Recap Supplement: Moonraker (1979)
While most movies on this site are relegated to bare bones home video releases collecting dust in Blockbusters all over the world, there are some notable exceptions. This series will examine the bonus features used to wring just a little more money out of a film that either failed or has simply found its way here.
This series will act as a supplement to the recaps that have already been posted, so if you’re looking for a blow by blow account of the movie, I recommend you read the recap first, because there will be spoilers aplenty here.
We begin our series with one of the better special editions on the market; the eleventh James Bond film, Moonraker. Not only that, the recap is the first thing I ever wrote for the site. And boy, does it show. My feelings on the film have softened somewhat. I still consider it to be a flawed film, but an entirely enjoyable flawed film.
Moonraker has had several releases, with a bare bones disc in the early days of the format, and a special edition in 2000. In 2006, an ultimate edition was released with better visuals and audio and a stack of new extras. This version has also been ported over to Blu Ray, so if you want the movie in high definition… Go right ahead.
Before we move into the real meat of the DVD, I want to bring up the packaging and menus. The first set of 007 DVDs in 1999/2000 were pretty fantastic in their own right, with some terrific menus designed to fit the film they were placed with, and some great extras. The newer sets are equally good in terms of sound, picture and extras but the menus have been replaced with a common theme that is workable but lacks the flair of the earlier discs.
And now, on with the good stuff.
Apart from a remastered print of the film, you also get two pretty good audio commentaries.
Commentary 1: Director Lewis Gilbert, Executive Producer Michael Wilson, Screenwriter Christopher Wood and Associate Producer William Cartlidge.
This is from the 2000 disc and is a fun affair, with the participants taking a few minor shots at Wood, which he joins in on. The participants keep things moving nicely and maintain some lively banter throughout. They don’t go so far as to outright knock the film, but they also don’t take it nearly as seriously as some filmmakers seem to when the time comes to do a commentary. In terms of commentaries on James Bond films, this is as close as we come to the Evil Dead 2 commentary track in terms of tone.
Notable Notes from Commentary 1:
- The character of Corrine was originally supposed to be a Valley Girl type, but when the production moved to France, she was changed to a French woman. Well, if nothing else we can certainly thank the French for that.
- The gondola sequence is actually let off pretty easily. Well, more so than I let it off at any rate. The focus is mainly on how tough it was to pull off (which to be fair, it was) and the pigeon doing a double take isn’t really mentioned. Can’t say I blame them.
- The Carnival stuff was pretty difficult to stage and Christopher Wood (I think) agrees that using the partiers to get Jaws away from Bond doesn’t really work.
- The guys admit they overdid it a bit with the Product Placement Gauntlet™. I beg to differ as it’s possibly one of my favorite things about the whole Rio sequence.
Commentary 2: Sir Roger Moore.
One of the big selling points for the 2006 Ultimate Editions was the addition of a commentary track from Roger Moore on each of the films he was involved in. They’re generally good, though a bit spotty as the man was pushing eighty at the time of the recording and one does tend to slow down after a while. Overall, Moore is a very engaging storyteller and the commentary is well worth listening to at least once.
Notable Notes from Commentary 2:
- Like his other commentaries, this is more of a collection of stuff he can actually remember (a fact he mentions outright at the start of the track) rather than a discussion solely of the film itself. He tends to go off on tangents but he’s such an engaging speaker it doesn’t matter in the least. There are some pretty funny anecdotes and one liners throughout the piece.
- An interesting acting trick Moore employed at times was to act as though the main villain had bad breath whenever they had dialogue scenes together. Oddly enough, this doesn’t go over so well when talking with your supervisor at work.
- The first part of the Rio segment is given to a story about an attack of kidney stones Moore suffered through. Scarily enough, he manages to make this fascinating and entertaining. Is there any topic he can talk about that doesn’t come off as interesting?
- Roger gets just as much of a kick out of the Product Placement Gauntlet™ as I do. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud.
The second disc of the set houses the bulk of the extras on the set. We get several brief featurettes, as well as two longer documentaries from the 2000 release, along with the usual advertising/marketing stuff.
The extras are divided into several sections, with newly released material in a section called “Declassified: MI6 Vault”. Extras from the previous release are in the “Mission Dossier” and trailers/TV spots are in the “Ministry of Propaganda” section. Cute, but to be perfectly frank, I think the makers of these discs went the same route the Moonraker crew took. Let’s begin, shall we?
Declassified: MI6 Vault
Bond in Rio:
Naturally, this focuses on the Rio section of the film. It’s a vintage piece from 1979 and is pretty much a standard marketing piece for the time. It’s as cheesy as one would expect, with talk of long and arduous rehearsals playing over footage of multiple takes of Roger Moore and Lois Chiles kissing, and clips from the movie probably used for talk show appearances. You get the idea. It’s a nice promotional piece.
Like the previous piece, this is a vintage featurette on the film from the time of its release. It’s a set of interviews with producer Cubby Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert, Roger Moore and Lois Chiles. It’s all pretty basic puff piece interview stuff but fun.
The rest of the section includes some footage from production designer Ken Adam who also narrates the piece. It’s pretty interesting as is the skydiving stuff covered in other parts of the section. Some storyboards and circus footage round things off and it’s off to the next section of the disc.
And the circus footage? It’s a circus. You can guess.
007 Mission Control:
This is an odd little addition to the film experience as it is basically a compressed version of the movie divided up into bite size pieces. Just in case you want to see a bit of the film without actually watching the whole damn thing. Probably the only real notable thing about this is that you can view the main title sequence sans credits. Neat, as long as you don’t think too much about the fact that you’re ogling nude women who are old enough to be your grandmother when looking over the discs for the older movies.
The extras from the 2000 release are housed here and are comprised of two documentaries. One is a very good piece on the special effects of the series, but what I want to focus on, naturally, is the forty two minute piece on the film itself.
Like the other documentaries from the ‘99/’00 special editions, this is narrated by Patrick Macnee and gives an excellent overview of the production of the film.
- The film was initially intended to coincide with the launch of the space shuttle, which no doubt is how they got NASA to cooperate as thoroughly as they did.
- The parade portions of the Carnival sequence were shot while the script was still being written.
- Production was moved to France after British tax laws became more stringent.
- An early idea involving small one man airplanes was later reused for the opening of Octopussy.
- Much attention is given to Derek Meddings’ special effects which to be fair are really damn good.
- The skydiving sequence is also given center stage and just looking at the stuff really makes me respect the stunt team even more than I already did.
- The enormity of the production is quite impressive. The fact that they were able to pull it all together is nothing short of a miracle.
- The gondola scene was apparently a real pain in the ass to shoot. It’s sort of a pain in the ass to watch as well, especially given how hard it was to get the thing to work right.
- The movie has the largest weightless scene ever filmed and the glass museum fight features the most breakaway glass in any movie.
- The waterfall sequence was even more of a pain than the gondola scene. Generally that’s what happens when you take the second largest waterfall in the world, a film crew and the concept of trial and error.
Overall, it’s one hell of a documentary.
The rest of the disc is the trailer and posters. I’d say this is a definite must buy for anyone who likes the movie.