Directed by Lewis Gilbert
A space shuttle built by Drax Industries on loan to the British government from the US is stolen while in flight and James Bond must investigate who the thieves are and soon discovers a sinister plot to wipe out every man, woman and child on Earth if they do not fit into the view of industrialist madman Hugo Drax’s (Michael Lonsdale) concept of perfection.
I know people talk smack about this because it is James Bond in space, but it is a fun movie and a rather entertaining James Bond film. Bond was all about outlandish plots and over the top villains at the time and this fit the mold. And the theme of genocide which is what the Drax idea boils down to helps make it a more serious film than it otherwise would be.
Lois Chiles becomes the latest Bond Girl given a humorously unique name in the form of Holly Goodhead. I saw these movies as a kid and many of the names went over my head. Now I know the writers had dirty minds. Goodhead is a CIA agent and astronaut (I am sure that is a common combo) sent on a similar mission. This continued the trend of capable Bond Girls that kinda began in The Spy Who Loved Me. Definitely not inept deadweight like the character of Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Michael Lonsdale was cast as industrialist Hugo Drax. It is my understanding he is primarily a French film actor and his appearances in English-speaking work are sporadic. I think the most recent thing I saw him in was Munich (2005). He is so good so anything he shows up in is a treat.
And who can forget Jaws (Richard Kiel)? In this movie his character got rehabbed because it had become known to the producers the character appealed to children. Jaws even gets a love interest here in Dolly (though I do not recall her being named onscreen) played by Blanche Ravalec. Maybe someday we will get a bit of good luck and a new version of the character will appear in the Bond films.
The special effects are still stunning to this day. By and large they hold up against anything created on a computer currently. These were done in a day and a time when you could not create an explosion or a spaceship with a few strokes on a keyboard. You had to build your spaceships and whatever structures you were planning on blowing up and then put them all together on film in a convincing way. The stuff they do here looks as good as anything done in modern times. Drax’s space station is especially impressive, and its first onscreen appearance is amazing.
The effects were done by Derek Meddings who had been working on the special effects for the Bond films since around Live and Let Die and continued on until Goldeneye after which he passed away. Other credits include Superman: The Movie, Batman (1989), The Land That Time Forgot (a personal favorite) and various Gerry Anderson series. The man was an artist and it is guaranteed if you saw something made from the late 60s to the mid-90s and it looked good he worked on it.
I love science fiction and I love James Bond, so this film holds a double warm spot in my heart. The choice was made to go with Moonraker after the beginning of the Star Wars phenomenon and the rise of science-fiction in general in film. Bond villains always had audacious plans, and this is perhaps one of the most audacious and it allows Bond to save the human race from extinction.
You get all of the exotic locations that you would expect from a James Bond film. You get Italy and South America and France via California. The Drax residence is actually a château in France and because of the budget and other concerns they needed to use it. They fit it in nicely by mentioning that Drax was so wealthy he had it transported brick by brick from France to California.
The epic climax on the space station is exciting and looks fantastic. I know it is a little bit out there to have a space battle in James Bond, but this is a superspy film and for me it works but I have to admit it’s by just barely. Things get better once the space battle ends and the troops start storming the actual space station. There the vibe becomes a little more like a normal James Bond film and a little less silly.
I really do like this film. It is a fun and exciting romp and is a great example of the lighthearted affair that James Bond was at the time. I recommend it.