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BlogalongaBond: Octopussy
With the success of For Your Eyes Only, James Bond entered the 1980s successfully. That success however was soon threatened when Thunderball producer (and rights holder) Kevin McClory having not only gotten his own rival Bond film project, Never Say Never Again, off the ground but convinced Sean Connery to return as Bond as well. 1983 was soon dubbed "the battle of the Bonds" as Roger Moore and Connery's films were released just months apart. Coming out first was Moore's, the official Bond film Octopussy. So how did Octopussy stand up in the battle of the Bonds? Is it the "All Time High" that the title song alludes to? Let's start by looking at Roger Moore, shall we?

Having proved in For Your Eyes Only that he was more than capable of handling a more serious Bond, one might have expected Octopussy to have followed the same course. Unfortunately that was not to be the case. The Bond of this film is a direct continuation of the one seen in Moonraker: throwing out many not particularly good one liners left, right and center while being questionable with it comes to being realistic in the action department. Moore's age also began to show in this film as well, emphasized both in close ups and the almost laughable coupling of a fifty something Moore with a much younger Kristina Wayborn as Magda at one point. While Moore's best moments in the film are in its few serious moments during its forty-five minutes to an hour, his performance overall tries too hard to emphasis the not very well written humor with both the performance and the film suffering as a result.

Working out somewhat better is Octopussy played by Maud Adams. Hearkening back to Dr No two decades earlier, she is a title character who only arrives in the film a good deal of the way into it. Having been one of the better things about The Man With The Golden Gun, Adams proves to be much the same here. She shares some excellent chemistry with Moore and manages to give some depth to an admittedly two dimensional character on the page. All told, she might well be the best character in the entire film.

Rounding out the main cast are its villains: mainly Louis Jourdan as Prince Kamal Khan and Steven Berkoff as Soviet General Orlov. Khan is the one who gets the majority of the screen time while Orlov is the one who is really behind the plot. Neither of whom are exactly the best Bond villains by any means though. Jourdan tries really hard to pull off the elegant but sinister villain but with no success. Berkoff on the other goes for the over the top and as a result is more laughable then menacing. The most menacing of the villains is in fact the henchman, Gobinda played by Kabir Bedi, who is little more than an Indian take on the Oddjob character (though as least Gobinda speaks). The villain's therefore are just a bit of a disappointment as a result.

The supporting cast is rather mixed. Kristina Wayborn as Magda is good but her lack of chemistry with Moore (and a distinct age gap hurts her performance while Vijay Amritraj gives a good performance for what is effectively a cameo turned into a supporting character. There's a new M in the form of Robert Brown but there's no sense of occasion given to his arrival and Brown pales in comparison to Bernard Lee. There's also the matter of Moneypenny's would be replacement who is given a good introduction, but is destined never to be seen again. The results are mixed to say the least.

In fact, the word mixed describes the film as a whole. Octopussy is a film that can't decide what it wants to be. Plot wise, it feels like a semi-Cold War thriller in the style set by For Your Eyes Only. It also draws on Ian Fleming's short stories as well, something else keeping in line with For Your Eyes Only. Don't let that fool you, though. Because Octopussy has that campiness that can only be found in the Moore era and that is the film's greatest fault. There are all sorts of bad puns going on throughout from the teaser sequence (which ironically ends on one of the better one liners in the film) to the over the top Tuk-Tuk chase which is followed by a fight in a market that feels lifted from Indiana Jones to every last one liner that Moore spits out in the two hours and ten minutes or so it takes for the film to run. I suspect that Octopussy is a love it or hate it kind of Bond film: if you're a Moore fan, you'll love it while those you aren't will probably loathe it.

Where does Octopussy stand both as a Bond film and against Never Say Never Again in the "battle of the Bonds"? With its mixed cast across the board, the film certainly can't be called one of the better cast Bond films. In all other regards, it is mixed as well as it can't figure out what its tone should be: the semi-Cold War thriller or follow in the tradition of campier Bond films. Against Never Say Never Again, Octopussy is definitely the loser and it seems weird that the rival Bond film should feel more like a proper Bond film even though it lacks all the official trappings of one. Octopussy's legacy is a mixed one then and not an "All Time High" by any means.