A cloak-and-dagger tale that borders on space opera— and the biggest Bond yet!
By BOB MARTIN
The opening scenes in the newest James Bond film feature the sterling effects photography of Derek Meddings, as a NASA space shuttle is hijacked in mid-air. It’s this brief and spectacular sequence that announces that, no matter how many James Bond pictures you’ve seen, Moonraker holds more than a few surprises.
In Moonraker, the eleventh film of the series based on the works of the late Ian Fleming, Bond (Roger Moore, in his fourth appearance as the British super-agent) is given a particularly sensitive assignment. The American space shuttle, Moonraker, briefly on loan to the British, has been stolen. The U.S. government is understandably upset, and Britain’s top-secret operative, 007, has but one imperative—to find the missing shuttle.
Learning that the craft had been manufactured in California by an American multi-millionaire with an unreasoning passion for the exploration of space, Agent 007 takes the very next flight to Los Angeles. Upon his arrival, he is guided to the estate of Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) by the beautiful Sylvie Dufour (Corinne Clery), a pilot in the service of the Drax Corporation.
As the Drax helicopter approaches the vast estate, Bond is treated to a series of impressive sights—the industrial complex where the shuttles are manufactured, an elaborate French chateau which is the home of Hugo Drax, and an astronaut crew, obviously chosen for their physical perfection, training on the grounds of the estate.
Photos: Above: From this orbiting den of iniquity, a scheme is launched that could change the destiny of humanity. The space station model is approximately 13' in diameter. The Moonraker models ranged widely in size, including a 5' model used for lift-offs and two 6' models. Right: Shuttle stowaways Bond and Holly entering the station in the uniform of the Drax astronautical team.
As in all Bond films, 007 first encounters the villain in his own den, where Drax amuses himself by playing Chopin on his grand piano, flanked by his two vicious guard dogs. After the meeting, in which a polite formality thinly disguises their mutual antipathy, Bond is sent to tour the grounds with the attractive and erudite Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), while Drax lives up to his villainous manner by dispatching henchman Chang (Toshiro Suga) to deal with “Mister Bond.” Needless to say, repeated attempts on Bond’s life don’t even affect his British calm or his sense of humor. That evening, as the others sleep, Bond enlists Sylvie DuFour in his cause and obtains access to some cryptic diagrams from Drax’s safe.
The Drax papers lead Bond to Venice, Italy, where he is surprised by the presence of Dr. Goodhead. Holly and Bond are soon allied, as the dimensions of Drax’s destroy-the-world-to-save-it scheme are unravelled. After a failed attempt to nip the forces of evil in the bud, the trail leads Bond to Rio de Janeiro, to Drax’s space complex hidden in the Central American jungle, and finally to outer space.
That’s the story—without giving away any of Moonraker''s most exciting sequences. Even Richard Kiel, in a repeat performance of his Jaws role from The Spy Who Loved Me, has a few surprises for Bond followers as he reaches a new stage in the history of his malevolence. Bond and his various foes and amours remain in the Fleming mold (after all, why tamper with success?), but new scope is brought to the 007 legend via the ever-present scientific hardware, fantastic sets and, most of all, the spectacular special effects. Though some filmgoers might find the greatest spectaclein the 16-member astronautical crew, men and women cast from the portfolios of Europe’s top modeling agencies, SF fans will be ogling Ken Adam’s sets as they wait with bated breath for the film’s shattering finale. In the closing sequences, Bond, in the company of a couple of surprise allies, meets Drax and his henchmen in a cataclysmic laser battle in space orbit.
As can now be seen in some of the Moonraker trailers featuring space battle scenes and a brief view of Drax’s orbiting space station, these effects are fantastic indeed, certainly up to the high standards set by Meddings in his past achievements —SFX for various Gerry Anderson productions, including Space: 1999, as well as the last Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, and his Oscar-winning effects for Superman— The Movie.
Moonraker is the first adventure film designed to please the non-SF filmgoer as well as the fans of space fantasy, and its multi-million-dollar budget, as well as the track record of the past Albert Broccoli-produced Bond films, assures a healthy box office. But whether this means a new trend toward SF elements in mainstream films won’t clearly be seen until long after Moonraker takes off.
Photos: Above: One of Ken Adam’s most elaborate sets, Drax ground control, under construction at Pinewood Studios. Below: Unaware of Bond’s presence in the station, Drax prepares to implement his design of conquest.
CAST & CREDITS
A United Artists film. 1979. Color. An Albert R. Broccoli Production. Director: Lewis Gilbert. Executive Producer: Michael Wilson. Associate Producer: William Cartlidge. Original Screenplay: Christopher Wood. Production Designer: Ken Adam. Visual Effects Supervisor: Derek Meddings. Director of Photography: Jean Tournier. Music composed by: John Barry. Technical Consultants: Eric Burgess and Harry Lang. Stunt Arranger: Bob Simmons. Makeup: Monique Archambault, Paul Engelen and Pierre Vade. Based on the book Moonraker by Ian Fleming.
James Bond............Roger Moore
Holly Goodhead........Lois Chiles
Ms. Defour..........Corinne Clery
Frederek Gray.......Geoffrey Keen
Photos: Top: Bond faces Drax henchman Chang in a martial arts duel in an Italian glassworks museum. Center: Hollywood muscleman Richard Kiel appears in a return engagement as the unstoppable Jaws. Bottom: No harnesses or nets were used for this particular stunt, one of many arranged by stunt veteran Bob Simmons.
Starlog is a registered trademark of O'Quinn Studios, Inc. and Starlog Magazine content is © 1976-2009 O'Quinn Studios, Inc. All rights reserved. Moonraker © 1979 Danjaq LLC and United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.
[Source: Starlog #24, July 1979, P.82-85]