James Bond
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Roger Moore
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

An unhinged Soviet general is out to cause a nuclear incident that could cripple Western Europe and make Russia the ruler of the world. In order to stop him, James Bond must travel to India, where the perils he encounters include a man-eating tiger and the equally dangerous head of an international smuggling ring, a woman known as Octopussy...

By this point in his Bond career, Roger Moore is snogging women young enough to be his daughters, but it's still fun to see how he manages to save the world yet again. Octopussy has Moore quite literally clowning around in a frivolous roller coaster of a movie.

The screenplay, by George MacDonald Fraser (author of the Flashman series of novels), Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson, draws inspiration from the Ian Fleming short stories "Property of a Lady" and (surprise, surprise) "Octopussy". The former is faithfully adapted into the riveting auction scene, while the events of the latter are referred to in the past tense, with the character of Octopussy (Maud Adams) revealing herself to be the daughter of Major Dexter Smythe, making the movie a sort of sequel to the short story. With a few changes to the Sotheby's sequence - perhaps it could be glossed over as a second-hand account reported by the character of Jim Fanning (Douglas Wilmer) - and with the Fabergé egg replaced by some other Russian treasure, the story would make a very serviceable Bond novel.

A curious aspect of this film (and also its predecessor, For Your Eyes Only) is that while certain scenes strive to ensure that the story is taken more seriously than usual, other aspects just seem to get sillier. On the one hand we have the tense countdown sequence as Bond struggles desperately to reach a bomb in time to deactivate it, while on the other we see 007 swinging through the trees, yodelling like Tarzan, and instructing a tiger, Barbara Woodhouse style, to "sit".

Louis Jordan isn't tremendously memorable as the primary villain, Kamal Khan. Steven Berkoff is far more menacing as the seriously deranged Russian General Orlov.

Despite all its faults, this is a much livelier affair than For Your Eyes Only. The action is helped along no end by one of John Barry's best soundtracks, which is a great improvement on Bill Conti's work. The movie also benefits from a larger-than-usual role for the eccentric gadget-master Q (Desmond Llewelyn).

As well as all the previously released special features - an audio commentary by director John Glen, the music video to Rita Coolidge's title track "All Time High", a feature focusing on production designer Peter Lamont, a "making of" documentary and trailers - this Ultimate Edition also includes the half-hour 1983 documentary James Bond in India, plus location and special-effects footage. There's a distinct lack of any contemporary television programmes celebrating what was the movie franchise's 21st anniversary, but we do get to see the three complete screen tests that James Brolin performed when the production team thought they might need a new 007. Excerpts from Brolin's screen test with Maud Adams also appear in the "making of" doc, which also reveals how an action sequence went badly wrong for stuntman BJ Worth.

Octopussy is far from being the greatest Bond film ever made (which is a pity, because it would have been fun to give it a score of 008), but it's certainly an improvement on Moore's previous two films.

Richard McGinlay

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