Following the huge success of Star Wars, Bond producers decided to jump on the sci-fi bandwagon for 1979’s Moonraker, which sees 007 face off against a megalomaniacal businessman with plans to wipe out humanity. In space.
In the interest of transparency I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t like Roger Moore as James Bond. A man who’s about as dangerous as a sock and as menacing as a tangerine, Moore could never believably portray Bond’s sadistic, brutal side in the way that Connery had. Instead his films turned to camp comedy and a torrent of sexual innuendo that rival anything in the Carry On series. Pretty much every woman unfortunate enough to encounter Bond has to endure horrible, sexist joke – material that’s aged even worse than his safari suits – all while he cheerfully ogles or unrealistically seduces them. It’s embarrassing at best and disgusting at worst, something that makes watching his films an often uncomfortable experience.
Yet, for many people Moore is their Bond, his lighter touch and self-aware delivery – all raised eyebrows and naughty smirks – bringing a sense of fun to an often dour and self-serious franchise. Moore’s fourth turn as Bond, the risible Moonraker, must surely test the patience of all but the most devoted fans of Moore though. It’s awful. With jokes seemingly pulled from a Christmas cracker and a plot that bounces from one daft action sequence to the next, like a rambling story told by a child that’s drank too much cola; Moonraker is a shambling horror of a film. This is the one where Jaws gets a girlfriend, Bond goes into space and a pigeon does a double take. Watching it and then writing this feature has almost been the end of me.
The plot, for what it’s worth, centres on Bond’s investigation of nefarious industrialist Hugo Drax. The brains behind Moonraker, an experimental space shuttle, Drax is the kind of man who has breakfast delivered by a butler dressed in full judo gear while a pair of obedient attack dogs sit attentively at his feet. So a bad guy then. One of those megalomaniacs that insists on killing his enemies in as indirect and complicated manner as possible, Drax utilises all sorts of wacky methods to off 007. Needless to say, none of them work, and Bond is free to gad about in horrible clothes and leer at women in exotic locales like California, Brazil and a low level orbiting space station.
Drax’s ultimate scheme – kill most of humanity and repopulate the earth with a host of beautiful and brainy folk he’s stashed away in space – is utterly bananas and also weirdly reminiscent of crazy industrialist Karl Stromberg’s plot in The Spy Who Loved Me. By this stage in the franchise, things are getting a little stale, the plots, the gags and the increasingly creaky leading man. Somehow they wrung another three (THREE!) films out of Roger Moore, despite the fact that the years are really starting to take their toll. A scene of Bond being spun round at high speed in a gravity simulating device – the first of many silly assassination attempts by Drax and his men – sees Moore’s face rippling and contorting as extreme inertia takes hold; his leathery features being buffeted in the wind is akin to watching a biker jacket flapping about in a wind tunnel.
There’s far too much silliness to talk about at length here, but needless to say that by the time Bond gets into space and has a laser gun shoot out with Drax’s silly-hatted henchmen, there’s been a barrage of groan-worthy jokes, improbable stunts and baffling plot developments. It’s frankly exhausting to watch, definitely the weakest Bond film to have been released at the time, and quite possibly the worst film in the entire series. This one small step for Bond was one giant fail for the franchise. About as welcome as a fart in a space suit, Moonraker is best avoided.
Bond theme: Shirley Bassey returns to theme duties with her third and final effort Moonraker. Unfortunately after the swaggering bombast of Goldfinger and the campy innuendo of Diamonds Are Forever, Bassey opts for a gentle croon that’s reminiscent of Matt Munro’s theme to From Russia with Love and the end result is mildly pleasant but immediately forgettable.
Best one liner: Most of Bond’s one liners are gross. Picking the best one is like choosing between a sore head and a stiff back. I’d rather not think about it.
Glamorous Locations: Starting off (as usual) in London, Bond then travels to Drax’s Californian compound before following him deep into the Amazonian jungle and outer space.
Girls: The main romantic interest here is Holly Goodhead, a CIA agent undercover in Drax’s business who initially shares a shaky alliance with Bond before he eventually beds her in zero gravity. Also there to bear the brunt of Moore’s dubious charms is Drax’s assistant Corinne Dufour, a fellow MI6 agent based in Rio named Carmella, as well as a whole bevy of beautiful women that Drax plans to restart the human race with.
Gadgets: Bond is given a chunky watch that shoots explosive or poison tipped darts (which comes in handy a couple of times) he also utilises a safe cracker disguised as a cigarette case, a tiny little spy camera, a needle tipped pen and a speedboat kitted out with a detachable hang glider and all sorts of weapons.
Classic moment: Some slim pickings here as Moonraker is a truly dreadful film; a scene of Bond foiling another attempt on his life (this time during a pheasant shoot) by shooting his would be assassin instead of the game bird is as good as it gets.
Low point: Bond’s gondola ride through Venice is disturbed by a knife wielding goon hiding in a coffin and a group of machine gun toting henchmen in a speedboat. Handily, Bond’s gondola also comes equipped with a host of gadgets including an outboard motor and amphibious capabilities. What follows is one of the stupidest action scenes committed to film that culminates in an astonished pigeon doing a double take at Bond’s sheer audacity.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… FOR YOUR EYES ONLY