James Bond #11: “Moonraker” (1979)
When a space shuttle on loan to England is stolen (in mid-air), there is only one man for the job- James Bond (Roger Moore). The head MI6, M (Bernard Lee making his final appearance in a Bond film), sends 007 to Drax industries, where Bond comes face to face with a man who could only be a Bond villain, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Even though Bond is only there in an attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing spaceship, Drax takes it upon himself to dispose of James before he digs too deeply.
What Bond does discover, with little to no help from undercover CIA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), is that Drax plans to jettison himself and a race of “superior” beings into space, just long enough to kill the world’s population. Then he will return and rule the entire planet, wha ha ha ha.
There is no point in denying it, I think that “Moonraker” is the worst movie in the James Bond series. (Which says a lot for the overall quality of the series, right?) What I didn’t know until really examining the film this time around, is why I felt this way. Yes, the special effects are horrifically outdated and cheesy, especially in the final 30 minutes, when there is the final “space shootout.” But these visual effects, which were nominated for an Academy Award in 1979, are not bad enough to bring down the whole production. The downfall of this film is that every scene, one after another, is designed to be as climatic as possible. The substance of the plot is glossed over in order to get to more action, more girls, and more scenes of Jaws (Richard Kiel) failing to kill Bond. By skipping over so much of the film’s plot, many aspects and coincidences don’t even really make sense, but that hardly matters because before you have a second to try and figure out what’s going on, the films already moved on to the next action-packed scene.
Of course, no expense was spared in the making of this film, as Bond travels throughout the world, highlighting the exotic locations, such as the beautiful California valley, the canals of Vienna, the green lushness of Rio, the rivers of the Amazon, and then finally the vastness of space. All of this traveling adds to the enjoyment of the film, but it doesn’t do enough to save the overall picture.
I would like to take a second to mention the character of Jaws, played by Richard Kiel, who was reprising his henchmen role from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” He seems almost unstoppable, and is so much fun that it’s hard to root against him. Obviously many people felt this way, which is why they give him a girlfriend, Dolly (Blanche Ravalec), half way through the film, who eventually melts his icy exterior, marking the historic occasion where Bond actually works side by side with a former villain.
Here are the statistics for “Moonraker,” as well as a running total from the first eleven films:
- Number of people James Bond kills: 15- James had to get a little creative this time, including stealing a man’s parachute while falling from a plane, and some quick knife throwing at an attacker hiding in a coffin. Plus, once he gets into space, he only kills Drax. That’s pretty impressive, considering how much shooting is going on up there. Total number killed through eleven films: 142
- Number of times we hear, “Bond, James Bond”: 1 Total thus far: 10 1/2
- Number of women who succumb to Bond: 3- Bond, as a man of variety, chooses three women, all in different countries. This time, with Drax’s pilot, Corrinne Dufor (Corinne Clery), in California, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) in Vienna and Bond’s Rio contact, Manuela (Emily Bolton). Total Women: 29
- “Moonraker” theme song:★- Composed once again by John Barry, with lyrics by Hal Davis. After many problems that were encountered in finding someone to sing the song, Shirley Bassey stepped in for the third time in the series. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work near as well. There is nothing exciting or memorable about this theme song, as it just feels rushed and boring.
James Bond will return (and so will Lasso the Movies) in “For Your Eyes Only” (1981).
For more James Bond fun, be sure to check out :
“Dr. No” (1962)
“From Russia with Love” (1963)
“You Only Live Twice” (1967)
“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)
“Live and Let Die” (1973)
“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)
“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)
“Never Say Never Again” (1983)
“A View to a Kill” (1985)
“The Living Daylights” (1987)
“License to Kill” (1989)
“Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)
“Die Another Die” (2002)
“Casino Royale” (2006)
“Quantum of Solace” (2008)