holding a fake Faberge Egg, James Bond (Moore) is sent to investigate after the real Faberge Egg turns up at a London auction house. Bond discovers the bidder of the egg is exiled Afghan Prince, Kamal Khan (Jordon).
Following Khan to India, Bond meets fellow agent Vijay (Vijay Amritraj). When Bond is seduced by the enigmatic Magda (Wayborn) and held prisoner at Khan’s palace, he learns that Soviet General Orlov (Berkoff) is working with Khan, plotting to expand Soviet power in Europe.
Coming across the mysterious smuggler Octopussy (Adams), Bond follows her to East Berlin where the Octopussy Circus Troupe will perform at an American Air Base. Bond discovers that Orlov and Khan have a far more deadly plan; to detonate a nuclear warhead and force the disarmament of NATO, leaving the West open for Soviet invasion...
This follows the template of most of the Moore films by being safe, but in that you know just what to expect. It’s a very simple story, this time of jewel smuggling and Soviet tyranny, and doesn’t do much to break the mould of what has previously gone before and doesn’t offer anything new. But, for a Bond actor like Roger Moore to be one of the most loved, this serves as one of his best 007 outings and one of the films you can watch that acts like a comfy pair of slippers.
Facing off against two excellent villains played by the late great Louis Jordan and the wonderful Steven Berkoff, the threat faced here is more real than ever and grounds the film as one of the most serious Moore outings. Dealing with the threat of Soviet invasion through the West when a nuclear warhead is primed to be detonated at a US Airforce Base in East Germany, it’s a very topical and cultural plot with great danger and a fine line of political power play.
Teased with a smuggling operation first of all, this all blends together perfectly as the two villains come together and their motive is revealed.
Of course being a Moore Bond, this film sure dishes out the groan-inducing comedy – such as the Tarzan yell swinging through a jungle, a smattering of one-liners and jokey references to real tennis pro Vijay Amritraj during a deadly Tuk-Tuk chase. However this is done lovingly and it’s just what we’ve come to expect from Moore and the EON time during this run. It’s family friendly action and adventures, which is honourable enough for all generations to enjoy 007 before time and culture started to make it a far more grittier, darker affair. At least we don’t have a double taking pigeon.
On the other hand of the comedy, we have the brilliant stunt-work on show and a fantastic production team showing us exotic locations from India, London and Germany all paired with exciting action; from a crazy Tuk-Tuk chase in a crowded street, to a nail-biting chase on, under and over a moving steam train, EON throw caution to the wind to show that they still deliver on the action stakes as well as the humour.
Nothing is compensated here; it’s thrilling and exciting, and features a stand-out moment for Moore as he tries to disarm a nuclear warhead whilst dressed as a clown as the seconds count down – a brilliantly shot and very tense moment.
With a rousing score by John Barry, a great supporting cast (including the return of the brilliant Maud Adams who works perfectly with her established Bond partnership to Moore) and a really enjoyable story with a perfect balance for Moore to have fun with, this actually gets the formula right, and is highly entertaining because of it.
With a near perfect balance of action, humour, espionage and charm, this certainly is an all-time high for 007.
'Octopussy' is an EON Productions production