Moonraker (1979) (part 1 of 14)
Note from the editor: This recap was updated on May 21, 2012 with new screencaps and new commentary from the author!
2012 Comments: This recap was the first thing I ever wrote for the site that went live (I did a test run of the format on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that was okay). This is not just going to be a redone, cleaned up, and improved version of the recap. It will also serve as an irreverent look at the making of a recap, as well as the text equivalent of a (hopefully) solid MST3K episode.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the James Bond films. From the first time I saw A View to a Kill on video, I was hooked. I can honestly say that almost all of the Bond films range from good to excellent—almost. Of the twenty five James Bond films, the movie we’ll be examining today ranks at #20. Why #20? Because Diamonds are Forever has just barely a worse third act, The Man with the Golden Gun makes me roll my eyes to dangerous levels, and the others are just plain boring. This film is not boring. But then, neither is racing down the highway in a car that’s on fire.
In the summer of 1977, The Spy Who Loved Me brought the James Bond franchise back to the quality end of the cinematic bell curve after the tepid Man with the Golden Gun did lackluster business three years earlier. The film was a return to the larger than life spectacle of Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, the latter being directed by Spy director and helmer of our current subject, Lewis Gilbert.
After the success of Spy, the next installment in the Bond franchise was initially supposed to be For Your Eyes Only. However, due to the gargantuan success of Star Wars , producer Albert R. Broccoli decided to take James Bond into space. Using several crew members from the previous film (not uncommon for the series, and also not really a problem), he ended up with Moonraker, an overblown gasbag of a film. The movie was heavily influenced by George Lucas’ film, and Broccoli even went so far as to claim the movie was not science fiction, but rather science fact.
What it ended up being is one of the first modern day occurrences of the big, bloated summer action movie that promises the world, but ends up giving you half a continent, and maybe some deserted islands with a little bit of ocean thrown in as a bonus. (Or in the case of this film, the moon and everything else.) So put on your disco suit and flare those bell bottoms out real good, because we’re headed back to 1979.
2012 Comments: Not a bad intro, though it’s rather ironic that a film I describe as an overblown gasbag is given an intro that can be described as just that. Contrast with my stuff today, where I get the intro out of the way as fast as I goddamn can!
We begin with the standard gun barrel logo and a nice arrangement of the James Bond Theme by John Barry. The pre-title sequence opens with a space shuttle named Moonraker (how apropos) being carried on top of a 747. In the cockpit of the 747, an RAF officer banters with the pilot, reporting that they’ll reach the English coast fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.
Inside the shuttle, however, a panel opens up to reveal Miscellaneous Bad Guy #1. A second panel opens and his comrade MBG #2 joins him.
They make their way to the shuttle cockpit and strap themselves in. In the cockpit of the 747, the pilot is alarmed when the shuttle’s rockets are suddenly ignited. Within seconds, the shuttle takes off and flies away, and a well-made but fairly obvious miniature of the 747 is blown out of the sky.
In London, we join M (Bernard Lee in his last Bond film), Bond’s chief. He’s on the phone with the Prime Minister, learning of the shuttle’s disappearance. Upon hanging up, he goes to his office door and calls to his secretary, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). Inquiring as to the whereabouts of 007, he’s told that Bond is “on his last leg.”
We find that Bond is indeed on not only a leg, but the sexy stewardess attached to it as well. They are flying on a small commuter-type jet, and I gotta say that if they’d replace the complimentary peanuts with a free make out session, I would fly a hell of a lot more! If nothing else, it would make going through the TSA bullshit much more bearable.