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Moonraker (1979) - Illustrated Reference
Moonraker was directed by Lewis Gilbert and premiered on 26th June 1979. Starring Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Corinne Clery and Richard Kiel. Screenplay by Christopher Wood. Music by John Barry. Theme sung by Shirley Bassey. 126mins.
A Moonraker space shuttle is hijacked in mid-air. Bond is sent to Drax Industries to investigate why one of their shuttles is missing. There he meets undercover CIA agent Dr. Holly Goodhead. Working together they discover that Hugo Drax has built a space station invisible to radar and that he is planning the annihilation of all mankind through the use of a lethal nerve gas fatal to humans but not to animals and plants.
Moonraker was Ian Fleming’s third Bond novel and was first published in 1955, it was preceded by Live and Let Die and followed by Diamonds Are Forever.
In the novel Sir Hugo Drax threatens to destroy London with a nuclear rocket called a Moonraker. Once respected by Britain and a member of M’s club he is revealed to be a Nazi working for the Soviet Union. Bond reprograms the rockets guidance system and it crashes into the sea right on top of Drax’s submarine killing him and his Russian companions.
Roger Moore (1927-) / James Bond
Born in London, England, Roger Moore's films include - Diane (1956), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Gold (1974), Shout at the Devil (1976), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Wild Geese (1978), Ffolkes (1979), Escape to Athena (1979), The Sea Wolves (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985) and The Quest (1996). TV series The Saint (1962-1969), The Persuaders (1971-1972)
Lois Chiles (1947-) / Holly Goodhead
Holly Goodhead is a beautiful CIA agent working undercover as a NASA scientist at Drax Industries.
In the novel the girl is Gala Brand, an undercover policewoman who has no real interest in Bond, one of the few ladies in the series Bond fails to bed.
Born in Houston, Texas, Lois Chiles films include - The Way We Were (1973), The Great Gatsby (1974), Coma (1978, Death on the Nile (1978), Creepshow 2 (1987), Broadcast News (1987) and Speed 2 Cruise Control (1997).
Drax: Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him
Michael Lonsdale (1931-) / Hugo Drax
Hugo Drax is bent on destroying the world and starting a new one with a super race of “perfect physical specimens”. James Mason was considered for the part.
Born in Paris, France, Michael Lonsdale was BAFTA nominated Best Supporting Actor for The Day of the Jackal (1973), his films include - Caravan to Vaccares (1974), Chariots of Fire (1981), The Holcroft Covenant (1985), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Remains of the Day (1993), Ronin (1998) and Munich (2005).
Corrine Clery (1950-) / Corinne Dufour
Corinne Dufour works for Drax and makes the fatal mistake of helping 007 after he turns on the charm. The character does not appear in the novel.
Born in Paris, France, Corinne Dufours films include - High Rollers (1976), Covert Action (1978), The Humanoid (1979 also starring Richard Kiel) and Yor, Hunter from the Future (1983)
Holly: You know him?
Bond: Not socially. His name's Jaws, he kills people.
Richard Kiel was back as the indestructible Jaws, perhaps to appease all the young fans of the character he switches sides during the film and helps Bond defeat Drax. He even finds a girlfriend and gets to speak a few words.
Sadly Moonraker was to be Bernard Lee’s last film, the actor died of cancer in 1981, he was 73. Lee played the head of the British Secret Service ‘M’ and along with Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), the only actors to appear in all 11 films.
Drax: Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.
Production designer Ken Adam created an elaborate set depicting the inside of Drax’s space station. The visual effects were supervised by Derek Meddings and deservedly received an Oscar nomination.
In the movie Space Shuttles are seen launching and orbiting the Earth two years before the launch of Columbia STS-1. When the movie was in production NASA had not yet finalised the design of the Space Shuttle, luckily for the model designers there were no visible changes to the real thing.
The pre-credit sequence featured Bond battling Jaws in free-fall, this 2 minute sequence required 88 skydives and took 5 weeks to film.
One of the low points in the film and the entire Bond series has to be when Bond is in Venice and chased by bad guys. He evades them by converting his Gondola (Bondola?) into a hovercraft, driving it through St. Mark’s Square, complete with a pigeon doing double takes.
Q equips Bond with a wrist-gun, activated by nerve impulses, it fires darts, five blue (armour-plated) and five red (cyanide-tipped). Bond has a Seiko watch with fuse and explosive and drives a Glastron Speedboat equipped with torpedoes, missiles and a built-in hang-glider, naturally.
John Barry composed a rich score for Moonraker, one of his best. It was Barry’s 8th Bond score, he would compose three more for the series. Shirley Bassey returned to sing her third Bond song. Kate Bush and Johnny Mathis were considered before the job went to Bassey.
Moonraker was a huge hit on release, the biggest grossing Bond film so far, earning $210m worldwide. The film had cost $30m to make, twice as much as The Spy Who Loved Me and 30 times the cost of Dr. No.
Minister of Defence: My God! What’s Bond doing?
Q: I think he’s attempting re-entry sir.
Bond fans generally consider Moonraker one of the weakest in the series, just the idea of the cool suave secret agent up in space and zapping bad guys with a ray gun is enough to make most fans wince in pain.
In its defence, barring the occasional cringe-making scene, the movie is entertaining, lavish, full of action, the locations colourful, the girls gorgeous, a superb score by John Barry and the late Derek Meddings old school special effects the best in the series.
Bond would be back (on Earth) in For Your Eyes Only.
Moonraker was re-titled in some countries –
Moonraker: Operation Space (Italy)
007 Against the Death Rocket (Brazil)
Moonraker: Top Secret (Germany)
007 Seizes the Space Station (China)
The Critics Wrote –
"The funniest dialogue, the most lavish locations, astonishing gadgetry and thrilling non-stop action. Certainly the most sensational Bond film yet." (News of the World)
“The worst James Bond film to date has Roger Moore walking through the paces for his hefty paycheck and giving way to his double for a series of unimaginative action scenes and "humorous" chases.. Not only is Jaws so pacified by love that he becomes a good guy, but the filmmakers also have the gall to set the finale in outer space and stage a battle right out of Star Wars.” (Danny Peary)
"An exhausted movie. Roger Moore is dutiful and passive as Bond, his clothes are neatly pressed and he shows up for work, like an office manager who is turning into dead wood but hanging on to collect his pension. As the scientist-heroine, Lois Chiles is so enervated she barely reacts to the threat of the end of the world. Michael Lonsdale walks through impassively." (Pauline Kael)
"All in all a solid chapter in what must now be one of the longest successful runs with a single character in feature history... but more than ever producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert seem to be strapped for fresh thrills, falling back on formulas that worked in the past." (Variety)
"It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment." (New York Times)
"A movie by gadgeteers, for gadgeteers, about gadgeteers. Our age may be losing its faith in technology, but James Bond sure hasn't." (Roger Ebert)