Outer Space Now Belongs To 007
30 Years Of Moonraker
The outer space extravaganza for James Bond—1979’s Moonraker—celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. Debuting at London’s Odeon Leicester Square on 26 June 1979, Roger Moore’s fourth 007 adventure proved to be the biggest Bond film yet.
With a US release following just a few days later on the 29th, Moonraker became an unstoppable success at the worldwide box office. With a grand total in excess of $202 million, it made the most of its $34 million budget and became the highest grossing James Bond film up to that point in time (inflation-unadjusted) and remained so for almost two decades, until 1995’s GoldenEye.
Taking into account the 30th anniversary of the film, CommanderBond.net asked our forum members to recall their first (or most memorable) time seeing Moonraker…
Remembering Moonraker by… Craig Arthur
My 30th anniversary Moonraker celebrations won’t be until December, 2009. As used to be the case with all Bond movies, there was a five month wait until their summer/Christmas release in New Zealand. It was always an interminable wait. And for me, Moonraker was my most anticipated movie of all time.
The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond movie I saw in the theatre, in December 1977. I was age 9 and became immediately hooked on Bond. Everybody else was raving about Star Wars but it did not have the same impact on me that The Spy Who Loved Me had. As soon as I emerged from the cinema, I declared that I wanted to see the next Bond movie. And so my two year wait for Moonraker began.
Back then there were no VCRs and Bond movies were never shown on TV in New Zealand. But I became fanatical about Bond and spies in general. So I eagerly devoured any information I could find on the making of the new Bond movie and kept a scrapbook of newspaper and magazine clippings. In the meantime, I managed to see two more Bond movies on the big-screen. Thunderball and Goldfinger.
One wintry Friday morning in May 1979, I was having breakfast and getting ready for school when my parents showed me the cinema page in the newspaper. Thunderball was screening for two days, as would be You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever during the following week. I could not go to You Only Live Twice or Diamonds are Forever because they were only on school nights, but they would take me to see Thunderball. So that cold, wet Friday evening I got to see Thunderball. I loved it, just I had loved The Spy Who Loved Me a year and a half earlier.
Later in the year I got to see Goldfinger on the big screen too. I don’t know how I talked my parents into taking me and my sister to it, but somehow they agreed to take me, one Sunday night in September, even though there were no children’s tickets (everybody had to pay the adult price as it was not a session time for kids). Goldfinger was in a double-feature with Breakheart Pass – god knows why – and Goldfinger was second on the bill. So we had to sit through Breakheart Pass first. To a child of 11, it seemed a very bizarre cinema-going experience. I was used to matinees, not Sunday night double-features of the type Tarantino would immortalise in Grindhouse, where the theatre lobby was full of cigarette smoke. Goldfinger was everything I had hoped for and more. To make the experience even better, as we emerged from the theatre and headed down the stairs, a massive poster for Moonraker was visible inside the entrance. For me seeing that poster was like the Sistine Chapel. Bond in the Heavens with Drax casting him and Lois Chiles out of Paradise with an accusing finger and Jaws looming overhead in Zero G. I had just seen Goldfinger and now Moonraker seemed so close; just two and a half more months to wait.
Moonraker was the first Bond film I had followed the production and overseas release of (as would become the custom for me, to this day. The Spy Who Loved Me, I simply saw on its initial release and loved and the earlier movies I saw on re-release. But Moonraker, I had read about in depth – probably too much – and so I knew the movie inside out before I saw it. Though thankfully I did not know about the pre-credit sequence, and was blown away by it. The movie did not disappoint and contrary to things I would later read and hear about, it did not seem out of step with the other three Bond movies I had seen. In fact I think those four Bond movies fit together nicely. Goldfinger, Thunderball, TSWLM and Moonraker show-case Bond at its big-budget best. All have great spectacle, great characters, locations, Ken Adam production design and scores. I am glad those are the four I saw first, even if it did give me an inflated sense of Bond production values – DAF, Live And Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun could only seem disappointing by comparison.
I absolutely loved Moonraker on its initial release. I only went to see it twice (because I saw as basically the limit for seeing a movie back them) but I really enjoyed it both times. Even though going to see it twice meant sitting through the same terrible state-sponsored documentary on New Zealand butter twice, there were two very great Moonraker adverts – one for Seiko watches before the movie and one for a razor at half time. (Oh, how I coveted a Seiko watch, though I had no use for a razor of course!)
I was a hardcore Moonraker fan. I had a Moonraker T shirt that I insisted on wearing as much as I could even though it exposed my neck to third degree sunburn that will probably lead to melanoma in later life. When I was not wearing it, I was wearing a yellow and white T Shirt onto which I had sewn a homemade emblem of the Drax Corporation. Every day, I imagined myself in the movie.
By my early teenage years I had seen every Bond movie on the big screen several times. (I am very lucky I became a Bond fan when I did. I got to see them all on the big screen, not just once, but multiple times.) But around that time I began reading books such as John Brosnan’s James Bond in the Cinema that described Moonraker as the worst Bond movie. Also, I became friends with a family who hated Moonraker. And so I allowed myself to be brain-washed into thinking that Moonraker was bad. I just accepted this as scientific fact: (even though in early 1983 I saw a Sunday night double feature of Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only again on the big screen and loved both movies equally). The mature Bond fan is expected to rate the so-called more realistic Bond films over the so-called more fantastic, slapstick ones and so throughout my teens I sought a more realistic Bond. At that stage, I much preferred the John Glen Bond movies to the 1970s versions. Spectacle was out.
But in adulthood, I have reappraised this view. For nearly ten years I hardly ever saw Moonraker. A big factor was my parents refused to buy a VCR for many years and so most of the occasions when I watched Bond movies was with those friends I mentioned, at their home – where Moonraker was “banned”. When I did see Moonraker again it would be a terrible dubbed copy as you still could not buy VHS takes of Bond movies and the more spectacular Bond movies suffered more in such a context whereas the earlier, less fantastic Bond movie fared better. But one day in the mid nineties I watched the first half of Moonraker on video and liked it, after watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on TV and really enjoying it.
About this time MGM finally made the Bond movies available to buy on VHS. I bought all the early Connery Bond movies, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, and – on a whim – Moonraker. Suddenly I had a half-decent copy. It was still not exactly my favourite Bond movie, but I liked it. Around that same time – 1996 – Ken Adam’s brother (who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, and is a patron of the arts) put together an exhibition in Wellington of his brother’s work as a production designer. What struck me, when I went along to the exhibition, was how much influence Ken Adam had on the Bond movies. (It was his idea to go to Egypt for The Spy Who Loved Me for instance). I realised that seeing the early Bond movies on video had distorted my impression of the Bond movies and that no matter how fond I was of the Timothy Dalton Bond movies, GoldenEye, or even the last three Roger Moore Bond movies, the production values had slipped dramatically. Moonraker was the last truly epic Bond movie and it went up another notch in my estimation.
The eventual release of the Bond movies on DVD underlined this for me, seeing all the Ken Adam-designed Bond movies in all their widescreen glory. As a result I have enormous admiration for Moonraker. In hindsight, I have never not enjoyed watching Moonraker; I was just brain-washed into not liking it. Yes, the slapstick humour detracts from the movie but the other elements are so well executed one can overlook the silliness much easier than one can overlook the mishandling of Roger Moore’s escape from the gorilla suit in Octopussy or the cardboard-like production design in during Peter Lamont’s tenure as production designer.
Moonraker represents the end of a Bondian era in terms of production values – Ken Adam and John Barry were at their peak. But also it represents the end of the Bond films that embraced modernity. Much has been written about Moonraker being a Star Wars clone. Yes, Cubby Broccoli’s decision to make Moonraker when he did was to cash in on the success of Star Wars but Star Wars was a science fantasy movie that embraced the past – mythological and biblical themes of good and evil – not the future, whereas the Bond movies were about modernity. They showed us technological advancement and our anxieties about the future. This is why I much preferred The Spy Who Loved Me to Star Wars and became a Bond fanatic not a Luke Skywalker fan. In architecture and other areas of our culture, the modernist era came to an end not long after Moonraker. To extent, George Lucas’s influence on the Bond films was that in the 1980s the John Glen Bond movies would embrace old style Indiana Jones type adventure instead of the future. But when I watch Moonraker now, or for that matter Star Trek or Kubrick’s 2001, it represents an era in my childhood when we all believed in the future. This is why I still find it a terrific viewing experience, 30 years on.
Remembering Moonraker by… Robinson
This was the first Bond film I ever saw and the first I saw in the theater. I was 9 at the time and heavily into Star Wars, space exploration and Battlestar Galactica. I think I saw the poster of Moore in his spacesuit and I knew I had to see this flick.
Anyway, I think I stayed in the theater and watched it twice. I had a vague idea of who James Bond was by all my friends who kept talking about The Spy Who Loved Me and “his car that goes underwater.” So, I sit down and watch.
All of the sexual innuendo went right over my head but I definitely could follow the story. I had no idea Jaws was a recurring character and I desperately wanted that boat Bond used to travel down the Amazon. My eyes nearly popped out of my skull when Drax’s space station was revealed.
Flash forward to November of 1979, I’m at my cousin’s and Goldfinger comes on HBO. I’m at a loss as to why James Bond looks so different. My cousin explains to me that this is a series of films and Connery was the first to play the role—and that they always have naked women floating around during the credits.
I’ll still watch Moonraker to this day because it’s a well crafted film. Barry’s score still resonates and Lonsdale makes a great villian. Granted the space battle is absurd but the film is still entertaining.
Remembering Moonraker by… JimmyBond
My first viewing didnt go well. I felt the film was slow and incredibly silly. At the time I felt it was incredibly unBondish. I didnt even finish the whole thing, I don’t recall what happend I just shut it off and did something else. That was my first time.
Now for my most memorable experience. That would probably have to be yesterday. Watching Moonraker for the first time on my widescreen tv was a blast (I’ve had the TV for a while, just havent gotten around to watching the Bond films on it yet). It hit all the right notes for me and I now consider it Moore’s best, and just shake my head when people say it’s too silly. Sure it’s silly, but it knows it, and relishes in it.
Remembering Moonraker by… HildebrandRarity
The mighty globe-trotting epic that is Moonraker was the first Big Screen James Bond movie I saw without my parents.
It was a magnificent experience for a kid who had grown up watching You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever and Thunderball (on both big screen (incuding re-releases) and on TV).
I remember making the Moonraker rocket out of silly putty when I got back home… and, my love for hot, sexy girls began right then, I believe, as I was on the cusp of puberty!
Remembering Moonraker by… ms minniespinney
I had seen Sean and Roger on the telly, but Moonraker was one of those landmark movies that it seemed to me at the time the whole world was waiting for (a bit like Casino Royale and who killed JR). It was the first Bond film I had seen at the cinema, and the first time I went without my parents and I was just blown away. Almost everything about it for me was perfect, the effects had stepped up, Michael Lonsdale as the perfectly sinister supervillain, Lois Chiles, the beautifully mellow music and of course Rio de Janeiro my favourite city in the world! Though not too keen on Jaws now, at the time I was forgiving.
After that, every Bond movie release was eagerly and optimistically and enthusiastically expected but never quite delivered in the same way, and I was always disappointed (until Casino Royale that is).
Sadly, I have become a real Dalton fan of late, and feel now that he has been incredibly under-rated by people like me not really giving him a chance but perhaps his performance may have been a bit ahead of his time. If The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill had come out post Brosnan, he might have pulled it off in the same way as Daniel Craig did.
I have to admit being a little disappointed with Quantum of Solace, but I do like it. But I think like most people I was expecting way too much. Casino Royale was just too good a movie to easily top.
Remembering Moonraker by… scaramunga
I can’t recall when my first viewing was of Moonraker. The first Bond film I saw was in the theater was Octopussy in 1983. I believe it was in the mid to late 80’s though. I was 12 or 13 I think. Anyway, Moonraker has always had me from the first viewing. I really enjoy Moore in the part in this one. Great locations too! Rio and Venice are always great. Probably my favorite soundtrack too. I really wish it could get an expanded release for the soundtrack.
It would be wonderful to see limited releases of the older Bond films in US theaters as they are doing in the UK.
Remembering Moonraker by… right idea, wrong pussy
For some reason this was the one Roger More Bond my parents didn’t have on video when I was young, so I first saw it about the time GoldenEye came out (I would have been about 14 or so) on TBS. I think it was during one of those silly “Dinner and a movie” presentations they used to have on Fridays where during some of the commercial breaks, two rather daft hosts would tell you recipes.
Remembering Moonraker by… Brian Flagg
Moonraker was my second-ever Bond film that I watched and being eight years old at the time, I ate it all up. I took my adventure movies at face value and didn’t necessarily notice the dopey humor, except when the adults in the room with me laughed. Back then, adventure was serious and comedy was funny (hopefully). I didn’t always see that one could include the other. Anyway, I loved Moonraker when I first saw it, and it captured my imagination—sounds silly saying that now—the laser gun fights, the space scenes, Jaws’ return, the fight in the museum… my friends and I played our Star Wars action figures in our own deeply derivative version of Moonraker, with me getting the “plum” role of 007, since I was the only one who’d seen the movie at that point.
Watching Moonraker as an adult, I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons: the campiness, the sexual innuendo, the wonderfully dated safari suits, the egregious advertising. Yes, I love Moonraker still, but on an entirely different level.
“Take me ’round the world one more time.” So bad it’s brilliant.
Remembering Moonraker by… sthgilyadgnivileht
I remember watching Moonraker on TV as a young kid, in fact it may have been the TV premiere. Would have been ’83-84 time. It was a big powerful exciting film to me (and my friends) at the time, and was Bond on top form. We all laughed at Jaws and were well into the space thing along with Star Wars at that time.
Remembering Moonraker by… Mharkin
Well, this was the third Bond film I saw—The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man with the Golden Gun coming first.
It was a very fun movie, I remember watching the VHS I got on Christmas Day. I specifically asked for this because my grandmother told me that “Jaws is in another one.” This was at the time I was obsessed with the character.
I watched it, and I loved it. It was a very fun film at the time. It still is really. I just wish I had a TARDIS, so I could go back to 1979 and see it on the big screen.
Remembering Moonraker by… Tubes
Moonraker was the fourth Bond film I saw (after Tomorrow Never Dies, Goldfinger and Thunderball) and the third I owned. For the longest time, the only Bond films I owned where Goldfinger, Thunderball and Moonraker and Moonraker was the one I watched the most. Quite a few memories involve me being plopped in front of the big screen in the family room as the first notes of Shirley Bassey’s song came up over the surround speakers.
Remembering Moonraker by… Stainless Steel Teeth INC
The best thing about being a child is experiencing things without the burden of logic and cynicism.
I was eight years old and Moonraker was my first experience of Bond on the bigscreen. It’s expertly crafted collection of action, adventure, humour & effects cemented my love for a character that has lasted ever since. With hindsight I appreciate it’s shortcomings, especially when compared to some of the earlier more ‘grounded’ films but for a generation of fans this (along with The Spy Who Loved Me) is where it all began and set a standard by which all other 007 films were judged.
I arguably doubt there has been a better shot or ‘designed’ Bond film since then (thank you Mr Adam) and the score achieves the impossible by lending a majesty to the outrageous nature of the climax. At a time when I firmly believed that good would always conquer evil, Bond showed me that one person could make a difference.
Over the course of 18 months my first few films in the cinema included Star Wars, Superman the Movie and Moonraker. I couldn’t have asked for a better start and for that reason Roger Moore will always be my favourite Bond and Moonraker one of the films that let me dream without burden.
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