James W. Gavin, ace pilot for TV and movies

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on board.

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

James W. Gavin over a long career in television and movies mostly went unnoticed.

The pilot/second unit director/bit part player was a top helicopter pilot. His services were in demand for various TV serious as well as films such as Vanishing Point and The Towering Inferno.

Gavin got a bit of recognition in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz told the anecdote of how Gavin had the presence of mind to get the cameras rolling when explosions were set off for what was supposed to be a rehearsal for the oil-rig sequence.

According to Mankiewicz, some of that footage ended up in the final version of Diamonds.

On occasion, Gavin got to be an actor. Not surprisingly, he played pilots, presumably because it was cheaper to film him reciting lines while he was flying. In some cases, he was billed as “Gavin James,” rather than by his real name.

Gavin was one of the go-to pilots for QM Productions, flying helicopters for the company’s various shows, including The FBI.

Gavin died in 2005 at the age of 70.

‘Enjoy it lightly, lightly’: Guy Hamilton’s 007 films

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Dedicated to Guy’s memory. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to meet or interact with him, but The Man With The Golden Gun and Live and Let Die were the first two classic Bonds I ever saw, both very entertaining. May he rest in peace. .

The contribution the late Guy Hamilton made to the James Bond series can be defined in a phrase he said to Roger Moore and Christopher Lee on the set of The Man With the Golden Gun: “Enjoy it, lightly, lightly”.

Hamilton took the helm of Goldfinger after rejecting Dr. No and came up shining the James Bond series. As previously stated on this site, the Bond movies became more extravagant since the third outing, released in 1964.

Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery, added to the humorous situations of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, directed by Terence Young, and brought a simple and basic premise repeated in subsequent films: an extravagant mastermind (the title villain, played by Gert Frobe), special gadgets shown in a Q Lab scene, who went further than the attaché case from the previous film with Bond’s trademark Aston Martin DB5; and the abundance of beautiful women to please the secret agent and the audience (this time, there weren’t only two or three women but a group of beauties working for the main girl, Pussy Galore).

The formula was established: movie begins with a mini-adventure, then follows up with actual assignment. Bond gets M’s briefing, his gadgets from Q and is sent to investigate the villain. Eventually, he’ll come across many girls and thrills across the globe until the villain captures him and reveals his outrageous plan: a plan 007 averts before or after killing the main villain (and/or the henchman) and ending with one of the girls.

While Goldfinger had a great success and impact among Bond fans, the following 007 film directed by Hamilton, Diamonds Are Forever, isn’t held in the same high regard. Neither are the other Bonds he directed, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, now with Roger Moore on the role.

Diamonds Are Forever’s asset was the return of Sean Connery in the role. The movie, released in 1971, was very representative of the times and way more relaxed in comparison of the previous James Bond adventure, the faithfully adapted On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Not everything in the movie is perfect, but it manages to shine with a very eye-pleasing cinematography by Ted Moore, who excelled with colorful shots of Las Vegas or the monotone palette of the Nevada dunes. The lines, although a bit parodic, are punchy. That’s particularly true in the scene when 007 infiltrates Blofeld’s oil rig off the California coast by saying: “Good morning, gentlemen. Acme pollution inspection. We’re cleaning up the world, we thought this was a suitable starting point.”

Guy Hamilton’s collaboration with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz (Mankiewicz wrote the later script drafts) provided a funny ride for Sean Connery’s return in Diamonds Are Forever, with gorgeous girls and comical situations like having James Bond escaping from a compound in a Moon buggy (even John Barry’s music captured the funny aspect of the scene).

For Roger Moore’s introduction as James Bond in 1973, Hamilton opted to make the new Bond completely different from his predecessor, the Scottish actor who patented the image of 007. He would return for a last 007 outing in 1974 for Moore’s second Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun.

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

These two films lack some of the qualities of Goldfinger or Diamonds Are Forever, yet a lot of humor, girls and gadgets are maintained. Roger Moore’s adventuristic spirit was inspired from his days as Simon Templar in The Saint, helping to enhance the standard quota of humor from Hamilton and Mankiewicz.

The story lines of Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun were simplistic. In the former, Bond is sent to investigate the death of colleagues and a British representative at the UN that leads to a case of drug-dealing. In the latter, Bond is the target of assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who also wants to monopolize solar energy.

In Live and Let Die, 007 breaks interracial barriers with CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), visits the Caribbean once more and opposes Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the mastermind behind the drug trafficking. There were no vehicles this time but a Rolex Submariner wristwatch with a powerful magnet.

The technical aspect of the 1973 movie is a bit of a letdown in comparison to Diamonds Are Forever or Goldfinger. George Martin’s score succeeds the difficult task of replacing the usual John Barry, but the cinematography -–again by Ted Moore -– is somewhat lackluster.

On the other hand, The Man With The Golden Gun brought John Barry back and Ted Moore, joined by Oswald Morris, brought more colors to the scenes.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

There is an abundance of women in the movie. The ninth Bond installment saw the secret agent involved with both Britt Ekland and Maud Adams, with a romantic-comedy-like jealousy scene included, plus some Asian beauties such as the suggestive nudist swimmer Chew Me and two teenager karate experts.

Guy Hamilton’s goodbye to the series was filled with humorous situations not only made by the actors or screenwriters, but also in the technical area: John Barry added a sound effect as Bond’s AMC Matador car takes a 360-degree jump and the art crew set the MI6 base in Hong Kong inside the sunken remains of the Queen Elizabeth ship, apparently because of the expensive Hong Kong real estate, or so a a British naval officer explains Bond in the film.

These two films feature a recurring character: Sheriff J. W. Pepper, played by Clifton James, whose scenes almost turn both films into comedies. If in Live and Let Die the southern lawman interfered in a boat chase between 007 and the bad guys and made some racist remarks, in The Man with the Golden Gun he’s fully ridiculed by an elephant who throws him to the Thai canals.

It’s a continuous subject of debate if the cinematic James Bond should be a dramatic anti-hero as the one seen in Licence to Kill or Casino Royale or a lighter action man as the protagonist of the movies Guy Hamilton directed. Both definitions of Ian Fleming’s character were key to make 007 the longest running franchise in cinema history.

Guy Hamilton was the man who popularized Bond. The term “popularized” goes in a appeasing way, because he made these movies the kind of entertainment teenagers and adults wanted in the 1960s or 1970s. And he did not only “entertaining movies,” but great, entertaining adventures.

Guy Hamilton made James Bond a super star, an icon of the popular culture.

George Kennedy and the art of scene stealing

George Kennedy's Patroni steals a scene from Burt Lancaster, the star of Airport.

George Kennedy’s Patroni steals a scene from Burt Lancaster, the star of Airport.

We deviate from our normal format to note the passing of character actor George Kennedy, who has died at the age of 91, according to an obituary at  THEWRAP WEBSITE.

Kennedy won an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke. But he also provided a kind of acting lesson in the 1970 film Airport — namely, a practical demonstration of how a supporting player can steal a movie from its stars.

Airport has been copied and parodied over the years. But in 1970, it was a big, prestigious film, starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin. It eventually was nominated for Best Picture and the distinguished actress Helen Hayes, who appeared in the film, picked up an Oscar for best supporting actress.

Nevertheless, Kennedy in a secondary role actually dominates the scenes he’s in. He plays Joe Patroni, a gruff airliner mechanic. For much of the movie he has a cigar. He also takes great advantage of the structure of the Big Movie.

Tom Mankiewicz, the one-time James Bond screenwriter, in his audio commentary for Live And Let Die describes a type of character such movies can’t do without — Leo The Explainer.

These characters provide expository dialogue, giving the audience information it needs to know. As Mankiewicz told it, stars don’t like providing such explanations. So Leo The Explainer serves that purpose.

The thing is, Kennedy’s Patroni — Airport’s Leo The Explainer — does so in an entertaining fashion that draws attention to himself.

In the movie, a mentally disturbed man (Van Heflin) intends to explode a bomb aboard a flight to Rome so his wife will collect insurance. The authorities have figured this out but the question is how to stop him.

There’s a scene in the office of airport manager Mel Bakersfeld (Lancaster) with a model of a Boeing 707. Patroni talks about what what happens when there’s sudden decompression, giving a semi-graphic explanation. (Patroni says he once witnessed such an incident personally.)

Eventually, the disturbed man sets off the bomb. Later, it’s up to Patroni to get a stranded airliner, stuck in snow, to free up the airport’s main runway so the returning, damaged jet can land safely. With time running out, Patroni declares, “We’re going for broke!” and against all odds moves the stranded plane out of the way.

Universal, the studio that released Airport, decided to release other Airport movies between 1974 and 1979. The one constant: George Kennedy as Patroni. Acting schools teach you about the craft. But Kennedy’s performance in the original Airport is a lesson for aspiring actors about the reality.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part VI: Diamonds Are Forever

Another moment of 007 clothing splendor

Jimmy Dean, Sean Connery and Shane Rimmer in Diamonds Are Forever

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sean Connery returned one last time as James Bond to Eon Productions’ 007 series in Diamonds Are Forever, the first Bond film of the 1970s.

Feeling they went a bit too far with the dramatic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Guy Hamilton’s 1971 film returned to the tone set in Goldfinger. Bond’s revenge of his murdered wife Tracy was left to a short scene in the pre-credits sequence..

Once again, there’s no SPECTRE here. The organization isn’t mentioned, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld taking the lead as the villain. Still, we can see the famous octopus logo on his ring and one of his vehicles, the Bathosub.

Far of the volcano lairs and the mountain top headquarters, Blofeld is now stationed on an oil rig off Baja California and atop the Whyte House Hotel, impersonating the Howard Hughes-like millionaire Willard Whyte.

His plan, that inspired the Austin Powers movies (and, yes, Die Another Day), is to randomly detonate missiles with his laser satellite utilizing diamonds stolen to a number of smugglers killed by his henchmen couple, Wint and Kidd.

The Blofeld we see here, played by Charles Gray, is far from the man who caused the death of 007’s wife.

After Bond drowns him (actually, one of his doubles) in boiling mud during the film’s teaser sequence, he seems to forget he’s after the responsible of Tracy’s death.

Following a diamond smuggling link integrated by Tiffany Case, the exhuberant leading lady played by Jill St John, and avoiding a number of creative ways to die by Wint and Kidd, James Bond finds himself face to face with Number One.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q is aghast at Bond’s pink tie.

What follows until the film’s end credits is a number of double entendrés, philosophical quotes (Cubby Broccoli complained about quoting François de La Rochefoucauld) and funny situations where you see 007 very light against the man who took his wife away. The tone was set by Tom Mankiewicz, who rewrote Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. (CLICK HERE for an article that includes details of an early Mankiewicz draft for Diamonds.)

Much like the Telly Savalas version, Blofeld also goes to action… dressed as a woman! He has some authority, but far from threatening it sounds funny as he argues with his laser expert Professor Dr. Metz (Joseph Furst) about giving up or not as the Americans led an attack on his lair.

In the literary Bond timeline, there’s a so-called “SPECTRE trilogy” (Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, in that order). For multiple reasons, the effect of that trilogy was wasted up on their screen adaptations, by having 007 not properly setting the score with the villain, as in the gritty last pages of Ian Fleming’s 1964 book.

The legal conflicts between Eon and Thunderball producer Kevin McClory prevented the official series from using SPECTRE in subsequent films, until now. Here we are days away of the U.S. release of the 24th James Bond adventure, using the organization name as the title.

Blofeld would make a return in the 1983 Bond production by McClory and Jack Schwartzman, Never Say Never Again, played by a charming Max von Sydow.

Half of the world hasn’t seen SPECTRE yet, so for many of us there’s still the doubt about who is really Franz Oberhauser, leader of the rebooted SPECTRE we’ll see fighting Bond soon.

Christopher Waltz, who plays Oberhauser in the fiction, categorically denied Ernst Stavro Blofeld is behind his character. Is it possible that, this time, Blofeld is it overshadowed by the organization he created without even the single mention of his name is heard?

1974: Maibaum’s 1st try at scripting a Moore 007 film

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

Richard Maibaum, the veteran 007 screenwriter, wasn’t involved with the launch of the Roger Moore era of James Bond films. He was off doing other things as Tom Mankiewicz scripted Moore’s debut in Live And Let Die.

Maibaum, though, was summoned to return to the fold with The Man With the Golden Gun. Mankiewicz bowed out after after the earlier drafts (he’d be back for later rewrites).

Producer Albert R. Broccoli, doing the heavy lifting for this film the way Harry Saltzman had for Live And Let Die, needed help. He turned to Maibaum, an old associate.

Bond collector Gary Firuta provided a copy of Maibaum’s initial effort, dated Jan. 7, 1974. The title page simply reads, “First draft screenplay by Richard Maibaum,” so there’s no way to tell what Mankiewicz ideas were carried over.

Still, reading the draft, there are significant differences compared with the finished film, which was released for 1974’s Christmas film season. Some of the ideas in Maibaum’s draft are arguably improvements from the final movie, but the draft has other issues.

For example, it seemed pretty much established that Major Boothroyd and Q were one and the same. Desmond Llewelyn, who made his debut in the Maibaum-scripted From Russia With Love, was identified as Boothroyd in that film and known as Q thereafter.

In Maibaum’s draft, after the pre-titles sequence (pretty similar to the final movie), there’s a scene in M’s office. With M are Chief of Staff Bill Tanner and “ballistics expert” Boothroyd.

That’s on page 7. But on page 18 (more in a moment about what happened inbetween), Bond meets with Boothroyd *and* Q. Based on the stage directions, It’s clear that Q, rather than Boothroyd, is the character normally played by Llewelyn. In the final movie, Colthorpe is the ballistics expert and Q is his usual self (after a one-movie hiatus, having not appeared in Live And Let Die).

As in the final film, MI6 has received what appears to be a threat — a golden bullet with 007 inscribed — against its prize agent. M relieves Bond off his current assignment of finding a missing solar energy expert until the matter can be resolved. So now Bond is on the trail of Francisco Scaramanga, the title character.

As in the final movie, Bond travels to Beirut, where double-O agent Bill Fairbanks was believed to have been killed by Scaramanga. The trail leads to a woman called Saida.
Except, in this draft, Saida is a prostitute as a bordello, not a dancer in a cabaret. Maibaum’s description:


Recling (sic) on king-size bed, she wears thin Turkish trousers, a short velvet bedjacket, is excessively plump and over made up, but definitely not an old bag. Her eyes light up.

This version avoids a visual gag of the final film (Bond swallowing golden bullet after retrieving it from her belly button). There’s a fight, but the context is different. Afterward, Bond is with Saida once more. She has the mashed golden bullet that is hanging “on ribbon in her cleavage.”

My lucky charm.

She holds out her arms. CAMERA IN on BOND’s reaction. Big “Things I do for England” sigh

Reluctantly starting to take off his jacket.

After some, eh, “bliss” with Saida, Bond has the bullet and takes it back to MI6.

For a while, things proceed much as the finished movie, including Bond roughing up Andrea, Scaramanga’s mistress and a number of other scenes. Scaramanga kills Gibson, the missing solar expert, we meet Hip, the MI6 operative in the area and Bond tries to get the mission back on track.

The trail leads to industrialist Hai Fat. There’s a scene in the draft not contained in the film where Q meets up with Bond, Hip and Mary Goodnight before they can fly to Bangkok. Q gives Bond a camera that do a number of tasks except take photographs. It’s in this scene that Bond asks Q to make a fake third nipple so 007 can pass for Scaramanga.

We eventually get to Bangkok to meet Hai Fat, “an impressive Chinaman in his late forties.” Interestingly, the part would be filled by character actor Richard Loo, who was in his early 70s.

Bond, posing as Scaramanga, manages to get invited by Hai Fat for dinner. As in the final movie, Hip drives him to Hai Fat’s residence, accompanied by his nieces, Cha and Nara.

Things don’t go well. Bond is caputred and ends up in a martial arts academy. There are some interesting differences from the movie.

For one thing, Bond has an exchange with the academy’s headmaster. “Good morning, Mr Bond,” he says. “On hehalf of my academy I accept your challenge.”

This scene is populated by a number of “BLACK BELTERS.” There are also SPECTATORS, a group that somehow includes Hip and his two nieces.

After some preliminaries, Bond faces off against prized pupil Chula. Things don’t look good for 007.

CHULA knocks him down again, then grasps BOND’s neck in a both-hand squeeze, a possibly fatal hold. ANGLE SUDDENLY WIDENS as CHA and NARA come to BOND’S aid. Actually, they are professional Thai girl kick-boxers. Gasp of amazement from CROWD as they go to work on CHULA with their fists, elbows, nkees feet, event butting with their heads. CHULA goes down.

So, if anything, Bond looks even more impotent in the sequence than in the final film, where at least Bond bested Chula before being shown up by the girls.

The ensuing chase plays out a bit differently than the movie. Nevertheless, there is an appearance by J.W. Pepper and his wife. Unlike the film, though, that’s all there is for the good sheriff (a creation of Tom Mankiewicz, after all). Pepper falls into the water, but isn’t pushed by an elephant.

Jumping forward, Andrea is revealed as having sent the golden bullet, wanting to get Bond to kill Scaramanga. When Bond is supposed to meet her, there’s an interesting change from the final film. The event that’s supposed to be the site of the meeting is a tournament of girl Thai kick boxers.

Scaramanga and Nick Nack get the drop on Bond. But Scaramanga, in this draft, provides an attempt of an Ian Fleming-type travelogue.

“You know why these girls aren’t phony?” Scaramanga says of the contestants. “They’re fighting for husbands. Come from the mountain villages up north. Chiang Mai. You need a dowry up there…Win a few fights and you can pick your husband.”

The next major change from the final movie comes in the chase sequence, where Goodnight is in the trunk of Scaramanga’s car while Bond tries to pursue.

Bond needs a car and goes to a Ford Motor Co. dealership (it was American Motors in the movie).

A would-be Thai buyer gets into the car. “Give me demonstration, please. How is pickup?”

This, of course, is where Bond gets into the car and steals it to chase Scaramanga. For the rest of the sequence, PROSPECTIVE BUYER (as he’s called in the script) displays “true Oriental unflappability, his face is expressionless.”

So, instead of a screaming, over-the-top J.W. Pepper, we have a cool, calm Asian man along for the ride with Bond, including the now-famous car jump. (“Nice family car,” Bond quips after the jump.) As in the film, Scaramanga gets away in a flying car.

As Bond and policemen watch the flying car gets away, Prospective Buyer says he “no care for that model,” referring to the departing car plane. Gesturing toward the Ford that Bond stole, he says, “I take that one.”

Eventually, Bond makes it to Scaramanga’s island. They discuss the solar power system made possible by the solex agitator. The stage directions for one of Bond’s lines says “usual expertise when needed.” One difference: when Scaramanga destroys Bond’s plane, 007 responds, “Thanks. A very convincing demonstration.”

Maibaum also comes up with an interesting line when Bond and Scaramanga verbally spar during lunch. Agent 007 says, “You’d kill a blind cripple for tuppence. When I have to kill it’s a kind of justice.”

This draft has a more elaborate duel sequence, which was filmed (some scenes are in the movie’s teaser trailer) but don’t show up in the final version. Some of the dialogue, though, is a little clunky:


(shouting back)
That just pumps my adrenalin (sic) faster. You’re playing it close. Is that what they taught you when you were a KGB punk?


You’re a limey punk yourself — and so far it looks like they didn’t teach you much.

There’s more, but overall the Maibaum draft is mostly what we’d see on screen. Whether the draft is actually better or not is in the eyes of the beholder.

Bond 24 questions: the writers edition

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back? There’s been no official announcement but it was reported last month by The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that the writers were retained to rewrite John Logan’s efforts.

Bamigboye had a number of Skyfall and Bond 24 scoops proven correct. Example: he wrote that Purvis and Wade were initially not going to be back for Bond 24, while their Skyfall co-scribe John Logan would be the new 007 film’s writer. Purvis and Wade subsequently confirmed they were leaving the series. Until, it now seems, things changed.

How extensive will Purvis and Wade’s Bond 24 script work going to be? If the duo end up getting a credit, you’ll know it will have been substantial.

The Writer’s Guild has extensive guidelines on how much work a scribe (with a team of writers such as Purvis and Wade counted as a single entity) should do to get a screen credit. A writer or writing team must contribute more than 33 percent of the finished product for an adapted script, 50 percent for an original one. Bond 24 falls under the adapted category since it uses a character who originally appeared in a novel.

Getting a credit isn’t as simple as counting lines of dialogue. A credit is supposed to reflect “contributions to the screenplay as a whole,” according to the guild. It’s possible, for example, for a writer to change every line of dialogue but for the guild to determine there’s been no significant change to the screenplay.

In any case, if Bond 24’s credit reads something like, “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” Purvis and Wade will have done more than revamp some dialogue or tweak a scene or two.

Is this unusual?It’s the normal method of operation for both movies in general and James Bond movies in particular. Even 007 films that had only one writing credit had contributions from other writers. For example:

–From Russia With Love had a solo screenplay credit for Richard Maibaum, but also an “adapted by” credit for Johanna Harwood, while Len Deighton did work that didn’t earn a credit.
–You Only Live Twice had a “screenplay by” credit for Roald Dahl but an “additional story material” credit for Harold Jack Bloom, the film’s first writer.
–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had a Maibaum solo credit for the screenplay but an “additional dialogue” credit for Simon Raven, who rewrote dialogue in some scenes.
–Tomorrow Never Dies had a “written by” credit for Bruce Feirstein. Other writers took a whirl without credit between Feirstein’s first draft and his final draft.

As far as anyone knows, Live And Let Die really represented the work of only one writer (Tom Mankiewicz), and he did plenty of rewrites himself.

Is this any reason to be concerned? The Daily Mail also reported the start of Bond 24 filming was pushed back to December from October. If true, that should still be enough time for Bond 24 to meet its release date of late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S.

What should fans look for next? The date of the press conference announcing the start of Bond 24 filming. There should also be a press release. If Purvis and Wade get a mention in that press release along with John Logan, that’ll be a sign they did a fair amount of work on the script.

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007


June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.