Moonraker (1979) – Spaced Out, Mr.Bond.

Moonraker takes the “exoticness” of James Bond to literally new heights, when he hits Outer Space to save the World. An odd entry in the franchise, the 11th 007 movie combines the sexyness of 1979 Sci-fi with that of James Bond, generating a kind of fare that is remarkably awesome and absurd in equal parts. for the first time in the series Bond went from implausible to impossible, making one think he should’ve stayed put on Earth.

JAMES BOND – ROGER MOORE (Fourth Appearance)

Directed ByLewis Gilbert Produced byAlbert R. Broccoli
Screenplay byChristopher Wood Based On: Moonraker by Ian Fleming
Theme Song: Shirley Bassey Music: John Barry
Release date: 26 June 1979 Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Bond Series: 11/23 Distributed byUnited Artists
Budget: $34 million Gross Revenue: $210.3 million
Preceded by: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Succeeded by: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

BOND GIRLS

LOIS CHILES as DR. HOLLY GOODHEAD Despite the cringe worthy name, Holly is one of the better Bond Girls in the series. She claims she is a scientist on loan to Drax Industries from NASA, but is later revealed to be an agent planted by the CIA to investigate Drax. Holly reveals to Bond that she is a CIA agent and they agree to work together after an encounter in Rio. She is non-nonsense CIA material, agile, outspoken, a good fighter and at the same time calm, composed, strong and nonchalant. She can hold on her own, Bond or no Bond.

CORINNE CLERY as CORINNE DUFOUR is Hugo Drax’s personal pilot and takes Bond to the Drax facility when he first gets there. He gets close to her and she develops some sort of liking for him helping him find Drax’s study and safe with its documents and then helps Bond slip away by shutting off the lights. But they are spotted by Cha and Drax has her killed for this treason by getting her mauled by his dogs. Corinne comes across as a loveable, simple girl who is used by Bond. Her terrible end makes one feel sorry for her.

EMILY BOLTON as MANUELA is Bond’s local contact in Rio de Janeiro. They have sex (of course) and she helps him find Drax’s exporter warehouse. She is almost killed by Jaws but is saved first thanks to revelers and then by Bond. Apart from being eye candy and another object of Bond’s desire, she has little to do.

MI6 and OTHER ALLIES

BERNARD LEE as M – The legendary Mr.Lee’s last role as M. M is shown to accompany Bond on the field, a rarity those days.

DESMOND LEVELLYN as Q – Q gives Bond one gadget at the beginning, but 007 is shown utilizing many other gadgets and equipment later on in the movie like the Gondola. Maybe section chiefs are given gadgets too.

GEOFFREY KEEN as FREDERICK GRAY – The British defence minister who accompanies Bond and M to Venice.

LOIS MAXWELL as MISS MONEYPENNY – Appears only in the mandatory “prebriefing flirting scene”.

ANTAGONISTS AND THEIR ANTAGONISM

VILLAIN – HUGO DRAX (Michael Lonsdale) – Hugo Drax is an extremely wealthy industrialist who among other things builds Space Shuttles for NASA on contract. He lives in ultimate luxury in a sprawling French Chateau “imported” stone by stone from France. Drax is portrayed as the archetypical Bond Villain with his decidedly convoluted evil plan, armies of henchmen, megalomania, taste for luxury and unlimited wealth. But still, he is one of the things that do not work in the movie. He does little but stand around towering over his surroundings, talk in an emotionless monotone and trying hard to be evil but not succeeding (but those surroundings are decidedly spectacular). Drax wants to rid earth of all human life so he can populate it with his own race of selectively bred “perfect humans”. He has enough money to build his own Space Station in orbit.

VILLAIN HENCHMAN – CHA Drax’s creepy and sadistic Chinese sidekick. He looked more evil than his employer, with real menacing expressions, always hulking in the dark, watching Bond’s every move, trying to kill him twice. Cha is finally killed when he lands headfirst in a Piano after Bond throws him through a clock face in a tower.

VILLAIN HENCHMAN – JAWS (Richard Kiel) After his much-loved performance in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Jaws returns when Hugo Drax employs him as his henchman after Cha was killed by Bond. But instead of being the menacing zombie with iron teeth, Jaws proves to be human when falls in love with a tiny blonde with large glasses. In the end he switches sides to join with Bond and helps to bring Drax down. The human side of Jaws sure did wonders for the character.

VILLAIN SCHEME – Drax wants populate earth with his own race of perfect humans who would stand under his command. He intends to do this after exterminating all human life present on Earth.

GADGETS TO BE USED TO EXECUTE SCHEME -Nerve Gas created out of a Black Orchid, Six Moonraker Space Shuttles, Drax’s own Space Station.

MODUS OPERANDI of the VILLAIN SCHEME– Drax has selected several dozen pairs of genetically perfect young men and women from different races from around the World, whose offspring would create his envisaged perfect “Master Race” of “uber-humans”. All humans will be exterminated to make way for this by using a nerve gas extracted from a Black Orchid. The gas will be dispersed over Earth from 50 globes strategically launched from Drax’s Space Station. Till the gas disperses and the earth becomes habitable again, Drax and his perfect people will reside inside the Space Station.

MOONRAKER 007 FACTSHEET

CARS – (No Official Bond Car), Amphibious Gondola, Carson Power Boat.

BOND GADGETS – Wrist mounted dart shooter with explosive and Cyanide tipped darts, Safecracker Cigarette Case, Exploding Seiko Watch, Mini-Camera. “Bondola” Gadgets: Self-propelled with steering wheel, Amphibious capabilities (hovercraft) to travel on land. Power Boat Gadgets: Deployable Water Mines, Heat-seeking Torpedo, Hang glider.

LOCATIONS – London UK, California USA, Venice Italy, Rio de Janerio Brazil, Amazon Rainforest Brazil, Outer Space.

STATISTICS – “Bond, James Bond” 1 | Direct Kills 14 | Vodka Martinis 1 | Women in Bed 5 | Captures 3 | Tight Spots 5 | Fights 6 | Chases 3

VERY PUNNY, MR.BOND (Bond Quotes from Moonraker)

Hugo Drax: Why did you break up the encounter with my pet python?
James Bond: I discovered it had a crush on me.

Dr. Holly Goodhead: Where’s Drax?
James Bond: Oh, he had to fly.

James Bond: Standard CIA equipment. And the CIA place you with Drax, correct?
Dr. Holly Goodhead: Very astute of you, James.
James Bond: Not really. I have friends in low places.

James Bond: [after blowing a hole in a wall with his watch] Bang on time!

Dr. Holly Goodhead: I still don’t know if I trust you.
James Bond: I don’t know if I trust you either. That’s what makes it more exciting, doesn’t it?

Dr. Holly Goodhead: You know him?
James Bond: Not socially. His name’s Jaws, he kills people.

MOONRAKER PLOT and STORYLINE (Caution, Spoilers!)

An American “Moonraker” space shuttle is hijacked while in transit from the US to Britain. Called in to investigate, James Bond reaches the facility where the Moonraker shuttles are manufactured, owned by Hugo Drax, where he also meets Dr. Holly Goodhead. Drax welcomes him at first but then tries to kill him using his henchman Cha. Bond charms Corinne Dufour, Drax’s personal pilot, into showing him Drax’s study and personal safe, from where he obtains blueprints for some glass vials to be made in Venice. Bond then escapes another attempt on his life and leaves for Italy. After a wild chase through the canals of Venice, Bond infiltrates Benini Glass Works where the vials in Drax’s blueprints were supposed to be made. Inside the glass factory he finds a laboratory where scientists were creating some kind of liquefied nerve gas which they were filling into some kind of globes. Bond confiscates a vial but another breaks and kills the scientists. Bond then kills Cha after a fight in the attic of the factory, where he notices many crates bound for Rio de Janeiro being stored. He then runs into Goodhead and finds that she is a CIA agent also investigating Drax. The next day Bond leads M and Mr.Gray to the facility only find to that Drax had cleaned it out. Embarrassed, Gray asks M to pull 007 off the investigation. He goes on “mock leave” and leaves for Rio to investigate the lead of the crates, after leaving the vial of liquid with M for Q to analyze it. With the help of his local contact, Bond locates Drax’s importer’s warehouse only to find it empty. He recovers a logo for “Drax Air Freight” from there and realizes that Drax is transporting those crates elsewhere. Observing Drax’s planes taking off from an airport, he runs into Goodhead again and they agree to work together. But they are accosted by Jaws who was recruited by Drax in place of Cha and are taken prisoner by his men. But Bond manages to escape.

Later, M and Q inform Bond that the gas in the vial was developed from a “Black Orchid” and had the potential to kill any human being while leaving plants and animals unharmed. This leads Bond to a deep Amazon jungle where the Orchids grow and stumbles upon Drax’s base built up in the ruins of an ancient civilization, populated by beautiful women and perfect men. Captured by Jaws again, he is taken to Drax’s command center where he watches four Moonraker shuttles taking off. Drax informs Bond that he stole the American shuttle because his fifth one had developed a snag. He is left with Goodhead to die inside the combustion chamber of the fifth shuttle, but they escape and successfully pose as the pilots of the sixth Moonraker. Along with the other shuttles they dock with Drax’s Space Station in space. Listening from hidden positions, Bond and Goodhead learn about Drax’s scheme to exterminate all human life and repopulate the Earth with his own superhumans. They also observe him ejecting three globes with the nerve gas into space. They disable the radar jamming system that kept the station invisible from Earth, but are captured again. Bond manages to convince Jaws and Dolly to switch sides and Jaws attacks Drax’s guards. With the rogue station now being visible from earth, the Americans send a military shuttle with “space marines” and are met by Drax’s own soldiers and a laser gunfight ensues in space and in the Space Station. All of Drax’s guards and superior humans are killed, while Bond and Goodhead escape in one of the Moonraker shuttles and Jaws and Dolly in another. Bond uses the shuttle’s laser to destroy the globes before they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Bond and Goodhead are later shown having sex in Zero Gravity.

MOONRAKER TRIVIA

  • Moonraker was the highest grossing Bond movie until GoldenEye was released
  • First and only Bond movie to have the Bond girl’s name to be the same as that of the name of the actress playing her.
  • The only Bond movie to have two boat chases.
  • Jaws is the only villain henchman to have returned from in a Bond movie
  • Only film where Bond’s signature Walther pistols (PPK and P9) are not shown
  • Only film other than “You Only Live Twice” where Bond is not shown driving a car.
  • Third Bond movie title song sung by Shirley Bassey
  • The final shot where the Space Station explodes was filed very easily. They just shot apart a model using shotguns.
  • First movie ever to feature the modern space shuttle, a year and a half before it was formally launched.

MOONRAKER SHAKEN AND STIRRED (Review)

Moonraker is one of those movies which has equal parts of awesomeness and absurdity, though the absurdity part weighs a bit more. It was among the goofiest in the series, when Bond decided for the first time that the world was not enough. There is no reason why 007 should not go into outer space, but don’t Astronauts require high levels of physical fitness, training, IQ and all? I don’t think you can just hop on a shuttle and fly into the Stratosphere as if you were flying from Bangalore to Bombay. The movie which was clippling along at a good pace suddenly stops making sense after Bond discovers Drax’s lair in the Amazon. It then slows down, lags, drags and sputters along and even turns irritating at times. Bond’s talk with Drax was useless and Moore and Chiles look disinterested in acting. Inside the space station, they go around beating up bad guys just walking around as if it was their everyday walk in the park. The climax, given the buildup, is one of the worst in the series, disappointing with its overall execution. The Star-Wars inspired laser battle in space in zero gravity between the US “Space Marines” (blue lasers) and Drax’s men (red lasers) is confusing and underwhelming. The overall pace of the climax is the sourest part of the movie and spoils all the fun. (And wait, USA has “Space Marines”? That is as plausible as the invisible Aston Martin in Die Another Day.)

Bond has a lot of gadgets and two water vehicles, though no car. Except one, none of these devices are being shown as handed over to Bond by Q, maybe they cut those scenes. Bond gels well with his Girls, but the background music is terribly annoying. But the real low point of the movie is the Gondola chase in Venice which is in true Roger Moore’s Bond tradition dedicated to gags caricaturing reaction of people (and pigeons) reacting to how the scene they witness, and looks more at home in a Pink Panther Cartoon. But besides that, the humor plays out wide, and there are few pointed 007 puns in the movie. The fight scenes are pretty well executed for a Moore movie and Bond does do some real investigative intelligence-gathering work like “charming” Drax’s pilot and cracking his safe, photographing his documents using a micro camera and sneaking into the lab to confiscate the vial of Nerve Gas, though it looks like he is being led from one scene to another. Still, the plot of the movie is among the best in the series and so was Bond playing the charming secret agent to the hilt, stylish and suave as ever, clutching to his ego and suits and living the high life to its fullest.

Nothing beats is the surroundings Drax indulges himself with, the luxury and colors. Though his mannerisms and people are quite same as regular Bond villains down to henchmen in matching uniforms, his lairs are quite different, majestic and opulent, even his command center is dominated by huge monitors and not buttons and staircases, though he himself was somehow an irritation, never really looking imposing except for his physique. Jaws is something of an oddity in the movie. The film seems to be confused in establishing whether he is the good or bad guy, and he seems to”act” bad only because Drax is the one paying him. Deep inside, he just wants to be loved and falls in live with Dolly. His expressions like the one where he falls into the waterfall and was about to crash in the cable car are comical at best.

Moonraker posters seem to promote the movie as a two hour Bond-in-space adventure, but Bond just visits space for a couple of hours, and behaves just like a trained astronaut. Though it was supposed to be the highlight of the film, the space sequence somehow diminished it. The entire “space” protrudes like an awkward addition.

THE BEST and WORST MOMENTS of MOONRAKER

WORST: The Bondola Chase (watch): Bond speeds in his motorized Gondola (Bondola?) while being chased by machinegun wielding thugs in a speedboat. That speedboat cuts another Bondola in two, and the half with the oarsman sinks while the other half floats on with a kissing couple in it oblivious to what had happened. Then upon reaching a marina, Bond flips a switch converting the Goldola into a hovercraft which climbs from the water and speeds along the ground. In what would remind us of a “Just for Gags” show, a guy looks at his wine bottle unsure of himself, a sailor and a dog gape, a pigeon does a double take (a PIGEON Does A Double Take!) and a waiter pours beer all over his customers, all flabbergasted by the sight. What were they thinking, converting Bond into a comedy circus? Two: The totally implausible space battle.

BEST: There are some quite good moments in the movie too. One: During a pheasant shoot, Drax plants a sniper in a tree to kill Bond. Bond appears to shoot Pheasants but hits none. Drax says he missed, but in reality Bond had shot the sniper who falls out of the tree, dead (supplanted by a pun). Two: The fight on the Sugar Loaf Mountain cable cars between Jaws and Bond. Three: The Speedboat chase in the Amazon river

MOONRAKER  LEGACY

Moonraker was released in 1979 at the height of the Sci-Fi and space craze with Star Wars, intergalactic cosmic battles and Laser weapons. Brocolli and Co. have tried their best to cash in on the space craze, in which they succeeded spectacularly back then. After all, Roger Moore’s Bond movies are well-known for pushing in popular culture references into the movies. If you look at Moonraker in 2012, the movie does appear ridiculous to an extent, given the level CGI has developed and given the implausibilities of the plot. But looking at it from a 1979 standpoint, the film must have captured popular imagination. But for the first time in the franchise, James Bond went from “plausible”, “maybe”, to impossibility. But Bond movies were not supposed to make sense, especially so the Roger Moore’s ones which are widely regarded to be light-hearted, larger than-life and well, not to be taken seriously. The premise of the film is similar to “The Spy Who Loved Me“, only the villain there was underwater but here he is in outer space. In all, Moonraker will be remembered for the “Space” part, Holly Goodhead (the name) and the Bondola, but apart from that it has not contributed anything substantial to the franchise, despite being the oddest entry in it. Bond movies hit the peak with this one, and from here it was downhill until GoldenEye.

VERDICT: 

THE GOOD: Roger Moore, Villain’s Surroundings, Bond Girls, Action Sequences, Storyline, The Context, Jaws

THE BAD: Hugo Drax, Background Score, The Climax, The Pigeon,

BONDSCALE: 6 STARS OUT OF 10, 15th BEST MOVIE OUT OF 22

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