Moonraker Blu-ray Review
'Moonraker' blasts off with a blisteringly sharp 1080p AVC/Mpeg-4 transfer that's accurately framed at widescreen 2.35:1. The colours are big, bold and brash as befitting a Bond film. The pre-title, freefall sequence looks stunning with deep blue skies and lush green countryside.
I felt that the skin tones, while generally very good, looked a bit odd in places. In the occasional scene, Roger Moore looked like he'd been Tangoed - particularly during the helicopter flight to Drax' Chateau. The high definition transfer also made his face look too detailed and unnatural here - maybe a touch too sharp.
On arriving at the Chateau, which is supposed to be in the middle of the Mojave Desert, we can clearly see (as never before) that a matte painting has been used. It's the first time that I can truthfully say that I've noticed a 1080p image reveal the shortcomings of effects in such a detrimental way. Oww!
During Bond's walkabout on the shop floor at Vennini Glass, the reverse angle shot on Roger Moore seemed to suffer from a massive attack of over contrast, affecting skin tone colour fidelity and causing harshness. There were other dark scenes where the contrast caused redness in faces, such as the fight in the “Play it again, Sam” clock tower.
The blacks of outer space look nice and deep. The only noticeable grain was on the whites of the space shuttle in Drax Californian plant.
In some of the back projection shots, the colours were noticeably different to the location footage - particularly memorable being the close up of Jaws prior to going over the Iguaçu falls - but they were like this on the film.
Make no mistake, apart from these 'nit picks' the movie looks superb for something made back in 1979.
The audio on the Region A version of 'Moonraker' is supplied in two flavours. For the purists, we have the more laid back original Dolby Surround mix and for those who want the most up to date sound that technology can deliver, we have a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. While the Dolby Surround mix is very good, I found the lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix to be generally clearer, with effects more precisely placed in the sound field. Shirley Bassey sounds good and gutsy in the ballad style title song and more punchy in the End Title 'popped up' version.
The spacestation battle in the final two reels makes good use of the surrounds, with laser blasts 'swishing' from speaker to speaker. When Bond and Goodhead pursue the poison filled globes, the space shuttle whooshes from rear to front - causing you to duck but there's no great use of an earth moving bass extension for explosions.
Dialogue is clear and crisp, even during Jaws one and only line, “Well, here's to us.”
Overall, it sounds better than before.
A fine selection of bonus features are included with 'Moonraker' including a few I've never seen before and a couple of chunky docos that have been reconstructed from original elements for an HD release.
- Audio Commentaries
The Blu-ray of 'Moonraker' is blessed with two separate audio commentaries. Normally I'd have to be forced to listen to a commentary but both are well worth the listen.
The first has Sir Roger Moore on his todd, providing reminiscences as he so modestly says “as my memory allows.” In actual fact, his memory is very clear for someone in his eighties, remembering interesting details of the production that will have fans begging for more (Moore - ahem!). He's very laid back, but he can afford to be. A great star with great memories.
The second commentary is a group effort with director Lewis Gilbert, writer Christopher Wood, associate producer Bill Cartlidge and producer Michael G Wilson in a bit of a free for all discussion. They pick up on many scenes and expand upon the background. Michael Wilson explains that the anamorphic lens used to film the pre-title sequence was an experimental model found in a Second-hand shop in Paris. Lewis Gilbert is quite funny, pointing out as each Bond girl appears, “She was quite pretty.” There are a few gentle arguments caused by fading memories, but understandable as it was all filmed 30 years ago.
- 007 in Rio (12 mins, HD)
This is a short promo made during the production and looks like it has been taken from a pretty ropey 16mm print, but it's the content that matters including input from the cast and crew, including Cubby Broccoli on the Rio Carnival as well as the beautiful locations.
- Bond '79 (12 mins, HD)
Michael Wilson in Voice Over mode, introduces a series of Press interviews shot during the production filming. The edited footage was used in '007 in Rio', so here we see more expanded interviews with Cubby Broccoli, Lewis Gilbert, Roger Moore and Lois Chiles- filmed atop Sugarloaf mountain.
- Ken Adam's Production Films (12 mins, HD)
These are Ken Adam's Super 8 home movies, which he narrates - taking us backstage at most of the movie's locations. We get to see a visit to a Gondola Builder to gather information for the building of the 'Bondola'. I had hopes that we'd also have footage of Sir Roger being dunked in the drink during the hovercraft sequence, but they seem to be missing. I felt sure Ken Adam would have got his own back for the pranks Sir Roger used to play on him.
- Learning to Freefall (4 mins, 480i)
Michael Wilson narrates the test footage of skydivers Randy DeLucca & BJ Worth and reveals details about the special camera and special 30mm 'scope lens used to film the sequence.
- Circus Footage (1 min, HD)
Here we see some Circus footage originally intended for the pre-title sequence, but which ended up on the cutting room floor.
- Storyboard animatics (6 mins total, HD)
Storyboards of alternative versions of the Skydiving sequence and Cable Car sequence have been filmed in an animatic style and edited together with music to give us a feel of how they might have looked.
- Inside Moonraker (42 mins, HD)
A documentary, narrated by Patrick McNee, that has been reconstructed for the HD release of the movie. It provides a welcome insight into the production, from script to screen. Original 4:3 interviews with the cast and crew have been upscaled and graphics pillars added to fill the 16:9 screen. Much of the footage used has been seen before in Press Interviews.
- The Men Behind the Mayhem (19 mins, HD)
Another documentary reconstructed for HD, narrated by Marie Clairu (sounding awfully like Liz Hurley), about the men behind the Special Effects on the Bond series including John Stears, Derek Meddings, Cliff Culley & John Richardson. Many tricks of the trade are explained with footage showing how they were achieved in practice.
- Theatrical Trailer (2 mins, HD)
The original trailer as shown in cinemas in the late 70's
'Moonraker' is one of the lighter, more humorous Bonds of the Roger Moore era, that sets out to be nothing more than good family fun by combining ambitious stunts, an imaginative storyline to coincide with the 'Star Wars' era and Roger Moore joining in the fun.
The 1080p AVC/Mpeg-4 widescreen 2.35:1 picture quality is generally very good with one or two occasional overindulgences in the contrast and sharpness departments. It looks superb on a big screen, in keeping with the scale of the whole enterprise and is, by far, the best the film has looked in many a year.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix provides excellent steering to the outer space battle effects, while dialogue is kept clean and crisp.
The Extras contain many gems such as the practice jumps for the pre-title freefall sequence and Production Designer Ken Adam's home movie footage takes us behind the scenes in a way that no promotional documentary ever could.
A very nice package for Bond fans, young and old.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.69
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- Audio Commentaries