Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

Form of transportation that plays a dramatic role in both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Moonraker. In the former film, a cable car connects the tiny Swiss village of Mürren with the mountaintop refuge of Piz Gloria, from which Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) is plotting his latest scheme to blackmail the free world. James Bond (George Lazenby) infiltrates Blofeld’s headquarters disguised as a British heraldry expert, but when his cover is blown, he’s imprisoned by Blofeld in the cable car’s wheelhouse—a complicated mass of cables and gears that resembles the mechanism of a watch.

Bond realizes that if he can make it through a window to the outside, he can escape. Tearing out the pockets of his pants to create a pair of makeshift gloves, Bond carefully winds his way through the gear system, catches hold of the departing cable, and is whisked out of the mechanical prison. Once he’s in the open air, 007 holds on to the cables and then jumps aboard an arriving cable car that takes him back into the Piz Gloria reception area, where he steals a pair of skis and heads into Mürren.

The interior of the wheelhouse was filmed at Pinewood Studios on a set designed by Syd Cain. Stuntman Chris Webb and Richard “Dicky” Graydon did the dangerous location work in which Bond clings to the icy cables. Remembered stunt arranger George Leech, “I was supposed to be George Lazenby’s double in that sequence, but when I started doing the cable climb, I fell off and twisted my arm. It was a dangerous stunt to do in freezing cold weather, ten thousand feet up. We were working on the last station of the Schilthorn cable run. Below was at least a one-hundred-foot drop, and the cables were extremely greasy and caked with ice.”[1]

Since Leech was injured, he employed Chris Webb and Dicky Graydon to double for Lazenby. To protect them, Leech fastened a metallic rigging device inside their sleeves. In case they lost their grip, the metal hook would prevent them from falling. As a second safety precaution, a drop bed was placed below the cable to catch the stuntmen if their primary device failed them. Director Peter Hunt asked Leech if the stunt was possible without the metallic aid, but as the day wore on and it became colder, Leech felt it was impossible to do the stunt without some metallic safeguard.

“It was so cold,” said Leech, “that Dicky couldn’t get a grip on the moving wire. He began to slide down the mountain on the cable. Luckily, I had stationed somebody at the first piling who stuck his foot out in time and prevented Dicky from sliding any farther. He could have eventually slid all the way to Mürren.”[2]

A much larger cable car is featured in Moonraker, during a hair-raising sequence filmed partially on stage and partially in Rio de Janeiro. Bond (Roger Moore) and Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) are making their way from Sugarloaf Mountain to the Brazilian mainland when a crony of Jaws (Richard Kiel) halts their cable car midway on its run. Jaws then climbs aboard a second car, which is carefully maneuvered alongside a trapped Bond and Holly.

A fight ensues between 007 and his steel-toothed nemesis, with each jumping in, around, and between the two stalled cars. Eventually 007 grabs hold of one of the cables and, using a chain, slides downhill with Holly in tow. Jaws follows in a cable car controlled by his wheelhouse assistant and nearly runs Bond down. At the last possible moment, Bond and Holly jump to safety, while Jaws, the controls on his cable car shot, crashes spectacularly into the wheelhouse—later emerging, in typical Jaws fashion, unscathed.

The fight between Bond and Jaws was performed on a stage at Pinewood, with the actors trading blows in front of a blue screen so the Brazilian skyline could later be matted in. Master shots of the stalled cable cars and the wheelhouse were shot on location in Brazil.

[1] George Leech, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 23, 1977.

[2] Ibid.


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