Octopussy: Special Edition (1983)

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Released 21-Mar-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Bond Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Inside Octopussy (DD2.0, 4:3, 33:08 minutes)
Featurette-Designing Bond-Peter Lamont (DD2.0, 4:3, 20:59 minutes)
Audio Commentary-John Glen (Director)
Storyboards-The Taxi Chase, Bond Rescues Octopussy (DD2.0, 4:3, 6:54)
Music Video-All Time High (DD2.0, 2.00:1, 4x3, 3:07 minutes)
Trailer-4
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 125:09 (Case: 124)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (111:39) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Glen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Roger Moore
Maud Adams
Louis Jourdan
Kristina Wa Yborn
Kabir Bedi
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music John Barry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Polish
Portuguese
Turkish
Danish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Seiko and Sony, as usual
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    At last, I have the privilege and pleasure of being able to review a James Bond film. In fact, this film, Octopussy, has long been one of my personal favourites of all the Bond franchise, and in my opinion is Roger Moore's best. After the growing silliness and unbelievability of the films during the latter part of the 1970s, aspects that could ultimately have led to the demise of the series, the producers mercifully returned to something a little more down-to-earth with the subsequent films. The trademark Bond features - exotic and beautiful locations, equally beautiful woman, plenty of action, suspense and a story that barrels along - are all there. What lifts this film out of the pack for me is the performance by Maud Adams in the title role of Octopussy, an intelligent and sophisticated international jewel smuggler every inch an equal for Bond.

    Of course the film begins with another Bond tradition - the pre-credit sequence - which consists in this case of a fun demonstration of the world's smallest jet-engined piloted plane that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. The real story begins in East Berlin as secret agent 009 tries to escape to the West with a jewel-encrusted egg that he's stolen from the bad guys. He's ultimately killed in the attempt, but not before he gets the egg to the British embassy. This sets James Bond (Roger Moore) on the trail to discover who killed his fellow agent. Before the story moves on any further, however, the involvement of at least a renegade part of the Soviet army in the proceedings is revealed, although to what end is not yet known.

    The trail quickly leads to India and a particularly nasty smuggler in the shape of Kamal (Louis Jourdan) and his bodyguard Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), a sort of Indian "Jaws". They're accompanied by Magda (the lovely Kristina Wayborn) and are clearly involved in some fashion with Octopussy, although her identity and role also aren't yet revealed. After spending an evening with Magda, Bond is captured by Kamal and imprisoned in his summer palace. This, of course, provides the first opportunity to use some of Q's gadgets to not only make an escape, but to eavesdrop on Kamal and the Soviet General Orlov (Steven Berkoff) to see what they're up to.

    After an hour of film time the allure of Octopussy and her island palace full of gorgeous women proves too much for Bond and his visit there finally introduces her to the audience. Although she is head of a jewel smuggling syndicate that includes Kamal, she proves to be an ally and protector of Bond. An attempt on their lives by Kamal's henchmen causes their separation - she to East Germany with her circus and a load of jewels and he in pursuit trying to determine what the Russians and Kamal have planned. After a great chase and fight scene on the circus train, a high speed road chase through West Germany, Bond joining the circus as a clown and plenty of shooting, the conspirators' plot is discovered. I won't reveal it here, but will Bond survive the bomb blast? (CLUE: he's back in the next film.) The remainder of the film sees Bond, Octopussy and Q (in his first ever operational role) heading back to India to deal with Kamal. This provides an excuse for one last great stunt scene in, and on, a plane high over the ground, before the film closes in the traditional way, i.e. in bed with Bond and his leading lady.

    This is only a very brief summary of the story and it skips most of the action and thrills of the film. Roger Moore's version of James Bond is often criticized because of its cocktail bar image of the great spy. While not totally eliminating the tongue-in-cheek characteristic, he certainly does get far more physical here. The humour is also a little more refined and concentrated. In that regard, the casting of Vijay Armitraj as the local British agent was wonderful since it allows all sorts of tennis gags to be built in without diverting the story. The settings in India are truly romantic while references to East Germany and the Berlin Wall provide the gritty reality that supports the spy theme. I think it provides the sort of mixture that Ian Fleming originally intended in his stories. While not comparing with modern action blockbusters in terms of special effects and stunts, I still think this is more than a respectable episode in the Bond franchise.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is also encoded with Auto Pan & Scan information.

    I have to admit being a little disappointed with the picture on this disc. Not because it's a really bad image, but because I don't think it quite matches up to the extremely high standard set by the other Bond discs I've viewed to date. By any standards the image is very attractive but, in common with most films of this age, it lacks real crispness. Minor grain is noticeable from the opening scene and partly explains the slight picture softness. There is always a lot to look at, whether it be internal or external scenes, action or drama oriented, and I think it's because of this that the picture clarity really doesn't offend much at all. Shadow detail suffers more than general picture clarity, and I suspect this is also a symptom of the film's age. There is no low level noise at any point.

    As we've come to expect from this series, colour reproduction is excellent. The result is realism, if slightly subdued, with few cases of fully saturated colours. Facial colourings are similarly life-like, but the graininess mentioned above detracts marginally.

    In the main the transfer is pretty pleasing. However one aspect that warrants special comment because of its severe nature is the amount of aliasing that virtually scars the entire film. Having read the reviews for Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me, this seems to be a common trait amongst some of the current batch of Bond releases, and I add my strong dissatisfaction with it. The aliasing affects everything, down to Roger Moore's eyes, and is highly intrusive. The worst example in this film occurs at 39:49 when the entire image appears to break down into an orgy of shimmering. I suspect that anyone with a progressive scan player and monitor might avoid this problem, but for most of us poor mortals this is a very unfortunate characteristic of the transfer.

    Film artefacts are minor and predominantly consist of small white scratch marks. These are of virtually no concern on an otherwise pristine print.

    The disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change occurring at 111:39 (as in the case of other recent Bond films, very late in the film) but is quite cleverly done, in a dark external scene where the slight pause is hardly even visible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I was looking forward to lighting up my living room with the sounds of Rita Coolidge singing one of my favourite Bond songs in glorious 5.1 digital sound. After all, several earlier Bond films had already received the 5.1 remaster treatment. You can imagine my disappointment when I spun up the disc to find only a single, 2.0 soundtrack, even if it is surround-encoded.

    In spite of this, being a big budget film means that the sound is pretty good. The dialogue is always clear, although there are a few obvious cases of looping that get through. Probably as a by-product of this is a very short case at 25:52 where the dialogue completely parts company from the mouth - perhaps the producers didn't like what was being said and thought they'd change it at the last throw.

    I've already referred to the music, composed by John Barry (of course) with the song (unusually excluding the film's title in its lyrics) sung by Rita Coolidge. In a word, the music is wonderful, and perfectly captures the larger-than-life romance portrayed by the film.

    The biggest problem with the soundtrack stems from its format - the surround-encoded 2.0 mix is largely unable to provide an enveloping audio field. As a result, most of the sound is based in the front, albeit with a reasonably wide soundstage. Occasional effects are directed to the surround speakers, but if more general atmospheric effects are there then they're too low to be of much use. Similarly, the subwoofer gets pretty limited attention, with the front speakers being asked to do most of the work.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Featurette - Inside Octopussy

    Presented in full frame (1.33:1) format and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 33:08 minutes. This is a moderately interesting featurette with a useful range of interviews (what do they look like now?!) and comments on the production. Picture quality is decent for this purpose and the narration by Patrick Macnee reflects his involvement with the subsequent Bond film. I can see myself watching this again in the future.

Featurette - Designing Bond - Peter Lamont

    Presented in full frame (1.33:1) format and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 20:59 minutes. Peter Lamont has been involved with every Bond film except the first, and is attributed with having helped shape the look and feel of the franchise. There are some interesting moments here, but also a lot of all round back-slapping. Perhaps this could be described almost as a designer's summary of the entire Bond franchise.

Audio Commentary-John Glen (Director)

        In common with the audio commentaries on many Bond films, this seems to have been recorded in bits in the absence of running the film, and then spliced together as a series of vaguely relevant comments on the film. It's OK for its purpose and provides much useful background information, but I would much rather have the director discussing the film as he's watching it - it can be so much more immediate and fascinating.

Storyboards - The Taxi Chase & Bond Rescues Octopussy

    Presented in full frame (1.33:1) format and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 6:54 minutes. I have to admit to having gotten pretty bored with storyboards. Here are two sequences where the film's action kept pretty close to the plan.

Music Video - All Time High

    Presented in widescreen format with a 2.00:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 3:07 minutes. The audio is fine, but this video clip is harmed by lack of 16x9 enhancement and substantial graininess. It looks like this has been through a few video washing machines in its time. Great shame.

Teaser Trailers x 3

    Presented in widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 4:36 minutes. Gee, did they still make trailers like this back in the 80s? The imagery is fine but the running commentary by some particularly proper Englishman, describing how good the film is, would have sunk the film with today's audiences. Also features a sped-up version of one of Bond's love scenes, presumably to fit it into the allowed time, but this just makes the thing look ridiculous. Trailer 3 is a vast improvement on the other two.

Release Trailer

    Presented in widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 3:24 minutes. It's great to see 16x9 enhancement, but grain degrades the picture and helps to produce a soft image. I didn't get too excited about this trailer.

Booklet

    As usual with a Bond DVD, the booklet adds a polished touch to the presentation, and offers a brief read of several interesting production facts.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R4 version appears to me to be identical to the R1 version, so no decision is required before you go to your normal local retailer to purchase this.

Summary

    I find this Bond film a welcome continuation of the basic romantic elements that made the franchise so special in the first place, with a diminution of the silliness that detracted from the films during the 1970s. The story is great, the locations are attractive and the characters seem to combine wonderfully. All in all this is a Bond film that's very easy to enjoy many times.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Murray Glase (read my bio)
Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K310, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 (125cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D906S
SpeakersRichter Wizard (front), Jamo SAT150 (rear), Yamaha YST-SW120 (subwoofer)

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