Roger Moore’s sixth outing as James Bond, 007, licence to kill, in Octopussy is this week’s Bond film. 55 at the time of filming, producers decided to stick with Moore when they learned of a rival production company luring Sean Connery back to the secret agent life with the remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again.
Octopussy, following on the tail of the more serious, and arguably Moore’s best turn in, For Your Eyes Only is a little off-balance, sliding between big budget set pieces and silly comedy, including a little meta moment when Bond recognises his own theme music.
Bearing little resemblance to Ian Fleming’s short story of the same name the plot sees Bond infiltrating an international circus, led by Maud Adams’ Octopussy, which is being used by Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan) and a Russian general, Orlov (Steven Berkoff) as a way to funnel a nuclear bomb onto a NATO base in Europe.
With a story like that you know it’s going to be a fine line between action beats and the comedic tones which have started to overshadow some of Moore’s Bonds.
The chase following the titles sequence (with a song performed by Rita Coolidge) is a greta example. It’s slightly comedic, as it’s a clown being chased by a (pair of) knife wielding maniac(s), but it plays to the tension of the scene instead. Other moments in the film aren’t quite so fortunate, the chase in India that has extras reacting like they are at a tennis match for example, and a Tarzan yodel during what could have been a really tense sequence.
And in his late 50s by this point, Moore wasn’t necessarily the best choice to carry on playing Bond. Everyone seemed to agree and the hunt began for a new 007, though Moore would return in the next film, A View To A Kill.
In fact watching some of Bond’s adolescent antics, as Q (Desmond Llewelyn) refers to them, knowing how much older he is than some of the female characters he is interacting with is a little uncomfortable now. I didn’t realise it at the time, but watching it now… well.
John Barry returns to the scoring department, and those his brassy sounds are still prevalent, he has begun incorporating more strings into his compositions.
And while the film is good fun, it doesn’t quite stand all the tests of time, and some of the humour feels out of place, and what could have been a really well-crafted thriller misses the mark on occasion.
Which is odd, because Bond will tell you himself, he never misses.
James Bond will return in A View To A Kill.