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.”

 

Familiar meme: megalomaniac environmentalists

This weekend’s U.S. release of Kingsman: The Secret Service marks the return of a familiar meme in spy entertainment — the megalomaniac environmentalist who has the means to take radical action (i.e. wipe people out) to restore ecological balance.

This is a sampling of both television and movie efforts.

Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) looks displeased with associate Kitten Twitty (Jenie Jackson)

Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) looks displeased with associate Kitten Twitty (Jenie Jackson)

The Wild, Wild West: The Night of the Murderous Spring (first broadcast April 15, 1966): Dr. Loveless, after three prior defeats by U.S. Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon, is in the midst of his biggest scheme yet.

Loveless (Michael Dunn) arranges to use West (Robert Conrad) as a test subject for his newest discovery. When Loveless’ powder is mixed with water, it’s absorbed into people. When that happens, they lose their inhibitions and their aggressive tendencies are magnified. The powder also causes hallucinations.

In separate incidents, West imagines he kills Loveless and Gordon (Ross Martin). When the real Arty gets into town, he’s told West has been taken to a hospital. It’s really a cover for Loveless’s hideout.

The plan is revealed. Loveless will use a large number of birds to distribute his powder. It’s the start of spring. The birds will reach water, spread the powder and people will kill themselves. Loveless provides a demonstration where the bulk of the “hospital’s” staff kill themselves off.

West and Gordon barely avert catastrophe. Loveless and two women, Antoinette and Kitten Twitty, flee on a boat across a lake. West shoots a hole in the boat and it sinks. After 20 minutes, the agents give up. Bad move, but that won’t become evident until the show’s second season.

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster


Kiss the Girls and Makes Them Die (1966): Ardonian (Raf Vallone) is concerned about the prospects of overpopulation. (The world’s population was about 3 billion at the time, it reached 7 billion in 2011.)

Ardonian, being a megalomaniac, isn’t content to just fret. He plans to launch a satellite that will zap the earth. Sexual activity will stop and the population will decline naturally as people die off.

Meanwhile, Ardonian is abducting various beautiful women and having them frozen. When it’s time to repopulate the Earth, Ardonian will have sex with the women and get them pregnant.

Ardonian’s activities, however, don’t go unnoticed. American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and British agent Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) eventully join forces and foil the scheme.

The Malthusian Affair, unmade television movie, 1976: Sam Rolfe wrote the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was its first-season producer. In 1976, he was hired to write a new U.N.C.L.E. television movie that would double as a pilot for a new series.

The title refers to Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), who warned about population growth in his day.

The head of Mogul Industries is a big believer in Malthus. So he’s going to kill off vast numbers of people to restore ecological balance and run things himself. (Funny how megalomaniacs never volunteer to sacrifice themselves.)

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, aided by two younger agents, put a stop to the plan. But their luck with studio executives wasn’t nearly as good so the story never went before the cameras.

For more information, CLICK HERE For The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide’s page on never-made U.N.C.L.E. projects.

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Industrialist Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is concerned about the world’s oceans. All those billions of people keep polluting them.

Solution: Snatch nuclear submarines and launch their missiles to start a nuclear war. Stromberg uses a specially built freighter. Its front opens up, swallowing up the subs. Stromberg also has some kind of electronic device to disable the submarines, making it easier to make off with them.

James Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are assigned by their respective governments to find the missing submarines. Similar to Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, the two agents initially oppose each other before joining forces.

The two are aboard a U.S. submarine to observe Stromberg’s massive ship when the megalomaniac adds that sub to his collection. The timing is good. Stromberg is just about to execute the final stages of his plan. Long story short, the plan is foiled, Bond kills Stromberg and Bond and Triple-X have sex.

Moonraker teaser poster

Moonraker teaser poster

Moonraker (1979): Industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) has two obsessions — the exploration of space and fixing the environmental mess on Earth.

Like other megalomaniacs, he concludes it’s best to kill off most people, leaving himself in charge. He already has a space station in orbit that nobody knows about because it has a radar jamming system. He plans to make it into an orbiting “stud farm” to repopulate the Earth after he kills off everybody except himself and his employees.

Drax makes his first mistake when he steals one of his own Moonraker shuttles from the British. One of the shuttles Drax planned to use developed a fault. The problem with this move is the British are rather annoyed (they’ve lost a 747 aircraft and its crew was killed). So James Bond (Roger Moore) is on the case.

Bond begins his investigation in Southern California, where the Moonrakers are made. It turns out the CIA has an operative, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), working undercover there. Like Mike Connors and Dorothy Provine….well, you can guess by now what happens.

The story goes to Venice to Rio to the Brazilian rain forest to, eventually, Outer Space! (as it says in the end titles listing the locations.) The space station will launch globes of a deadly poison to kill off Earth’s population. After dispatching Drax, Holly flies a Moonraker while Bond destroys three launched globes (the others were destroyed previously) with a laser.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine is the latest megalomaniac to decide he’s the man to solve Earth’s environmental problems.

We’ll avoid the specifics. His plot is similar Dr. Loveless’s, except Valentine’s involves electronics, rather than a chemical.

This being the 21st century, things are nastier. We witness a demonstration of Valentine’s device. Also, it’s implied Valentine is at least partially successful. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people may have died before the plot was stopped.

Barbara Broccoli plugs Skyfall’s Oscar chances

Barbara Broccoli


Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, says Daniel Craig’s and Judi Dench’s performances as M in Skyfall have Oscar potential

THE TELEGRAPH CITING RADIO TIMES quotes Broccoli thusly:

“I am surprised there haven’t been acting nominations, if not for Bond then for the support.” Broccoli said she “wouldn’t be surprised if Judi was nominated for this one”.
A nomination for Daniel Craig as Bond should not be out of the question either, according to Broccoli, who described him as “that extraordinary combination of movie star and great actor”.

Broccoli also had this quote:

(Broccoli) admitted that Bond’s treatment of women in the middle years of the franchise were “distasteful”.
Ursula Andress in Dr No and Honor Blackman in Goldfinger were capable characters, Broccoli said. “Unfortunately, later in the series they got to be window dressing. [Bond] developed some rather distasteful pastimes but those have now receded into the past.
“Now it’s about the cocktail, the cars and the beautiful countries he gets to go to, [and] resourceful, strong women who give as much as they get.”

The article doesn’t provide specifics concerning which Bond women characters were distateful.

Barbara Bach’s Soviet Agent Triple-X in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal.” Lois Chiles’s Holly Goodhead character, despite the risque name (presumably inspired by Blackman’s Pussy Galore character), was supposed to be along the same lines in 1979’s Moonraker, a woman who doubled as CIA agent and astronaut.

Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson took over as producers of the Bond series starting with 1995’s GoldenEye. Their tenure included another “Bond’s equal” with Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. On the other hand, it also included Denise Richards portraying Dr. Christmas Jones, who some fans saw as an unlikely scientist, in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station. As noted in a reader comment below, she was holding a clipboard. But she’s neither helpless nor ditzy.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

Wall Street Journal profiles one-time 007 villain Michael Lonsdale

The Wall Street Journal’s arts section, in a story dated Dec. 3 but already online, has a profile of actor Michael Lonsdale, who played 007 nemesis Hugo Drax in Moonraker.

Here’s an excerpt:

At 79 years old, Mr. Lonsdale has played the gamut of religious roles —priests, abbots, cardinals, inquisitors—as well as countless aristocrats ranging from English lords to Louis XVI. Also a man of the theater, his circle of friends has included literary heavyweights like Marguerite Duras, Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, whose works he performed on stage in Paris in the 1960s. Perfectly bilingual, he moves easily between the bizarre shoe salesman in François Truffaut’s “Stolen Kisses” and the campy bearded villain in the James Bond classic, “Moonraker”

There’s a lot of detail about Lonsdale’s career and current projects. To read the story, JUST CLICK HERE.

And here’s a quick look back to the 1979 007 film where Lonsdale delivers a short speech to his minions on a space station while Bond (Roger Moore), Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) and Jaws (Richard Kiel) look on.

Moonraker 30th anniversary addendum

ABC and James Bond has a long relationship. So here’s the opening to The ABC Sunday Night Movie when Moonraker appeared a few years after its 1979 debut in theaters. Ernie Anderson does the honors for the voiceover:

And while we’re at it, here’s a 1980s repeat showing of From Russia With Love where Anderson tells us “the Best Bond returns!” Note the parential advisory at the start.