review by Luke Quantrill
after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him."
Flushed from the success of The Spy Who Loved Me, Cubby Broccoli sat in
his office, dunked a biscuit in his tea, and wondered how he could
possibly top it. The lavish and fantastical film had restored James
Bond to his former glory and he had to plan a follow-up. For Your Eyes
Only was supposed to be the next film but, mindful of the Star Wars
phenomenon, his thoughts turned to Moonraker. "James Bond," he pondered
aloud. "In...space!" In his excitement his custard cream fell into his
tea. Outside the window a nearby pigeon did a double-take.
Ian Fleming's excellent Moonraker novel with its elaborate card-game
and Bond's investigation of the mysterious Hugo Drax on the Kent coast
was deemed unusable except for the title and a few names and
set-pieces. Instead Broccoli set out to make the biggest and silliest
Bond film ever. In the film Hugo Drax, much like Carl Stromberg, wants
to destroy the human-race and start again. Drax plans to create a race
of super humans in space to take over the Earth. The film opens with
the RAF flying a Moonraker space shuttle over Britain. Security must
have been a bit lax because two rascals are hidden in the shuttle. They
start the engines up and half-inch the shuttle, destroying the 747 that
was carrying it. M asks where 007 is. Moneypenny tells him that 007 is
on his last leg and he is, quite literally. At this point you can
probably guess that Moonraker isn't going to be the most realistic stab
at James Bond. Roger Moore, in a cream polo-neck and blue blazer is
thrown out of an aeroplane with no parachute. He nicks one in mid air
and finds that Jaws is after him in, er, mid air. Is this entertaining
and fun? Well, to be honest, yes it is.
Bond is sent to investigate Drax in California. He is flown over the
tycoon's property in a helicopter to the strains of John Barry's music
and I'm completely unapologetic about liking Moonraker for a reason
that this scene illustrates: Moonraker seems like a really, really,
really big film. And a stylish one too. After Bond has met Holly
Goodhead (Lois Chiles) and made a 1970's sexist remark "You're Dr
Goodhead? Right, well, put the kettle on love, two sugars in mine" he
meets Drax and is offered a cucumber sandwich. Michael Lonsdale is
dryer than a cream cracker with nothing on it and seems to be having
fun with his role. Drax's henchman Chang (Toshiro Suga) tries to kill
007 in a centrifuge. This is possibly the best scene in the film and
Ken Adam's set is absolutely amazing. Bond's face starts to ripple as
the G-forces reach a dangerous level but he remembers his wrist
activated dart gun, demonstrated on that horse's arse in M's office.
007 staggers from the cockpit and shrugs off Holly's attempts to help
him. Is this moment Roger Moore's finest as Bond? It might be.
The trail leads Bond to Venice. "Ah Venice" as Indiana Jones said.
Pigeon double-takes and a gondola hovercraft. Well, this section does
take 'comedy' Bond a bit too far but the punch up with Chang in the
museum is a lot of fun and quite hard-hitting. Roger Moore is often
branded Bond-lite but his scraps were always well staged and he was
often a lot tougher than he is given credit for. Bond investigates
Drax's laboratory and discovers a toxic nerve agent under development
but Drax erases all trace of the labs and is in his drawing room
watching On The Buses with a bowl of Angel Delight when Bond bursts in
with M and the Minister of Defence. 007 looks a bit foolish but has
craftily maintained a vial to prove his theory and is ordered to fake
his own death and go undercover as a bus-driver. I mean ordered to Rio
In Rio de Janeiro 007 is re-introduced to Jaws who has been hired by
Drax. I did enjoy the idea that Drax had to employ a new henchman after
Chang was killed. I often wonder what Jaws does when the henchman
sector slows down. Does he sell double-glazing? A side career in
wallpaper? Jaws going through the Airport metal-detectors is a funny
gag. The cable-car fight doesn't quite work but there is some
incredible and very dangerous stuntwork which you probably know all
about if you've seen the DVD and the ITV documentary '25 Years of James
Bond'. Jaws meets Dolly and most Bond fans wish he hadn't. Holly is
captured and 007 heads for Brazil dressed as Clint Eastwood. "Balls Q?"
There is a running gag where Moneypenny doesn't believe Bond when he
explains what has happened to him since he last saw her. It made me
Bond travels up the amazon in a speedboat searching for Drax's research
facility and is predictably attacked by several other boats and Jaws.
Good fun although some poor back projection surfaces in this scene.
Some of Drax's perfect women entice Bond inside a jungle temple and
after a fight with a rubber snake 007 is reunited with Jaws and Drax.
Drax's control room is another amazing set. Imagine what the The
Crystal Maze would have looked like if it had a budget of $100 million
an episode and was designed by Ken Adam. Bond and Holly are tied in the
blast pit underneath a shuttle about to take off. They escape and pose
as pilots in a shuttle of their own. Derek Meddings work still holds up
The final half hour in space sees the end of Drax and his space station
and something that few people ever expected to see in a Bond film - a
gigantic battle in space with lasers. Oh, and Jaws turns from villain
to goodie. "I think he's attempting re-entry, sir!" says Q in the end.
Your tolerance for this depends on your weakness for just one sci-fi
epic comic book Bond with a lot of comedy and a very seventies feel. I
have no problem in admitting that I enjoy Moonraker on these terms
although it is hard to think of anything more way out ever appearing
again in the form of a James Bond film. Except perhaps making the
villain a milkman with an interest in spiritual literature attempting
to take over the world with hallucinogenic yoghurts.
Moonraker has been criticised for being gadget intensive but I
disagree. Apart from a wrist gun, a ballpoint pen equipped with a
hypodermic needle, a cigarette case safecracker, a watch with an
explosive charge, a mini camera, a flame-throwing perfume bottle, a
radio transmitter, laser guns, a gondola that can turn into a
hovercraft, a speedboat that turns into a handglider, and about two
million gizmos in Drax's various bases, there are very few gadgets in
Moonraker. And I didn't notice any 7-UP product placement anywhere. If
7-UP would like to rectify this by sponsoring me please send
email and any products you would like me to advertise. I'm sure we can
work out a suitable fee.
Overall I'm charmed by the boldness and spectacle of Moonraker. It has
classic cinematic Bond moments like the centrifuge and Bond shooting
the sniper in the tree. It has a great villain and some great lines
("Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you."
"You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season."),
amazing production design and special-effects that still work today. If
you can take it for what it is Moonraker is a fun way to spend a couple
of hours. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on my polo-neck
and blazer and go and listen to disco Moonraker.