DVD Insomniac

Placing 'Octopussy' on a Pedestal

Chris Nashawaty counts down 10 reasons why ''Octopussy'' is the most underappreciated film in the 007 canon

EMBRACING OCTOPUSSY See Reason No. 8
Image credit: Octopussy: Everett Collection
EMBRACING OCTOPUSSY See Reason No. 8

Why ''Octopussy'' rules

Last month, on the eve of Casino Royale's release, Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story ranking all 20 James Bond flicks. And while I think we generally hit the bullseye, there was one 007 film way down on the list that in my opinion should have been a lot higher.

Now, I know this stuff's totally subjective. And I'm not one to start interoffice donnybrooks for no reason. I understand that one man's Goldfinger (EW's dead-on choice for the top Bond movie, by the way) is another man's The World Is Not Enough (debatably bringing up the rear on EW's list). But how in the hell did Octopussy wind up all the way down at #18?! I mean, is it really more objectionable than The Living Daylights? Or Moonraker, where tinsel-toothed goon Jaws not only shows his soft chewy center, but actually falls in love...in outer space!?

I like Octopussy. A lot. No, it's not the best Bond flick. It probably isn't even in the top 5. But I will take the position that it's woefully underappreciated and too often unfairly dismissed. I know most people think it sucks ass. That's fine. But let me at least try to make my case. Here are my top 10 reasons why 1983's Octopussy is the most underrated Bond film of all time.

10. Because you'll always love the Bond you grew up with the best The Spy Who Loved Me was the first 007 movie I ever saw in the theater. So naturally, that was James Bond to me. Was Connery better? Maybe. But no one cocked an eyebrow like the leathery Roger Moore. In Octopussy, Moore's in bed with Kristina Wayborn's smokin' seductress Magda. They've just shagged and now they're just drinking champagne, basking in the afterglow. When she finishes her bubbly, she purrs to Moore, ''I need refilling.'' Moore cocks his eyebrow and replies ''Of course you do.'' Oh, James!

9. Because it doesn't star James Brolin After 1981's For Your Eyes Only, Moore decided he would hold out for more money from the tight-fisted Broccolis. So, as Octopussy was in pre-production, the producers screentested Brolin to play Bond. Was this just a negotiating tactic to make Moore wise up? Or was Brolin really going to be the next Bond? All I know is that if the Brits got their knickers in a twist over Daniel Craig, imagine how they'd feel about a Yank — and not a particularly talented one at that — playing 007! Think I'm being harsh? You might want to check out Brolin's hambone screen tests on the newest DVD edition of Octopussy.

8. Because of Maud Adams You can have your Eva Greens and Ursula Andresses. Adams — the thinking man's Bond Girl — is the gal for me. A smoky Swedish brunette who also starred in Rollerball, Adams was the only actress to play a babe in two Bond films (her first turn was as Scaramanga's lover in 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun). It's easy to see why they wanted her back. She and Moore have a real spark, unlike, say, the soggy-noodle chemistry he had with Grace Jones in A View to a Kill. Plus, Adams can really act. After all, it's probably not as easy as you think to play a smart, sultry international smuggler who leads a squad of hot female acrobat warriors in skintight red spandex catsuits.

7. The squad of hot female acrobat warriors in skintight red spandex catsuits

6. Because there's actually something at stake Next to John le Carré, no one has suffered more from the thawing of the Cold War than the Bond franchise. What good is world domination and the threat of nuclear destruction if there's no Russkies? Yes, I realize that the world has gotten a lot more complex since 9/11 now that any nutjob could have a dirty bomb. But dammit, I miss the Russkies! Doesn't all that recent polonium 210 espionage mumbo jumbo make you yearn for the good old days of Iron Curtain cloak and dagger? Octopussy, thank god, is lousy with Russkies.

5. Louis Jourdan I don't know this for a fact, but if there was a human basis for Pepe Le Pew, I'll bet it was Jourdan. If you have highbrow tastes, you probably remember him from Gigi or The Count of Monte Cristo. If you're like me, you know him as Dr. Anton Arcane from Swamp Thing. Here, Jourdan plays suave baddie Kamal Khan, a rogue playboy who cheats at backgammon, gets pissy when he's bossed around by Octopussy, makes bad puns about Fabergé eggs, and wears black silk Nehru jackets. In other words, he's awesome.

4. Because Bond's not the only guy with a license to kill I don't know how many other Bond movies do this, but I do like the fact that at the beginning of Octopussy we see the death of a man in a clown suit we later learn was agent 009. Granted, Bond would never allow himself to be snuffed out by a pair of identical twin Russian knife throwers. But still, I like it when the Bond universe is opened up a little instead of being this hermetic little bubble.

3. Because Desmond Llewellyn's gadget-man Q sounds exactly like C3PO when he gets all flustered and exasperated I know this isn't exclusive to Octopussy, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

2. Because for one brief, fleeting moment Moore kicked Coonery's ass If you're old enough to remember, the summer and fall of 1983 was an interesting — and confusing — time to be a Bond fan. In the summer, Octopussy opened and did well, as usual. And then, in the fall, Connery came out with his own unsanctioned, unofficial Bond film, Never Say Never Again. It had been 12 years since Connery had last squeezed off a round from his Walther PPK, and the time off didn't do him much good. Never Say Never Again got its butt double-o spanked at the box office by Moore's Octopussy.

1. Because somehow they got away with calling it Octopussy

Have I convinced you that Octopussy is criminally underrated? Or just cemented your distaste for it? What's your favorite, and least favorite, Bond movie?

Originally posted Dec 12, 2006