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MGM Studios DVD presents
Magda:"Mmm, I need refilling."
DVD ReviewPrior to this review, I had seen all the Bond films but Diamonds Are Forever and this one. And so, like every young man, I have been waiting for quite some time to get my first look at Octopussy (OK, crude joke #1 out of the way). I had heard that this is one of Moore's best films, so I was looking forward to finally checking it off of my list. Unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations, but it is still a decent enough movie overall, and I enjoy all the Bonds to some extent anyway—even Moonraker.
This time around, Bond (Roger Moore) is on the trail of a jewel counterfeiter after a 00-agent turns up dead, holding a fake Fabergé egg. He follows the trail to India, where he meets exiled Indian Prince Kamal (Louis Jordan), who oversees the counterfeiting (I think) and the mysterious Octopussy (Maud Adams), a smuggler and circus owner (I think). Somehow or other, the fake jewels tie into a plot by a fanatical Russian to start World War III (I think). Basically what I got out of this plot was that there are good guys and bad guys and Bond has to beat the bad guys. This is by far the most confusing and convoluted plot in the Bond canon, but the plot is secondary to the Bond formula anyway.
By the 13th film, I imagine it was a bit difficult for the Bond team to think up inventive new action sequences, but there are some pretty decent ones here. The highlights are the race through the streets of India in the personal transports and Bond's escape over (and under) the moving circus train. I think the race would've played a bit better without the corny humor (a camel's reaction shots, for example), but it is a cool sequence overall, and it uses the location very well. The stunt men and the special effects make the train escape thrilling . Whoever they got to climb along that train was absolutely crazy! Hanging off the side with trees whizzing by and such - must've had a death wish. Technical tricks were used to integrate Moore into the scene, and they are just about seamless. There is also a scene where Bond is hunted (a la The Most Dangerous Game), and a scene where circus performers attack Kamal's fortress. Trust me, it works better than it should. Nothing is here that stands out as a defining moment in the series (like the ski jump in The Spy Who Loved Me), but it is all pretty good nonetheless.
John Glen, former second unit director, directed all of the 1980's Bond films, and they are the better for it. With his experience directing action sequences, Glen is able to keep the movies moving along at a brisk pace without sacrificing the usual intrigue and banter. Octopussy is no exception. Despite the confusing plot, Glen moves smoothly from one action sequence to another, and after a while, I stopped trying to piece together the story and just enjoyed the ride.
Performances are the usual for a Bond film, which means several of them are bad. Moore is good as always, although I may be a bit biased since his Bond is my favorite. I think he gives the most subtle, tongue-in-cheek performances, and for some reason he really cracks me up. Maud Adams is decent as the Bond Girl but, despite her character's name in the title, she is basically a backup player and doesn't do a lot. Louis Jordan provides a slick villain in Kamal—he seems very classy, almost Bond's equal when it comes to, as my roommate would say, "mackin' on the ladies." Steven Berkoff waaay overplays his part as Orlov, the fanatical Russian Dictator. His readings were so over-the-top that I ended up chuckling through all of his scenes. In grand "runner-up Bond-Girl" tradition, Kristina Wayborn gives a performance so plastic you'd think she was a life-size Barbie doll. Still, bad acting is a Bond tradition, and if they ever make a Bond film where no one sucks, it will be too soon.
Octopussy seems to be one of the well-liked Moore films, and I suppose I can see why. The humor doesn't go as over-the-top as it did in The Man With the Golden Gun or Live and Let Die, and the gadgets take the same low-key position they did in For Your Eyes Only. The villain is slick and the Bond Girl is sassy (and still a dish, even now—check out the documentary). I just wish the script made some frickin' sense!
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: The transfer on this film is of about the same quality as the rest of the discs in the 007 Collection. It certainly looks better than some of the older ones (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Dr. No), but it is far from perfect. Black level is generally good, especially in the outdoor scenes, but then once in a while (the scene in the bar where the assassins are recruited, for example) an indoor scene will pop up that looks very soft and muddy instead of truly black. Colors are the same way—for the most part they look good, but they are muted in several scenes. Some bright colored backgrounds look especially soft and fuzzy. The print quality is generally good—it starts off a bit poorly, with several scratches and pops, but it cleans up quickly and looks generally good. Overall, this transfer has some problems but is very watchable.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: For some reason, this is the only post-1980 Bond that was not given a 5.1 remix. The exclusion is a bit disappointing, but I can live with it. That being said, the DD 2.0 track has its problems as well, although it is not a total washout. Dialogue is generally clear, but sometimes the sound effects and explosions seem to be mixed a bit high and they drown it out. The explosions themselves sound a bit flat and tinny. There is little surround action, and when it does show up it is a bit weak—there doesn't seem to be much separation between the channels. Listenable, but certainly not impressive.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English captions, French and Spanish Subtitles with remote access
4 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director John Glen
Layers Switch: 01h:06m:00s
First up is the commentary track, and it is a rare exception for the Bond commentaries because it is screen specific. Director John Glen talks conversationally and shares many different stories and anecdotes about the making of the film. It is amazing that he is able to remember so much after nearly 20 years, especially considering that he filmed four Bonds in quick succession. There are only slight gaps in the track, and it is a very interesting listen—one of the better ones in the collection.
Next up are the documentaries. Following the Inside... form that has become the norm on the Bond discs, there is Inside Octopussy, narrated by Patrick MacNee. Well, I've enjoyed this series of documentaries throughout the collection, and anyway, you don't have to tell me twice to go inside Octopussy(ahem), so needless to say I enjoyed this piece. It runs 35 minutes, and covers everything from casting, to special-effects, to life-threatening accidents on the set- even the film's rather risque title. During the credits, there are some gags and filming mistakes that were quite amusing, and I wish they'd included them on all the discs. Also here is another "mini-documentary" that covers a specific aspect of the series as a whole. This time it is Designing Bond—Peter Lamont. Lamont worked on nearly every film from Goldfinger to The World Is Not Enough, and the piece highlights his many contributions to the series. This is a perfect companion to the Ken Adam documentary on the The Spy Who Loved Me DVD.
Finally, there are the usual extras to round out the disc. Three teasers and a theatrical trailer are included, although the teasers are nearly identical to one another. In place of the still gallery that is usually included with the Bond films is a storyboard comparison of two scenes in the film, both running about five minutes each. It is amazing to see just how intricate the storyboarding process is. Finally, there is a very poor quality music video for the title track. If you ever feel nostalgic for '80s fashions, just pop this disc in and check out the copious amounts of cheese present. Rite Coolidge stands next to the wall, lip-synching and trying to look mysterious. Fun!
I do miss the still galleries—I liked being able to see the original theatrical art and merchandise from the film. Otherwise, this is another decent disc that fits in well with the collection.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThis was Moore's 6th Bond, and he was clearly getting a bit old for the part. Still, the film is one of his better ones, providing a lot of humor without going too far and corrupting the story (except for that dang Tarzan yell). Ranking Bonds is arbitrary, since I tend to like whichever one I happen to be watching (and everyone has different favorites anyway). But I'm supposed to do this evaluation stuff, so I'd say I rank it fourth in the Moore films, right behind The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, and The Man With the Golden Gun. Now, let's see if I can end this without another crude joke - nope! Enter Octopussy, you'll be glad you did!
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