"Moonraker" was the eleventh regular installment in the 007 series, discounting the several aberrations along the way, and the fourth one to star Roger Moore as secret agent extraordinaire James Bond. By this time, 1979, Moore was getting the hang of the role and had not yet fallen into the habit of going for easy laughs.
"Moonraker" is one of the better of Moore's Bond flicks, complemented by its exotic locales and outer-space motif. The Bond producers always tried to make their films timely, and this one capitalized on the launching of the U.S. space shuttle and the tremendous success of "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters" a couple of years earlier. It became the biggest-grossing of all Bond films to that point. Now, MGM have reissued "Moonraker" in a Special 007 Edition DVD that includes a number of laudable bonus items to make it all the better.
In this adventure, Bond is assigned the job of investigating the disappearance of an American space shuttle on loan to the British. He uncovers the dastardly plot of one Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) to engineer a perfect race of people in space. Needless to say, Drax wants to kill everybody else on Earth in the process. On his mission, Bond meets fellow agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), trifles with another beautiful woman in the person of Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery), and, of course, sees old standbys "M" (Bernard Lee in what would be his last appearance), "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn), and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell).
He also runs into his old nemesis Jaws, the steel-toothed heavy from the previous movie, "The Spy Who Loved Me," and does battle in a spectacular space station climax. Other locations include parts of France, England, Brazil, Guatemala, and the Mojave Desert, and the cities of London, Venice, and Rio de Janeiro. Oh, yes, and the movie begins with an amazing free-fall sequence in which Jaws brings down the house. It's worth the price of admission in itself.
The picture is presented in a 2.17:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen that is just short of its Panavision release size. As usual with MGM's transfers of the Bond series, the image quality is excellent. There is some slight flutter to an occasional line or stripe, but otherwise the picture is well detailed, colors are strong, and digital artifacts are nonexistent.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was apparently remixed from an original multi-track source, and it exhibits a good left-to-right spread. Directionality in the surround channels is minimal but effective. There is a bit of edginess accompanying the sound, a moderate scratchiness, plus a small degree of background noise when played at volume. Since there are not a lot of quiet passages, it shouldn't be a problem.
This Special 007 Edition contains the usual assortment of goodies. It starts with an audio commentary with director Lewis Gilbert, cast, and crew. Then, there's a forty-two minute documentary, "Inside Moonraker," that is one of the best and most informative of its kind, with recent cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes enlightenment, and a multitude of reminiscences. In addition, there's a twenty-minute documentary, "The Men Behind the Mayhem," that details scores of special effects in Bond thrillers from "Dr. No" to "The World Is Not Enough," followed by a tribute to all of the special effects artists who contributed to each of the Bond films in turn. An extensive still gallery, an eight-page informational booklet insert, thirty-two scene selections, and a theatrical trailer are all presented on a beautifully animated menu. English and French are the spoken languages, French and Spanish the subtitles.
All told, "Moonraker" may not match the best Sean Connery vehicles, but it ranks with the better of Moore's efforts, nonetheless. It is certainly among the most beautiful of the series to look at, and in its new trappings it makes a commendable addition to one's 007 video library. "Moonraker" is available either individually or in a boxed set with "From Russia With Love," "You Only Live Twice," "Diamonds Are Forever," "For Your Eyes Only," "The Living Daylights," and "The World Is Not Enough."