Octopussy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though generally solid, the movie seemed mildly problematic at times and contained a variety of minor concerns.
Sharpness usually appeared pretty crisp and well-defined, with an image that mainly looked accurate and detailed. Some wide shots displayed vaguely fuzzy and soft qualities, however, and the overall clarity felt somewhat erratic. A few slight issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I noticed moderate edge enhancement throughout the flick.
Print flaws were small but somewhat intrusive on occasion. These seemed more significant early in the film, where a variety of white speckles, black grit, very small bits of debris and some grain interferes. These problems became less prevalent as the film progressed, but they popped up at times nonetheless.
The movie's vaguely hazy appearance made the colors slightly less effective than they could have been. Overall the hues looked largely solid and sometimes were very bright and lively, such as during the circus scenes or those on the streets of India. At those times, the colors seemed bold and exciting. However, some shots - usually interiors - displayed colors that were slightly drab.
Black levels also showed mild blandness at times. I never felt the dark tones appeared weak or muddy, but they simply lacked the intensity to which I'd become accustomed from other Bond films. Again, it was interiors that caused the most problems; many of these scenes seemed somewhat flat. As such, shadow detail often came across as a little too heavy and thick, a problem that affected some exterior scenes as well due to use of the dreaded "day for night" photography. We see a fair amount of these shots, and they uniformly looked a tad overly dark. Despite this mix of issues, Octopussy remained a fairly attractive film and merited a "B-" grade.
Also unexceptional but acceptable was the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Octopussy. The biggest surprise here stemmed from the fact we didn't find a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. From 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me through the current time, all of the Bond DVDs offer 5.1 audio except for Octopussy. Why the difference? I have no idea. Only the last four appeared theatrically with 5.1 soundtracks, which means the others originally featured Dolby Surround audio. Why those received remixes but Octopussy did not is a mystery to me.
In any case, the track seemed pretty solid for its age though it presented some concerns. For the most part, the soundfield appeared mildly restricted and it did not spread widely to the side speakers. There's a modest stereo presence from the music, and at times I heard some general broadness from the right and left channels, but these qualities usually were fairly lackluster.
The surround speakers offered a minor reinforcement of the forward spectrum for the most part, though a few scenes provided more effective involvement from the rears. Some of the better segments included those that featured helicopters - which created a very nicely encompassing impression - and the one in which Bond was a prisoner of Kamal. The general atmosphere seemed quite involving, and we even got some solid directional dialogue.
Quality appeared largely positive with just a few problems. Dialogue displayed mild edginess at times and often came across as moderately bland, but it always appeared intelligible and clear. The score seemed similarly flat to a relative degree, though some segments offered crisp and surprisingly deep bass. It won't test your subwoofer but compared to the somewhat drab nature of the mix at times, the depth was a positive.
Effects also displayed modest dynamic range but generally were solid, despite some moderate distortion accompanied the explosions and jet flights. Other than the aforementioned helicopter sound, my favorite effect was the roar of the tiger, which appeared nicely rich and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack worked acceptably well but it seemed somewhat lackluster for a film of this sort.
As usual, MGM have included some excellent supplemental features with
Octopussy, beginning with a fine audio commentary from director John Glen. Most of the Bond commentaries use statements from a variety of sources, which are then edited together into a coherent whole; only a few follow the "screen specific" format in which one or more participants watch the film and express their thoughts in "real time".
Technically, Glen's track for Octopussy matches that format, although I don't think it's a true "screen specific" track. For one, I believe Glen's utterances seem to come from the extensive contemporary interviews he provided about the film; it doesn't sound like he's actually watching the movie and relating his opinions. Also, the commentary is very anecdotal in nature; although Glen's statements usually relate at least vaguely to the action onscreen, his stories make up the majority of the track.
And I'm happy they do, as Glen provides a wonderfully lively and entertaining discussion of Octopussy. He covers a wide variety of topics, from mishaps on the set to interactions with actors to the way that Maurice Binder bought him dinner from the afterworld. Glen gives us a lot of solid information and he does so in an engaging manner; I really enjoyed this commentary.
Also typical of the Bond DVDs, we find two different video programs. First up is the standard documentary about the movie itself. Hosted by Patrick Macnee, Inside Octopussy lasts for 33 minutes and uses the usual melange of materials. We get contemporary interviews intermixed with film clips, production photos, and some fuzzy but cool video footage from the set.
The program covers the creation of the film effectively and efficiently. As with Glen's commentary, the show generally gives us the information in an anecdotal manner; it follows the production in a roughly chronological manner but doesn't have any specific "agenda" to give us details in a certain way. Overall, it's another solid piece, with a few segments that stand out as exceptionally cool. Best of the bunch? Snippets of James Brolin's screen test footage, which show the direction the series may have taken had Roger Moore not returned for another outing. (As it happened, the closest Brolin would get to playing Bond would be his turn in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.)
The second video program is called Designing Bond With Peter Lamont. This 21-minute show focuses on the career and contributions of Lamont, one of the longest-running Bond crew members who still works on the films. He began on 1964's Goldfinger as a draftsman and has gone on to become a very successful production designer who won an Oscar for his work on Titanic. Lamont is an unassuming and pleasant man who seems likable and intelligent. It's wonderful that the DVD lets us get an overview of careers of folks like him, and I enjoyed this entertaining look at his life.
In addition, the DVD includes two Storyboard Sequences. Each shows the boards as running video segments. Missing drawings are replaced by actual film footage, and movie audio plays in the background as the scenes progress. We get "The Taxi Chase" (three minutes, 30 seconds) and "Bond Rescues Octopussy" (three minutes, 15 seconds). These would have worked better as storyboard-to-film comparisons, but the segments are presented well nonetheless.
A few other minor extras round out the DVD. We find three teaser trailers and one theatrical release clip. The teasers are pretty similar and offer the only footage exclusive to the ads when we see Maud Adams introduce her character.
There's also a music video for Rita Coolidge's main credits tune "All Time High". It's a dull song and an even less exciting video. It uses the standard film clip/lip-synch combination but with very drab execution; Coolidge just leans against the wall as she pretends to sing! It's an utterly skippable piece.
The package includes the usual eight-page booklet. This text features some pictures from the production and solid information about the movie and the series. As always, I thought it was a nice addition.
Octopussy gives us one of Roger Moore's better outings as Bond. That's somewhat faint praise, but it nonetheless remains a fun and generally solid film. The DVD features flawed but generally positive picture and sound plus the usual complement of fine supplements. Octopussy isn't the best Bond movie or DVD, but it fits in nicely with the rest of the collection and makes a strong addition.
To rate this film visit the Ultimate Edition review of OCTOPUSSY