Cinema: Agent 007 Goes into Orbit

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MOONRAKER Directed by Lewis Gilbert; Screenplay by Christopher Wood

Producer Albert R. Broccoli, the major-domo of the James Bond movies, is the proverbial Jewish mother of cinema: he is not about to let anyone go away hungry. In Moonraker, the eleventh 007 opus, Broccoli serves the audience a space-shuttle hijacking, a jumbo-jet explosion and a protracted wrestling match between two men who are falling from the sky without parachutes. All this happens before the opening credits. From there, it's on to gondola chases in Venice, funicular crashes in Rio and laser-gun shootouts and lovemaking in deep space. Meanwhile, beautiful women come and go, talking (ever so discreetly) about fellatio. When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.

The result is a film that is irresistibly entertaining as only truly mindless spectacle can be. Those who have held out on Bond movies over 17 years may not be convinced by Moonraker, but everyone else will be. With their rigid formulas and well-worn gags, these films have transcended fashion. Styles in Pop culture, sexual politics and international espionage have changed drastically since Ian Fleming invented his superhero, but the immaculately tailored, fun-loving British agent remains a jolly spokesman for the simple virtues of Western civilization. Not even Margaret Thatcher would dare consider slowing him down.

For Moonraker, Screenwriter Christopher Wood has had to do little more than dream up new settings, a new heroine and a new villain with a novel dooms day plot. Everything else takes care of itself. This time around, the bad guy (Michael Lonsdale) is an aerospace conglomerateur who plans to wipe out the world's population with deadly Brazilian orchids before hatching a master race from an interstellar sanctuary. To stop him, Bond (the ever smooth Roger Moore) must team up with Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), a CIA agent who picked up her astronaut's training at NASA and her judo expertise at Vassar. Such talents come in handy as the couple confront traditional nemeses: an Oriental thug (Toshiro Suga), attack dogs, and Jaws (Richard Kiel), the 7-ft. 2-in., steel-toothed goon introduced in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) .

Wood pulls off some witty flourishes. There are funny references to other block buster movies (Close Encounters, Superman, Sergio Leone westerns), as well as amusing bursts of comic-book dialogue ("Look after Mr. Bond," whispers the villain to an aide. "See that some harm comes to him"). Rather than stage variations on Jaws' old fiendish gags, Wood has given the character some surprising twists, including a love interest. As al ways, there is no explicit gore or sex to jolt the audience back to reality.

If Moonraker is not quite as satisfying as Spy, the best of the post-Sean Connery Bonds, the difference is in the casting. Lonsdale is a bit too tame; he seems to be doing a John Ehrlichman imitation. Chiles is all too sexless. The title song, the important kickoff for Bond movies, is no match for Nobody Does It Better, the Carly Simon dazzler of Spy.

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