19th December 2023
MI6 announces its new 100-page special publication: Science Fiction or Science Fact
By MI6 Staff
Moonraker emerged as one of the most visually ambitious projects of the James Bond franchise. In an era when visual effects were decades away from a digital revolution, this film remained rooted in the mastery of practical effects, model work, and pioneering techniques that have since acquired a nostalgic patina of cinematic artistry.
As the story propelled James Bond beyond the firmament in a ballet of space shuttles and orbital megalomania, the visual effects team faced the daunting task of rendering the spectacle of space with a verisimilitude that had rarely been demanded of a Bond film. Led by Derek Meddings, the visual effects supervisor renowned for his work on Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds and previous Bond outings, the team embarked on creating effects that would not only serve the story but also astonish the viewer.
The pre-digital era necessitated an inventive use of miniatures and in-camera effects. The space shuttle and space station sequences are textbook examples of this, from the table salt doubling for rocket booster smoke trails, to the dozens of times the same film was re-spooled through the camera to add layer upon layer of detail in the space battles. One tiny mistake and it would be back to square one! But perhaps the film's most celebrated visual achievement though came in the form of the zero-gravity sequences. Long before digital wire removal, Moonraker had to employ physical wires painted to blend with the background or clever lighting to minimize their appearance. This method required the utmost precision in both performance and camera work, as any inconsistency would shatter the illusion.
Yet, Moonraker's visual effects were not solely about the spectacle of space. The film also has the Bond series’ trademark set pieces on Earth, from the gondola chase through the canals of Venice to the Amazonian boat pursuit, each requiring practical effects work that was both inventive and convincing.
Moonraker stands as a testament to the craft of visual storytelling before CGI became the norm. The visual effects served the narrative, imbuing it with a sense of wonder and spectacle that echoed the societal fascination with space travel. This cinematic endeavor proved that with creativity and skill, even the farthest reaches of space could be convincingly brought to life, capturing the imaginations of audiences and holding a unique place in the pantheon of visual effects history.
For this, our seventh MI6 Confidential special, collector Thomas Nixdorf has kindly opened his archive of rare behind-the-scenes Moonraker photography, production concepts, and art. The majority of the unpublished photos presented herein are drawn from the original 1978/79 negatives. In some cases, readers will note that the originals did not survive in mint condition, but we have opted to include some of the most spectacular and interesting. They nevertheless provide a fascinating look into the practical and miniature effects work that landed the production an Academy Award nomination for Best Effects.
All of our stunning Special Edition magazines have emphasised selecting rarer photos from our archives or from kind contributors, and this year we are taking that to the natural next step. For the first time, we have opted to present this amazing material in a landscape format to maximise the aspect ratio of the available imagery.
This issue has been a true collaboration, with numerous fans, collectors, film historians, and crew members helping verify the stories and contextualise the photos and details herein. We would not have been able to make this publication possible without the support of the following people: Thomas Nixdorf, Philip Latchford, Alan Stephenson, Bernard Vandendriessche, and Steve Oxenrider.
In This Special Issue
- 100 page special magazine; professionally printed; perfect bound
- Rarely seen photography from the extensive model unit shoot at Pinewood
- Illustrations and concepts from Moonraker
- An exhaustive production history based on access to shooting documents and scripts
- Insights and memories from crew members
Moonraker - Science Fiction or Science Fact is now shipping worldwide and can be ordered individually from mi6confidential.com
This special publication was included in the deluxe MI6 Confidential 2023 subscription plan and was shipped to subscribers in December.