The first entry in a series of Bond Specials is one of my all time favourites. I’ve decided to drip-feed all the Bond films gradually into the blog and do them as stand-alone posts. This is because I tend to waffle on and go in to much more depth than is necessary. It’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of the franchise.
Moonraker was never intended to be released in 1979. As the closing credits of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me clearly state:
For Your Eyes Only, however would be benched until 1981, while production began on the most ambitious Bond feature to date. This is primarily due to the success of Star Wars. The production team essentially said, “Wow, that Star Wars film is raking in the cash, shall we just do that with Bond for the next one?”. So they did.
Taking the title of Fleming’s third Bond novel (the most ‘space’ sounding one) and using the name of the main villain, that is where the literary influences began and ended. Moonraker by all accounts was an original screenplay and a brand new 007 adventure.
Filmed over seven countries, three continents and two life-sustaining atmospheres Moonraker was the most expensive Bond film to date, costing more than the first six James Bond films combined.
After a Drax Industries Moonraker space shuttle is hijacked mid-air, we cut to Bond (Roger Moore) in a small charter plane en route to England. Obviously, for the purpose of high octane action, Bond is thrown out. Oh well, at least he has a parachu….. hang on a minute. With this, we get one of the most exciting pre-credit sequences in the series. A heart pumping, free-fall / mid-air battle showcases some phenomenal stunt work and cinematography. Of all the “older” Bond films Moonraker is perhaps the one that benefits most from the conversion to Blu-ray. As well as the (Oscar nominated) visual effects, the extended stunt sequences look impressively pristine.
Joining the aerial acrobatics is the popular (back by overwhelming public demand) henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel). One of the very few recurring Bond villains in the whole franchise. After a flood of fan mail the producers received following The Spy Who Loved Me, the 7 ft 2″ metal-mouthed hard-man was drafted back in to chew things and throw his weight around. As the story goes there were a lot of letters from children, saying how much they loved Jaws but wished he was a good guy….. We’ll get to that later.
Then we move on to the opening credits. It’s your bog standard, nudey ladies rolling around whilst silhouetted against primary colours type affair. This is all choreographed to my least favourite of Shirley Bassey’s three Bond themes. The lyrics are nonsense, the tune is forgettable and the whole song is generally uneventful. As it was her third outing, Bassey was presumably just cashing the cheques by this point.
Shortly after this we are introduced to the films main antagonist, Hugo Drax, played wonderfully by French actor Michael Lonsdale. Bond heads over to Drax Industries to investigate the hijacking of their shuttle. It is here he also meets the Bond girl of 1979, Dr. Holly Goodhead.
Despite the “Carry On Bonding-esque” name, Lois Chiles plays one of the series most intelligent and capable leading ladies, that proves to actually be integral to the plot. She takes Bond on a tour of the facility and lets him have a ‘spin’ in the centrifuge G-Force training machine. She does what any good doctor would do, and that is secure him in the device so he’s unable to release himself, turn it on and then leave the area unattended. Naturally the training exercise is stealthily interrupted by this bloke:
Chang! Drax’s original bodyguard. Don’t be alarmed that he is only a yellow belt in karate. You mess with him, and he will ‘ave you. Anyway, he turns everything up to eleven and Bond starts whizzing round at (literally) heart-stopping speeds, until he manages to deactivate the machine with his fancy gadgetry. Chang legs it off and Dr. Goodhead comes back on to the scene in an “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have left you locked in this thing completely unattended” kind of way.
Bond traces a glass vial from Drax Industries to Venice, where he witnesses some proper nastiness in the form of poisonous nerve gas.
He narrowly escapes (another) assassination attempt by speeding off in a motorised gondola, that then ascends from the water to become some kind of nifty land vehicle. Whilst speeding through the streets of Venice, he causes a bit of a stir with the locals and introduces the audience to one of the greatest 007 characters of all time, the double-taking pigeon.
From here a plot device is squeezed in with a crowbar to conveniently take the story over to Brazil. Presumably because they had filmed segments of the Rio Carnival twelve months before the production of Moonraker started, and they needed to use them. Whilst here, they utilise a couple of locations for cable car stunts and huge waterfall set pieces. In this midst of all this we see Jaws appear as giant clown, in perhaps the creepiest section of a Bond film to date:
I mean, seriously, that is horrendous. And after crashing through a building, a tiny blonde lady helps Jaws out from the rubble and thus triggers a very bizarre love story, slowly beginning his transition from baddie to goody. Happy now kids?
After all the country hopping and set pieces, Bond and Goodhead eventually sneak on to a Moonraker shuttle and follow Drax into space, rendezvousing at his fabulously futuristic space station.
Phwoah! Now that’s a good looking sci-fi model. The gist is, Drax is going to destroy civilization as we know it by deploying fifty nerve gas filled globes around the Earth to wipe everyone out. He’s filled his space station with a few dozen, tremendously good looking people to create a “master race” to repopulate the Earth with. They’re all fit young lads and lasses who are getting rather touchy feely en route.
Bond and Goodhead manage to disable the radar cloaking device on the station so that it pops up on America’s tracking system. America’s like “Ah, what the fuck’s this floating around in space? We better fly up there and shoot the shit out of it.” So they fly up there and shoot the shit out of it.
Based on Drax’s plan of eliminating humans to make way for his “mater race”, Bond turns to Jaws, and says “Hang on a minute, Drax wants a genetically superior race? Aren’t you a 7 ft 2″ clunky bloke with a weird face and metal teeth?” So Jaws thinks, “Oh shit, I am. I best become a goody and help kill Drax”. So Jaws helps Bond. They trap Drax in an air-lock and send him packing.
Bond and Goodhead escape the collapsing space station and are waved off by Mr and Mrs Metal Teeth.
After the day is saved, MI6, the CIA and NASA are all mutually back-slapping after a job well done. They attempt to make visual contact with the escape pod that Bond hijacked to give him a big thumbs up. The live feed is also being streamed directly into both the White House and Buckingham Palace. I sure hope there isn’t anything untoward occurring.
Oooo Bond you randy bastard. Sexual innuendo from Q, wink to camera, fade in a disco version of the Moonraker theme annnnnd end credits! Superb.
I love this film. It’s my favourite of the Roger Moore entries, and, as stated earlier, the Blu-ray version is an absolute gem. Despite the ludicrous plot and the out of place comedic ‘asides’, the thrilling parts are genuinely thrilling, the space visuals are incredibly nostalgic and brilliantly achieved, the acting across the board is actually very good and compared to the other Bond entries, it’s the most ‘out there’ film they’ve done.