With thanks to Robert Baum, reprinted by permission
Review: Moonraker (1979)
Having proven triumphant once again both in thwarting another fiend looking to finish off the world and regaining his footing at the box office, Roger Moore returns as James Bond yet again. Stopping the sinister stratagems of Karl Stromberg was child’s play for 007. This time, however, her majesty’s best known spy faces a far more formidable challenge.
Not only is Bond now portrayed by an actor who is now just shy of over half a century (Sean Connery was just over forty when he made his final Bond adventure: 1971s Diamonds Are Forever) but there are a new crop of cinematic pickings prompting producer Albert Broccoli to look to the stars for 007’s latest endeavor. That mission has Bond seeking a stolen space bound shuttle: Moonraker. This effort reunites most of the key players from The Spy Who Loved Me: Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert, screenwriter Christoper Wood, and of course Roger Moore.
Having used his time between the last adventure to be of aid to fellow UK stars Richard Burton and Richard Harris as one of The Wild Geese, Moore returns to being a solo operative; but not before having a run-in with the metal-mouthed monster of a mountain from The Spy Who Loved Me, Jaws (Richard Kiel), in search of a new employer and wanting revenge. Following a briefing by his superiors (Bernard Lee and Geoffrey Keen) and receiving the latest state-of-the art hardware from MI6 weaponsmith Q (Desmond Llewelyn), Bond is off to California. There he meets Drax (Michael Lonsdale), a megalomaniac obsessed with venturing into the final frontier.
Bond also gets an encounter with a striking siren of a scientist with a good head on her shoulders named Holly (Lois Chiles) who gives Bond a taste of astronaut training which goes awry thanks to a jerry-rigged centrifuge, courtesy of Drax’s kendo-savvy manservant Chang (Toshiro Suga). Of course wherever Bond is, there’s a woman waiting to be swept off her feet even if in doing so, the results prove fatal; as they do for one of Drax’s employees (Corinne Clery) who goes to the dogs.
With Gilbert at the helm for another mission, there are similar elements to the last cinematic mission for 007 which was a refashioning of another Bond adventure: 1967s You Only Live Twice which Gilbert also directed. This time the showdown is not at sea but takes advantage of the science fiction frenzy ushered in by the success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One certainly doesn’t need to guess much where the film winds up.
Virtually no expense has been spared for Moonraker, despite it being a lightweight romp bordering on camp that is light years away from past Bond adventures; particularly From Russia With Love (1963). The effects courtesy of recent Oscar-winner Derek Meddings (Superman) and his colleagues are out of this world; and the stunts, as always are impressive. Still it is a joy to watch, though aficionados more fond of the earlier efforts might think otherwise. John Barry, missing since The Man with the Golden Gun, returns with a score that brings back the magic he has given to many a motion picture. The title tune performed by chanteuse Shirley Bassey offers aural aesthetics. Nothing against Carly Simon, or Paul McCartney, but when it comes to singing 007 theme songs, nobody does them better.