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MOONRAKER ($35) has always struck me as a rather weak entry in the James Bond franchise; suffering from the worst camp excesses of the series, with numerous moments in the film coming off as completely laughable. This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed watching MOONRAKER… in the past, a good presentation has gone a long way to improve my estimation of the film. On Blu-ray, MOONRAKER comes across at a far more enjoyable level than it has ever before, but the film still ranks as my least favorite James Bond adventure. MOONRAKER was released in 1979 and judging by the plot, it’s rather obvious that the producers wanted to cash in on the outer space frenzy created by the STAR WARS phenomenon. In MOONRAKER, Roger Moore uses his tongue-in-cheek approach to James Bond to good effect, in this literally out of this world adventure.

During the pre-credit sequence, an American space shuttle named Moonraker is hijacked during a piggyback transport flight to Great Britain. The British government puts Bond on the case, with all roads leading back to Drax Industries- the company that built the Moonraker space shuttle in the first place. As it turns out, Drax is just another megalomaniac with a convoluted plan for world conquest. Drax intends to transport a hand-selected population of human breeding stock to his hidden space station, then eradicate all other human life on the planet. The film's outer space climax pushes credibility, but offers a good deal of fun, as do the other action sequences. Michael Lonsdale is effective as Drax, but Lois Chiles is a bit bland as Bond girl Holly Goodhead. Jaws (Richard Kiel), the popular evil henchman from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME returns for more mayhem… and quite a bit of comic relief. The cast of MOONRAKER also features Corinne Clery, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Toshirô Suga, Emily Bolton and Blanche Ravalec.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made MOONRAKER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. MOONRAKER features a fabulous1080p presentation, thanks to the digital restoration work provided by Lowry Digital. Sure, it doesn’t look new film, but for a movie released in 1979, MOONRAKER is a visual wow- totally blowing away any prior home video release. For the most part the resolution is impeccable, maybe too much so, as high definition makes the miniature work look like miniature work, plus some of the matte paintings become all too obvious for the very same reason. Also textures are beautifully rendered, plus all of the lines in aging leading man Roger Moore’s face have become quite evident in hi-def. Some shots are a tad softer than others, but generally, these involve optical effects. Colors are quite vibrant for the era and come across with better stability than I ever remember seeing. . Blacks are fairly inky, whites are crisp and contrast comes across quite smoothly. Blemishes and other signs of age have been eradicated by the digital restoration. The appearance of grain has been minimized; however, without the removal of fine detail.

MOONRAKER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is another soundtrack that originated in the Dolby Surround era, so it doesn’t come across in the same manner as a new all digital track, but for a movie celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, the sound is very good. As expected, all of the discrete channels come to life during the action sequences, but is a bit more restrained at other times. Fidelity is good for a track of this vintage, but some of the effects do sound a little canned. Fortunately, the music comes across rather well, sounding better than some of the foley work. The bottom end of the track carries weight, but it is not to any ridiculous level. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. An English Dolby Surround, plus French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with Sir Roger Moore, the second includes director Lewis Gilbert, writer Christopher Wood, associate producer Bill Cartlidge and producer Michael G Wilson. The largest supplemental program is Inside Moonraker, a forty-two minute documentary that looks at the film’s production. Other Featurettes and supplements include: The Men Behind The Mayhem (nineteen minutes), 007 In Rio (twelve minutes), Bond ’79 (twelve minutes), Ken Adam’s Production Films (twelve minutes), Learning To Freefall- Sky Diving Test Footage (four minutes), Circus Footage (one minute) and Storyboard Animatics (six minutes). Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots and a large Image Database of stills and promotional materials close out the supplements.

There is no denying that MOONRAKER is one of the weaker movies in the Bond franchise. However, this excellent Blu-ray presentation goes a long way to improving one’s overall enjoyment of the film. I had more fun watching MOONRAKER on Blu-ray than I ever did before. Fans will definitely want to add this disc to their Bond collections.



Moonraker [Blu-ray] (1979)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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