Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
James Bond Carries On Up the Khyber
on 12 December 2007
Facing up against a rival Bond project for the first time since You Only Live Twice - and one with Connery attached to boot - the obvious expectation was that once again the Broccoli camp would pull out all the stops and come up with one of the best Bond films yet. Instead, this is the one where they threw in the towel and began copying others rather than leading the pack.
For Your Eyes Only had gone head-to-head with Raiders of the Lost Ark and come off the worse. As a result, Octopussy shamelessly copies its market chase and truck sequences to remarkably little interest or excitement. Even the location seems second-hand - in 1982-3 you couldn't move for film crews in India, what with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Far Pavilions, The Jewel in the Crown, Gandhi and Heat and Dust all reviving the Raj. Only one sequence, with a deadly yo-yo (usually heavily cut in the TV prints), works - and then only briefly.
Worse still, this one drags its feet more than any other entry in the series, with very long waits between very lacklustre setpieces. The plot is similarly uninvolving. With a similar hook to The Fourth Protocol, but nowhere near as good (and The Fourth Protocol isn't exactly a masterpiece), this is so alarmist it's a wonder Broccoli didn't hand over the producing reins to Euan Lloyd. Maud Adams makes a poor job of the title role, but Steven Berkoff is completely off the scale as the renegade Russian villain. With the diction of a demented Dalek and the subtlety of a Spitting Image puppet, it's quite an achievement to sit through any of his scenes without squirming in embarrassment.
The cheapest looking Bond film, it is doubtful that anyone would have gone to see such a geriatric action movie without the Bond name attached. The silly jokes are pretty pathetic - a snake charmer playing the Bond theme, a series of terrible tennis jokes built around Vijay Amritraj's appearance as Bond's ill-fated sidekick (British actor's union Equity actually tried to call a strike over his casting) - and would have been rejected from the very worst Carry On film. There's even some lovable xenophobia thrown in for good measure ("That'll keep you in curry for a few weeks.")
That it could have been worse is borne out by one of the DVD's most interesting new extras - a series of screen tests with James Brolin as Bond. He gives it a good try, but he's trying to hard as if clearly aware that he's terrible casting. It's a moot point as to whether Brolin would have got the part had Connery's return to Bondage persuaded the producers to stick with the tried-and-trusted Roger Moore, but it would have been more of an impersonation than a performance if he had.