Tag Archives: Moonraker

Butch Cass-izzy and the Sebastian Kid

IMG_1724Mulder and Scully, Hart to Hart, er Scarecrow and Mrs King, all inseparable duos that have faced all the world has thrown at them together.

Isabelle’s nursery world is faced with her partner in crime, Sebastian.

IMG_1643There may have been no Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head sequence, we had to make do with abortive attempts at hulahooping instead, but like General Zod in the Original Superman (1978) they escaped the confines of their hooped incarceration.

IMG_1690We did however get their own take on the cliff jump from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of sorts. Shinning up and jump off one of the turrets of a bouncy castle at a recent party was more than a suitable substitute.

There was a recent open day at the nursery which we all went along to, Iz was greeted by a giant bouncy castle and of course Sebastian, the pair really are thick as thieves and I just know that Iz will be the bossy one.

Taking to the giant castle of bounciness it was almost reminiscent of the Nirvana music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit once they get going, Iz and co were certainly going for it. Slowed down it also reminded me of the scene in Moonraker where the spacestation loses its gravity and Roger Moore and co go for a bit of a float about.

Isabelle and Sebastian may not have been robbing trains of their loot but the did have a few daring raids on the rice crispy cakes and buns…not that the evidence lasted very long!

All that was missing was them heroically trying to shoot their way out from the confines of the bouncy castle surrounded by Mexicans.

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The Shooting Party

IMG_0273I was on a stag do at the weekend for Sarah’s cousin’s husband to be, Ash. Being in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside clay pigeon shooting was the activity of choice.

It would be my first time at such an event and I rather fancied that it might unfold rather like this classic scene from Moonraker with Roger Moore. Of course it didn’t and I didn’t own such a jacket.

Sure, I’d played the likes of Time Crisis and Operation Wolf (showing my age) in the arcades but never shot a proper gun. A few years back I did a red letter day activity at a ‘Spy Academy’ which involved shooting at targets with an air-rifle and survived (just) paintballing at my very own stag do. This though was a whole different league, for starters I wasn’t in a dress!

charles-martin-smith-as-agent-oscar-wallace[1] Daniel Craig had proved something of a nifty shot with a shotgun in Skyfall although I felt more one part the character played by Charles Martin Smith (minus the Armani suit) in The Untouchables – naturally I’ll be now forever weary in lifts – as I was reminded several times that I was more used to holding a pencil than looking down the barrel of a gun.

Get-Carter[1]The other part was that of Jack Carter, with the upturned collars on my overcoat, tousled hair (it gets a bit of a kink in it when its longer echoing that of Mr Caine’s, sort of) and of course the double barreled shotgun a la Get Carter. Not that I tried brandishing it naked in the street or dangled an ‘Alf Roberts’ look-a-like from a multi-storey car park or anything.

IMG_0304Sarah’s dad, Jeff, looked one part pissed off Papa Smurf with a shotgun meets Anthony Quinn in The Guns of Navarone.

Turns out I didn’t fare too badly for a first timer as I scored an impressive 20 out of 30 ‘kills’, 22 took the crown, from someone else who had never picked up a gun. Jay is a fireman so he probably got a little excited when people were shouting ‘fire’. It took a while to get my eye in and get comfortable in holding the shotgun but once you got tracking the clay down it was a fun experience. I even quipped “get off my land” after one successful double ‘kill’.

There is certainly no doubting the power of such a weapon and safety was of course of paramount concerns throughout. The other thing that took a bit of getting used to was the small kick back that it gave after firing, wedged into your shoulder it took the brunt of it and left me with a small bruise and sore arm. I’m sure it’s only because you are new to it.

IMG_0294The other thing was that when you popped open the barrel on the gun we were using the spent, still smoking cartridges just jumped out, often hitting me in the face in the process in the beginning. It all added to the experience and smoke and smell coming out of the chamber was terrific. It was just like after using one of those cap guns with the pinkish paper caps that went off when your toy gun hammer hit them.

Being new to it all it kind of reminded me of playing snooker or golf, having to judge what you are doing before you do it and, quite literally, where you are taking your next shot. For me I also found it similar in not being as successful if you were trying too hard, so I just tried to relax, look down the barrel and control my breathing.

It was funny, with the ear plugs in that was practically all you could hear, your own breathing. At times it did seem to unfold Sam Peckinpah style in full slow motion as they clays seemed to hang in the air for an eternity.

We even went for our own Peckinpah style moments with some nifty slo mo of Ash’s dad and the automatic shotgun he was using. His automatic shotgun chucking out spent cartridges had an air of The Wild Bunch about him when filmed with the new slo mo option on my camera.

IMG_0331The Magnificent Seven we might not have been, especially as there were actually eight of us, although if you squint Shaun could sort of pass for Yul Brynner.

We may have started out as The Mild Bunch but as usual with these things you just get into your stride as you come to the end.

IMG_0325We might not have been Untouchable but nobody left with less than a 50% hit rate and I’m sure you might find some of us home on the shooting range again soon. I think it is safe to say that we all earned our spurs on the day.

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry

For many the composer, John Barry, who died last month aged 77, helped define James Bond on film more than Connery, Moore or Brosnan ever did. What he did was the provide the glue that not only holds the entire Bond franchise all together but also transcended whoever happened to be playing Bond, whether it be for the seventh and final time, with Roger Moore in A View To A kill, or George Lazenby, for his one and only time, with the rarely equalled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service score.

For me he will forever be associated with 007 but through that association I discovered his other work and scores for films that took in everything from Raise the Titanic and The Black Hole to High Road to China and even Howard the Duck, Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and the Hasselhoff Italian Star Wars cash-in, Starcrash.

Barry won five Oscars, including doing the double on Born Free, taking a gold statuette for both best score and best original song. But he not only never won for Bond, he was never even nominated for Bond, criminal when you think of the powerful and memorable scores to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger.

The latter did have the prestige of knocking The Beatles off the top of the album chart in the US, no mean feat, almost unthinkable when you consider it is a film score. John Lennon may have claimed he was bigger than Jesus, if that’s the case then Barry was the God of film music.

In the first of a two part exclusive interview, Dean Newman talks to John Barry and film score expert, Mike Copping, who is one of the top John Barry collectors in the country, about Barry’s defining movie music moments.

DN:     Barry produced 11 Bond scores, how do you think he felt being so closely associated the series?

MC:     I think he was always grateful to the Bonds and he always thought that they were filmmaking at their highest quality, in terms of technical quality, even if it wasn’t always with the writing in some of the later ones.

DN:     I really love the score to A View To A Kill and think it really raised the quality of a somewhat creaky Roger Moore.

MC:     I’d say that in a good film, most people won’t notice whether the score is bad or not, with a bad film, a good score can actually elevate it, and some films that unfortunately Barry did, the three main science fiction films that he did: Starcrash, The Black Hole and Howard the Duck fall into that category. His musical presence leant a certain class and elegance to the proceedings.

Another film where this was definitely the case was the much maligned Raise the Titantic. The film got universally bad reviews but any review that said anything positive about it more often than not said that one of the pluses was the music. Thematically, elements of the scores to Moonraker (1979), The Black Hole (1979) and Raise the Titanic (1980) are very similar in their tone and feel.

If you listen to the opening bars of Raise the Titanic and listen to the opening frames of the overture from The Black Hole they are very, very or just slightly similar, but so is deep space and the deep ocean as featured in both aforementioned films

DN: What films did Barry win his Oscars for?

MC: With Born Free he won the double, he also took one home for The Lion in Winter, which really foxed everybody as by then everyone pretty much associated him with Bond and didn’t realise that a lot of his training had a lot to do with choral music and big orchestral stuff. And perhaps most famously he won for Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. (DN: All featuring animals in some way shape or form in their titles or content).

He also received nominations for Mary Queen of Scots and finally Chaplin in 1992.

DN: I find it astounding that he never even received a nomination for any of his work on Bond!

MC: I agree with that very much so, how can you have movie musc that defines a separate genre almost, and is so influential and it doesn’t get a nomination when you get things like For Your Eyes Only (by Rocky composer Bill Conti) and the 70s funked up The Spy Who Loved Me both get nominations.

DN: How can they nominate them but not Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Sectret Service or Diamonds Are Forever?

MC: On Her Majesty’s is just phenomenal. Barry said he pulled out all the stops on that one and I think he felt he over egged it a little but he was over compensating because he didn’t think Lazenby was particularily good so he had to ramp up the Bond elements.

We Have all the Time in the World transcends the film.

DN: In fact the same can be said of many of Barry’s scores, that they transcend the film they were initially intended for and I’m talking beyond Bond here with the likes of the John Dunbar theme from Dances With Wolves and his work on the little seen but well-loved Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

MC: That’s right. Somewhere In Time is technically an SF film even though it’s primarily a love story. Trouble is it’s also widely known as a chick flick, a phrase I hate,

Christopher Reeve projects himself back in time to meet Jane Seymour after falling in love with a photograph of her (her character was an actress) in a Hotel museum devoted to a Play House.

Barry supplied a very romantic score which was more popular than the film, and it has been used at weddings and all sorts of special occasions, and is regarded as a classic.

Next time: Dean discusses two of Mike’s favourite John Barry film scores.

Tux Roger? Celebrating 30 years of Moonraker

It may be 40 years since Neil Armstrong raised his foot to become the first man to walk on the moon but it is also over 30 years since Roger Moore raised his eyebrow as 007 in Bond-epic, where all other Bonds end this one begins screamed the posters, Moonraker.

Now, Roger Moore always seems to get a bit of a bad rap but for a child of the 80s he was and always will be my James Bond. People may scoff at Moonraker, the 11th film in the series, as being just a Star Wars cash-in and was just too outlandish and over the top, and in some quarters they may hold some weight but I still love it.

Producer Cubby Broccoli decided to film Moonraker after the phenomenal success of one Luke Skywalker and co, but who can blame him riding the zeitgeist, indeed it hadn’t been the first time that Bond had followed trends as he had also repeated it earlier in the series with blaxploitation in Live and Let Die (1973) and with kung fu in the following years The Man With the Golden Gun.

The production was an expensive gamble, especially when you consider that other films tried to emulate the Star Wars effect with so-so results on the screen and at the box office, The Black Hole being a prime example. Moonraker cost more than all the previous Bond movies all put together, but it was well worth the expenditure as not only did Moonraker become the most successful Bond film ever, a title it would keep until 1995s Goldeneye, but was also nominated for an Oscar for its special effects. The special effects in the final epic space battle were all done in camera so each new element was added manually and the film rolled back each time, an astounding feat.

The story, basically a remake of The Spy Who Loved Me, which in turn was a remake of sorts of You Only Live Twice, involves Bond trying to stop a megalomaniac from destroying the earth and starting up his own Noah’s ark in space. Featuring Hugo Drax – one of the few elements to make it to screen from the original Fleming book – as a Hitler-esque villain, he is played with a menacing dryness by French actor, Michael Lonsdale, who for me has some of the best lines of the film, “Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.”, and I have always found his unflappable performance to be one of the better villains, with a brilliant death to boot.

We’ll let director, Lewis Gilbert off from riffing from ‘Spy’ and ‘Twice’ though as he helmed them as well, with Moore two years previous and Connery back in 1967, the latter with a script by Roald Dahl no less! Still ‘Spy’ and Moonraker had an even more unlikely screenwriter in the shape of Christopher Wood, who had previously written some of the Robin Askwith ‘Confessions…’ series (think Carry On with a bit more carrying on for those not in the know) which at least stood him in good stead for the numerous double entendres!

Outlandish, it is all done in the realms of possibility and the important thing it is made feasible in the Bond universe, okay so perhaps not the gondola (echoing other Fleming creation Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang at times) or double-taking pigeon but they got away with it…just. And its made all the more believable by the Producers getting agreement from NASA to use the space shuttle, the first time it had ever featured in a film and ironic that the film ones made space before the real one ever did.

Contrary to popular belief, Moonraker isn’t all fun and games as does have its taut moments – with a pre-credits parachute jump stunt that has never bettered (over seen by second unit director and editor John Glen – the irony but no not the space man – it was little wonder that he directed Bond all the way through the 80s), a thrilling g-force simulator where you see Bond ruffled and the pre-requisite female victim, who is hunted down by dogs, made all the more harrowing by Barry’s score.

Any revisit to Moonraker also has to make mention of Jaws, and yes it was a shame that he switched sides but even he still has the power to scare, creating a thousand nightmares with that ruddy carnival costume in Rio with the near-neck biting incident, a scene that is brilliantly put together.

As I’ve already touched upon the film has a sublime score by John Barry that was also echoed in his work for The Black Hole and Raise the Titanic. For me it is probably his finest Bond score.

For many Moonraker will always be the runt of the litter but this Bond movie has everything and not only pushes Bond to the edge of space but also pushes him as far as he could go and if anyone was ever going to do that it was going to be Roger, who came back down to earth for the follow up with some amazingly gritty scenes in For Your Eyes Only.

Perhaps the poster for the film and its closing scene some it up best. One of the iconic movie posters for Moonraker featured Bond, in his usual arms folded with gun pose, in a space suit with tux underneath, says it all: brash, British and ballsy, but done with oh so much style – it even made the cover of the TV Times when movie premieres on television were something to get excited about.

Not bad for the man who would go on to direct Educating Rita and of course who could forget the final line from Q. Bond appears weightless on screen ‘in bed’ with Dr Holly Goodhead (how did that one make it through) and M asks “What’s 007 doing?” Q retorts, “I think he’s attempting re-entry sir.”