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While transporting on of Hugo Drax’s (Michael Lonsdale) Moonraker space shuttles are being transported two stowaways steel the shuttle and blow up the transport plane. While on a job out of Africa Bond (Roger Moore) is ambushed by Jaws (Richard Kiel) and pushed out of a plane. Without a parachute of his own Bond steels one from a henchmen and escapes the clutches of Jaws.
Dr. Holly Goodhead
Bond returns to MI6 and is told by M (Bernard Lee) and Defense Minister Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen) that Moonraker has been stolen. While there Q (Desmond Llewelyn) gives Bond his wrist dart gun. Ready to go Bond travels to Hugo Drax’s estate which consists of Drax’s mansion, a space training ground and a shuttle building plant. There Bond meets Drax and Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). Goodhead shows Bond around including a centrifuge trainer. In the machine Bond is nearly killed by Drax’s henchman Chang (Toshiro Suga). Using his wrist dart gun Bond is able to escape.
Drax and Corinne Dufour
That night Bond spends his evening with Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery) attempting to get any information out of her. After sex Bond sneaks into Drax’s office and finds his personal safe with the help of Corinne and takes photos of some blueprints with the name Venini Glass on them. The next day during a pigeon hunt Drax has a sniper try and kill Bond but Bond sees the sniper first and kills him. After saying goodbye to Bond Drax confronts Corinne about helping Bond. Even though she denies it Drax sends his dogs to kill her.
Bond travels to Venice and investigates the Venini Glass company. While a tour group passes by Bond spots Goodhead and asks why she has been sneaking around the glass company. After parting ways more of Drax’s henchmen attempt to kill Bond while he is enjoying his personal gondola. Bond escapes using the hovercraft feature on his gondola. That night Bond sneaks back into the glass company and finds a secret lab that is placing a poisonous chemical into satellites. While leaving Chang attempts to kill Bond but is thrown out a window to his death by Bond. During the fight Bond notices that many of Drax’s crates are being sent to Rio De Janeiro.
Drax's secret lab
The same night Bond meets back up with Goodhead who reveals that she is a CIA agent working undercover. The next day Bond brings Gray and M to the secret lab which has been changed into Drax’s office. Gray and M scold Bond about the mistake even though Bond was able to get a vial of the poisonous material which he hands over to M to give to Q for anaylsis. Feeling that Bond is becoming more of a nausence Drax hires Jaws to kill Bond.
Jaws attempting to kill Bond's contact
In Rio Bond meets up with his contact that points him in the direction of the Drax company that is recieving the crates from Venice. After a close run in with Jaws Bond and his contact are able to escape through the party in the streets. The next day Bond runs into Goodhead again and convinces her that they should work together. While taking a cable car Jaws attempts to kill the two agents once again. Goodhead and Bond make a jump for it while letting Jaws crash and meet Dolly for the first time. The two agents are ambushed by Drax’s men and are tied to gurneys in the back of an ambulance. Working together Bond is able to escape but is unable to save Goodhead as well.
Bond being chased on the Amazon
Traveling to Mexico Bond meets back up with Q and M. Q reveals that the poisonous material is a nerve gas that has no effect on animals. It comes from a plant in Brazil. Using a boat designed by Q Bond travels down the Amazon but it ambushed by more of Drax’s men and Jaws. Using a hang glider built into the boat Bond escapes and lands safely in the jungle. In the jungle Bond starts following Drax’s beautiful women into a secret base below a Inca temple. They attempt to kill Bond using a python but Bond kills the python instead.
Drax invites Bond to his control center along with Jaws. Inside Drax reveals his plan to create a master race in space after killing the rest of humanity. Drax orders Jaws to place Bond in the exhaust vents of one of the shuttles along with Dr. Goodhead. Before the shuttle can take off the two agents escape and sneak aboard the shuttle taking them to a massive space station built by Drax so that his people can survive the gas being spread across earth.
Drax's space station
On the station Goodhead and Bond try to get a message out to reveal the station to the earth governments so that they can bring reinforcments. With the signal getting through Bond and Goodhead are caught by Jaws and brought before Drax. While the gas satellites are being launched Bond convinces Jaws that he was not a part of Drax’s plan to create a perfect race of humans. With the help of Jaws Bond gets the gravity of the station turned off while the American Space Army and Drax’s men have a laser battle outside.
Yup, he's smiling.
After destroying much of the station Bond throws Drax out an airlock and boards a shuttle with Goodhead to hunt down the satellites with the gas before they hit the atmosphere. Before they can leave however they have to be unbuckled from the station. Jaws stays behind with his girlfriend Dolly to unbuckle the ship and stay on the exploding space station.
At the last second Goodhead and Bond are able to safely destroy the killer satellites. Back on earth M and the American government mention Jaws and his girlfriend returning to earth safely and witness Bond and Goodhead having zero-g sex.
With the huge success of The Spy Who Loved Me producer Albert R. Broccoli had more control over the Bond franchise than ever before. Originally Broccoli wanted to do For Your Eyes Only as the next film but with the release of Star Wars the direction was changed to film Ian Flemings third novel Moonraker instead. However the story of the book is considered to small and the story is completely rewritten except for keeping the name of the main villain. At the same time the United States is preparing it’s first shuttle launch and the idea was to release the film at the same time. Broccoli wanted the film to be based in reality instead of going completely into science fiction.
With the release of The Spy Who Loved Me fans loved and embraced the character of Jaws. With a special ending shot and placed at the end of the film keeping Jaws alive the filmmakers were able to bring Jaws back for Moonraker and this time make him a good guy.
With the main ideas in place Broccoli brought back Christopher Wood and director Lewis Gilbert work on the film and script. Broccoli was also adamant that anyone could contribute to the script. While on vacation in Rio Broccoli decided that the next Bond film was to take place in Brazil. Even though the script was no where near finished Gilbert took a team to Rio to film the festival there for the film.
Due to tax law changes in England the production team was forced to move to France under designer Ken Adams suggestion. In Paris the team took over every single studio that was available making them very unpopular with the local filmmakers.
To pull off the special effects heavy ending the team decide to bring in an outside studio. However when the studio demands two percent of the back end profits Broccoli immediately fires them and decides to do the effects in house. The main effect used was winding back the camera which involved shooting all the different elements of a shot with the same film.
With the script not quite finished and the filmmmakers scouting even more locations Moonraker was already scheduled to shoot in four different studio’s in three different locations across the globe. With it all said and done the film’s budget ballooned to thirty four millions dollars to The Spy Who Loved Me’s budget of thirteen million dollars. With the budget laid out Broccoli decided to go ahead and make the film with the current budget.
John Glen's storyboards
For the pre title sequence Executive Producer Michael G. Wilson came up with the idea of throwing Bond out of an airplane without a parachute and having a mid jump fight. Several problems arose since at the time no parachutes were small enough to fit under a suit and the lenses that had to be used were very heavy. While in Paris Wilson went to a camera store and found a lense that could do the job but was made of plastic and not glass. Quickly the production team made a new camera that could fit the experimental lens and shoot the stunt. Broccoli ordered the filming early so that if it didn’t work they could shoot something else. B. J. Worth became the Ariel photographer and choreographer for the stunt. John Glen helped edit the scene before the jumps could be filmed and edited the footage once the filming was done.
Ken Adam's working on Moonraker
On August the 11th 1978 on Ken Adams set where Bond would fight a python. It took three seperate studio’s with three seperate crews to create the scene. Shooting continued through all of Ken Adams sets in France which caused problems with the French crew. The crew refused to work early in the morning, late at night, or even on weekend. Finally Adams was able to convince the crew to work on the extra days allowing them to bring their family's.
Shooting the hover gondola scene
Unable to rent a gondola for their needs the crew make their own but soon discover the faults of hooking up a motor too it. The gondola’s shape wasn’t designed for high speeds and while shooting it would continually flip over. After some experimentation the team figure things out and make four of the gondola’s for the film. Driving through the square in Venice the team was unable to clear out the tourists. Director Lewis Gilbert final gave up and had the crew at least back them away from the hover gondola so that Roger Moore could drive through.
Using the actual cable cars in Rio stuntmen Richard Graydon and Roger Keel played out the fight two thousand feet in the air. Safety wires could not be used since the two stuntmen had to keep moving around the top of the cable cars.
Shooting the model on Pinewood studios
To shoot the sequence of the hang glider of the water falls there were several set backs. The hang gliding pilot and never had to deal with the conditions and was unable to get the hang of things. One day during a test run the pilot was filmed crashing into the jungle. Afterwards he gave up and the crash had to be written into the script.
To create the defining shot of the laser battle the film had to have 48 passes through the camera. It had to be done on a single piece of negative and wound back for each pass coming to a total of 96 times. Each time there was a danger of something going wrong and the film being useless. For the space station to blow up at the end of the film the filmmakers had to ask the question of how do you blow something up in space when there can be no fire. To create the effect the filmmakers took shotguns to the model and filmed what came to be in the final version of the movie.
Once again Moonraker is a box office success. Critics at the time priase the special effects but feel that the plot is lacking. Among Bond fans Moonraker is considered one of the lesser of the Bond films.