Introducing James Bond: Moonraker (1979)

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Remember how I mentioned that The Spy Who Loved Me came out the same year as Star Wars? Well, after that movie came out and turned Hollywood on its head, everybody (and I do mean everybody) tried to get in on the science-fiction/space craze that took over. Films and television shows like Krull (1983), Battlestar Galactica (the original series), Battle Beyond the Stars (1978) and The Black Hole (1979) all bear a distinct resemblance to the science-fiction classic. Even a fantasy film like Clash of the Titans (1981) includes a reference: Bubo the mechanical owl behaves (and communicates) exactly like R2-D2 (talking with beeps and whistles that only Perseus can understand).


Property of Eon Productions

With all this enthusiasm for space and science fiction, it’s not surprising that the James Bond series also headed for space. Bond’s involvement with spaceships had already been hinted at once before. In You Only Live Twice (1967), Bond nearly succeeds in smuggling himself aboard Spectre’s rogue spaceship as an astronaut before getting caught. Over a decade later with Moonraker, Bond finally heads to space in order to stop the mad billionaire Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) from taking over the Earth and building a new civilization in his image.

Bond is put on the trail when a Moonraker shuttle (based on the real NASA shuttle) is stolen by parties unknown. Bond is sent to meet Drax at his estate (a French chateau literally imported stone by stone into the United States) and uncovers evidence that there is a huge plot behind the shuttle theft. However, since Drax is a highly respected member of society (not to mention very rich and influential), he has a hard time convincing M that the plot is real. However, Bond locates just enough evidence of Drax producing a poisonous nerve gas to convince M to let him keep going in his investigation (but secretly).


Bond then travels to Rio de Janeiro during Carnival on the pretence of taking a vacation but really to investigate where Drax is taking this deadly nerve gas he’s been producing. Along the way, Bond and NASA scientist Holly Goodhead (oh these Bond girl names, yeesh) encounter Jaws (yes the same Jaws from the previous film; he’s the only Bond henchman to appear in separate films).

Moonraker Title Sequence

The title song of Moonraker was performed by Shirley Bassey (who had also performed for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever). The decision was almost literally a last-minute one. Originally, Johnny Mathis had been approached to record the song, but he was unable to complete the project, and so Bassey was offered the song a matter of weeks before the film’s scheduled premiere date. Though Bassey completed the song (and it sounds lovely), she had no time to promote the song before the film came out. As a result, the song did rather poorly on the musical charts, but I feel it’s a great song.


Credit to Art of the Title

John Barry again composed the score, although in this film he abandoned the brassy sound of his earlier Bond films and now opted for a more strings-heavy approach. The opening sequence, in homage to the title, centers around the Moon (or a round circle shape that implies the Moon). There is also a shot of Earth from space and, as always, the female body in silhouette. I really enjoy Bassey’s performance of the title song.

bond moonraker space station ken adam drax

Now for some cool trivia and thoughts! This is the 11th and final appearance of Bernard Lee as M, he sadly died while For Your Eyes Only (1981) was in pre-production, and out of respect, the character does not make an appearance. In my opinion, the space battle between the astronauts is one of the corniest moments in the series, because all you hear are these laser blasts and it’s just, it’s not meant to be funny, but it comes across as funny. And one last thing, the girl Jaws ends up with is the exact same height as his real-life wife.

Next time: Bond enters the 1980s in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

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One thought on “Introducing James Bond: Moonraker (1979)

  1. Pingback: Introducing James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) | Film Music Central

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