James Bond (Agent 007) must investigate the murder of a fellow agent who was clutching a priceless Fabergé egg at the time of his death. The trail leads to the mysterious Octopussy, whose traveling circus features a company of gorgeous, athletic women. Bond and Octopussy share a passionate attraction, but soon 007 discovers that the elegant Kamal Khan is working with a mad Russian officer to hurl mankind into World War III. As Bond tries to stop the nightmarish scheme, his exploits include a tense chase through the streets of India, a deadly brawl on top of a speeding train, and a treacherous mid-air knife fight on an airplane wing. (Synopsis from Hollywood.com)
Unlike the minimalist packaging of EMI soundtrack releases, Ryko put together an attractive booklet to accompany the Octopussy CD, featuring plenty of photos, reasonably informative liner notes, and a small foldout movie poster. In addition, the CD includes a few snippets of dialogue from the film and a few video extras, including the British movie trailer.
Octopussy is a mixed bag, to say the least, and upon my first viewing of the film in 1983, my immediate reaction was that it had just displaced Moonraker as the worst Bond flick of all time. After subsequent viewings, I eventually decided that the movie isn't as bad as all that, but without a doubt, there are low points aplenty, and the level to which they descend is abysmal indeed. From the asinine Tarzan yell as Bond swings on a vine; to his admonishing an attacking tiger to "SIT!"; to his disarming of a nuclear bomb while dressed as Bozo; to the farcical harem-cum-ninja raid on Kamal Khan's (Louis Jourdan) stronghold; to Bond's presumably hair-raising ride on the outside of Khan's airplane (which comes complete with fuselage handrails), where Khan orders his henchman Gorbinda (Kabir Bedi) to "go out and get him"; idiocy abounds. It's all the more disappointing considering the positive strides that director John Glen had taken with the mostly excellent For Your Eyes Only.
On the more appealing side, the film does offer some clever homages to the best of Bond. Rather than the traditional exchange of passwords as Bond meets his contact in India, a flute plays a few notes of the James Bond theme, which he appears to recognize. It's an amusing moment that reflects the more subtle humor for which the Bond films ought to be known. Kamal Khan himself proves to be a formidable enemy, played with style and obvious good humor by Louis Jourdan. His best line is after the destruction of what is supposed to be a fake Fabergé egg, but which is, in fact, the real thing. Seething with obviously restrained fury, Khan orders his minion to "Get Bond!" Short and sweet, but so convincing that for a moment we actually worry for our hero. Gorbinda, as a secondary villain, is wonderfully menacing, yet his presence is often undermined by the mediocrity of the script. The scene where he crushes Khan's (loaded) dice in his hand might have worked better if it hadn't been presented as a novelty. We've seen it all before, and done better. If Bond had quipped, "I saw a chap do that to a golf ball once," it might have at least been amusing.
The title song, "All Time High," sung by Rita Coolidge, is my least favorite Barry tune. That's not to say it's all that bad; it's not. But compared to his other romantic title themes, such as You Only Live Twice or Moonraker, its perfectly tepid. Rita Coolidge's range is limited in the first place, and her bland delivery (I suppose it was meant to be "sultry") hardly makes for a compelling introduction to the film; if the line "we're an all-time high" is supposed to build up our expectations, we're all the more let down by the foolish direction the film insists on taking.
The better part of the Barry score, however, is top-notch, with liberal usage of the Bond theme, such as in "Bond Look Alike" (the scoring for the pre-credits sequence) and "009 Gets the Knife and Gorbinda Attacks." The latter track is a superb piece with a rousing action theme, which is repeated numerous times during the film, including tracks 11 ("Yo-Yo Fight and Death of Vijay") and 13 ("The Palace Fight"). As in all his scores for Roger's Moore's films, Barry uses the orchestra for the traditional guitar verse in the Bond theme. It's well-done enough, reflecting Moore's "suave" approach to the role, in contrast to Connery's more rugged interpretation, but I certainly prefer the harder-edged sound of Vic Flick in action.
"That's My Little Octopussy"—a very silly title for a somehow not-so-silly line delivered by Magda (Kristina Wayborn, who is, incidentally, one of the hottest Bond girls ever to grace the screen)—consists of a typically lyrical rendition of the main theme, dominated by strings and woodwinds; its orchestration foreshadows the virtually identical arrangement of the soft instrumental version of A View to a Kill, Barry's penultimate Bond score. "Bond Meets Octopussy" extends the instrumental theme to a later moment in the film.
"Arrival at the Land of Octopussy" evokes a dark, foreboding atmosphere, oddly featuring a line of percussion lifted almost note for note from "Hip's Trip" in The Man With the Golden Gun. Suspense continues to build in "Bond at the Monsoon Palace," a soft track that successfully maintains tension as Bond surreptitiously explores Kamal Khan's fortress.
Action themes round out the soundtrack, with "The Yo-Yo Fight and Death of Vijay," "The Chase Bomb Theme;" and "The Palace Fight." The latter is deservedly the longest cut on the album, dominated by the movie's signature action theme and the Bond theme itself. The ending version of "All Time High" is exactly the same as the opening title.
Despite its serious flaws, Octopussy became the second largest grossing Bond film in America and insured another film for Moore as Bond—his last,
although by now not a few fans were saying "It's about time."
*Sound clips from the film on
the Ryko disc release.
All I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two.
We're an all time high.
I don't want to waste a waking moment; I don't want to sleep.
We're an all time high.
So hold on tight, let the flight begin.