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. Arguably the best of the Bond “Ultimate Edition” transfers, this one consistently looked great.
Sharpness appeared crisp and well-defined. Only the slightest hint of softness ever materialized, mainly due to a smidgen of edge enhancement. Otherwise, the movie was very detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering marred the presentation, and source flaws were completely absent. This was a very clean image.
Colors excelled throughout the movie. The various settings contributed lively, dynamic hues; the Indian shots came across as particularly powerful. The DVD replicated the tones with great vibrancy. Blacks were dark and taut, while shadows seemed clear and easily visible. Only the slight softness and edge enhancement kept this one from a straight “A” grade; I felt exceedingly pleased with the transfer.
Similar plaudits greeted the audio of the film. As with all the other Bond Ultimate Editions, Octopussy featured dual multi-channel soundtracks. It gave us Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 remixes. As with many of these discs, I found no distinct differences between the two. Both offered very similar material.
The remixes nicely expanded on the original Dolby Surround 2.0 audio that also appeared on the DVD. The soundfield opened up matters to a fine degree. Music boasted solid stereo separation, and the effects elements spread smoothly to the sides and surrounds. These added a great sense of place and atmosphere. In addition, the action sequences really brought us into the material. Elements zipped around the room and used the back speakers in a lively, involving manner. This was an impressive pair of remixes, especially given the vintage of the source stems.
And they sounded good, too! Speech consistently appeared natural and concise, with no edginess or other distractions. Music demonstrated nice clarity and range, while effects packed a fine wallop. Those elements suffered from very little distortion and featured bass response along with clean highs. Overall, these 5.1 mixes offered terrific audio.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 special edition? Both areas demonstrated notable improvements. The visuals were cleaner, brighter and better defined, while the sound seemed smoother and more involving.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes 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 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.
The second piece provides notes from *actor Roger Moore in his running, screen-specific chat. Like his other discussions, this one remains fairly anecdotal. Moore chats about locations, cast and crew, and other aspects of the production. He also digs into semi-related subjects like his experiences at the Oscars in 1973. The best elements look at 1983’s competing Bond Never Say Never Again. Moore seems a little more engaged than usual here, and this turns into another satisfying commentary.
On DVD Two, we go to the seven components under Declassified: MI6 Vault. These begin with the two parts of *Shooting Stunts. “Crashing Jeeps” lasts three minutes, 47 seconds, while “The Airplane Crash” runs three minutes, 26 seconds. Glen narrates as we watch raw footage of the various stunts. Glen gives us good details about the elements in these revealing clips.
*Ken Burns On-Set Movie goes for six minutes, 40 seconds. No, this Burns isn’t the famous documentarian; he’s a Brit who played an extra in Octopussy. We see the home movies he shot on the set as we hear his narration. These offer fun behind the scenes elements from an unusual perspective.
For more from the production designer, we find *On Location with Peter Lamont. This four-minute and 43-second segment offers a look at location scouts as Lamont provides information. These give us a fine view of the movie’s locales.
Next *Testing the Limits – The Aerial Team. The four-minute and 31-second clip comes with narration from Glen. He chats as we get more raw footage of the plane stunts. It’s another worthwhile component.
Four segments come under the banner of *James Brolin Original Screentests. These include “Brolin on Bond” (4:26), “The Fight Scene” (1:37), “The Love Scene” (2:58) and “Vijay” (1:44). During “Brolin on Bond”, the actor discusses his screentest experiences and what it was like to try out for the series. The other segments show us his actual test footage and allow us to speculate what Brolin would’ve been like in the part. (As it happened, the closest Brolin would get to playing Bond would be his turn in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.) This is a very cool extra that’s a blast to see.
The “Vault” finishes with an original 1983 featurette. *James Bond in India runs 29 minutes, 24 seconds as it mixes narration with glimpses of the locations. Given that marketing director Jerry Juroe created this show, you should expect a fairly promotional tone. Still, it manages to provide valuable footage from the sets and other Indian spots visited by the cast and crew. These factors help make it a good complement to the package.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (3:01). “Locations” (4:37) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside Octopussy. Hosted by Patrick Macnee, it lasts for 33 minutes, four seconds and uses the usual melange of materials. We get interviews intermixed with film clips, production photos, and some fuzzy but interesting video footage from the set. The interviews include remarks from Moore, Glen, executive producer/co-screenwriter Michael G. Wilson, associate producer Thomas Pevsner, production designer Peter Lamont, assistant director Anthony Waye, casting director Debbie McWilliams, Eon Productions former VP of marketing Jerry Juroe, 2nd unit director Arthur Wooster, special effects supervisor John Richardson, aerial stuntmen BJ Worth and Jake Lombard, camera operator Alec Mills, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, stuntmen Martin Grace, Paul Weston and Richard Graydon, editor John Grover, and actors Maud Adams, Vijay Armitraj, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, Carole Ashby and Lois Maxwell.
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 behind the scenes segments that stand out as very cool.
The second video program is called Designing Bond With Peter Lamont. This 20-minute and 56-second show focuses on the career and contributions of Lamont, one of the longest-running Bond crew members who still works on the films. In addition to Lamont, it includes notes from Moore, Glen, Wooster, Pevsner, Wilson, Adams, Mills, Armitraj, Richardson, art director/brother Michael Lamont, supervising art director/son Neil Lamont, producer Barbara Broccoli, production designer Ken Adam, production buyer Ron Quelch, director Peter Hunt, camera operator Robin Browne, production manager Serge Touboul, actor Tanya Roberts, art department assistant Katharina Kubrick-Hobbs, and scenic artist Jacqueline Stears.
Peter Lamont 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, 34 seconds) and "Bond Rescues Octopussy" (three minutes, 21 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.
In the Image Database, we get a series of *Still Galleries. The DVD splits the photos into 18 different areas. Each includes between one and 10 shots for a total of 85 pictures. It’s a decent collection.
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 terrific picture and audio as well as a good mix of useful extras. 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.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Definitely. It includes a few nice new supplements, and both picture and audio demonstrate substantial improvements. This is a fine upgrade.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Octopussy can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Four”. This five-movie set also includes Dr. No, Moonraker, You Only Live Twice, and Tomorrow Never Dies.