- "James Bond, what do you know about Moonraker?"
- ― M
Moonraker is the eleventh film in the James Bond film series and the fourth starring Roger Moore as Bond. It it also the final film to have Bernard Lee as M two years before his death in 1981. This film was released in 1979. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.
The film is mostly an entirely new adventure using only Fleming's character Sir Hugo Drax. The screenplay was written by Christopher Wood, who had previously co-written and novelised the screenplay for the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me; both Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me share the main plot element of a billionaire industrialist attempting to wipe out humanity and start a new civilisation in an isolated location. Wood also novelised Moonraker in 1979.
The title comes from "moonraker", a synonym for moonsail, the highest sail carried by sailing ships. It is also a reference to reaching for the moon, which runs parallels with the film's main aspect of travelling into space.
Despite being the most commercially successful Bond film up to that point (only being eventually surpassed by Goldeneye, 16 years later) reviews of Moonraker were mixed - with critics citing its outlandish and over-the-top plot which bordered on science fiction.
In the movie Hugo Drax's lair is relocated to outer space, although the plot remains equally fiendish. While the film is probably the most far fetched of any James Bond film, it is still also one of the most enjoyable James Bond films, being fast paced and funny. The movie has also being accused of cashing in on the Star Wars (released two years earlier) craze for everything to do with space at the time.
The movie begins with a shuttle being stolen while being transported on the top of an airliner. It blasts right off the plane. Bond is returning from South Africa when his plane hostess and pilot betray him, and on the plane with him is the villain Jaws, who had appeared in the last Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Jaws and Bond jump off the plane and battle for a single parachute on the way down. Bond wins, gets the parachute, and Jaws lands in the middle of a circus tent.
When he gets to London, Bond is told to investigate Drax, who is a supplier of space shuttles to the US government in the film. Bond goes to see him at his mansion in California, which has been shipped stone by stone from France. While there, Drax and Bond go hunting, and a man set up in a tree to kill Bond is shot by Bond. At first Drax thinks Bond was shooting at the game bird and thinks he missed. Bond says 'look again, Mr. Drax' and it is seen that the man in the tree was shot. At Drax's research facility Bond meets Dr. Goodhead who sets him up in a machine which simulates g forces, although one of Drax's men tries to kill him by making it spin too fast.
Bond photographs some of the plans at Drax's lab with a miniature camera, which lead him to a glass manufacturer in Venice, Italy. While there he is attacked by Drax's henchman Chang, and they proceed to smash up most of a glass display area, before Bond throws him out the window, landing on the plaza below. There is also a chase through the canals, where Bond's gondola has an engine, and even turns itself into a hovercraft, going across plazas in Venice. Bond also meets Dr. Goodhead in Venice, and discovers she is a CIA agent. Bond sneaks into Drax's research facility, discovering highly toxic gases, and calls in M from London, although when they go back to the research facility they are surprised to see that it has completely changed and Drax is there to meet them. However after the meeting, while the Minister of Defense wants Bond taken off the assignment, Bond shows M one of the vials he swiped earlier confirming to him the laboratory was real, and M discreetly allows Bond to continue his investigation under the pretense of being on leave.
Bond is led to Rio de Janeiro where he meets Dr. Goodhead and Jaws again, and Bond battles it out with Jaws on top of a cable car high above the city, ending in Jaws' cable car crashing into the house at the end. Bond and Dr. Goodhead are captured by agents of Drax posing as ambulance drivers and taken away in an ambulance, where they are able to escape, knocking one of the men out the door and into a 7up advertising sign.
Bond then travels up the Amazon river looking for Drax's research facility, which houses his fleet of Moonraker shuttles, and has to deal with Jaws and some other of Drax's men following him. Bond's boat has a number of gadgets, including mines and torpedoes, and Bond drives over a waterfall and ejects with a hang-glider, while Jaws's boat plummets below. Bond is captured again after killing Drax's python, and, alongside Dr. Goodhead, is put in the bay of a space shuttle, which is about to launch so that the shuttle will incinerate them on take off. Fortunately Bond's watch has plastic explosive attached to it, and they manage to escape, and posing as pilots, board one of Drax's shuttles into orbit.
Drax has converted a toxin found in a species of orchid found in the Amazon River basin, which in its natural state causes sterility, into a lethal nerve agent. He plans to destroy all human life (the toxin affects only humans) by launching a series of 50 globes containing the toxin from a space station; the toxin would be dispersed when each globe broke up during reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Before launching the globes, Drax transported several hundred carefully selected young men and women to the space station. They would live there until Earth was safe again for human life; these people would be the seed for a "new master race". Bond reaches the villain's orbital lair by means of the space shuttle. Holly Goodhead, is a CIA agent who competently wards off villains and pilots the space shuttle.
The space station managed to stay hidden from radar on earth due to a radar jamming device, which Bond and Goodhead must disable. After they do this, radar spots them from Earth and there is a brief phone conversation between the Americans and the Russian General Gogol before the Americans send marines on board a space shuttle for Drax's station. When they arrive, a battle with lasers ensues. At the end of the film, Jaws who had opposed Bond throughout, ends up going to his side when Bond points out that Jaws' girlfriend would not live up to Drax's standards for human 'perfection'. Jaws also speaks for the first time, saying to his girlfriend, "Well, here's to us." As they break open a champagne bottle on their way back to earth. Bond and Goodhead leave on a space shuttle to destroy the three probes which are heading towards earth. Bond destroys the first two on automatic pilot and finally gets the last one on manual control. At the end of the film the Americans and British try to talk to Bond and Goodhead to congratulate them, but they are having sex under a sheet while in orbit. M rhetorically asks 'what does bond think he's doing' and Q, who is looking at the radar screen, but not at the picture of the two of them says 'I think he's attempting re-entry sir'.
Cast & characters
- Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
- Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli, William P. Cartlidge, Michael G. Wilson
- Screenplay by: Christopher Wood
- Composed by: John Barry
- Cinematography by: Jean Tournier
- Film editor and second unit director: John Glen
- Production design by: Ken Adam
- Visual effects art director: Peter Lamont
Vehicles & gadgets
Moonraker was criticized for an overabundance of gadgets to a degree many fans considered excessive. This film ultimately led to the more realistic For Your Eyes Only, which had Bond rely less on gadgets and more on his talents and instincts rather than a gadget supplied by Q-Branch to get him out of whatever trouble he was in.
Bond's gadgets include a wrist gun that was given to him by Q-Branch. The gun could shoot armour-piercing or envenomed darts; the former being used to disable a high g-force simulator (centrifuge) that was used by Drax to kill him after their first meeting. A dart of the latter kind is used by Bond to kill Drax. Bond was also armed with a ballpoint pen that was equipped with a hypodermic needle, which he borrowed from Dr. Holly Goodhead, that allowed Bond to eliminate a boa constrictor in a pool while in Drax's jungle hideout. Additionally Bond had a mini camera that was imprinted with "007" as well as a cigarette case safecracker, which contained a device that used x-rays to reveal the tumblers on a safe's combination lock. Finally, Bond had a watch branded by Seiko. The watch face could open up for a small explosive charge connected to a wire, which allowed for the quick removal of an entry obstacle. Bond uses the explosive charge to allow him and Dr. Goodhead to escape from the Moonraker launch platform.
Bond is issued with two vehicles in Moonraker, the first being a Venetian canal gondola made by Q-Branch that features a hidden engine and steering controls, and can also convert into a hovercraft to move on land as well as water. Bond uses this to escape from his pursuers while in Venice. Later, Bond is equipped with a high-speed motorboat, sometimes labelled "Q's Hydrofoil Boat" (despite the fact the vessel is not a hydrofoil at all, but rather a traditional speedboat). This boat is used by Bond while he is searching for the Moonraker spacecraft launching facility in the Amazon, and subsequently to escape from Jaws and his henchmen. The vessel featured all the usual Q refinements, including a rear bulletproof shield similar to the Aston Martin DB5, contact mine dispensers and rear-firing ship-to-ship torpedoes, as well as a hang-glider that would unfold from the roof should the need to escape the boat arise.
The Bond girl, Dr. Holly Goodhead, is shown to also have been equipped with several gadgets of her own, including the aforementioned needle pen, a flame-throwing perfume bottle, and a radio transmitter concealed in her handbag. Several other gadgets or "futuristic" devices were used throughout the film including the "Moonraker laser rifle", which is a laser gun that could be used to shoot in space. The gun was carried over and used in the video game, GoldenEye 007in the Aztec Level, which was in many parts modeled after the launch site for Drax's rockets.
- Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- London, England
- Los Angeles, California
- Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte near Fontainebleau, France. VLV served as Drax's chateau.
- Palmdale, California
- Venice, Italy
- Iguaçu Falls — Brazil
- Rio de Janeiro
- Outer Space!
- Pinewood Studios / 007 Stage
- Studios De Boulogne Paris Studios - Cinema Eclair Studios — Paris, France
- Venice, Italy
- The Jaws character (played by Richard Kiel) makes a return, although in Moonraker the role is played more for laughs than as the killing machine that he was in The Spy Who Loved Me. (See Jaws for more information on the character changes.)
- Executive Producer Michael G. Wilson continues a tradition in the Bond films he started in the film Goldfinger where he has a small cameo role. He appears twice in Moonraker, firstly as a tourist outside the Venini Glass shop in Venice, then at the end of the film as a technician in the NASA control room.
- Bernard Lee makes his final appearance as 'M'. The actor was in ill health at the time of filming. Although he was scheduled to appear in the next Bond film, he died during pre-production.
- Tom Mankiewicz had written a screenplay of Moonraker that was eventually discarded. Some scenes from his script were later used in subsequent films, including the Acrostar Jet sequence used in the teaser for Octopussy, and the Eiffel Tower scene in A View to a Kill. Also, Nepal and India were considered for filming locations - the latter of which was used in Octopussy.
- Lois Chiles had been first approached by the producers for the role of Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me but had turned down the role as she had planned to leave the acting profession at that time. She later shared an airline seat with director Lewis Gilbert during her brief retirement where she ended up in the film.
- As the first truly science fictional Bond film, Moonraker pays homage to two SF classics. When Bond arrives at Drax's pheasant shoot, a man plays the first three notes of "Also sprach Zarathustra", the famous theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, on a bugle. Later, when Bond observes a Drax scientist entering an access code into a keypad, the tones heard coming from the keypad form the famous five-note "alien message" theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In another film reference, the song "Nobody Does it Better" - the theme from the previous Bond film - The Spy Who Loved Me, is also reprised on the soundtrack when Bond arrives at Drax's mansion in California.
- Moonraker was at one point considered to be the Bond film to follow On Her Majesty's Secret Service
- In 1955 the film rights to Moonraker were initially sold to the Rank Organization for £10,000. Fleming eventually bought back the rights in 1959. The Rank Organization never did anything with it.
- In 2004, reports surfaced of a rumoured, lost 1956 version of Moonraker by Orson Welles. Supposedly, this lost film recently was discovered as 40 minutes of raw footage with Dirk Bogarde as Bond, Welles as Drax, and Peter Lorre as Drax's henchman. However, the film soon was revealed as an April Fool's Day joke. See here for more information.
- In the end credits of the previous Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me it says "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only, however after the tremendous box office success of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977, the producers decided they wanted to cash in on the subsequent science fiction craze and make Moonraker instead, thus For Your Eyes Only was held back to become the next Bond film after Moonraker.
- James Bond can only be seen holding his Walther PPK in the box art for publicity material for the film. Interestly he does not carry one in the film.
- Moonraker was the third of the three Bond films for which the theme song was performed by Shirley Bassey.
- Cubby Broccoli vacationed in Brazil where he visited Iguacu Falls - the location used in the film for the boat chase (the actual boat chase was filmed outside Jupiter, Florida doubling for the Amazon).
- Drax's vehicle fleet seen at his French chateau (the real life Vaux-Le-Vicomte) consisted of American Motors and Jeep vehicles (from an AMC Concord, Jeep CJ-7, Jeep J10 light truck, and a Jeep Cherokee) - at the time of the film's release, American Motors and Jeep products were distributed in Europe by Renault since March 1978 (the French automaker previously collaborated with AMC during the mid-1960s when Renault assembled Ramblers in Europe and its Argentine subsidiary produced a version of the Rambler American as the IKA (later Renault) Torino. Renault would become the owner of AMC in the early 1980s until 1987 when financial affairs in France would lead to a divestment when its shares of AMC were sold to the Chrysler Corporation - Jeep (which became part of AMC back in 1970 after its previous owners Willys-Overland and Kaiser owned the brand) became a Chrysler division with Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram. AMC previously had a product placement in The Man With The Golden Gun.
The film inspires part of the plot of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
In a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the Nerd Trio are arguing over who the better James Bond actor is, Warren expresses dislike for Moonraker twice because of the gondola scene, calling it "inexcusable".
|James Bond films|
Dr. No (1962) • From Russia with Love (1963) • Goldfinger (1964) • Thunderball (1965) • You Only Live Twice (1967) • Diamonds are Forever (1971)
| George Lazenby |
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Live and Let Die (1973) • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) • Moonraker (1979) • For Your Eyes Only (1981) • Octopussy (1983) • A View to a Kill (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987) • Licence to Kill (1989)
GoldenEye (1995) • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) • The World Is Not Enough (1999) • Die Another Day (2002)
Casino Royale (2006) • Quantum of Solace (2008) • Skyfall (2012) • Spectre (2015) • No Time To Die (2020)
Casino Royale (1954) • Casino Royale (1967) • Never Say Never Again (1983)