MOONRAKER

Oh, I will kill you, Mr. Bond, but first... Darjeeling?(1979)
With Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Corrine Clery, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Reviewed by JL and JB

     Oh dear.  What can you say about a film that has James Bond engaged in outer-space laser battles and the giant steel-toothed villain Jaws romancing Pippi Longstocking's big sister?  The strangest Bond film of them all, MOONRAKER plays like a self-parody of the Roger Moore years.  (It also used to be the most outrageous Bond film, but DIE ANOTHER DAY now holds that distinction.)  On the plus side, at least the jokes this time around appear to have been written by someone who knew how to write jokes, and the film itself never drags.  And Hugo Drax, the ultimate "put Bond in a death machine" villain, has a few Dr. Evil-type lines that rank up there with Auric Goldfinger's "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" (such as "At last I shall have the pleasure of putting you out of my misery!").  But while it may be possible to enjoy MOONRAKER if you're in the right frame of mind, even the producers realized they went too far this time and brought Bond back to his roots for the next film, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY3 - JL


The tears of an evil clown     MOONRAKER is as schizophrenic as a Bond film can be.  An early scene of Hugo Drax sicking his bloodthirsty dobermans on a distrusted cohort is stylishly creepy and suspenseful in an understated way we've rarely seen in the series since the days of DR. NO or FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.  A later alleyway sequence of Jaws in a clown costume and giant paper mache clown head stalking a Bond ally shares the same eerie qualities.  Yet Jaws himself is turned into a cartoon character straight out of a Tex Avery or Chuck Jones cartoon, able to fall miles out of the sky without a parachute, or tumble over a massive waterfall in a speed boat and survive without a scratch. The decision to bring back Richard Kiel as Jaws from the previous film was not necessarily a bad idea, but to make him indestructible certainly hurt the film.  Worse yet, after each encounter with the murderous Jaws, Bond simply lets him go with an "Oh, that wacky Jaws!" look, as if the brute were just a pesky neighborhood kid rather than an indestructible assassin bent on making him deceased.  

    To add to the schizophrenia, the stunt work and special effects are terrific throughout the film, but every chase is filled with gags ripped off from Mack Sennett and W. C. Fields, and the film also stoops to references to other films for more cheap laughs,  Sadly, this gaggy tendency would continue even in the better Roger Moore outings, and for many, myself included, the iconic hallmark of the Roger Moore films may well be animals doing doubletakes.  (As the writer at The Incredible Suit wrote of the ridiculous gondola-on-land gag in MOONRAKER: "This scene made my DVD player cry.").

    Michael Lonsdale's Hugo Drax is one of the last classic Bond villains bent on world domination, the kind that talks in a low voice and walk with his hands behind his back to show how confident he is in his evil schemes.  Along with the above-mentioned sequences, and some nicely staged fights, Lonsdale is what keeps this film from turning completely into JAMES BOND MEETS THE KEYSTONE COPS.  His world domination scheme is completely insane, but that just makes us love him more.

    I used to loathe MOONRAKER, but having seen it again with fresh eyes, I can admire the good parts and not let the bad parts overwhelm my opinion of the movie.  It may still be one of the worst of the Roger Moore films, but it is still more fun and watchable than THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and pulled off with more conviction than the equally cartoony DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. 2½ - JB

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The Secret Vortex

HOW TO TALK LIKE A BOND VILLAIN

"Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you."


ONE, TWO, THREE, LOOK AT MR. LEE

Bernard Lee    Moonraker featured the last appearance of Bernard Lee as "M", head of the MI6.  His first appearance as the character came in the first Bond film, Dr. No. and he continued to play the character in every film thereafter up to Moonraker.  He was set to reprise his role in For Your Eyes Only, but died before he could film his scenes.  Robert Brown subsequently took over the role from Octopussy through License to Kill.  The role has been subsequently played by Dame Judith Dench and Ralph Fiennes.

    Lee started his career as a stage actor before trying his hand at movies in 1934's The Double Event.  The Third Man (1949) and Beat the Devil (1953) are among the more famous films to feature an appearance by Mr. Lee.  It was the role of M, however, for which this gentleman will always be remembered.

    Though it is never mention in the Bond films, in the final Ian Fleming Bond novel The Man With The Golden Gun, M's full name is revealed as Sir Miles Messervy.