Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Bond Booklet
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Featurette - Inside Moonraker (42:00)
Featurette - The Men Behind The Mayhem: The Special Effects of James Bond (18:11)
Audio Commentary - Lewis Gilbert (Director), Michael G Wilson (Producer), William P Cartlidge (Associate Producer) and Christopher Wood (Screenwriter)
Theatrical Trailer (3:45) - 1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Gallery - Photographs
Year Released 1979
Running Time 120:58 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (94:28)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Directors Lewis Gilbert
United Artists
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Roger Moore
Lois Chiles 
Michael Lonsdale 
Richard Kiel
Corinne Clery
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music John Barry

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    And so we move on to the eleventh instalment in the ongoing Bond franchise, and the second of the Roger Moore tenure. Released in 1979, the timing of the release was very significant as it came in place of the expected For Your Eyes Only. That film was deferred as the result of some minor little film released in 1977, a film that put science fiction back into the mainstream of film, as well as pushing the envelope of special effects by a serious quantum measure. Cubby Broccoli decided that the Bond franchise needed to go where Star Wars went and so in almost frantic mode, For Your Eyes Only was shelved and a new film based upon Ian Fleming's third book, Moonraker, was fast-tracked, and to be honest, the entire film shows it in my view.

    Not that the Roger Moore tenure as Bond was exactly blessed with the best of the Bond franchise, and no one ever accused a Bond film of having a great story anyway, but even by the standards of the genre, this is a weakish effort. Part of the reason was Roger Moore himself, who really was not suited to the real action man role of Bond that exemplified the Sean Connery tenure, and tended more towards the suave man, and lady-killer, of the world. Whilst it was a different Bond, it was not necessarily a better Bond, and in many ways the Roger Moore tenure was the nadir for the franchise - one that has only recently been escaped from through the auspices of Pierce Brosnan (a tenure that too is regrettably coming to an end). However, it is also fair to say that the stories given Roger Moore were also not of the same calibre as the earlier films, and when combined with special effects that don't look so special in the cold digital glare of twenty years later, it is hardly surprising that the Roger Moore tenure will not represent the high point of the franchise, and I am well aware that my assessment flies in the face of Moonraker being the largest grossing Bond film up to that point of time and garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects.

   In most respects, the film has little in common with the book other than the name, but what was real edge-of-the-seat stuff in the 1960s had by the late 1970s become decidedly passé, and there is no way the original book could have survived on the big screen as written. I mean, how menacing is an ICBM being dropped onto London when we have travelled to the moon and were about to embark on the Space Shuttle chapter of our continuing travels into space? And so the story here is little more than in the spirit of the book rather than a movie adaptation of the book.

    In keeping with just about every Bond film, the story is the same old rehashed story. Megalomaniac wealthy businessman finds fault with the world and conceives a master plan to eliminate the human race and restart with a hand-picked selection of physically perfect specimens who will be transported to an undetected space station in Earth orbit. There they will await the end of human civilization before returning to the planet to start afresh. This is all possible because said wealthy businessman is Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), owner of Drax Industries, which just so happens to build the Space Shuttle for the US government. He has put together his own little fleet of shuttles, called Moonrakers funnily enough, as the vehicles to get to the space station built in complete secrecy in Earth orbit (this being a plot hole the size of the solar system). Oh, the human population is to be destroyed by way of a nerve gas that only affects humans, being completely benign to all other forms of animal and plant life (is that major plot hole number two?), that will be launched from the space station. Ranged against him and his plans is naturally enough James Bond (Roger Moore) and undercover CIA operative Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), with Bond encountering the usual obstacles thrown in his way by the redoubtable Jaws (Richard Kiel) and assorted other henchmen. The obligatory love interest in this one is Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery), helicopter pilot for Drax Industries, who meets the usual fate of any women who goes to bed with James Bond in the first twenty minutes of a Bond film.

    So that is the exceedingly mediocre story around which this film runs its two hours of adventure. However, as usual the high points are the action, and this effort suffers with some of the weakest efforts yet to grace a Bond film. Frankly, the "adrenaline-charged" and "heart-stopping" opening sequence is about as exciting as limp lettuce, and the film continues with an assortment of rather poorly-executed special effects work (you cannot half notice the fact that a lot of the action is all against projected images), along with some ill-conceived ideas (the gondola hovercraft springs to mind quite readily as being exceedingly ludicrous), to culminate in a space battle that is so ludicrous that it verges on the laughable. About the only thing that holds genuine excitement is the famed cable car sequence, even though the sappy ending thereto is almost puke-inducing. I really cannot understand how this copped an Oscar nominations for effects work. Still, there is a suitably array of female talent on display here, and in that regard this is certainly better than average for the franchise. Even though she had to put up with another of those strongly suggestive character names, Lois Chiles did so with grace and is certainly one of the more beautiful women to have graced a Bond film. The obligatory love interest is Corinne Clery, better known perhaps for her rather naked role in L'Histoire d'O, which she made four years earlier. Whilst perhaps the film would have been even better had she got naked here, and the acting is pretty average, at least she is good to look at. Rounding out the main talent is Emily Bolton in the brief role of Manuela - not as memorable as Ursula Andress it has to be said, but a nicely-displayed pair of legs at the very least. Okay, we know this is sexist but then again that is half the point of a Bond film! Roger Moore played Bond the only way he knew how - severely tongue-in-cheek, since he could not play the action man and his attempts at romance, I am told by the women I know, were not that convincing. Michael Lonsdale did one of the better Bond jobs as the villain, and Richard Kiel even managed to get a line in this one!

   Bond veteran Lewis Gilbert was pulling the directorial strings here and not that effectively in all honesty, and the crew in general had a large number of Bond veterans doing their stuff, to varying degrees of success.

    So since I obviously hate the film so much, why exactly am I reviewing the DVD? Well, for one very simple reason - the film might be blessed with a crappy, banal story and less-than-special special effects, and plot holes so large that they can hardly be ignored, but it remains a piece of mindless entertainment that effectively fills in a couple hours of viewing with ease. The reason why this did so well at the box office is that, whilst admittedly ripping a lot of elements from Star Wars, it simply is a better-than-average piece of entertainment, and entertainment is precisely why people go to watch films.

Transfer Quality


    In some respects it is a pity that this one came out of the review pile straight after Lawrence Of Arabia. You follow up a 1962 film, given a fine restoration job and then a fine DVD transfer with a 1979 film, unrestored and given a mediocre DVD transfer. It makes it very hard to garner enthusiasm for the 1979 film!

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Yes, 1979 is twenty years ago and so we are not talking a recent film here. But then again, 1962 is almost forty years ago and that is decidedly middle-aged whichever way you look at it. This is in many ways an acceptable enough transfer. Sharpness and definition are better than average and this would ordinarily be a very watchable transfer. Shadow detail is a tad lacking on occasions, but this is a reflection of the age of the film in most respects. Clarity is quite good and there really is not much in the way of problems with grain here at all. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours are generally a little on the muted side, although once or twice the whole transfer goes into a colour burst where things improve quite significantly. Some of the shots in the jungle for instance show a distinct improvement in the vibrancy and saturation. Overall, the palette is understated but entirely believable. The only problems are an oversaturated red telephone in M's office and some mild oversaturation during the re-entry sequence towards the end of the film. There is no issue with colour bleed at all here.

    The main problem with the transfer is the constant problem with aliasing, that at times does get quite ugly and really detracts from the film quite badly. It is not quite so grotesquely ugly as say Backdraft, but the sheer consistency of it and the occasional peaks in the problem ensure that you cannot help but notice the problem - and once noticed it is nearly impossible to ignore. I would defy anyone to watch Chapter 17 (the cable car scene) and not declare this an ugly example of aliasing. There is barely any scene involving straight lines that is not noticeably affected by the problem. This really does spoil an otherwise quite acceptable transfer, and I cannot help but feel that the problem is a result of trying to cram too many extras onto the DVD and not allowing enough space for data compression of the film. Film first, extras second please.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, just a few hints at some loss of resolution in a few panned shots. There is the odd instance here and there of moiré artefacting, an example being at 97:13, but other than that there are no other real problems with film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts are not a significant problem in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 94:28, quite late in the film, thus the indication of perhaps not allowing enough compression space for the film. The layer change is noticeable but not really disruptive to the flow of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The DVD is blessed with two soundtracks, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is clear and easy to understand. Some of the ADR work does not seem to be quite right and there is the odd hint of an audio sync problem here and there. It predominantly seems to affect the scenes involving Corinne Clery.

    The score comes from John Barry and in keeping with most Bond scores, is reasonably effective in supporting the film without being especially distinctive.

    Whilst this is hardly the greatest demonstration of the art of Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, the overall effect is decent enough and I doubt that too many will find cause for serious complaint here. The bass channel is not exactly the most prominent ever heard and that perhaps is the one real failing - it should have been a little more active at times than we have here. Surround channel use is decent enough without being especially memorable. Rear channel use is decent but I would have thought that in scenes like those in St Marks Square in Venice, there should have been more ambient sound through the rear channels. The dialogue scenes do not get much support at all from the surround channels, but overall the soundscape is decent enough. In general, I cannot help but feel that more should have been achieved with the soundtrack, but there is nothing seriously awry.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    In keeping with the standard of the series thus far, there is a quite respectable package on offer here.


    The usually decent efforts associated with the series, with nice audio and animation enhancement. The only real complaint is the fact that the special features menu is a little over-bright and this tends to overpower the highlighter for the selections.


    The usual standard booklet from MGM with production notes and trivia, although calling it a collectable "making of" booklet is overstepping the mark by a long way in my view.

Featurette - Inside Moonraker (42:00)

    Narrated by Patrick MacNee, this is a decent enough effort featuring interview material with various members of the cast and crew, interspersed with excerpts from the film and behind-the-scenes photographs and footage. Some of the archival stuff is pretty grainy and not brilliant from a technical point of view, but there is nothing here that is absolutely objectionable. Presented in Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with a okay sounding Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The film excerpts are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and some are a little ropey when compared to the film itself - so at least we know the film transfer could have been a lot worse!

Featurette - The Men Behind The Mayhem: The Special Effects of James Bond (18:11)

    Basically an homage to the men who have contributed their talents to the making of the essential special effects for the franchise. Including some archival interview material as well as more recent stuff, this is a moderately interesting inclusion. Presented in Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with a decent sounding Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The film excerpts are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and some are very ropey when compared to the film itself.

Audio Commentary - Lewis Gilbert (Director), Michael G Wilson (Producer), William P Cartlidge (Associate Producer) and Christopher Wood (Screenwriter)

    An extremely variable effort and one that ultimately I do not find exceptionally worthy. The main problem, apart from the fact that Lewis Gilbert seems to have a lousy memory, is the fact that they invariably start talking over one another or seem to descend into having private conversations between pairs. When they finally get onto the same page and don't talk over each other, they occasional manage to pull out some interesting stuff from the memory banks. Overall however, this is not a great effort and ultimately I found it heavy going.

Theatrical Trailer (3:45)

    A fairly ropey effort technically as it is blighted with film artefacts and suffers somewhat from colour bleed in the end credits. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. An obligatory inclusion but they could have scrubbed it up a bit first methinks.

Gallery - Photographs

    A whole bunch of photographs and notes about the film and the filmmakers. All the photographs I checked out were not annotated, which makes the value of them a little less worthy. I cannot say that I viewed all the gallery as I did not, but nothing in what I saw was really enthralling since they lacked context.

R4 vs R1

    As far as I can ascertain, the Region 1 version in broad terms appears to be the same as the Region 4 version. The Region 4 would therefore normally be the version of choice based upon PAL formatting. However, the available reviews I found of the Region 1 version seemed to be indicate far less problems with aliasing than on the Region 4 DVD, so that may well tip the scales in favour of Region 1.


    Moonraker is far from being the best of the Bond franchise, but remains a decently entertaining film for all that. Don't expect a masterpiece and you will do fine here. The video transfer leaves a lot to be desired and that is an impediment to a wholehearted recommendation.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
3rd March, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL