MOONRAKER (United Artists, 1979)

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

★★ The eleventh James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli. US release date: June 29, 1979. Budget: $30 million. Worldwide box office gross: $210.3 million (US domestic gross: $70.3 million; international gross: $140.0 million).[1] Running time: 126 minutes

The Setup

Billionaire aerospace industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) builds space shuttles, one of which, enroute to the UK aboard a 747 jetliner, disappears over the Yukon. British intelligence wants to know what happened to the missing shuttle, so they send James Bond (Roger Moore) to Drax’s facility in California to investigate. Bond meets Drax, who says he also wants to know what happened to his shuttle, blaming the British for its disappearance, and icy US space scientist Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). Bond’s investigations will lead him to Drax’s deadly plot to destroy mankind with a toxin that will spare plants and animals but eliminate all human life on Earth. The only survivors: Drax’s super-race, waiting out the destruction on a radar-proof space station that orbits the Earth.

Behind the Scenes

Although producer Albert R. Broccoli was wise to follow the Goldfinger formula of less serious, more fantastical Bond adventures after the success of the lighthearted Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, Moonraker actually proved to be too fantastical. Not only did it send Bond into outer space, where no double-0 agent should ever go, but it also returned to The Man with the Golden Gun’s style of action sequences that lack all credibility. Except for the wild parachute jump in the pre-credits teaser, the action in the movie is just plain stupid, including the unbelievably dumb moment when Bond glides through Venice’s St. Mark’s Square on a gondola hovercraft. Even a pigeon did a double take. Interestingly, what could have been a great action sequence in the film—Bond flying a mini jet behind Angel Falls in Venezuela—was eliminated from the shooting script when the river dried up.

Steel-toothed assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel) returns and adds some tension, but his Wile E. Coyote antics are not as flavorful as they were in The Spy Who Loved Me. Lois Chiles is a cocky Bond heroine, but she’s an ice machine in the charisma department. And Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax spends much of the film mumbling about Bond’s ability to survive numerous assassination attempts—though one of those is actually the film’s most effective sequence: the centrifuge trainer mishap.

High points include John Barry’s score and Corinne Cléry’s death scene in the forest, where she becomes lunch for Drax’s Dobermans—a scene that found its way into the film’s teaser trailer. The film’s failings didn’t hurt it at the box office; building upon the momentum of The Spy Who Loved Me and backed by an inspired marketing campaign, Moonraker became, to that point, the biggest moneymaker in Bond history.

The Cast
James Bond Roger Moore
Holly Goodhead Lois Chiles
Hugo Drax Michael Lonsdale
Jaws Richard Kiel
Corinne Dufour Corinne Cléry
M Bernard Lee
Q Desmond Llewelyn
Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell
Frederick Gray Geoffrey Keen
Manuela Emily Bolton
Chang Toshiro Suga
Dolly Blanche Ravalec
Private Jet Pilot Jean Pierre Castaldi
Private Jet Hostess Leila Shenna
General Gogol Walter Gotell
Cavendish Arthur Howard
Blonde Beauty/Drax Girl Irka Bochenko
Colonel Scott Michael Marshall
Mission-Control Director Douglas Lambert
Consumptive Italian Alfie Bass
Museum Guide/Drax Girl Anne Lonnberg
U.S. Shuttle Captain Brian Keith
Captain Boeing 747 George Birt
RAF Officer Kim Fortune

The Crew
Crew Member
Director Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by Christopher Wood
Executive Producer Michael G. Wilson
Producer Albert R. Broccoli
Associate Producer William P. Cartlidge
Director of Photography Jean Tournier
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Shirley Bassey
Lyrics by Hal David
Production Designer Ken Adam
Costume Designer Jacques Fonteray
Stunt Arranger Bob Simmons
Title Designer Maurice Binder
Special Effects John Evans
John Richardson
Visual Effects Supervisor Derek Meddings
Visual Effects Art Director Peter Lamont
Editor John Glen

[1] “Moonraker (1979),” The Numbers, accessed June 11, 2020,


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