A space shuttle designed and built by the corporation of Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) is being flown to the United States to be delivered when suddenly it and the jet plane carrying it appear to crash. The British Secret Service are greatly concerned and want to put Agent 007 James Bond (Roger Moore) on the case straight away, but he is at this moment enjoying hospitality in a private jet - or at least he is until the pilot and stewardess do their best to strand him in the craft while they parachute out. Bond is pushed from the plane by his old enemy Jaws (Richard Kiel) and has to speed through the air after the pilot to get hold of his parachute... will he make it to earth safely?
Well, what do you think? After its spectacular example of skydiving, Moonraker is generally considered the worst Bond film, with not even the obsessive fans wishing to defend it. Not all the obsessive fans, at any rate, some watch it as a guilty pleasure, but while the film certainly is nowhere near the best in the series, it can be enjoyable if you approach it in the right frame of mind. And that attitude is one of a Carry On movie, because here the jokes are emphasised stronger than ever and the whole thing frequently threatens to turn into a spoof so that if anything, in tone the Bond film this most resembles is the sixties version of Casino Royale.
This was the last Ian Fleming novel to be adapted until the rather more serious interpretation of Casino Royale over fifteen years later, unless you count Never Say Never Again, but that's not an "official" one. It was scripted by Christopher Wood (of Confessions of a Window Cleaner fame) and obviously influenced by the recent success of Star Wars, although that is only slightly apparent up to the last half hour. Before that is the usual jet setting around the world as Roger Moore's eyebrows go into overdrive with the wealth of innuendo he has the opportunity to deliver, first visiting Drax's country estate which he has had imported, brick by brick, to North America.
There Bond meets his chief love interest with the none-more-Carry On name of Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), as she is working for Drax as one of his scientists and gets to give Bond a spin in a test pilot's training capsule, which naturally is set to high spin by Drax's Oddjob-alike henchman (Toshirô Suga). He escapes with minimal damage, but now knows that Drax is out to get him, as if we weren't aware of this from the first time we meet the cad. After a spot of investigating and seducing (with The Story of O star Corinne Clery, who somewhat ignominiously is fed to Drax's dogs for her trouble), Bond heads for Venice, which is simply an excuse for him to break out the gondola speedboat and zoom around the famous canals.
So far, so Spy Who Loved Me, as judging by the success of the previous instalment that's the template they stick to: Drax even wants to wipe out the Earth's population, only this time he'll be watching from space. Now, with the lack of originality showing from the outset you're recommended to settle into this adventure as one would a pair of comfy slippers and keep an ear open for the one liners ("Bang on time!") and such comedy gold as a pigeon doing a double take. With all that money thrown at it, the producers opted to play it safe with even the previously great villain Jaws transformed into comic relief and getting a girlfriend into the bargain. It all ends up with a laser gun battle in and around Drax's space station, which is fine as far as it goes, but takes Bond too far into the realms of fantasy. No matter, as any credibility has been sacrificed long ago - just imagine Moore as Sid James, chasing women half his age and spouting off colour quips. All he needs is a dirty laugh. Music by John Barry.