…this one is also going to end. But till it does so Jacques Stewart scrutinises the film and its impact on himself and the series as a whole with his usual mixture of opinion and Science Fact!
Share your own scientific findings about ‘Moonraker’ in this thread.
The first one. Film it in Jamaica, Bond investigating the death of British agents, an abundance of local colour to liven it up and make it so very terribly, veritably, exotic.
The second one. Bond and a meeting-his-match dark side of Bond killer circle around each other for ages whilst a cursory plot about an initially important but swiftly neglected device plays out.
The third one. Go showier, bolder, aim for definitive, iconic imagery, up the gadgetry significantly and bung him into a tremendously amusing car.
The fourth one. The third one having turned out “quite well”, what the Hell, just hurl it into overdrive and do some strenuous envelope-pushing to spew out something dementedly pursuing an agenda of entertaining us.
But enough about the Sean Connery films.
Right, then. Moonraker. Hm. This.
Some like it. Some, let’s be honest, don’t, which is an understatement equivalent to proposing that Richard Nixon was a Big Old Scamp. Bond fandom, it’s a girthsome church / broad mosque / voluptuous synagogue / fat pentangle, innit? It’s the net income of seeking to appeal to every human being on Earth and not just a handful on a website moaning about some micron-thin piece of trivia as if it had any bearing on anything, or could influence those who go out of their way to try to entertain we ungrateful anonymous, unaccountable swine. “The” internet – it may have opened up the nature of communication for human beings but it hasn’t changed the nature of communication by human beings, which is by and large absolute ferret testicles. A phrase that some may observe brings us right back to Moonraker.
That’s not to say that indulging in gushing one’s passion out on such inconsequentials as The Dalton Films’ Carpet Designs or The Watches of You Only Live Twice or The Windowframes of The Sean Connery Era isn’t of some benefit, although the value’s largely that if a “person” is hammering away frustratedly about such rot, it means they’re not walking the streets and it’s safe for me to go outside into the fresh air and do some, y’know, living. Having stated that, in a crassly hypocritical move, but a joke you could see coming (it’s a “review” of bleedin’ Moonraker, yeah? Totally appropriate), and having you as a captive – if not captivated – audience, my finely-wrought dream approaches its fulfilment – The Science Facts of Moonraker. Dot Co Dot YouKay.
You may have noticed that I’ve used the phrase throughout these dewdrops of rank wee to indicate Total Lie. It’s a phrase that’s always disturbed me; when banging on in his daffy way about Moonraker not being Science Fiction, but Science Fact, did Bert Broccoli truly believe that he was producing a documentary? Assuming he did, for otherwise he’s Broccolied to us and that just lacks panache, then the following scientific truths deserve a frickin’ Nobel Prize.
Science Fact 1: It is possible for a Space Shuttle to be of use to the British in a mysterious way (further research required: current hypothesis is using it rain down fire on striking British Leyland “workers” or to clear the streets of binbags brimful of unburied corpses). It’s not abundantly clear why we would want one. We have TARDISes; they’re much better.
Science Fact 2: It is possible for a Space Shuttle to launch from the back of a 747 and not itself be destroyed. Given that thing the other day with Endeavour being wheeled through Los Angeles and some thin branches getting in the way of progress, it seems that Shuttles are fragile craft made out of consumptive maidens, cress and cobwebs. Still, Science Fact. Learn this. There’s an exam later; although it’s probably coursework so you can all cheat or get your teacher to do it for you.
Science Fact 3: On the fortieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2, making a film in which a powerful, charismatic man wishes to gas everyone to death in pursuit of a policy of eugenic ideals is absolutely fine as long as you have a bit with a gondola and a surprised pigeon in it. Saying that, all pigeons look surprised; I think particularly of that one I once kicked into a restaurant window, pretty bloody surprised it was, although not so much as the diners drinking their broth. Still, giving us jazz-hands giants trying to fly does distract from the sinister truth that you’ve just gone and made “James Bond 007 – versus Hitler! IN SPACE!” and intend to administer this awesomely ghoulish concept every Christmas Day to highly impressionable children just after The Queen’s told us how fab The Commonwealth is, even if all that seems to be is “doing dancing”. Still, pretty amazing what you can get away with when you shove front foreground Roger Moore and his superb tailoring.
Science Fact 4: Middle-aged British men know how to operate Space Shuttles. Presumably this was the reason for “borrowing” it; a training device for leering beblazered buffoons to practise weightless re-entry. Hastily accelerating towards the Big Top marked “leering beblazered buffoon” myself I simply cannot wait for my first go; the little coin-operated Noddy car outside Waitrose is getting to be a bit of a tight fit. Especially when I try re-entry. I think that’s what the slot’s for. I shall be most annoyed if the notion that every British man gets a spaceship at forty does not turn out to be Science Fact and shall begin to question the veracity of Moonraker’s truths despite its initial compelling entertainment value. Who directed it, Michael Moore?
Science Fact 5: Constructing an invisible space station is itself a process invisible. Evidently didn’t use British builders, then. That skip’s been on my neighbour’s drive for eleven days, horrid unsightly thing (the skip, not the neighbour (much)). Hugo Drax invented the invisible skip. Pushing him out of that airlock looks ever more like a peremptory act. You didn’t have to kill him, James; all it would have taken was a really big apology from Drax, the cheeky monkey, mitigated by the fact he wasn’t going to kill off all the potatoes unlike that dolt Stromberg and there would still have been lovely Labradors and hedgerows and dormice and, y’know, wheat for everyone! – and we could just have set him up in a palazzo lab to invent cool stuff like invisible scaffolding and invisible completion deadlines. And invisible cars, God help us. Actually, kill him, do. Make it hurt.
Science Fact 6: The word Chang is pronounced “Charrr”. Accordingly, one pronounces meringue “merarrr”, boomerang “boomerarrrr” and gang bang “garrr barrr”, which admittedly may be the only way one can speak after such an experience.
Science Fact 7-Up: Is the only drink available on Planet Earth, save for Bollinger “69”. Beginning to see Drax’s point. Not that I would ever vote for him, y’understand, not saying that, not at all, but he seems to have things very organised, the uniforms are sharp and I am sure he would have made the trains run on time. And the train guards would have been very, very beautiful unlike that one last night who looked like an undernourished Terrahawk and smelt of rotting asparagus and wet vagrant (a.k.a. Global Product Partner Heineken).
Science Fact 8: You can both hear and see lasers in “Outer Space” and the US has a whole division of Starship Troopers instantly ready for Space Death Laser Battle. No wonder there’s a budget deficit. Still, if it’s in Moonraker, it’s Fact, Science Fact. In any other film, this would be soulcrushingly inane. Science Fact 8b is that the US government is once more displayed as abjectly stupid, so stunningly moronic that their infiltrator into Drax’s organisation has been there months and discovered bugger all, when all it takes for the British (who are GREAT British, don’t forget) is to send in a cusp-of-decrepitude juvenile delinquent who needs eleven seconds and a quick spin on a Death Waltzer to establish that Drax patently bain’t up to no good. Given that CIA operative “Dr” Goodhead (Good. Head. Oh. God.) must have been hanging around whilst the “invisible building of the invisible space station” was going on, they’re a total waste of Outer Space, these “Americans”, fit as Space Laser Cannon fodder but little else. Not even put on enquiry when six space shuttles take off within the space of five minutes from various places around the globe; there’s no suggestion that these are either invisible or impervious to radar, although I accept that they might not have been spotted because they’re four inches tall and filled with salt.
Science Fact 9: No-one in Rio does a stitch of work; they’re just lost in dance; perhaps they’re trying to audition for The Commonwealth and have HMQE2 say naice things abite them. Or they’re blitzed off their nips on 7-Up and trying to jiggerboo the sugardemon out.
Science Fact 10: You can kill a rubber snake (this is not a euphemism) with one little prick (this one might be). Similarly, it’s always a good idea to hit a man with metal teeth smack in the mouth, even though you can barely reach it and despite the fact you are wearing a dart gun (or are you? Oh, yes, you are. Thought you might have left that behind on, say, Planet Earth). Additionally, when in a malfunctioning cable-car many hundreds of feet above the ground, go outside. Not complete and utter bolos; Science Fact. Don’t argue. It’s documentary truth and it all happened.
Science Fact 11: A very pretty young lady can render herself unacceptably freakish and hideously deformed by wearing glasses and sporting pigtails. Science Fact. Don’t do it girls! You’ll only end up with a big boy with balls of steel. On second thoughts… What is it, though, that attracts Jaws to Dolly, given that she’s patently gruesome (in a seventies Bondfilm way i.e. actually really attractive but just made to look daft)? Is it the schoolgirlish hair? That raises some very, very dark thoughts about what fires up his retro-rocket.
Science, then. Science has brought us many questionable things. The Atomic Bomb.
Dr Pepper7-Up. Polyester. Plastic fruit. Plastic surgery. Plastic Bertrand. Moonraker.
Moonraker, the film in which we are subjected to rubbishy daftitudes such as the 007 camera, buying the Eiffel Tower, playing the piano without touching the keys, the Bondola, outraged fowl, Space Laser Death Battles and killing the villain by flicking one off the wrist. And Jaws and Dolly.
Moonraker, the film in which we are subjected to extremely nasty violence such as an incinerated Jumbo, a woman torn apart by ravenous dogs, a man shredded by piano wire, a couple of innocents carelessly gassed to death by Bond – the only people gassed to death at all – and lots of bleak death – including the unfathomably excused mass-murder of the beautiful young people – in the permanent winter of (um) Outer Space. And Jaws and Dolly.
Moonraker, the film that basically cannot make up its mind what it wants to be (other than outrageously entertaining; perhaps that’s enough) and, after The Spy Who Loved Me steadied the sub, takes us right back to the start of this decayed decade and the madcap tonal shifts of Diamonds are Forever, albeit on a vast budget and with a story that, by and large, makes “sense”. The other pattern that emerges is, of course, the “fourth film fing”, that by this time out in a Bond’s cycle (should he get that far), it veers into the bit in the Venn diagram that contains both “Bond film” and “Took Colossal Balls To Make It And Colossal Balls Is What They Made”. In (wildly) varying degrees of quality, Connery, Moore, Brssssnnn. Fond though I am of Dalton’s Bond, with this pattern settled, his fourth would have been horrendous. One fears for what follows Skyfall; it risks being Landfill.
It does seem a curious business model. Consider Mr Ford and his motorised vehicles. The first car, fine, good, a success; hooray. Re-engineer and update for the second go; success again. Third time around, add a few new features for luxury, perhaps a seat, more success. Get to the fourth car and make it out of, I dunno, raspberry blancmange and badgers’ lips and song, yeah, that’s a really amazing idea, they’ll buy anything now. Obviously it’s not just the Bond films that (frustratingly, totally deliberately) wander into this: the fourth Bourne. The fourth Lethal Weapon. The fourth Star Wars. The fourth Indiana Jones (yikes). The Fourth Protocol. The Fourth Reich. Still, at least (as opposed to any of those) Moonraker consistently entertains. I won’t ask you to sit there believing that I think it’s the best Moorera Bond (that’s been and gone); but by Jaws’ big bronze bollocks, it’s by far my favourite. I am immensely fond of it. Whether that’s because it’s total balderdash, which of course it is, or whether it’s because I am, boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past every time I watch it, is hard to conclude (so I won’t bother).
I am that child running from the Christmas dinner table to watch it. Every time I watch it. There’s something so immensely appealing about its relentless desire to be vast and stupid that it beckons me on like that pretty lady does to Uncle Rog. I know it’s going to be bad for me but, y’know, stuff it. Far more rewarding to tumble into the obvious trap than to resist temptation and wait for Licence to Kill to show up and administer its most shockingly violent act: tedium. There’s a bit in the catastrophically overoptimistic pamphlet entitled “The Making of Licence to Kill” which is headed up something like “After Moonraker”, as if Moonraker is something to be ashamed of rather than embraced, and which proceeds to be a smidge snotty about a film that made about a billion times more money, is about a billion times as memorable and entertaining and a billion times as unpleasantly violent. I might have rounded up a bit, but I’m perfectly happy for my mathematics to be independently verified by, oh I dunno, let’s say… the many millions who went to see Moonraker and had the temerity to enjoy it.
I don’t think we are meant to derive anything more than entertainment from Moonraker and because it so evidently sets out to try to make us all, y’know, happy (with a plot about gassing people), it doesn’t need the insecurity of clinging onto “meaning” or “depth” or “ishoos” or “coherence”. The more reduced down the Bonds became from this sort of total widescreen spectacle, the more uncertain the enterprise feels going forwards, losing the self-esteem built up over this film and its immediate predecessor. The “problem” emerging is that, although the films that follow this have him do interesting things – speaking in tongues, becoming a psychotherapist, baking, joining the circus, joining the Taliban, trying out paedophilia – what the enormous films of 1977 and 1979 achieved was masking the fact that Bond himself wasn’t interesting any more, a series of inevitable-as-an-unloved-season character tics in a delicious suit, but starting each film James Bond and ending each film James Bond with damn all real progress in between. Throw a metal toosie-pegged giant or a Space Shuttle at us and we are so numbed by the daftness that we are persuaded, overwhelmed against our critical instincts, into ignoring the core problem with the Bond series that is horribly exposed over the course of the next twenty years. With less outrageousness to distract us, each subsequent film, to a greater or lesser extent, has to fall back on a pretence at character and suffers a crisis in delivering a confident vision of what it’s actually wanting Bond (both the man and the concept) to be. The failure in achieving anything very credible is that they all fall into the trap of starting with the premise that he is James Bond; unfortunately this makes the character resistant to change (and those who would support such a vision, equally resistant). The tinkering that goes on after Moonraker comes across as counterproductive contrivance. This culminates, as it was tragically bound to, in a cataclysmic wigout in 2002 when it tried to be everything, evidently overworked and had a very public and messy and pitiable breakdown. The single worst thing about the James Bond films between and including 1981 and 2002, the thing that held them back, is James Bond. More – much more, Roger Moore – on this in due course.
Moonraker is the equivalent of standing in the street and holding up a really shiny coin or pointing up at the sky; see how many people follow, how many people look, distracting themselves for a moment from the mewling infants running around or, with any luck, the traffic bearing down on them, bringing much-needed oblivion.
Comfortably numb, what then does the preamble to the 007th minute give us? A particularly parpy gunbarrel – the gunbarrel, it’s so very frickin’ important, innit, especially one like this, administered unto us with squeaky brass and yeah, turn, shoot, yeah, that; yawn; I do wish they would muck about with it, it’s always the bloody same – and a couple of beautiful Meddings fly into view but – oh no! – one of them is a ) full of fuel (brilliant) and b ) capable of being flown by extras from The Sweeney and c ) nicked. Cue officialdom, M getting a phone call in that office full of books he’s never read and Moneypenny delivering the comment about “…last leg” and then we see a leg and…
…hang on (sorry; harrr on), this is exactly the same construction as the last film’s pre-titles, isn’t it? Even to the point where there will be treacherous minxery and freefalling and parachutes. Come to think of it, not that it’s an original thought, the whole sodding thing’s the same isn’t it? Upgraded on spectacle and hardware – fie to your nuclear submarines; mere toys – and I see your unfriendly Russian agent chick and I raise you a perversely hostile American spybabe. Plot is The Spy… v1.2 – It’s Back! It’s Better! It’s Badder! And This Time It Won’t Kill All Your Grapefruit! Bit of a facelift, some (beautiful) redesign, probably some additional cupholders, that’s what you get. Cheeky to try to pass it off as new, really. That may be part of the charm. Something Old (well, old-ish. Couple of scenes and Sir Rog looks a tadge knackered but he’s still pretty spry for a pretty spy, and anyway he’s Roger Moore, we’re not, so he can get away with it). Something New (not sure where this is to be honest; modernised versions of the usual tat is as good as it gets). Something Borrowed (not “some” thing. “Every” thing). Something Blue (and by that, Dr Wholly Deepthroat, and if it’s ‘69 you were expecting me, I mean you). Bearing in mind it looks like it cost a fortune to show us this, I suppose a saving had to be made somewhere, and no-one remembers what the plots of Bond films are, do they? Sometimes not even while they’re on. Sometimes not even while they’re writing them.
Bond, begarbed in excellent late-70s international jetset Cinzano and Bitter Lemon flight clobber – comfy action slacks, a lovely beige polo neck and a blazer (look, children, standards) – got himself pushed out of a plane by a particularly demented looking Jaws. Why complain about the stupidity of that? This film has already told us that the British have a space programme, no-one seems to think that’s ridiculous. Jaws inexplicably reappearing is no more cretinous. Tumble tumble tumble, and a lovely bit where Roger Moore (and it is Roger Moore, don’t defecate on my childhood) adjusts his fall to dive down after the pilot; smashing. The idea is a great one – no parachute, grab parachute, use parachute. The Jaws stuff… well, bit much isn’t it? Don’t know why he wants to nibble Bond’s ankle but then the film establishes that Jaws is a colossal sexual deviant, so perhaps not that surprising. And then the whole bloody circus comes tumbling down around him. How apt.
Shirley Bassey sarrr the theme tune and is a smidge behind the beat when she starts (to my tin ear, anyway), but ultimately it gets going and it’s pleasant and gentle, but as with the rest of the extremely special score, it tends to get lost in the lunacy. In space, no-one can hear your theme. There are some cracking bits of music flung at us, John Barry’s efforts being worthier and more dignified than the film deserves although, copying The Spy… yet again, they seem to have decided that by the closing scene, there just wasn’t enough camp, so if the Young Men’s Rugbuggery Club Choir isn’t available, bring on Shirley Bassey doing Disco which, I am assured by a homosexual gentleman friend (my brother) is as gay a couple of minutes as you can have with your trizers on, other than finding oneself in a lift with [name deleted, although were I to tell you, you’d be amazed, but then five minutes later claim it was really obvious and you’d known all along].
We’ve been told it’s Roger Moore as James Bond 007 – still not getting a SEAN CONNERY style credit; shame. Proportionately it’s still mostly Sir Roger on screen, although from hereon in the sightings of him in this, his natural habitat, become increasingly rare. We’ve also been promised that this is Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. Well… no. No it isn’t, is it? OK, so the Nazi vibe is carried through, ish, and had Drax’s plan been to fly that pinched Shuttle into Buckingham Palace there may have been some overlap, although post September 2001 any such artistic decision would now be deemed tasteless – it’d be like having Bond deal with terror on the London Underground, erm… – whereas turning the Planet Earth into a big ball of Belsen is just fine. Anyway, let’s not bleak it down, it’s Moonraker, it’s fun, it tells us to have fun, it tells us it has a sense of humour and has to keep on reminding us of this until it becomes slightly sinisterly insistent about hammering the point home and we become heartily sick of it and don’t believe its claim; a sort of galactic Scouser.
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 Moonraker
Moonraker stars Lois Chiles, apparently. An odd performance, spending most of the film annoyed that a smug sex-pest prat is getting in the way of her tremendously energetic investigation. The look of weary disdain when espying him through the Rio telescope is magnificent. Seriously though, lovey, you don’t put a name like Dr Greatfelch in front of MooreBond and expect not to be leered at. What’s more – much more, Roger Moore – interesting is Bond’s initial reaction to Goodhead being a woman. Was he expecting a man, with a name like that? And where would we have been if so? Second in line at Shirley’s Discotheque, I suspect, just behind the concierge at the Rio hotel, a ludicrous mincing stereotype although I understand that encounter was toned down from an original draft:
INT: DAY: PINEWOOD DE JANIERO. “AN” HOTEL. BOND enters with CHARLES HAWTREY. Please ensure future copies of script do not delete the word “with” in that sentence. It upset Cubby who was offended and declared it contrary to his making of family entertainment about gas genocide. For some reason BOND is dressed in a white suit. Apparently this is testament to the scouring detergent properties of Global Product Partner 7-Up.
HAWTREY / C-3PO
(Hands over key limply, eyeing BOND up whilst he does so. He likes the white suit. It reminds him of his time as cabin crew with Global Product Partner BRITISH AIRWAYS)
The President’s Suite.
(As only Roger Moore can)
I’m not sure how necessary it is to learn that Dr Bestlickylickytwennydorrah is in the CIA; nothing comes of this other than wondering if she’s their least competent agent (some fierce competition) and a fitfully amusing scene with her secret gadgetry (not that sort, despite her name) provided by the American Q. Great: ours is a racist, theirs is a sexist. The mild suggestion at the start of the film that she’s in cahoots with Drax was never going to last – he doesn’t seem all that interested in other human beings and evidently isn’t sufficiently puerile to laugh at her name. Nothing much achieved by Dr Supersuck is dependent on her being a secret agent and – ability to fly a Space Shuttle, wear some stunningly godawful frocks and cope with her surname all considered – it’s the least credible element of the character.
A woman made up of high-tech digital pocket calculator display is spinning around and zips out of frame and then reappears again, rather oddly but presumably intended to represent weightlessness. Did you know if you type the numbers 77345663 into a calculator and turn it upside down, it comes up as “Eggshell”? 37816173 is “Eligible”. The mind 5376608. Still, there she goes, cavorting about, what splendid 58008, a set of 538076 almost as charming as those of Dr 378806618.
Michael Lonsdale was Drax, and practically everything he’s given to say is utterly devastating; by far the most amusing Bond villain. Such script as there is seems to have been spent entirely on means of making him completely hilarious, dry as the desert he’s gone and chateaued a building into. Polite, too, never failing to introduce Bond to mute European totty who are always on the point of departing from his presence. Perhaps they don’t get his jokes (they look a bit dim). Not the most physical of villains, though, seems to do a lot of sitting down, and afflicted as seriously as any other badhat (and that hunting headgear of his is a truly bad hat) with the syndrome of bringing his villainy to Bond’s attention. If he hadn’t tried to kill Bond in the centrifuge, although we would have been deprived of a moment of proper acting from Roger Moore, Drax’s plan may have seen its way to fulfilment and I would be writing this on a space station, what with being perfect ‘n’ all. You lot, you may need some gas masks. At the very least they will make you all less unsightly, gas or no gas.
One wonders what it is Drax will get up to himself on his intergalactic inseminating factory. Going to be at least nine months before any real progress can be made and I do hope at least one of those Shuttles was full of nappies and wetwipes and not just Frascati and oysters. Unclear whether Hugo’s going to have his little kendo stick see any action – he doesn’t seem that fond of people per se and he hasn’t brought his dogs with him – or whether he just likes to, y’know, watch. There’ll need to be a damned good laundry, too. I suppose they can all keep their energy up with Global Product Partner 7-Up, although it is meant to be a back-up when the lethal nerve agent runs out. You’re not meant to drink it. It is a strange old plot; a dirty old man wants a gathering of young people to have a lot of sex, a golden generation of inoffensive blow-dried mullets that all get blown up at the end (fnarr) and sucked off (….) into space without anyone thinking that’s a bit unfair on them. They didn’t ask to be born beautiful; it’s a curse, y’know. Well, probably you don’t.
Woman! Stop your spinning! Granted, you might be lost in the 316008.Or too much 32008.
Richard Kiel returns, and legend has it that this was at the request of children, some with pigtails. Failing to spot that children demand any old rubbish on a five-second enraged whim that passes as soon as another distraction comes along – I want more Lego / I want a puppy / I want to be let out of this cellar – Eon succumbed to this and, charming man though Mr Kiel is and seemingly game for anything on the basis of this drivel, it’s an error. Included for comedy value, one knows full well that no harm will come to either Jaws or Bond and therefore the tiresome encounters they lumber through present cartoon-level threat, at best. Still seems to hang around with short, fat, bald men; bit odd. He seems confused. In fairness, there are a couple of strong Jaws moments amidst all the flappy wavey child-molesty nonce sense. Standing stock still, watching, in the middle of the Mardi Gras as others cavort around him, out of their tiny minds and tinier dresses on Global Product Partner 7-Up, is a nice little beat, even if he is dressed as a purple and green dog/rabbit/thing, a John Wayne Gacy with dementedly expensive cosmetic dentistry. The other moment of value is during Drax’s Space Station speech about perfection and order in the heavens and being kindly to the shrubbery and there’s a brief moment when the expression on Mr Kiel’s face is so sublimely “Umm…you what?” that it almost compensates for the other slop to which he has to subject his dignity. Quite where Jaws and Dolly end up is a mystery: my bet is they crashed at Roswell and were categorised as hideous alien freaks – Dolly’s Predator dreadlocks are a giveaway – and for the good of humanity, dissected at hideously painful length and with blunt, rusty scissors. Jaws’ tungsten teeth and testicles were re-engineered into the underwiring for The Actor Purccce Brznn’s bra.
Now there’s an eye peering through a hole and this is patently a direct homage to this film being initially intended as For Your Eyes Only. Star Wars coming along and eating up lots of lovely dollars is, on reflection, an entirely justifiable reason to make Moneyraker instead – can’t think of an artistic one – and to leap aboard the Starship Bandwagon and present us with an alternative to Mr Lucas’ stultifyingly under-educated race war allegory with something much safer, a stultifyingly under-educated race war allegory…um. …and Corrine Clery as Bond’s little chum (first name: pedigree). One has witnessed, with headshaking pity, debate upon this message board as to whether, in her dialogue about never learning to read, this is a Science Fact and therefore Jimmy
SavileBond is taking advantage of an educationally subnormal inadequate. What with Dolly and Jaws, there’s a lot of it about (albeit difficult to say which way it falls in that doomed coupling). Nope, it’s a joke. The same persons tend to believe that this Mr Silva stroking Bond’s thigh and Bond responding with dismissive ennui makes Bond bisexual or wearing clown makeup means he’s joined the Circus and that’s a le Carre reference that is, Science Fact, and Bond banging on about toasters in A View to a Kill means that he owns such a dreary device. Oh, pity the rest of us and unleash the lethal nerve gas, there’s a honey. The Corrine Dufour episode tells us that Drax is a tremendously generous employer (just look at her bedroom and his equipping her with magic shoes that can turn into boots) although the disciplinary procedure definitely requires consultation if it’s going to be considered objectively fair.
Also along for the ride are Emily Bolton, whose character might as well be called HubbaHubba because she serves little other purpose and stands as a monument to Brazil’s fine export trade of beautiful wooden objects. Geoffrey Keen is on good form as patently treacherous “Minister” of Defence “Fred” Gray, wants the Space Shuttle all for himself, doesn’t he, probably cooked up this whole plan with Drax when playing Bridge, didn’t he, wants Bond off the case, doesn’t he? The whiff of corruption just stenches out of this guy; why did no-one spot it? Has a similar reaction to Max Zorin. Seriously, no wonder the public think poorly of politicians with this sort of devious little weasel around. Toshiro Suga gave us his reading of the pivotal role of Charrr and I can only assume he wasn’t referred to as Chang when they realised one morning that he’s not remotely Chinese. Psychopathic Asian henchman; completely original concept. Fun fight with all that glass, though. Bit of a midger, on the whole, and one wonders whether he would have made it through the Portal of Perfect that Drax had up his tunic sleeve. Bond being largely responsible for the deaths of Charrr (lickle) and Corrine (illiterate) seems to save Drax the trouble of gassing them anyway. If only Bond had got round to Cavendish (makes simply appalling cucumber sandwiches; leaves the rind on. How uncouth. Highly suspect “home made” mayonnaise, too).
Lois Maxwell turns up, does the usual, goes away again.
Irka Bochenko – accepting the challenging role of “Blonde Beauty” and Nicholas Arbez as “Drax’s Boy” (nope, not even going to think about that one) get higher billing than Bernard Lee, which is a shame given the circumstance that this was his last film. Departs with dignity intact though. At the other end of the dignity scale, it’s Desmond Llewelyn and his moving caravan of indigenous rubbish. Obviously the Q scene itself is awful and the Bondola is pathetic, but this sort of guff aside, the gadgets are reasonably good this time. I do like the speedboat and the chase is entertaining, if perversely slowed down by our last rendition to date of the 007 theme played at about 12 rpm. The wrist gun’s a neat idea, even if Bond doesn’t appear to wear it for most of the film and then suddenly, fortuitously, heartbreakingly, does. Still, it’s not as if Drax is immune to this great good fortune in having a startlingly appropriate device turn up amazingly presciently – his shuttle is, after all, fitted with a laser. Well, that’s terrifically good luck, isn’t it? Where would we be had it not? Dead, I guess.
Blanche Ravalec has had sufficient indignity placed on her over the years that it’s best not to dwell, save to observe that this is not an ugly woman in any way shape or form. Can’t say I go a bundle for pigtails but it’s a science fact that Britney Spears would never have been successful without Dolly from Moonraker. So there’s yet another thing to thank her for. Well done you. “Thanks”. Anne Lonnberg gave us “Museum Guide” and she’s not like any museum guide I’ve ever encountered; she’s about half the weight and twice the beauty and undoubtedly properly deodorised. Colonel Scott – Colonel von Scott – was brought to us by Michael Marshall, for which one can only express gratitude, we would have been lost for expendable Americans without him, and Jean Pierre Castaldi and Leila Shenna as pilot and hostess of the private jet get higher billing than Walter Gotell who I accept is only in it for about three seconds in his Communist pyjamas but given that General Gogol is Bond’s paymaster, it’s a bit of a scandal.
Ah, the Planet Earth. One of the best planets, in my view. That and Mongo, which seems a slightly unfortunate choice of name. No wonder they’re so hostile.
Ernest Day and John Glen directed the second unit and, as ever, there’s some splendid stuff. The explosions in the Amazon chase look especially – and, arguably, unnecessarily – dangerous. The script was edited by Vernon Harris, although edited down from what is a mystery; unclear what might have been just too stupid to make it in. It’s quite telling, the differing attitudes of the generations of the Broccoli family to the writing of these films. Vern here is editing a script by the writer of the hilarious Confessions of a Probable Rapist. These days they’re the work of persons laden with worthiness and such, such angst. Whether they’re any more fun, is moot. Production manager Jean-Pierre Spiri-Mercanton has a magnificent name as does, in a slightly more restrained manner, his pal Terence Churcher. One of these persons is not British; which? Quite a production to manage: France, Pinewood, Venice, somewhere over America or something, Brazil, Outer Space (where the infrastructure is sorely lacking). How on Earth – and not on Earth – it all came together given that they evidently went to most of these hostile alien environments (France), is an immense achievement. We do take Moonraker for granted, don’t we? Thought about for a moment, the schedule must have been as ludicrous as all the rest of it.
Uh-oh, spinny digi-babe is back, wondered where she’d popped off to, but she just can’t stay still, can she, and off she goes again. Cavorting around like that, she needs to be careful she doesn’t fall down a 3704. Replaced by an engaging silhouette of a comely young maiden diving through some pink rushing clouds and I’ll pause the DVD at this point but only to note the names. Honest. Art Directors Max Douy and Charles Bishop made the thing look magnificent – it just drips wealth and excess, this one, even if it is probably all cardboard – and Set Director Peter Howitt gave us plenty to gawp at although it is a curious audition piece for his subsequent role as Joey Boswell in the relentlessly execrable “Bread”. 2nd Unit cameraman Jacques Renoir – presumably one of the family – helps make everything look luscious and glossy and the visual and optical effects works of Paul Wilson and Robin Browne stand proud testament to doing it for real and, I suspect, not a vast amount of money. True, some of the back projection (especially in the cable car sequence) is ghastly, but most of that Outer Space stuff remains tip top, still, many years on. Its faults many, but looking rubbish is not one that can be fairly levelled at Moonraker.
John Grover was the Assembly Editor and I still don’t know what one of those is but on the basis it gets a credit, it is obviously something that has to happen otherwise all the rest of it goes very wrong. Didn’t manage to edit out the Bondola; perhaps he wasn’t watching that bit (can’t blame him). Notably, when the Bondola starts up, the camera GOES ALL SHAKY, IT IS A DESECRATION AND I CANNOT SEE WHAT IS GOING ON, OH IT’S STOPPED SHAKING SO, GOOD, I CAN NOW SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING…. OH DEAR….MAKE THE CAMERA SHAKE AGAIN; DO IT. Michel Cheyko seems to have directed the assistants well and Bob Simmons is back “arranging” the action sequences. Harrr on, coupla films ago these were “stunts” and now we’re back to the rather more sedate description of “action sequence”. Still, I suppose that most of what does happen is fairly protracted – there aren’t that many one-off moments, they all tend to blend into a longer (sometimes quite drawn out) series of events. Probably the right description after all. Production Controller and Production Accountant Reginald A. Barkshire and Brian Bailey, both amongst the loveliest of accountants, deserve their prominent credit: keeping the spending in check on this one, albeit not perhaps the most patently glamorous of tasks, must have been quite a head-scratcher. Great book-keeping, guys! The rumour that they’re the pair in the pre-credits that repossess the Space Shuttle as a write-off against Corporation tax is probably true.
Lots of locations to manage, so we had Frank Ernst for Brazil, Philippe Modave for Italy and John Comfort for the USA although for some reason we aren’t told who location managed Outer Space which seems to be a bit unfair as I bet it presented some unique challenges such as the risk of sudden decompressed asphyxiation, although anyone kissed by Roger Moore would experience much the same. Unit Manager (UK) Chris Kenny’s affliction of losing his surname is compensated by Unit Manager (France) Robert Saussier’s amusingly national-stereotypical one.
Divey woman has been ploughing along in British Airways livery; product placement even finding its way into the titles now. It’s quite sweet, isn’t it, Moonraker’s approach to subtle mentions of its Global Product Partners; if there’s no way of contriving them into the plot, let’s just drive past a massive billboard with the logo on it. That’ll do. Oddly charming; quaint, and far more appealing than sitting on a train and talking entirely naturally about a grotty OMEGA. Not sure any of it makes me want to actually taste 7-Up, but then I don’t want one of those horrid watches either. I am fully aware of my own mortality and have no desire to accelerate it by using either of these products.
Sort of appropriately, as we glide peacefully towards 0.07, we’re told about Visual Effects Supervisor Derek Meddings and Visual Effects Art Director Peter Lamont. I mean, just look at it. You’ll never see another Bond film like this – possibly a relief to many, but a sadness to a substantially less thick few – and the various things we’re told about how difficult and delicate the special effects became just make one admire all the more the hard work that went into it. Never having been totally sold on Mr Meddings’s work to this point – there’s something a bit residually Thunderbirdsy about the poppy fields and Scaramanga’s island, although the supertanker is jolly good – here he surpasses himself and, even this many years on, betters the efforts of “persons” sitting at a computer who type the models out or whatever they do. I’m sure that’s more efficient, but it’s not really craft, is it? Moonraker is a work of hard-carved artistic splendour, and I’m not referring to Emily Bolton being made out of solid mahogany again. It is a thing of beauty, Moonraker, like Denise Richards or one of those Philippe Starck lemon squeezers: on a practical level, completely bleedin’ useless and more than a little annoying; but just look at it. Magic.
For many, the “Where other Bonds end, this one begins” stuff is more of a dire and explicit warning of excessive stupidity to come than a promise of a damn good time, although it does appear that the passing of each year becomes kinder to Moonraker.
Certainly there seems to be a rump of opinion that would ask one to judge it on its desire only to entertain and, on that basis, it’s hard to see why it would be considered “one of the bad ones”. It’s terribly easy to go into it with an expectation of ironically enjoyable awfulness, and trot out the tired “so bad it’s good” stuff, but there’s a momentum and charm and honesty to it that pings at the heart every single time. It’s not brilliant “in spite of”; it’s brilliant “because of”, because of its determination to make us enjoy it and generally succeeding. Weirdly, given its scale and potentially alienating absurdity, I find it a happy place to be, the watching of Moonraker. Other Bonds – almost every other Bond – may be more plausible, few are quite so divorced from their source material and the majority are more exciting but there is, and oddly for such a rampantly cynical commercial enterprise, a heart here that many of the following films lack. This may well represent the last time they could spin it out. The next half dozen films look a bit desperate to put all this behind them. Why?
Perhaps my enthusiasm for it is due to a deftly brilliant lead performance, or a cast all of whom seem to be in on the joke or a script that – at times – sings, or the overpoweringly confident volume of it. Indeed we won’t see its like again – it costs stupid money to be this stupid – and that’s a sadness. Obviously, I may be transposing my childhood glee at being allowed to watch it past my bedtime onto a two hour advert of tastelessness and incoherent excess, but I’m not sure that’s totally the source of my fondness for it. It’s pretty good if you allow it to be, y’know.
What follows the 007th minute defies rational explanation but embraces emotional connection. Without it the Bond series would be much the poorer – one could lose The World is not Enough and it would be the merest of scratches, but this stands for many things. For many years, even apparently in the eyes of the people who actually made it, it served as a warning never to go there again (they ignored this) and as an internal whipping boy of all that was BAD BOND. Big enough to look after itself though Moonraker is, that’s a dreadful injustice and it does seem now to be undergoing some rehabilitation (although this is what one does for criminals: Moonraker committed no crime, save a desire to be loved, although Bond’s dress shirt collar is wide enough to land a Shuttle on).
It does now appear to be an artistic turning point in the series and, given the number of films to date, pretty much represents the big showy number at the end of the first half. Whether its spurning was a wise move comes under scrutiny in the Bond films of the 1980s which are, of course, universally, better than Moonraker.
Oh, Science Fact.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of For Your Eyes Only. Jacques Stewart has seen your smile in a thousand dreams. Creepy.