Moonraker appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the transfer looked a little iffy at the start, it quickly improved and became quite pleasing.
Due to some light edge enhancement, sharpness occasionally seemed a bit tentative. However, those instances were minor and rare. The majority of the flick appeared crisp and well-defined. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws failed to materialize. This was a consistently fresh transfer.
Colors seemed solid. The best scenes came from the vivid hues of Rio, but all segments displayed nicely clear, distinctive tones. Black levels were dark and taut, while shadows usually seemed perfectly acceptable. A few shots came across as a bit murky, but those were infrequent. Overall, I felt the picture quality was very satisfying.
As always, this “Ultimate Edition” of Moonraker boasted both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. These seemed pretty similar. I thought the DTS mix was slightly more active, but otherwise, the pair sounded a lot alike.
Unsurprisingly, the forward soundfield offered most of the action, with plenty of nicely localized audio from all three front channels that blended together well. The rears also provided quite a lot of information. They bolstered the forward mix in a satisfying manner and added a reasonable amount of information to the action sequences.
Audio quality was perfectly satisfactory for an older film. Speech sounded clear and concise, with no edginess or intelligibility issues. Music lacked great dimensionality and could be slightly stiff. However, the score was usually pretty lively; it just didn’t match up with the really dynamic music heard on some other Bond soundtracks.
Effects fared well. They lacked distortion and represented the elements with good accuracy. Bass response was also more than satisfying, as low-end kicked in some decent depth. This was a nice remix of the original Dolby Surround 2.0 audio.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 special edition? Both showed improvements. Picture demonstrated the most notable growth, as this version looked tighter, cleaner and more dynamic than its predecessor.
As for the audio, it came across as notably clearer and less distorted. The 5.1 track on the 2000 DVD was something of a mess, so it’s good to hear a smoother rendition. However, the 2000 disc was superior in one way: the use of the surround channels. I noticed some distinct split-surround material when I listened to the 2000 release; those elements failed to show up here. Compare the centrifuge scene to hear what I mean; the 2000 track used the rears in a more active manner. Even with that mild reduction of scope, though, the improved quality of the audio made the UE’s soundtracks superior.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Lewis Gilbert, screenwriter Christopher Wood, associate producer William Cartlidge, and executive producer Michael Wilson. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific chat in which they offer a refreshingly frank and fun view of the movie.
Okay, it's not so honest that the guys actually strongly criticize the movie, but they do poke some fun at it. For example, Wood bitches about how some of his lines were changed, and the speakers just seem not to take things too seriously. Mainly they convey a lot of fun information through anecdotes, and the piece even gets in a contemporary note through a mention of Blair Witch Project. For some reason, the participants get in a lot of jabs at famed set designer Ken Adam; they're all gentle and in good fun and they add some real spirit to the commentary. I didn't much like the movie, but this track is very enjoyable.
For the second track, we hear from *actor Roger Moore. He presents his own running, screen-specific discussion. He touches on a few production details, thoughts about various members of the cast and crew, and a variety of stories somehow connected to the film.
As with most other Moore commentaries, this one starts slowly but manages to rebound before too long. The actor seems a little less involved here, though, and this may be the least interesting of his seven chats. Or maybe I’ve just listened to too many of them; how many stories about Moore’s various illnesses (shingles, kidney stones, etc.) can one man stand? Still, Moore’s dry, self-effacing wit helps ensure that this piece remains fairly entertaining despite some dead spots.
Over on DVD Two, the Mission Dossier splits in seven areas. *007 In Rio provides an “original 1979 production featurette” that lasts 12 minutes, 44 seconds. It features movie clips and footage from the shoot along with comments from Gilbert, producer Cubby Broccoli, and actor Lois Chiles. Despite a few decent shots from the production, this is mostly a tedious promotional program with little to offer.
Another archival component, *Bond ‘79 runs 12 minutes, 17 seconds as it features soundbites from the same sessions that appear in “Rio”. We hear from Broccoli, Gilbert, Chiles and Moore. They chat about “Bond in space”, changing the series for the modern times, and other aspects of the Bond experience. While the information isn’t particularly deep, it offers a reasonably interesting perspective on Bond at the time of Moonraker.
Information from the production designer appears via *Ken Adam’s Production Films. Adam narrates this 12-minute and two-second compilation of shots. We see location scouts and aspects of the shoot. As always, these offer a fun glimpse of the production, and Adam adds nice insights.
Skydiving test footage comes under the banner *Learning to Freefall. The segment fills three minutes, 55 seconds. Mochael Wilson introduces the clips of aerial rehearsals. It’s a decent piece that offers a good take of the challenges. We also find some *SkyDiving Storyboards. This 81-second reel shows planning materials for the aerial segment.
A few minor snippets finish this area. *Circus Footage runs 78 seconds, while two *Cable Car Alternative Storyboards go for 83 seconds and two minutes, 10 seconds, respectively. The “Circus” material shows cut shots from the opening sequence, while the “Alternative Storyboards” offer a view of unused concepts. All are pretty interesting. Wilson provides narration to inform us about the elements.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (3:03). “Locations” (4:26) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside Moonraker. The 42-minute program combines movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Moore, Gilbert, Adam, Wood, Wilson, Cartlidge, producer Cubby Broccoli, optical effects cameraman Robin Browne, visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings, aerial stuntmen Jake Lombard and BJ Worth, editor/2nd unit director John Glen, Eon Productions former VP marketing Jerry Juroe, camera operator Alec Mills, stuntmen Martin Grace and Richard Graydon, special effects technician John Richardson, visual effects cameraman Paul Wilson and actors Lois Chiles, Richard Kiel, Desmond Llewelyn and Michael Lonsdale.
We see material like Chiles' test shots and a variety of raw stunt footage. It covers the story’s genesis, cast and crew, stuns and effects, and many other production issues. The show offers the usual fine description of the creation of the movie, and it makes for a very entertaining and informative piece.
The Men Behind the Mayhem gives us a 19-minute tribute to the folks who fashioned the special effects for the Bond series. We get comments from Richardson, Meddings, Moore, Paul Wilson, Browne, special effects supervisors Chris Corbould and John Stears, optical effects technician Cliff Culley, and actors Maud Adams, Tanya Roberts, and Jill St. John. The program makes sense on this DVD, since Moonraker stands as the most effects-intensive Bond, but the show covers technical aspects of many other Bonds as well. As usual, the piece gives us a great look at the behind the scenes work done for the movies.
Surprisingly, this DVD cuts back on the plethora of promotional materials we typically find on the Bond DVDs. The others toss in multiple trailers plus TV ads and radio spots. However, on Moonraker we only discover one theatrical trailer. Why so little? I have no idea. Perhaps they've gotten lost, but it seems odd that a relatively recent Bond would lack these components whereas much older efforts still boast lots of materials.
The standard plethora of stills appears as well. Under the Image Database, we get the Moonraker Gallery. It includes almost 100 pictures spread across 14 different sections. While the photos themselves are mildly interesting, I must say the style of the interface seems unnecessarily awkward. On one hand, it's good that the pictures are split into different areas because it makes future access easier. If you want to check out a certain shot, you won't need to wade through dozens of uninteresting snaps to get there. However, many of these sections feature only between one and three pictures, and the awkwardness of access through a DVD player - which is relatively slow at going from menu to menu - makes exploration of these photos more of a chore than it should be.
Finally, Moonraker tosses in the usual interesting booklet, similar to those found in all the other DVDs. As always, it's a fun and valuable little extra.
Unfortunately, that and the other strong supplements aren't enough to redeem Moonraker, for it remains a fairly lame movie. I like the Bond pictures and find enough fun in Moonraker to get me through it, but it's possibly the worst Bond to date. The DVD provides very good picture and sound plus some fine supplements. Despite the poor quality of the film itself, the DVD is good enough to warrant purchase from serious Bond fans; all others should probably skip it, however.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yup. In addition to a few new extras, it presents improved picture and audio. This makes for a good upgrade.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Moonraker can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Four”. This five-movie set also includes Dr. No, Dr. No, Octopussy, and Tomorrow Never Dies.