Bond in Orbit
By Robert Martin
In Moonraker, James Bond - the only superhero with a Licence To Kill - seeks his prey in London, Capri, Venice, Rio . .. and Outer Space.
Though based on novels written in the late 50s and early 60s, each of the film adventures of super-agent James Bond have taken special care to include the latest of technological marvels. But the scientific gimmickry - whether lasers, jetpacks, hovercraft or the newest and hottest in a long string of wonder cars - has remained a supporting element to the heroic action in each film. For Moonraker, the Bond epic scheduled to premiere this July 4th, space-age science is the action, as Agent 007 is pitted against a megalomaniac multi-billionaire with a
personally financed space program that is part of yet another rule-the-world scheme.
Written 25 years ago, predating Sputnik and the space race era by three years, Ian Fleming's original novel concerns Sir Hugo Drax and his fiendish plan to send a nuclear missile hurtling into the ceruer of downtown London. For the film version, it was decided to abandon the original storyline. Only Drax, the sinister space pioneer, and his voluptuous associate, Miss Holly Goodhead, are retained. In a far more ambitious plot, concocted by screenwriter Christopher Wood, Drax plans the demise of Earth's entire population.
In order to authentically create Drax's two space centers (one concealed in the bowels of a lost city in the Central American jungle, the other suspended in Earth orbit), producer Albert Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert have recruited two NASA experts, Eric Burgess and Harry Lang, to work closely with production designer Ken Adam. Adam's stunning sets featured prominently in the two previous Gilbert-directed Bond films, particularly the mammoth submarine plant in The Spy Who Loved Me-built in the giant "007" soundstage at Pinewood Studios in England.
The final segment of the film, in which a space-borne Bond meets his foe in a final cataclysmic encounter, promises a wealth of stunning special-effects work. The effects are being supervised by Derek Meddings, who worked in a similar capacity on Superman-The Movie. Though principal photography was completed in France last January, Meddings and a crew of 100 are continuing the miniature and matte work at Pinewood and Shepperton studios. Miniatures include a scaled reproduction of the planned NASA space shuttle, re-christened the Moonraker, and the orbiting headquarters from which Drax will set his plan of world conquest in motion.
Albert Broccoli, who has been producing the Bond films since the very first appeared in 1962, states that "the premise of Moonraker is not science fiction, it's science fact." It is true that the technology behind most of the fantastic events planned for the film does exist today. But the spectacular dimension of those events, and the skilled work of Meddings and crew, make the film required viewing this summer for millions of space opera fans, and perhaps may bring a new sense of wonder to Bond followers around the globe.
source: Starlog #22, May 1979