Written by: George Pacheco on December 5th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, August 14th, 1980
Director: Eric Karson
Writer: Leigh Chapman
Cast: Chuck Norris, Lee van Cleef, Karen Carlson
DVD Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
Approximate running time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78.1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
The Octogon was an early action film for martial arts superstar Chuck Norris, originally released in 1980, a number of years after Norris’ famous debut in Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon. As such, Norris’ skills as an actor are still undeveloped at this stage as portrays Scott James, a (surprise!) martial arts master with a score to settle.
The film benefits from a fairly large cast of characters-all of whom draw attention away from Norris’ wooden performance-including the legendary Lee van Cleef in a scenery chewing performance as James’ longtime associate McCarn. Leigh Chapman’s screenplay details a terrorist camp which is run, in part, by James’ brother Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita.) paving the way for a number of action scenes which, although entertaining don’t really offer anything out of the ordinary for the genre.
It isn’t until Norris’ final assault into the terrorist ninja compound where The Octogon really kicks into high gear, although, at this point, it’s almost too late to save what is essentially a dry and fairly drawn out vehicle for Norris, who doesn’t really resonate with the sort of conservatively “American” charm he exuded in such later films as The Delta Force and Invasion USA. There’s also a persistently annoying inner monologue within Norris’ character which is, frankly, a fairly goofy effect which is unsuccessful at drumming up the emotional connection its attempting to achieve.
Still, there are a few moments of witty repartee between the characters which keep The Octogon from skidding to a dead halt, as well as some blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances from actors Ernie Hudson and character actor Tracey Walter, in an uncredited cameo as “Mr. Beedy.” Meanwhile, the film’s final act does sport a decidedly accomplished number of action set pieces, all of which make The Octogon a recommended watch for Norris fans, yet ultimately unessential for those who harbor just a casual interest in the action star.
Scorpion Releasing present The Octogon in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Colors are bright, clear and virtually without blemish, while the audio is equally audible and error-free. Extras include a 5.1 audio mix, director’s commentary from Karson, a featurette on “The Making of The Octogon,” as well as an interview with co-star Tadashi Yamashita and the film’s original trailer. Overall, The Octogon receives a great release from Scorpion.