Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Octopussy’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (officially, anyway). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on November 25th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: Octopussy (1983)!
By the mid-1980s, Roger Moore had cemented his place as James Bond. Granted, the actor delivered a more laid back and humorous portrayal of the legendary character. But hey, I think that’s what makes Moore so charming in the role even if he spent the majority of his time as Bond in flicks that rode the coattails of other popular genres of the day.
After finally doing a more traditional Bond adventure in For Your Eyes Only (1981), Moore nearly made that entry his swan song as the world’s greatest spy. So much so that James Brolin (Life in Pieces) almost took over as Bond. Had this transition come to fruition, Brolin would have been the first American actor to play the part in a feature film (actor Barry Nelson played an American Bond in a 1954 episode of the anthology series Climax!). However, Moore ultimatley chose to renew his license to kill right before it was to be revoked. Whereas the closest Brolin ever came to 00 status was his bit part as Agent Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985).
With Moore firmly back in place, the director and writers of the previous installment reconvened to set the 13th James Bond picture, Octopussy (1983), in motion. Like its immediate predecessor, the movie in review was based on one of Ian Fleming’s short stories concerning Bond — the much more tamely titled, “The Property of a Lady” (1967). Therefore, who could blame the filmmakers for giving the film adaptation a much more titillating title? Albeit, such a moniker inevitably raised the eyebrows of some; a quality of which I’m confident that producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was well-aware. In all actuality, though, the title comes from the nickname of its female protagonist. To date, Octopussy is the only entry in the franchise to hold such a distinction.
The film finds James Bond 007 (Moore) sent to investigate the death of fellow special MI-6 agent 009 (Andy Bradford). Soon enough, Bond finds that his colleague’s demise is connected to a Fabergé egg. This bejeweled clutch then leads our hero to a jewel smuggling ring controlled by a powerful lady known as Octopussy (Maud Adams). As is his way, Bond insinuates himself into the criminal underground; becoming acquainted with the matriarch’s right-hand man, Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), and getting very close to the titular character herself. In doing so, Bond uncovers a more dastardly plan to attack NATO!
If that plot synopsis sounds silly, it’s because well, it is ludicrous! The story is essentially a series of convenient twists and turns, each one seemingly more ridiculous than the last. As you’d imagine, the aforementioned goofy aspects of the plot inject reasonable levity into the proceedings. Alas, levity is not what I was looking for following For Your Eyes Only. After all, in that installment, Moore was finally able to strut his stuff in a more traditional 007 picture. Then again, this previous entry also lagged in its second-half, a problem shared by Octopussy. But, for all its issues, I do have some positive things to say about the film in review.
Bringing back many key players of the For Your Eyes Only crew was a logical decision. Director John Glen once again crafts a very well-made film. The technical craftsmanship in Octopussy is beautiful to view. In particular, the respective skill sets of cinematographer Alan Hume, production designer Peter Lamont, and art director John Frenner. These artisans bring their A-game to their film crafts. The technical movie-making at work is almost enough to distract from the story issues.
As with its crew, this movie’s cast is also top-notch. Moore once again brings every ounce of his infinite charm to his most famous part. Our leading man is also clearly enjoying bringing an amount of mirth back to his performance. As for Bond’s antagonists, Jourdan delivers a reliable performance as Kamal Khan. The actor brings equal amounts of charisma and threat to his role.
But, the real star of the show is the titular Octopussy herself, Maud Adams. The actress commands the screen with her authority and sensuality. As such, I find her to be one of the best Bond girls in the franchise. Part of my opinion on this matter comes from the fact that the chemistry between Adams and Moore to be immensely believable. With all her agency, though, I do wish she’d been given a little more to do.
Overall, Octopussy has about as many positives as it does negatives. Therefore, this is a very flawed but entertaining flick. The absurdity of this plot and the comic tonal shifts within it hurt this film more than anything else. Me occasionally rolling my eyes did not make this viewing easier; I’ll say that. Ultimately, Octopussy is a Franchise Implosion, if just by a hair. For me, it is a step back from what was achieved by its immediate predecessor.
Octopussy is Available on Home Video
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with A View to a Kill (1985)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on November 25th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love:
You Only Live Twice:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Diamonds Are Forever:
Live and Let Die:
The Man with The Golden Gun:
The Spy Who Loved Me:
For Your Eyes Only: