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Moonraker: Ultimate Edition

There's nothing worse than middle-aged people trying to be hip, and with 1979's Moonraker, the James Bond series was trying to keep up with the whippersnappers of its era. Roger Moore's run with the character finally hit its stride with the previous franchise entry The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which established a glib and silly approach to 007 that was nonetheless successful. However, Moonraker was an attempt to play with the likes of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind by setting its third act in space. Such has now turned the picture into something to be perennially trotted out as one of the worst of Bonds. Moore returns for his fourth outing as 007, this time checking up on Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) after one of his Moonraker space shuttles is hijacked. At Drax's palatial estates he makes the company of pilot Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery) and scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). The former sleeps with Bond, only to be torn apart by wild dogs for her betrayal, while Goodhead keeps her distance. It's only once Bond goes to Venice to investigate a Drax factory that he finds out Goodhead's secret: She's CIA, and meant to keep tabs on Drax. Drax is no dummy and sets assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel) after Bond, which also puts Holly in the crosshairs. It turns out that Drax's major scheme is to build an ark in space to raise a master race to repopulate the globe (it's a master race of physical perfection, so all races are included if they're fit), and he plans to poison the world with a substance that only kills humans. Though there are only a handful of great Bond films, none lack at least a moment or two to recommend them, and Moonraker does have one truly great sequence. Though set up as clumsily as possible (Bond is shown making out with a woman who then pulls a gun on him, and it gets even more belabored from there), in one great bit Bond jumps out of a plane sans parachute, only to wrestle one away from a bad guy. Done with a limited amount of blue screen (mostly to put Moore in the middle of the action), we see two guys with well hid parachutes wrestling for the control of a bag, and it shows that no matter how well CGI is done, practical effects — especially insane ones — can't be topped. And the action sequences, put together by second unit director John Glen (who later helmed the franchise for five films) are rather good, even when a bit silly — one has Bond split a gondola in two, leaving the gondolier to sink. Alas, the final act, in which men in space suits shoot lasers at each other (reminiscent of a similar scene in Thunderball, but infinitely more absurd) snaps the coils of a willing suspension of disbelief. As Moore's talent was giving a Brecthian distance, this can only be appreciated ironically. A final note: there's a moment that Mike Myers saw in this and lifted for Austin Powers where Bond is held at gunpoint, lifts a finger to his face to signal his compatriots to the switch he's about to turn, and then dives at it. Thank god for henchmen with dulled reflexes.

Fox/MGM presents their "Ultimate Edition" of Moonraker in a stunningly remastered anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital Surround audio. Extras on the first disc include a new commentary by Roger Moore, as well as the previous track by Lewis Gilbert and the cast and crew. On Disc Two there's featurettes "007 in Rio – Original 1979 Production Featurette" (13 min.), "Bond '79" (12 min.), "Ken Adams Production Films" (12 min.), "Learning to Freefall – Sky Diving Test Footage" (4 min.), "Sky Diving Storyboards" (1 min.), "Circus footage" (1 min.), two storyboard sequences for the cable car sequence (4 min.). There's also the original documentary "Inside Moonraker" (42 min.), and special effects documentary "The Men Behind the Mayhem" (19 min.), the theatrical trailer, a stills gallery, and "007 Mission Control," which offers highlights of the franchise's repeated trademarks. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case. Available in MGM's "James Bond Collection: Volume 4."

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