Space Shots

Moonraker Directed by Lewis Gilbert At Sack Cinema 57

OH, HOW EMBARASSING. Oh what rotten luck! If you don't find that space shuttle we borrowed from the Americans, they're going to be rather upset with us. Make it look good, 007, we're in quite a jam.

In Moonraker, the first James Bond film since 007 producer Albert Broccoli released The Spy Who Loved Me two summers ago, Roger Moore proves that his two-time failure to live up to Sean Connery's characterization of the super-spy is more the fault of poorly written dialogue than Moore's often overdone tongue-in-cheek manner. In the current film, Moore and screenwriter Christopher Wood do a superb job of reanimating the classic 007 without going to gory extremes or poorly disguised reruns of former 007 themes.

O.K., it's true that this film starts off like any other Bond extravaganza (including undulating female silhouettes). Something gets stolen (in this case, a U.S. space shuttle on loan to the British), and Bond has to find out what happened and try to get it back. But this is classic; even Sean Connery Bond flicks used such plots. (Goldfinger bought up most of the world's gold supply, Spectre took bombs from a hijacked American submarine in Thunderball, and arranged the thefts of two American and one Russian space craft in You Only Live Twice.)

So Bond is quickly summoned to the headquarters of the ever-British spy chief, M, after 007 neatly wraps up his former mission (narrowly averting a nasty fall out of an airplane in an opening scene no less impressive than Connery's skiing in On Her Majesty's Secret Service). M dispatches him forthwith after the missing shuttle.

Producer Broccoli strains in Moonraker to take us to locations heretofore untouched by his vacation-spot-hungry camera crews, and if the final scene is any indication of the length of Broccoli's list of locations, then it's just about used up. While searching for the missing shuttle, Bond visits California, Venice, Rio, a lush but foe-infested South American river, and finally, several hundred miles up in Earth orbit.

Needless to say, Bond finds there is more at stake than the mere theft of a space shuttle. A power-hungry aerospace magnate, Drax (Michael Lonsdale), who prides himself on a sense of drama in his death-traps, brings together the seedlings of a master-race. He plans to take over the world after he destroys all intelligent life by spraying the planet with a deadly extracted nerve gas from a rare South American orchid. Drax surrounds himself with luxury, not to mention an Asian Martial arts expert, two hungry Dobermans, and steel-mouthed giant Jaws (Richard Kiel) who pursued Bond through The Spy Who Loved Me with as much dispatch as Goldfinger's hat-tossing valet, Odd Job. Bond neatly thwarts all of Drax's attempts to "see that some harm comes to him," which include an out-of-control centerfuge, hidden snipers, and of course, Jaws.

BOND HOOKS UP with CIA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) to prevent Drax from dominating the world. Although Chiles lacks the believability of a Barbara Bach, she proves herself fatihful to the 007 credo by quickly falling for the British Spy after he rescues them both from the iron-trap mouth of Jaws. ("Do you know him?" she asks naively when she first sights the killer. "His name is Jaws," 007 cooly answers, "He kills people.") The rest of the women in Moonraker are appropriate escapees from the pages of Playboy, and they have almost as much to say.

As in any Bond film, 007 gets his weapons from Q, that master of gadgets who provides Bond with something which you can bet 007 will use later on when all appears lost. Although one of these gadgets (a throbbing silver motor-boat with all the extras) is wasted on a chase scene with footage lifted from Live and Let Die, it nonetheless makes up for the obvious absence of the modified Ferrari which always seemed to be at 007's disposal throughout all his other films.

You might conplain that Bond is denied the usual number and variety of weapons in his arsenal, but luxuriate in the glories of Ken Adams sets, blazing special effects, and battlefield choreography brought forth in the finale--the greatest since the underwater battle high lighting Thunderball.

James Bond movies are never appropriate places to bring your thinking cap. In fact, they require that you leave your intellect at home in a glass jar next to your T.V. set. But Roger Moore as James Bond in Moonraker finally clicks thanks to the film's luxurious backdrops, reasonably intelligent dialogue, cutesy references to other contemporary films, beautiful members of both sexes, and a hit man who'll bite on anything--in short, the old formula. And, to top it off, 007 really does DO IT in space!