Moonraker DVD

NOTE:Reviews of the Special Edition DVD of Moonraker are based on Region One features.

• TheatricalRelease Date: June 29, 1979
• Aspect Ratio(s):Widescreen Anamorphic – 2.35:1
• DVD Encoding: Region 1
• Layers: Dual
• Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
• Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Inside Moonraker Documentary
• The Men Behind The Mayhem Documentary: Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Special Effects
• Still Gallery
• Collectible Making-Of Booklet

Moonraker, the 11th Bond film, was released again on DVD, this time on May 16th as a Special Edition. The special features include the documentary “Inside Moonraker”, the documentary “The Men Behind The Mayhem” (a tribute to the special effects wizards of the Bond series), scene selections, audio commenarty with Director Lewis Gilbert, original theatrical trailer, still gallery, widescreen format, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and a collectible “Making Of” booklet.

The Moonraker Special Edition DVD comes highly recommened, though with a few complaints. Standing above and beyond all the other features to be found on the disc, John Cork`s “Inside Moonraker” documentary is a fascinating look back at how production began on the film. Key players are interviewed, including Lewis Gilbert, Michael G. Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Roger Moore, Lois Chiles and Richard Kiel. John Cork both directs and produces the documentary, and he includes promotional footage and interviews done back in 1978 and 1979 when Moonraker was underway, along with new interviews designed to show the stars reflecting on their experiences filming the movie. Oddly enough, the documentary goes into much greater detail about the special effects work that went into Moonraker than the actual special effects tribute called “The Men Behind The Mayhem”. Michael Wilson goes into detail about how location scouting for Moonraker first took them to India as well as the difficulties of co-producing the film with French partners, whose construction labor was lazy and unfocused. Be sure to stick around for the documentary credits, as they show outtakes and bloopers from the set, including the most hysterical one of all: Bond and Holly looking out the window of the space station as the globes are launched. All of the sudden, a little green alien drops in front of the window and begins washing it.

The still gallery is impressive as well, including many rare or never before seen photos. Some of them are mundane, such as the construction of the space station set, yet it gives you an idea of exactly how difficult it is to build these sets. My personal favorite section of the still gallery was the promotional materials, with all of the different variations on the Moonraker poster.

The film is one sided and that means in this case the only version of Moonraker you get is widescreen or 2:35:1 ratio. This is the way it always should be. After all, why invest in DVD and its wonderful features if all you want is pan and scan?Most fans of the series today have never had the opportunity to view the older Bond films in the theater, or in a widescreen format in a personal home theater system for that matter. Television networks have typically run the films entirely in “pan and scan”, and with the advent of spinning logos and blatant advertising during the airing of programs these days, it`s nice to be able to sit back and see Bond in all his full glory. DVD was made with Moonraker in mind. With true widescreen, you are getting to see up to 50% more of the picture than a typical airing of Moonraker on TBS. Common widescreen ratios include 1.66:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. so with Moonraker you are getting everything. The inclusion of Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound enhances the viewing experience. Scene selections are cut in half for the second round of DVD releases. Where the first wave averaged 55 to 60 scenes, Moonraker only has 32, thus forcing you to sit through more of a scene to get to the point you really want to see.

The original theatrical trailer riffs on Star Wars, but what`s more interesting than that is how long the trailer is. It clocks in at around four minutes, which is nearly twice as long as they are today. The style and substance of movie previews have changed, and the old way in which Bond was advertised in theaters and on television no longer works.

The special effects documentary features archival interviews with such Bond f/x stalwarts as John Stears and Derek Meddings (both have since died), as well as Chris Corbould. At 20 minutes, the documentary crams in a tribute to all 19 official Bond movies, leaving about one minute for each film be analyzed. This is a pity, as a whole section on the special effects of Moonraker would have been interesting. Instead, the special effects artists quickly gloss over each film, with very little analysis or explanation of how each shot was established. The documentary was produced and directed by John Cork and written by Bruce Scivally; not their finest work.

MGM touts this special edition as having a “collectible booklet”, but it`s hardly worth much. Most of the information contained in the booklet has been on this website for years. Still, the booklet does have one advantage: the front cover can be nicely inserted into the plastic cover of the DVD box, thus providing a new alternative cover to the standard one that MGM has been issuing for the past several years now. It would be nice if they would include the old poster artwork on the cover, or else provide a way for fans to have alternatives.

The only truly frustrating aspect of this DVD is the audio commentary, featuring four key players during the production of Moonraker: William Cartlidge, Michael G. Wilson, Lewis Gilbert and Christopher Wood. Whether it is due to advanced age or something else, Lewis Gilbert more often than not comes across as surprised, confused, bewildered and forgetful of a film he helped create. Not only does he have memory lapses of his own film and its position in the series, but quite often he breaks into spontaneous side points while other guests are speaking. Where other Bond DVDs have at least two audio tracks, Moonraker crams all of its subjects onto one track, thus forcing all four guests to compete at the same time to be heard. The track is not terribly insightful, but here are few of the more interesting items overheard:
– Christopher Wood originally conceived the role of helicopter pilot Corrine Dufour as a “ditzy” Southern California girl. The characterization had to be rethought when French actress Corrine Clery was hired.
– William Cartlidge originally wanted to have a motorbike chase over the canals and on top of the gondolas of Venice
– Christopher Wood hated the line “I never learned how to read”
– Originally Christopher Wood wanted Bond to say “He had an ear for music” when throwing Chang down into the piano bar, but was overruled by Cubby Broccoli.

MOONRAKER (original DVD release)
Review by: Kevin Bell
Using Q Branch`s latest equipment, I was able to review Moonraker, MGM`s first Moore-Bond DVD release on a large-screen television equipped with DVD player and Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Sound speakers.

Bonus DVD Features: Thanks to the vast storage space DVD discs provide, MGM was able to pack the Moonraker disc (and the other Bond movies) with plenty of added excitement. Both “pan and scan” and wide screen versions of the film are fit onto a single side of the disc, along with two new soundtracks and DVD-only bonus features not seen on the videotape release.

The most exciting new DVD bonus feature was to be the “Making of Moonraker” featurette. Unfortunately, in reality this was the very low point of the disc (not including the Star Wars-inspired finale of the movie itself!). The Making of Moonraker is only four minutes in duration and is mostly an alternate movie trailer. A few brief sound bites from director Lewis Gilbert and Roger Moore make this “bonus” worth a mention at all.

The “Trivia and Production Notes” section of the 007 DVDs is always fascinating, and this disc is no exception. For instance, Lewis Gilbert’s joking that he could “actually make several films for the cost of Moonraker`s phone bills alone!”

“Direct Access to Bond Gadgets” is in itself a gadget, not quite interesting enough to want to go through, but just the thing to load up for showing your Bondian colleagues the awesome powers of DVD as opposed to mere mortal videotape. This section documents all of Bond`s weapons (yes, including the Moonraker laser, shudder!) and Q’s gaggle of gadgetry, allowing the user to jump directly to scenes highlighting the items. This is fun that fails to last.

My favorite bonus on all the DVDs is the original theatrical trailers.
Moonraker`s trailer, released one year after Star Wars, emphasizes drawing in the crossover Sci-fi crowd. (Is there such a thing as a Bond Sci-fi crossover?) Roger Moore`s credit even scrolls slightly slanted across the screen, reminiscent of happier Bond times “long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” If my personal bias against Moonraker has etched into my report and upset the “Sons of Rog”, my sincere apologies. (Actually, I think Moonraker is one of Bond’s best, until James leaves Earth for Drax-ney-land.)

The sound quality of the DVD is excellent and the film has been digitally re-mastered into the THX format. The English tracks, available in Dolby Digital 5.1, really make a difference. Listen to when Drax`s shuttle fires its main engines for liftoff—no comparison to the videocassette version! Oddly enough, a lot of the French dialogue tracks were recorded in English. This is the case with all the background speech, unlike other Bond releases. The disc features English, French and Spanish language subtitles, but only English and French soundtracks. (Admittedly, a small complaint, but hearing GoldenEye`s “Bond, James Bond” in Spanish can be quite amusing.) Video quality is superb, as should be expected with the DVD medium. None of the grainy feel that plagues videos from the `70s is present. Top notch re-mastering of the film!

In all, a very competent disc given to us from MGM. The “Making Of” featurette and fewer spoken soundtracks were disappointing, but the audio and video and wide screen format “moore” than compensate for any shortcomings.

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