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Soundtrack review: James Bond – Octopussy (John Barry – 1983)

Composer of the month Franchises James Bond franchise John Barry month

Soundtrack review: James Bond – Octopussy (John Barry – 1983)


I haven’t seen “Octopussy”. This is one of the few Bond films I still haven’t gotten around to. Roger Moore’s second to last outing as the famous secret agent had him fight a wealthy afghan prince who was selling jewels and relics from the Soviet government. This turns into a plot to use a nuclear weapon in Europe which Bond of course averts. John Barry’s score was a bit of a mess, release wise. The original 1985 release was recalled because of a printing error and became a rarity. I am reviewing the 1997 release which also has a few tracks with dialogue from the movie. There was one more release, remastered and without dialogue, in 2003.

Voiceovers in movie scores are iffy… some love them, some don’t. For special movies I am ok with hearing these snippets of dialogue on the score, and James Bond enters this category. I laugh every time I hear Bond’s exchanges with the severe Moneypenny. Roger Moore knew how to play this part and was funnier and more pleasant that Sean Connery in my opinion.

The music is (how else?) sweeping and romantic. This is John Barry and we all know it when we hear the beautiful “That’s my little Octopussy”, the theme for the associate of that afghan prince. This cue is tender and dreamy and makes me care for the character, or at least for how the others view her, without having seen the movie. John Barry used the flute to make the feelings even more poignant, on top of the movie’s instrumental theme.

“Arrival at the island of Octopussy” takes me even deeper in that dreamy. If I’m ever to be hypnotized, they should use John Barry’s music. They always say “Go to your most relaxing place” when they do that and cues like this one do the job instantly. I am floating through space or adrift on the sea without a care in the world, carried by the soft wings of the orchestra. The music is gentle and strong in the same time like a thick woven blanket on which I can rest as much as I want.

Did I mention the flute? I know I did, but I feel the need to mention it again because it’s one of the instruments that make “Octopussy” even better. It’s melancholic in “Bond at Monsoon Palace” or almost mysterious in “Bond meets Octopussy”. John Barry uses it like a magician and I think he could write a solo flute theme that could work as action or romance or anything he would want.

This is one of the scores that strangely get better every time I listen to them. I remember I didn’t even enjoy it that much first time I heard it, but my palate has changed and I can understand it more now. It’s just beautiful film music, the kind that everyone will enjoy because this beauty is universal. So, you know what you get. John Barry, James Bond, this score sells itself. I can merely guide you through what I thought were the highlights for me…

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 24 / 34

Album excellence: 71%


Bond Look Alike

009 Gets Knife & Gorbinda Attcks

That’s My Little Octopussy

Arrival At The Island Of Octopussy

Bond At The Mosoon Place

Bond Meets Octopussy

The Palace Fight


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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