12 November 2011

BlogalongaBond- MOONRAKER Review

As you might imagine, there's no shortage of contenders for the dumbest moment in Moonraker. However, it's actually quite impressive to see that so many of them are actually dumber than "James Bond goes to space." As ridiculous as the final credits' insistence that the movie was shot on location in "OUTER SPACE!" really is, let's not forget the animal reaction shots, the platoon of space rangers, and Jaws' flipping girlfriend.

And so, Fleming's novel, in which the villainous Hugo Drax is a Nazi pretending to be an English gent, somehow transmorphs into Moonraker, with sci-fi, lasers and a metric fuckton of camp. It's also a pretty straight structural remake of You Only Live Twice, which was already rehashed in the previous, much superior adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me. Basically, Drax is an industrialist who provokes a diplomatic incident when he steals back one of his own Moonraker shuttles, while it's supposed to be under British control. Bond is dispatched to find out where the missing Moonraker got to, but instead finds a plot to create a new master race.

Seeing as how not all about Moonraker is nonsense, let's cover the good parts first and then get into the negatives, which are more fun to read and write about. The film just happens to have one of the better death scenes we've seen thus far, as one of Bond's helpful conquests, Corinne Dufour, is brutally set upon by Drax's dogs. Corinne Clery gives it much more than most of her predecessors, certainly much more than that one who was a human shield for Bond within seconds of meeting him, and Michael Lonsdale is never more ruthless. It's a scene that excels for being so down to Earth, which is ironic, considering where it goes from there.

The Oscar-nominated visual effects, created in-camera by Derek Meddings, are pretty advanced for 1979. The look of the film as a whole is more reminiscent of Thunderbirds, than Star Wars or 2001, but that's nothing against Meddings, who made his name on Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation series. Additionally, I enjoyed John Barry's cine-literate score, with cues from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Magnificent Seven and 2001, which is as close to an admission that Bond had just fallen into the groove of aping other popular films as you'd ever get.

For those who aren't keeping score, Live And Let Die borrowed from blaxploitation, The Man With The Golden Gun had an extended passage of martial-arts foolishness, and Jaws is obviously carried over from The Spy Who Loved Me to the sci-fi pastiche of this sequel. All that the Bond films already bring with them at this point is a constantly escalating glut of camp and attemped comedy. Bond traverses his world of ludicrous henchmen and audacious plots for global domination with such disaffection these days that he doesn't even seem incredulous when he travels into OUTER SPACE! Except, that is, for some stoic eyebrow movement from Sir Rog.

I developed a theory, in watching Dr. Holly Goodhead throughout Moonraker. Lois Chiles, (saddled with the most overtly bawdy character name since Plenty O'Toole) plays as a worldly and intelligent woman, albeit at the expense of any real personality, and she resists Bond for a good while. For the second film on the trot, the moment in which the girl finally softens to his charms is once he saves her from Jaws. Even in Dr. Goodhead's philosophy, something as rampantly fucked up as a metal-mouthed bastard trying to kill her on top of a cable car could not possibly exist. A relatively unfazed Bond is the first semblance of sanity in this brave new world of bullshit, and therein lies this incarnation's sex appeal.

Outside of this Bond's particular brand of seduction by bat-shit foolishness, love is in the air for Jaws. Richard Kiel's performance apparently seized the imagination of the younger viewers, who pestered the producers to make him a goody so that they could more easily root for him. We know that kids are stupid, but apparently, so were the producers, who give Jaws a love interest, the diminutive Dolly. Late on in the film, there's a throwaway line about how the two were rescued from the explosive space station climax by American astronauts. Fuck it, why try at this point? Why not just say that Jaws was an alien all along, and that he just took her home to meet his giant family?

We're 11 months into this marathon, and Moonraker is so unrecognisable from what I was watching in January, or February, or-- fuck, even September, that I feel completely lost. 007 takes a running jump out of the 1970s with a final farce that shows just how far the series has sunk over the course of the decade. It's almost like they started with one space gag, and were content to let us wallow in confusion for two hours while they got there. When it arrives, Desmond Llewelyn's Q delivers it. While I concede that "I think he's attempting re-entry, sir" is pretty much the greatest double entendre the series has ever concocted, was it worth everything that went before? Not really, no.

#11- The explosion of several dozen beautiful civilians goes unmourned, but to be fair, really ridiculously good-looking people die in freak gasoline-fight accidents every day.

For a full list of everyone's work on BlogalongaBond so far, click here.

The Mad Prophet Will Return, With For Your Eyes Only ... in December.

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