The film's title is taken from a short story in Ian Fleming's 1966 short story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights, although the film's plot is original. It does, however, include a scene inspired by the Fleming short story "The Property of a Lady" (included in 1967 and later editions of Octopussy and The Living Daylights), while the events of the short story "Octopussy" form a part of the title character's background and are recounted by her.
Bond is assigned the task of following a general who is stealing jewels and relics from the Soviet government. This leads him to a wealthy Afghan prince, Kamal Khan, and his associate, Octopussy, and the discovery of a plot to force disarmament in Europe with the use of a nuclear weapon.
Octopussy was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and was released in the same year as the non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again. The film was written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, and Michael G. Wilson, and was directed by John Glen.
British agent 009 is fatally wounded and dies he enters the British embassy in East Berlin, dressed as a circus clown and carrying a fake Fabergé egg. MI6 immediately suspects Soviet involvement and, after seeing the real egg appear at an auction in London, sends James Bond to investigate and find out the identity of the seller. At the auction, Bond is able to swap the real egg with the fake and engages in a bidding war with exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan, forcing Khan to pay £500,000 for the fake egg. Bond follows Khan back to his palace in Rajasthan, India, where Bond defeats Khan in a game of backgammon. Bond escapes with his contact Vijay, foiling the attempts of Khan's bodyguard Gobinda to kill the pair. Bond is seduced by one of Khan's associates, Magda, and notices that she has a blue-ringed octopus tattoo. Bond permits Magda to steal the real Fabergé egg fitted with listening and tracking devices by Q, while Gobinda captures and takes Bond to Khan's palace. After Bond escapes from his room he listens in on the bug in the Fabergé egg and discovers that Khan is working with Orlov, a Soviet general, who is seeking to expand Soviet control into West-Central Europe.
After escaping from Khan's palace, Bond infiltrates a floating palace in Udaipur, India, and there finds its owner, Octopussy, a wealthy business woman and smuggler, and an associate of Khan. She also leads the Octopus cult, of which Magda is a member. Octopussy has a personal connection with Bond: she is the daughter of the late Major Dexter-Smythe, whom Bond was assigned to arrest for treason. Bond allowed the Major to commit suicide rather than face trial, and Octopussy thanks him for offering her father an honorable alternative, whilst inviting Bond to stay on as her guest. In Octopussy's palace, Bond finds out that Orlov has been supplying Khan with priceless Soviet treasures, replacing them with replicas while Khan has been smuggling the real versions into the West via Octopussy's circus troupe. Orlov is planning to meet Khan at Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) in East Germany, where the circus is scheduled to perform. Gobinda sends his comrades to kill Bond, but he and Octopussy gain the upper hand. Bond leaves the palace and learns from Q that Vijay has been murdered.
Travelling to East Germany, Bond infiltrates the circus and finds out that Orlov replaced the Soviet treasures with a nuclear warhead, primed to explode during the circus show at a US Air Force base in West Germany. The explosion would trigger Europe into seeking disarmament in the belief that the bomb was a US one that detonated by accident, leaving its borders open to a Soviet invasion. Bond takes Orlov's car, drives it along the train tracks and boards the moving circus train. Orlov gives chase, but is killed at the border by East German guards, after they mistake Orlov for a defector. Bond kills the twin knife-throwing assassins Mischka and Grischka to avenge the murder of 009, and, after falling from the train, commandeers a car to get to the airbase. Bond penetrates the base, and disguises himself as a clown to evade the West German police. He attempts to convince Octopussy that Khan has betrayed her by showing her one of the treasures found in Orlov's car, which she was to smuggle for him. Octopussy realises that she has been tricked, and assists Bond in deactivating the warhead.
Bond and Octopussy return separately to India. Bond arrives at Khan's palace just as Octopussy and her girls have launched an assault on the building. Octopussy attempts to kill Khan, but is captured by Gobinda. While Octopussy's girls, led by Magda, overpower Khan's thugs, Khan and Gobinda flee the palace, taking Octopussy as a hostage. Bond pursues them as they attempt to escape in their plane, clinging to the fuselage and disabling one of its engines. Gobinda takes a deadly plummet off the roof of the plane and Bond rescues Octopussy from Khan, the pair jumping onto a nearby cliff moments before the plane crashes into a mountain, killing Khan. While M and General Gogol discuss the transport of the jewellery, Bond recuperates with Octopussy aboard her private boat in India.
The title 'Octopussy' comes from the Ian Fleming collection of short stories Octopussy and The Living Daylights. Hardly any of the plot of the short story "Octopussy" is used, however, with its events simply related by Bond as the family backstory for one of the main characters. The scene at Sotheby's is, though, drawn from the short story "The Property of a Lady" (included in 1967 and later editions of the collection), while Kamal Khan's reaction following the backgammon game is taken from Fleming's novel Moonraker. Due to a non-Eon Bond film, Never Say Never Again being released in 1983, Octopussy saw Roger Moore returning for the role, though he had shown interest in departing from James Bond after For Your Eyes Only.
Following For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore had expressed a desire to retire from the role of James Bond. His original contract had been for three films, which was fulfilled with The Spy Who Loved Me. Subsequent films were negotiated on a film-by-film basis. Given his reluctance to return for Octopussy, the producers engaged in a semi-public quest for the next Bond, with both Timothy Dalton and James Brolin being suggested. However, when the rival Never Say Never Again was announced, the producers re-contracted Moore in the belief that an established actor in the role would fare better against Sean Connery. Brolin's three screentests were publicly released for the first time as a special feature named James Brolin: The Man Who Would Be Bond in the Octopussy Ultimate Edition DVD.
The producers were initially reluctant to feature Maud Adams again because her previous character was killed in The Man with the Golden Gun. Sybil Danning was announced in Prevue magazine in 1982 as being Octopussy, but was never actually cast. Faye Dunaway was deemed too expensive. Barbara Carrera said she turned down the role to take a part in the competing Bond film Never Say Never Again. In the book A Star is Found: Our Adventures Casting Some of Hollywood's Biggest Movies, casting director Jane Jenkins revealed that the Bond producers told her that they wanted a South Asian actress to play Octopussy, so she looked at the only two Indians in a then predominantly white Hollywood, Persis Khambatta and Susie Coelho. Afterwards, she auditioned white actresses, like Barbara Parkins, who she felt could pass for Indian. Finally, Albert R. Broccoli announced to her that they would cast Swedish-born Maud Adams, darken her hair, and change a few lines about how she was raised by an Indian family. A different plotline, with Adams' British father exposed as a traitor, was used instead. As for Adams, she asked to play Octopussy as a European woman and was granted this, but on the title character's name, she felt the producers "went too far".
Octopussy is also the first film to feature Robert Brown as M, following the death of Bernard Lee in 1981. Desmond Llewelyn would get an expanded role as Q in this film. One of Bond's MI6 allies in India was played by Vijay Amritraj, a popular professional tennis player. His character not only shares the same first name with him, but he is also a tennis instructor. He uses a tennis racket as a weapon during the auto rickshaw chase, which is accompanied by the sound of a tennis ball being hit and scenes of onlookers turning their heads left and right as if they are watching a tennis match.
The filming of Octopussy began on 10 August 1982 with the scene in which Bond arrives at Checkpoint Charlie. Principal photography was done by Arthur Wooster and his second unit, who later filmed the knife-throwing scenes. Much of the film was shot in Udaipur, India. The Monsoon Palace served as the exterior of Kamal Khan's palace, while scenes set at Octopussy's palace were filmed at the Lake Palace and Jag Mandir, and Bond's hotel was the Shiv Niwas Palace. In England RAF Northolt, RAF Upper Heyford and RAF Oakley were the main locations. The Karl-Marx-Stadt railways scenes were shot at the Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough, while studio work was performed at Pinewood Studios and the 007 Stage. Most of the crew as well as Roger Moore had diet problems while shooting in India.
The pre-title sequence has a scene where Bond flies a nimble homebuilt Bede BD-5J aircraft through an open hangar. Hollywood stunt pilot and aerial co-ordinator J.W. "Corkey" Fornof, who piloted the aircraft at more than 150 miles per hour, has said, "Today, few directors would consider such a stunt. They'd just whip it up in a computer lab." Having collapsible wings, the plane was shown hidden in a horse trailer; however, a dummy was used for this shot. Filming inside the hangar was achieved by attaching the aircraft to an old Jaguar car with a steel pole, driving with the roof removed. The second unit were able to add enough obstacles including people and objects inside the hangar to hide the car and the pole and make it look as though Moore was flying inside the base. For the explosion after the mini jet escapes, however, a miniature of the hangar was constructed and filmed up close. The exploding pieces of the hangar were in reality only four inches in length. Bond stole a Mercedes-Benz saloon car at a depot manned by antagonist soldiers, then as he tried to escape drove over barrier spikes which shredded his tyres. So he maneuvered his vehicle's bare wheels onto the rails to pursue the train. During filming, the car had intact tyres in one scene so as to avoid any mishap.
Stunt co-ordinator Martin Grace suffered an injury while shooting the scene where Bond climbs down the train to catch Octopussy's attention. During the second day of filming, Grace – who was Roger Moore's stunt double for the scene – carried on doing the scene longer than he should have, due to a miscommunication with the second unit director, and the train entered a section of the track which the team had not properly surveyed. Shortly afterwards, a concrete pole fractured Grace's left leg.
The cyclist seen passing in the middle of a sword fight during the tuk tuk chase sequence was in fact a bystander who passed through the shot, oblivious to the filming; his intrusion was captured by two cameras and left in the final film. Cameraman Alan Hume's last scene was that of Octopussy's followers rowing. That day, little time was left and it was decided to film the sunset at the eleventh hour.
The Fabergé egg in the film is real; it was made in 1897 and is called the Coronation Egg, although the egg in the film is named in the auction catalogue as "Property of a Lady", which is the name of one of Ian Fleming's short stories released in more recent editions of the collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights.
In a bit of diegesis that "breaks the fourth wall", Vijay signals his affiliation to MI6 by playing the James Bond Theme on a recorder while Bond is disembarking from a boat in the harbour near the City Palace. Like his fictional counterpart, the real Vijay had a distinct fear of snakes and found it difficult to hold the basket during filming.
The score was composed by John Barry, with the lyrics by Tim Rice. The opening theme, "All Time High", is sung by Rita Coolidge and is one of seven musical themes in the James Bond series whose song titles do not refer to the film's title. "All Time High" spent four weeks at number one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary singles chart and reached number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The soundtrack album was released in 1985 by A&M Records; the compact disc version of this release was recalled due to a colour printing error which omitted the credits from the album cover, making it a rare collector's item. In 1997, the soundtrack was re-issued by Rykodisc, with the original soundtrack music and some film dialogue, on an Enhanced CD version. The 2003 release, by EMI, restored the original soundtrack music without dialogue.
Octopussy's premiere took place at the Odeon Leicester Square on 6 June 1983, with Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales in attendance. Within five months of its premiere, it was released in 16 countries worldwide. The film earned slightly less than For Your Eyes Only, but still grossed $187,500,000, with $67.8 million in the United States alone. It also performed slightly better than Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon Bond remake of Thunderball which came out a few months later.
The film has received mixed reviews. Some reviewers disliked Bond's clown costume, gorilla outfit and Tarzan yell during a jungle chase. James Berardinelli claimed that the movie was long and confusing, and strongly criticised Steven Berkoff's performance, describing it as "offensively bad" and the worst performance of any Bond villain. By contrast, the elegance of the film locations in India, and the stunts on aircraft and the train were appreciated. Jeffrey Westhoff at Rotten Tomatoes praised Roger Moore as being "sterling". Neal Gabler and Jeffrey Lyons at the TV-show Sneak Previews praised the film and said "Octopussy delivers" and "The nice thing about Octopussy is that it's going back-to-basics, less gadgets, more hand-to-hand combat. It's more of an adventure movie in a more traditional sense and I like it for that". Danny Peary wrote that Octopussy "has slow spots, little humour, and villains who aren’t nearly of the calibre of Dr. No, Goldfinger, or Blofeld. Also, the filmmakers make the mistake of demeaning Bond by having him swing through the trees and emitting a Tarzan cry and having him hide in a gorilla suit and later disguise himself as a clown (whom all the kids at the circus laugh at). It’s as if they’re trying to remind us that everything is tongue-in-cheek, but that makes little sense, for the film is much more serious than typical Bond outings – in fact, it recalls the tone of From Russia with Love." Entertainment Weekly chose Octopussy as the third worst Bond film, while Norman Wilner of MSN chose it as the eighth worst, and IGN chose it as the seventh worst. The review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 42% rating.
Octopussy was nominated for an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Award, with Maud Adams nominated for the Saturn Award in the Best Fantasy Supporting Actress category. Entertainment Weekly ranked her as the best Bond girl of the Roger Moore James Bond films. The film won the Golden Screen Award in Germany and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing.
In 2006 Fandango ranked the character Octopussy as one of the top 10 Bond girls, and described her as "a powerful, impressive woman." Entertainment Weekly ranked her as the 10th worst Bond girl in one list in 2006, but as the best "babe" of the Roger Moore James Bond films in another list in 2008. Yahoo! Movies included the character in a 2012 list of the best Bond girl names, commenting, "This Bond girl moniker was so good, they named the film after her!"
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