Moonraker

1979

LP: United Artists UAG 30247
CD: EMI Manhattan CDP 7 90620 2
Lyric by Hal David

  1. Main Title (vocal by Shirley Bassey)
  2. Space Laser Battle
  3. Miss Goodhead Meets Bond
  4. Cable Car and Snake Fight
  5. Bond Lured to Pyramid
  6. Flight into Space
  7. Bond Arrives in Rio and Boat Chase
  8. Centrifuge and Corrine Put Down
  9. Bond Smells a Rat
  10. End Title (vocal by Shirley Bassey)




The Movie

Indulge me for a moment and I'll tell you a story.

This movie came out when I was 14, and at that time I had never seen a Bond movie and didn't care to, but I was space happy. I loved Star Trek, Star Wars, Lost in Space--anything with lasers and space ships and planets and such. So when the trailer to Moonraker came out and there's Roger Moore in the space shuttle, shooting up a space station--I had to see it.

In 1979 the Bond movies were still pretty unique--so I was completely unprepared for what I saw. Bond movies are made for teenage boys, and it hit me squarely between the eyes. From the time that Bond was thrown out of the airplane and Barry deconstructed, rearranged and refit the James Bond Theme into chase sequence music, to the end of Maurice Binder's stream-of-consciousness titles, I was floored--and hooked. I faded out of being space-crazy and into Bond-crazy.

When I like a movie, especially a movie like this where the music was so important, I buy the soundtrack album. At that time I had Star Wars, Close Encounters, The Pink Panther--just a few. But as I started catching the other Bond movies on tv, I bought those albums too. And I started doing something I hadn't done before--I began buying the albums before I'd seen the movies. And because I read credits, I began noticing John Barry's name, and I began buying other albums for movies he'd scored. I became a soundtrack fan and collector. So I have a soft spot in my heart for this movie.

As I saw the rest of the movies and I began realizing that Moonraker wasn't that hot. It borrows heavily from The Spy Who Loved Me, which borrowed its plot from You Only Live Twice. Drax wasn't the best villain, Cha wasn't the best henchman, Jaws was more clownish than he'd been in The Spy Who Loved Me, and some of the witicisms made me grown even when I was 14.

But Lois Chiles never looked better. The photography was gorgeous. And John Barry floored me with his music. I'd put it in the middle of the pack--it's a fun movie, no more, no less.

And you know what? Even its worst, the movie is still better than Fleming's book.


The Music

The music is at least half the movie. When he scored On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Barry said that he'd overcomposed it, trying to make up with music what was lacking on the screen. I get the impression that he did that here as well. Moonraker is an above average score, typically overlooked because the movie isn't highly regarded, and the music in the movie is very foreground--I was always keenly aware of its absence at important times--like the museum fight. Noticing the absense of music is as important as noticing the presence of it.

Two of the important ques, the freefall fight, which I mentioned above, and the canal-boat chase are conspicuously absent; but much of the rest of it made it--including the sky-basket fight, are all here. So is yet another version of "007," which I believe made it onto four soundtracks (From Russia with Love, Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever and Mooraker). Also available is "Corrine Put Down," an underappreciated que that I find haunting and beautiful on-screen and off.

And then there's "Flight into Space" and "Space Laser Battle." This was the third Bond movie to have space sequences (I count "Blofeld's Laser" from Diamonds are Forever), and I think it's interesting how Barry manages to keep a consistent sound for them, yet varies them enough to make them unique.

All told--one of my favorite Bond scores. It annoys me that unlike most of the others, it didn't get better with the recent re-release.


Release Notes

Moonraker was the last of the soundtracks released under the United Artists label, and as such has managed to remain in print (see my release notes to Octopussy). But unlike most of the other soundtracks that were recently remastered and re-released with additional music, Moonraker remains in its original album form. Why?

The Bond scores, at least the ones Barry wrote up to that time, were recorded in London. Because the British were on a soak-the-rich campaign, a lot of their talent emmigrated--Barry settled in the United States. British tax law severely limited the amount of time he could be in Britain without facing huge tax bills, so the score for Moonraker was recorded in France. So where the master tapes for most of the other Bond scores are available, Moonraker's is lost.

Perhaps Nic Raine will add the missing music on a later compilation...