Cyberlizard goes to the movies

James Bond: Octopussy (1983)

Starring Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Steven Berkoff

This was the sixth Bond movie that Roger Moore played in, and showed a slight lessening of the far-fetched element after the peak reached in Moonraker (in which Hugo Drax tried to wipe out the earth's population). Moore at this point still looked young enough, or at least the right side of middle age, to play 007, and had had considerable experience by now in the role.

The plot

The story brings together two international villains, one a renegade Soviet general determined to conquer the West and the other a shady Afghan/Indian prince with a private army and interest in smuggling and counterfeiture. Basically, the story involves using the one to pay for the means of the other, as well as having a convenient front for hiding and ultimately detonating an atomic device. After agent 009 has been killed in a suspicious circus, Bond is assigned the case. There are enough twists in the story without the pretensions to saving the entire human race that had marked some earlier efforts.

The film

One critic reckoned this was the best Roger Moore outing as 007, and I feel inclined to agree, although "Live and Let Die" was dramatic (but rather violent). Moore acts pretty well and plays it mainly straight without too many double entendres or raised eyebrows, hallmarks that somewhat hampered his later efforts. Maud Adams, killed off as a different character in "Man With The Golden Gun", is brought back to play Octopussy, the female "businesswoman" of the title who has her own private coterie of girl followers (a male sexual fantasy for some, perhaps?) and brings a maturity to the role that has often been missing from Bond girls - this really is a Bond woman, perhaps more of a nod to feminism or sexual equality, although she still yields to Bond after a very brief argument (one of the more unconvincing parts of the script). Outstanding are the two villains, Steven Berkoff as General Orlov and Louis Jordan as Prince Kamal Khan. Berkoff is a shaven-head, rabid megalomaniac trying to force plans of world conquest onto an unconvinced Soviet Politburo (the bit I really liked at the beginning of the film, where the Politburo included a Leonid Brezhnev lookalike as their leader - "the way of socialism is world peace!" - and the office looked like something out of a camp Sixties spy flick). Jordan is a contrast, a saturnine but ruthless warlord with absolute courtesy and manners even as he betrays, assassinates and kills. Both are excellent actors. Kamal Khan also gets his "Oddjob" equivalent, Gobinda (Indian actor Kabir Bedi), a turbaned and dedicated heavy and enforcer who can crush dice in the palm of his hand. With perhaps a nod to Indian audiences, Bond is aided by local agent Vijay, played by the Indian tennis star Vijay Amritaj, although I have not seen him in anything since that has had a comparable circulation outside his own country. The usual regulars are also there: M, Q and Miss Moneypenny, plus Walter Gotell as the Soviet General Gogol.

The excitement factor is also reasonably high without being either overly violent. Apart from the usual fistfights and exotic weaponry, we see Bond hunted by men on elephant and also in danger from a tiger and a potentially dangerous snake (but no animals are harmed!), the old cliché of the atomic bomb ticking away giving the hero seconds, and a brilliantly enacted fight on the top of an aeroplane in flight. Having seen how this was actually done my admiration can only go out to the two stuntmen who did it, even if they were wearing parachutes. The locations are also exotic, switching between South America, London, India and Germany. This time, however, there are no space stations, hidden underground bases or cryptic terrorist organisations. It may not be the most dynamic Bond film, but it is one of the best balanced.

For a concise and interesting analysis of all the Bond films, go to Matthew Newton's The Bond Informer.

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