Agent 007, James Bond (Roger Moore), arrives at a racetrack disguised as a horse owner, but once he has parked his car and trailer he makes sure he is not being seen and changes into his disguise as a Eastern European military officer, all the better to slip into a nearby hangar and plant a bomb. However, it appears his luck has run out because just as he is hiding the device he is arrested by the authorities and transported out of the grounds. Luckily, his partner on this mission distracts the guards with her feminine charms, leaving Bond to escape in a jet plane, narrowly avoiding a missile in the process...
Yes, Bond was back and 1983 was the battle of the Bonds because not only was Moore coaxed back for one more appearance in the role, but Sean Connery was starring in a rival production, Never Say Never Again. As it played out, Octopussy won at the box office by a fair margin, but really neither film showed off the famed character to his best advantage. That said, at a push this one felt more traditionally Bond-esque, although for some reason the more "realistic" style of the previous film, For Your Eyes Only, had been rejected for something closer to the Moonraker approach, perhaps something to do with George MacDonald Fraser among the writers.
This meant more gags than the last time around, and some of them very cheesy indeed such as Bond swinging through the jungle on a vine while letting out a Tarzan yell or doing a Barbara Woodhouse impression with a tiger - you can't conceive of Daniel Craig doing that, give Moore credit. But along with this increased reliance on jokiness, the tone seemed to be at cross purposes for there were parts we were intended to take very seriously, leaving us a little disoriented. And it was no help that Moore was at the height of his cutaways to an obviously studio-shot closeup when the men doing all the hard work were the stunt team.
If this series was anything, it was patriotic and with Margaret Thatcher the most famous U.K. Prime Minister since Winston Churchill ensconced at Number Ten for the whole of the decade, and having recently "won" the Falklands War, Bond was proud to be British and representing the establishment to the world. And nowhere was that more deeply felt than the sabre rattling between the West - Thatcher and U.S President Ronald Reagan's "special relationship" was at its height - and the East, with the Soviet Union sizing up to their great world opponents, so the Cold War was what fuelled the plotting of the bad guys here.
Yet, it's almost as if the film realised that Cold War wasn't really much fun and was actually the source of great anxiety in its audience, so to illustrate that patriotism was preferable to politics Bond spends most of this film in India, tracking a cult of all-female smugglers and their associate, the scheming Kamal Khan (a pleasingly reptilian Louis Jourdan). The smugglers are led by Maud Adams' title character, here making her second appearance in this series in a significant role, and it's nice to see this Bond seducing a woman of his own age for a change. Steven Berkoff makes an entertaining supporting bad guy as a Russian general planning to force the West disarm their nuclear weapons so he can provoke his country into invading (a very telling plotline for its day), and the cast is rounded out with such eccentricities as tennis star Vijay Amritraj as an Indian agent, complete with racket. Octopussy runs out of steam long before the end, but as it has been largely overlooked since, it does surprise you with a decent scene or line every so often, suggesting it has been undervalued. Music by John Barry.