Trading Card Set of the Week – Moonraker (1979, Topps)
The most recent James Bond cinematic experience, Skyfall, was a coming of age for the post-modern Daniel Craig 007. You could sense that everyone involved in the project was eschewing the recent Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace semi-grim-and-gritty realism to embrace the more absurd: a hammy gay villain with half a face and an opening chase which features Bond clawing at the back of a moving train with heavy machinery are primary exhibits. You could almost envision the next outing involving sinister bases underneath volcanoes or deep in the ocean — and indeed, Spectre promises the return of that eponymous nest of super-spy villainy, not to mention a certain Mr. Blofeld. This isn’t a bad thing. James Bond shouldn’t have the verite of a beat cop.
But nothing could ever top the apotheosis of preposterous Bond. Moonraker, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the most bubble gum card worthy of any of the Roger Moore Bond flicks, and that’s saying something.
Moore was by far the most comedically inclined of the Bonds, and his slight wink-at-the-camera performances harkened back to his days honing those skills in The Saint. In his array of tools, charm and one-liners were just as important as exploding pens in conquering the crises of the day. No one could ever replicate the iconically debonair Bond embodiment of Sean Connery, but Moore was something different: a bit more mirthful, and much more the rake. And he was quite good at it, which opened the door wide for a light comedic touch that marked out this run from the rest.
He had been at the Bond game for quite a while when Moonraker rolled around, and things were going well. But by this point the backers were keen — just like everyone else making movies — to capitalize on the Star Wars wizardry that had so ensnared box office receipts in the 1970s. (Hollywood has always been a land where the imitation isn’t merely the highest form of flattery, but is also the mightiest engine of commerce.) So instead of “only” having Bond chasing or being chased by villains in the high-speed conveyance of his choice and wrestling with henchmen (and henchwomen) in luxury hotel rooms, lasers were added to the mix. And spaceships. And space stations. BOND. IN. SPACE. Even in the techier Pierce Brosnan era, with its rogue satellites and the like, Bond never again achieved this level of zero-g heroics.
The accompanying bubble gum cards were a standard Topps issue of cards and stickers, in a pattern we’ve seen in everything from Mork & Mindy to American Gladiators to Last Action Hero. The 99 regular cards had either a puzzle piece on the back, or some text and an accompanying rendering of Bond in his space suit, also glimpsed on the (glorious) wax wrapper above. If Nick Fury can smoke a cigar in a space helmet, then by golly 007 can wear a tux on EVAs:
The return of Richard Kiel as Jaws was one of the principal delights of the movie, thanks to his name-bestowing orthodontia and his ability to escape death in the most preposterous ways imaginable. Plus he got to fall in love and turn into a good guy this time. Hooray! Here he is during the opening skydiving sequence, the culmination of which was him emerging unscathed from a parachuteless crash to earth:
Michael Lonsdale played Drax, the Blofeld proxy for this go-around. (Footnote: The role was originally intended for James Mason, and, oddly enough for years I thought it was Mason in the movie.) Interested Bond villains without tea or henchmen need not apply:
And, of course, there’s the final space station battle, with Bond striving to keep Drax from poisoning the world so that he can start anew with a master race. Yes, there are lasers and zero-g, but Bond still relies on his deadly hands — and we wouldn’t want it any other way:
The 22 stickers have blank backs, and either feature headshots or scenes from the movie, some recycled from the cards. Here’s Corinne Cléry, who played Drax’s pilot, named, unimaginatively, Corinne (not everyone could have the fortune of “Holly Goodhead”):
These cards are unremarkable in their design and content and overwrought titles, but thanks to their association with the most deliciously goofy Bond adventure of all, there’s a good deal of charm carryover. And the wax wrapper may be one of the finest exemplars of that tragically lost art — no kidding. You can find these sets for between ten and twenty bucks quite easily, and for Bond aficionados and lovers of riotously silly cinema, they’re worth every penny.