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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Booklet
  • Documentaries


MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 120 mins . PG . PAL


...or alternatively the Bond film you make once realising that space is really, really big (meaning for late '70s theatregoers, rather than stating the completely obvious, of course).

Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present to you my Bond film review construction kit…

James Bond:

_ The suave, hunky one with the gorgeous accent

_ The Australian one

X The cardboard cut-out one

_ The one who played Heathcliff really badly in the 1970 Wuthering Heights

_ The one who looks like that guy from The Nanny

Main love interest: Dr Holly Goodhead (yes, really!)

Evil baddie hell bent on world domination: Hugo Drax

Baddie's henchmen: Jaws (the metal-mouthed guy from The Spy Who Loved Me, not the shark silly!), one utterly huge and icky snake plus innumerable expendable folk in yellow Devo-type jumpsuits.

Theme: Moonraker by Shirley Bassey.

Exotic locations: California, Venice (and more gondolas...), Brazil, Space.

Modes of transportation: airplane, helicopter, Rolls Royce, hover-speedgondola, Concorde, cable car, ambulance, horse, one of those little carts that Austin Powers had so much trouble turning, speedboat and, of course, space shuttle.

Car chases: None (pout!)

Blatant product placement: Air France, British Airways, Christian Dior, Marlboro, Seiko, 7up

Plot summary: 007 is called in to investigate the hijacking of the space shuttle Moonraker, from atop an airborne jumbo jet no less. During the course of said investigation he meets a girlie (I guess that kind of goes without saying) and discovers a plot by big, rich meanie Hugo Drax to set up his own superior race of humans in space, whilst foisting global genocide upon the poor, ever-suffering Earth. Oops, I almost forgot the "bwah-ha-ha!"...


Hmmm, possibly the only part of this disc that left me a little disappointed. Whilst beautifully rendered in 2.35:1 widescreen, the age of the film shows with the many speckles that persist throughout, and a curious slightly wobbly/shimmery effect particularly obvious in certain scenes. Admittedly with my reviewer's bonnet on I was probably on the lookout for this sort of thing more than the casual observer, but it seems rather a shame that a similar effort to that obviously lavished on the sound (but that's to come) wasn't shared with the video.

Saying that though, whilst having that '70s, slightly flat colour look to it, the contrast was nice and it's the best I've ever seen Mr Bond scrub up at home - especially after seeing some of the hideous pan and scanned messes to hit television in my time, which were obviously plots hatched by entities even more diabolical than the diabolicalist of Bond baddies.

Oh, and the layer change is a bit clunky, occurring right between a couple of space scenes rather than where they always should be - in a fade to black.


Yum, yum, yum! Now THIS is how an action flick should sound! The audio has been given the full Dolbyised experience, and it was an utter joy to behold as all manner of high-tech thingies ranging from centrifuges to space shuttles shoomed about my lounge room.

It's all balanced nicely, masterfully avoiding the tendency some of these films have of ramping the effects to the nth degree whilst the dialogue flails desperately about trying to get somebody - anybody - to notice it.

The soundtrack is by the one and only John Barry. Really, need I say more? Although not actually responsible for the classic theme (Monty Norman composed that) he put his own indelible mark on the bulk of the Bond films, his score here being as great as any, complete with little nods to the likes of 2001 and The Magnificent Seven - on top of the film's other spacey 'homages' such as the tune played on a laboratory entry keypad at one point (I'm not giving it away!)

The only letdown for me sonically was the 'pop' theme of the film, courtesy of Shirley Bassey. Considering that it was composed by Barry, with lyrics by Burt Bacharach's buddy Hal David, you wouldn’t get a smack for expecting something a bit more memorable, especially following the utterly superb Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me. Plopped upon a dated (even for 1979) disco beat (at least beating The Associates and Yello to the punch, who did it with Bassey later in the '80s) it just dives in one ear and out the next - the irrelevance of using Shirl at a time when music was finally becoming so exciting (as I wistfully imagine somebody like The Clash belting out the same tune) is certainly not missed. Still, these are the same people who turned down Pulp's utterly masterful Tomorrow Never Dies theme in favour of a dirge by Shezza Crow, so...


I must say it's a pleasant surprise to get hold of a 'Special Edition' that actually feels like one. It all begins with wonderful animated menus, which were actually designed around the film (whereas I almost expected a generic menu to be used throughout the series). It's the sort of menu system that whilst easy to navigate also gives you the feeling that what you're involved in is more of an event than boring old static screens ever can.

So what else is in store? Well, you get a rather trashed copy of the somewhat ploddy film trailer, done before they really honed the art, and seemingly before THAT guy who does trailers nowadays was discovered (for I ask you, who would want to use anybody else?!)

Also featured is a gallery of fourteen informational text snippets, which are only really let down by their silence, a strange omission when the rest of the menu system is so sonically and visually 'together'.

Better extras are in store in the form of two featurettes, both made last year. The Men Behind the Mayhem is a full-frame-with-the-movie-bits-in-widescreen 18-minute feature, narrated in rather sultry fashion by somebody named Marie Clairu (me neither). Here we get a rapid-fire run through many of the effects throughout the history of the Bond franchise, plus interviews with many of the whizzes responsible for them. It is absolutely fascinating, even if it does take some magic away when you think, "oh, it was only a model", but should prove essential viewing to anybody interested in the visual trickery that goes on in the world of movies.

The other featurette is on Moonraker itself, a 42-minute affair narrated by Patrick 'Steed' Macnee. Also presented in full frame with widescreen movie clips, it features interviews with all the main players behind the film, and many fascinating insights into everything from locations to behind-the-scenes looks at some of the special effects and things that inevitably went wrong.

Added to this is a quite reasonable commentary from the director Lewis Gilbert, screenwriter Christopher Wood and two producer types. Perhaps it's only me, but I had incredible trouble not soiling myself from laughing at said producer-type William P. Cartlidge, who sounds like he escaped from the confines of Spinal Tap. Sadly though nowhere does he refer to turning anything up to eleven, which if you ask me is just a crying shame...

All that and an informative little full-colour collector's booklet which is actually more than just a piece of paper folded in half (or less) with a chapter list too - in all a great little effort from the MGM folks.


In my inimitable fashion I discovered the whole Bond thing in a roundabout way - by falling in love with Austin Powers first. Perhaps it's due to this perspective that I have such enormous fun immersing myself in them, whether they are more top-notch 007 fare, or somewhat more vacuous ones such as Moonraker.

Whilst never high art, they perform their intended purpose more than admirably - as big, silly action romps where stunts, corny lines and exotic scenery come first, whilst the plot is dangling precariously somewhere off in the distance. And that's precisely how it should be, if you want your high art nick off and grab Like Water For Chocolate or something, OK?

Moonraker is no exception to the simple rules set out above. Having not seen it before I had been informed by some friends that it was one of the weaker in the series, however considering my stated enjoyment criteria I wasn't bored for a minute.

Whilst Roger Moore will never go down in history as the greatest Bond, he did bring his own certain wry humour and misogynistic charm (now there's an oxymoron for you) to the role, which he may not get enough credit for in the great Bond scheme of things. This episode's bad guy, the inevitably European-accented Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), gives a serviceably megalomaniacal performance and your obligatory piece of crumpet, Dr Goodhead (Lois Chiles), is about as good an actor as any other Bond girl. Call me cynical, but I think they may have other criteria in mind when casting these roles...

In actual fact the whole film was originally a bit of an afterthought, with the previous instalment, The Spy Who Loved Me, advertising Moonraker's eventual successor, For Your Eyes Only, as the next in the series. It was only when a certain Mr Broccoli cottoned on to the fact that the likes of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were raking in the super big bucks that they must have desperately scrabbled into the Ian Fleming vaults, plucked out Moonraker and thought something like. "ooh, that sounds rather spacey…", as the story bears little resemblance to the original novel.

If you're a Bond fan I'm preaching to the converted - you'll want this for your collection. If not, and you like a nice big over-the-top action flick with great effects (especially considering they couldn’t just run to a super-mega-hyper computer for them all back in '79), more corny lines than you can poke a swizzle stick at (but don’t use it for stirring) and plot holes you could fly a 747 through then nobody does it better.

...and if nothing else it's all worth it for the simply wonderful (and hilarious at times) romance between henchman Jaws and his gorgeous nerd-girl love. For don't you know that nerd-girls shall inherit the earth? Or at the very least the moon...

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=421
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      And I quote...
    "in all a great little effort from the MGM folks"
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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