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Octopussy

Sure, a cell phone could have solved 007’s communications problems rather easily; but the gizmos and gadgets in this convoluted adaptation of an Ian Fleming short story were nonetheless novel: from fold-up airplanes that fit in the back of a truck, to yo-yo circular saw blades thrown with horrific speed and accuracy.

Instead of gold reserves or naval vessels, the high-value commodity universally in demand was Faberge eggs – elegant, bejeweled, and rare. When a British spy — dressed as a circus clown — turns up dead holding a counterfeit, James Bond (a still smooth Roger Moore, who at 55, favors sly charm over fast moves) is off: chasing counterfeits used to trade in Soviet treasures and government secrets. After an auction and some shifty switching – agent Q has equipped one fake with a homing device – Bond follows the egg’s high bidder and discovers his nemesis, the beguiling Prince Kamal (a debonair Louis Jourdan), is already plotting. Kamal’s partner in world-destabilizing evil: a rogue Russian General Orlov (the always fantastic and intense Steven Berkoff – who shortly after this appearance would gain a tad more fame in a little movie, “Beverly Hills Cop.”) Eager for Soviet domination, Orlov observes, “The West is decadent and divided.” And he intends to take full advantage, coolly declaring “World Socialism will be achieved peaceably.”

Bond’s mission: stop Kamal and the sinister general from detonating a nuclear bomb set to explode at a circus performance on the grounds of an American military air base. Alas, notification is substantially – almost humorously — hampered by the limited by access to, a telephone.

Bond follows Kamal and the Faberge eggs to Delhi, India, where Octopussy, leader of the smuggling operation (a lovely, low-key Maud Adams), runs – among other businesses – a traveling circus. Unaware that she, too, is about to be duped by Kamal, Octopussy trusts him. Bond can trust neither, and quickly learns that while acting as shrewd middle man, Khan will use and deceive anyone for a profit.

Octopussy ‘s somewhat legitimate enterprises have done her well: She lives in a heavily guarded, ornate floating palace on her own private island, which 007 approaches inside a fake crocodile. Timeless as it may appear — the smuggling, intrigue, and nuclear weapons — what dates this shady caper is our fearless femme fatale; she smokes! Yet, on another front, Octopussy was ahead of her time: recruiting, training and deploying her own all-woman army of nubile, obedient servants and soldiers.

Along with the authentic Indian music and mosque mayhem, local touches include a wild chase through a beautiful jungle teeming with tarantulas and tigers, and another — averting elephants — through a colorful open-air street market, complete with bright print saris, cows and camels. By far the most suspenseful chase – and for Bond, without any weapon in hand – features a fight atop the roof of a moving train car.

As Rita Coolidge sings in the terrific, soulful theme song, Bond is at an “All time High.” Although on the urgent warning front, he really could have used some real-time high… technology.

by Caren Ostrow

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Next up in the ‘James Bond Originals’ series at The Colony: “A View to a Kill.”

Cast:

Roger Moore James Bond
Maud Adams Octopussy
Louis Jourdan Prince Kamal Khan
Steven Berkoff General Orlov

Directed by: John Glen