007 (or so) observations about Moonraker

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Wednesday, June 29, was the 37th anniversary of Moonraker’s U.S. debut. The 11th James Bond film doesn’t get much love from fans in the 21st century. Yet, it was a huge financial success in the 20th.

With that in mind, what follows are some observations about the film:

001: Drax’s disdain for Britain: This may reflect a few bits of Ian Fleming’s third Bond novel that made it into the movie.

The nationality of Drax (Michael Lonsdale) isn’t specified but he clearly isn’t British. He keeps a British butler around, mostly to boss around.

The Moonraker villain also tells Bond that “afternoon tea” is the U.K.’s greatest contribution to Western civilization. Later (after Bond has investigated Drax’s Venice facilities), Drax makes a comment about not understanding British humor.

002: Bond’s physical stamina: As Bond (Roger Moore) agrees to take a ride in Drax’s centrifuge, Holly (Lois Chiles) says “even a 70-year-old” can take “three Gs” (the force of takeover). Holly says most people “pass out” at seven Gs. Bond withstands *13 Gs* before activating a device he got from Q to escape.

003: One of the best (unheralded) scenes of the movie: Bond further investigates Drax’s Venice facilities. For the Moore version of Bond, this represents one of his deadliest miscalculations.

Bond briefly observes two of Drax’s scientists at work. Visually, there are a number of things to catch the viewer’s eyes. When the scientists briefly walk away, 007 moves in further.

Unfortunately, Bond didn’t leave everything as he left it, and the two scientists die as a result. One of the best shots of the film is one of the scientists dying while Bond watches on the other side of a Plexiglass barrier.

Yes, this sequence included the joke that draws groans from hard-core Bond fans (the John Williams theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the entry code). Still, overall, the sequence is a mostly serious one for a very lighthearted movie.

004: The minister of defense (defence to our British friends) plays Bridge with Drax: Others have made this observation long ago, but it is one of the few direct references to Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel. So we thought we’d mention it here.

005: Bond is a cheapskate! No tip, James? You get to stay in the President’s Suite at an expensive hotel in Rio and you stiff the guy on the tip. In From Russia With Love, Bond (Sean Connery) stuffed his tip in the suitcoat pocket of the guy who took him to his Istanbul hotel room. He shows his contempt while *still* giving a tip.

But here? Come on, Bond! The guy is just trying to make a living!

006: Bond’s brief moment of compassion for a fellow MI6 agent: After almost getting killed by Jaws, the MI6 agent in Rio offers to still help bond. He declines, saying she should get some rest.

007: Bond’s cable car reaction: Only 007 would react to a stalled cable car by going to the car’s roof. Only a CIA agent (Holly in this case) would have a first reaction to grab the nearest chain. Also, how many cable cars have a chain laying around?

008: The special effects of the boat chase weren’t that good, even in 1979: Friend or foe of the movie, this was not a highlight.

Seriously, the Spy Commander saw the film five times in the theater and you can could discern what was real and was special effects.. But Albert R. Broccoli & Co. had the good sense to keep up the pace to get past that.

009: Bond momentarily loses his cool: It only lasts a few seconds, but Bond really is annoyed with Jaws (Richard Kiel) after the henchman fishes 007 out of Drax’s pool.

0010: Some of the walls of Drax’s space station seem to be made of cardboard: Ken Adam (1921-2016) was one of the greatest production designers in the history of film. But a few shots in the climatic space station fight indicate the budget was running low.

0011: John Barry deserves every compliment he’s ever gotten for this film: The veteran 007 composer improves almost every scene in the movie with his score. It might not be his best Bond score, but Barry elevates the film throughout.

0012: This film is unique in the 007 film series:  It’s the one time that Eon Productions founder Albert R. Broccoli more or less didn’t have to worry about the budget.

In the 1970s, United Artists and Eon had to confront whether the 007 film series could continue after Sean Connery left for good and after Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold his interest to United Artists.

In the 1980s (and beyond), Eon had to deal with budget issues after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired UA in the early part of the decade.

For Moonraker, Broccoli really had (almost) Carte Blanche for making a Bond movie. This really was “the money’s up on the screen.”

 

Just another wacky week for James Bond fans

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

It’s only Wednesday but it’s already been a weird week for the serious 007 fan. Let’s get to it.

CRAIG WHIPLASH: Early Tuesday, the LIVERPOOL ECHO ran a short story Tuesday about actor Daniel Craig that had the following quote about playing James Bond again:

Speaking to the TV Times the Wirral actor said: “I have no thoughts about it. What the future holds, I don’t know. That’s the honest truth.”

Some Bond fans spotted that and viewed it as a sign that the four-time 007 might still be available for Bond 25. However, reader James Page (who saw this post when it was first published) advises the quote is from 2015.

Later on Tuesday, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD reported Craig was in talks to star with Halle Berry in a drama set during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Other entertainment websites, such as VARIETY, quickly confirmed the development.

The possible project for Craig comes on top of a Steven Soderbergh heist movie (filming this fall), an off-Broadway play (to occur during the 2016-17 season) and a 20-episode limited series to be produced in 2017 to run on the Showtime premium cable channel in 2017 and 2018.

Never say never, the saying goes. Still, Craig’s schedule is getting full.

Your intrepid James Bond reporter in action

Your intrepid James Bond reporter in action

REDDIT, YOUR SOURCE FOR 007 NEWS: So it’s come to this: James Bond fans are so starved for news, an anonymous Reddit post this week about 007 film gossip in London generated buzz.

Citing “the world around London,” the post said Bond 25 pre-production “has officially begun,” that Steven Knight is writing the script and that Daniel Craig hasn’t made a decision about returning as Bond. The post also references three directors — Joe Wright, Yann Demange and Paul McGuigan — who have been rumored to have met with producer Barbara Broccoli.

It also says Sony Pictures will distribute Bond 25. That’s interesting because Sony executive Tom Rothman told The Hollywood Reporter this month that Sony hasn’t even started talks with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about a new Bond distribution deal.

Regardless, news-starved fans like a thread on message board of the MI6 James Bond website and social media such as Facebook were linking and commenting about it in detail.

Early Tuesday, the original poster posted a follow-up comment. For what it’s worth:

The British film community is surprisingly small in London. This was the ‘news’ I was hearing over the last week.

EON had been more involved in distributing the long delayed ‘The Silent Storm’ and making ‘Film Stars’. Pre-production for B25 has just begun in earnest.

I’ve heard plenty of other directors mentioned (all with varying degrees of credibility), but those three come up the most often.

The other film often being discussed around Soho VFX houses is ‘Rogue One’ which is said to be in more turmoil than imaginable. People love to gossip.

Your mileage may vary. For the moment, caveat emptor.

ACTUAL NEWS: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on Monday extended its contract with 20th Century Fox to distribute MGM productions via home video, including the Bond films, though June 2020, according to a press release.