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Ranking the Bond Movies: #16 – Moonraker (1979)

I feel like this is a pretty contentious film within the Bond franchise. Some people love this film, some people hate it. I, myself, enjoy it.

My thing about the Bond movies is — I don’t like when they’re just another action movie with Bond put over it (Tomorrow Never Dies) or when it seems like they’re hardly trying because it’s a by-the-numbers Bond movie (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy). I want something that makes it enjoyable to me as a Bond movie. And with A View to a Kill, that was Christopher Walken. For Moonraker — it’s Jaws. The fact that so much of this movie is basically Bond and Jaws having a bunch of showdowns and chases is pretty great, and is a great substitute for all those scenes that slow down all the later Moore films. (Seriously, think about all the films he made after this — they’re all so slow, and the henchmen are horrible.) That’s what keeps this film interesting to me.

Plus, I don’t mind them being in space. I really don’t. I don’t even mind that, in order to cash in on the space and sci-fi craze, they copied the basic villain plot from The Spy Who Loved Me. I just want something that’s interesting to me as a Bond fan. And what I see is a classic Bond plot, a classic Bond progression (some parts, like the Venice section, don’t work at all, but him on Drax’s estate is all classic Bond), a return of an all-time great franchise character, and some gorgeous images along the way (and space, which to me, works as a location. It’s not like it’s completely out of the realm of this franchise to do something like this. The only things that fall flat are the obvious moments that are trying to be Star Wars).

I don’t really see much downside to this movie. Clearly it’s not a franchise best, but it’s completely serviceable, ranging on good. I would honestly put it over every movie I ranked below this, every time.

moonraker-title-card

The cold open begins in space, as the Moonraker space shuttle is being transported to the UK.

Only these guys think otherwise.

“Moneypenny – is 007 back from that African job?”

“He’s on his last leg, sir.”

Of course.

OH SHIT ITS JAWS!!!!

You’d think that was it…

BUT JAWS IS BACK!!!

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It’s hard to believe his tongue is still all there after all these years. I bite my tongue on the regular. 

And that’s the end of Jaws…

… or is it?

Title sequence. Set to Shirley Bassey’s “Moonraker.”

I’m so upset with this one. There are some amazing images in this, and the credits play over so many of them. But considering how bad some of them are for screenshots, this one is actually not bad. It’s just — there are a lot more great images from this one I couldn’t get. Which is upsetting.

We open in M’s office, as he, the Minister of Defence and Q (!) are waiting for Bond.

Flirty flirty time.

M’s not looking too good.

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Aw, this is really sad. It’s Bernard Lee’s last appearance as M.

Most secret.

Bond is sent to find out what happened to Moonraker. The shuttles are made by Drax industries, so that seems like a natural place to start.

Ah… but Q’s got a gadget.

Just like the Matrix.

Nice. Get Q a close up. Big fan of that choice.

Welcome to California, indeed.

This is Corinne Dufour, Hugo Drax’s personal pilot and our Bond villain chick. We’ll talk about her in a bit.

Nice introduction to the Drax estate. “He owns a lot, doesn’t he?” “What he doesn’t own, he doesn’t want.”

TokyoRemix:

Very Bond villain-like. Made me think of Tom Jones in “Thunderball,” singing, “Any woman he wants, he can get!”

I can’t imagine what giant space station that also looks like a moon that looks like.

Welcome to Wayne Drax manor.

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Nice pad. This is supposed to be California, but it’s the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte in France.

What a place.

Meet Hugo Drax.

ASIAN MANSERVANT.

Let’s talk about Hugo Drax. His face reminds me of Peter Dinklage. He’s like Peter Dinklage in Orson Welles’ body, with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s voice.

TokyoRemix:

Holy shit, that’s exactly what he is. Wow, that’s scarily accurate. Anyway, Drax is Stomberg in space. He owns a company involved in space technologies and builds shuttles. As a crazy-rich man who is at the forefront of a very exclusive industry, Drax is the sort of guy who makes a good over-the-top Bond villain. He’s one of the villains who isn’t looking for a ransom, or any of that. Instead, he’s looking to be a god of a new world.

While I like the actor, and I sort of like the character, his plot is a bit too ridiculous for a Bond flick. This is what happens when SPECTRE’s not around — at least they were all about the cash and the power. In this respect, I like the novel’s version of Drax a little more: he’s secretly a Nazi scientist who wants to destroy London to get some revenge. Kinda cool.

Ah, and here’s Corinne. Let’s talk about her now.

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Titties. She doesn’t last very long, does she? Yet another link to Spy Who Loved Me — Stromberg had an attractive, female helicopter pilot who flies Bond around and turns out to be bad. This is Naomi, take two. Bond sleeps with this one, though, which is good.

(Mike Note: Note the double meaning of the term “which.”)

“Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.”

Yeah, Asian manservant is also a henchman!

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What’s the pretense for this meeting? Drax knows that the shuttle’s gone, and Bond’s not there as a secret agent, either. How’d he get an appointment with Drax? Why did his personal pilot go to pick up Bond at the airport? This doesn’t make any sense at all.

(My Note: That’s actually true. I could understand it if Bond even talked to Drax about the shuttle or anything, but mostly he just sort of goes there. And as Bond, too. Not even under a cover. And then he doesn’t mention Moonraker at all to Drax. He just sort of is shown about and is allowed to stay, despite attempts on his life. It really don’t make much sense at all.)

Bond is then taken to see Dr. Holly Goodhead, a true Bond girl name if I’ve ever heard one.

He introduces himself. Bond. James Bond.

“A woman!”

Hooray, misogyny! It’s weird that the only reason he’s being sarcastic back to her is to be like, “You’re a woman, stop being so cocky.” It really makes no sense on his part. But her…

I love that she gives it right back to him. “Motherfucker, I ain’t no trainee, I’m fully trained. And I ain’t the one that lost a space shuttle, am I?” This kitten’s got some claws. I like her.

They go to the centrifuge training room. Guess what happens next?

20 Gs is fatal, 3 is normally what take-off pressure is like, and most people pass out at 7. Remember that. It’ll be important in about ninety seconds.

Hope you rike your fright, Mr. Bond.

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Can you imagine if this had happened in A View to a Kill? Moore’s skin would be flying EVERYWHERE. It gets a nice stretch here, but he’s only 52 in this movie.

What’s weird about this is that she walks in right after it’s over. You’d think she’d come to check it out to see him fail (or not), or hear that it’s clearly going faster than it should be. Also – how does she even know it went too fast? She didn’t even see it run.

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This is why I really don’t like this sequence, compared with the spine-stretching machine in the spa in Thunderball. You’d think that was the more ridiculous of the two, but Bond gets on it for a reason, rather than just being dared to like he is here. Not only that, but afterwards, he uses it as an opportunity to have sex with his nurse AND he gets the guy that tried to kill him. Here, he has no reason to get in this centrifuge, doesn’t use the “accident” as an excuse to sleep with anyone and even though he sees Chang do it, he doesn’t go after him.

Let’s talk about the Asian manservant henchman, whose name is Chang.

TokyoRemix:

So, yeah. I might just be sensitive to these things because I live in Japan, but this guy is wearing a yukata (Japanese) and uses the Japanese martial art aikido. His name, Chang, is one of the most stereotypical Chinese names there is. The actor’s name is Toshiro Suga, an aikido champion, and clearly Japanese. Why do they go out of their way to call him “Chang”? What’s the deal there?

I’m sure they needed a Japanese translator on set to work with him, they knew he wasn’t Chinese. Did someone just decide on Chang and go with it? Even in 1979, were Westerners so completely ignorant about Asia that they would just accept this? This is like naming two obviously Italian characters Fritz and Klaus.

(Mike Note: Instead of Luigi Ferrari?)

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Anyway, he does martial arts, he’s a henchman. Not nearly as good as Oddjob. You could probably switch him with Helga Brandt from You Only Live Twice and nobody would know the difference.

(Mike Note: Pretty sure Bond woud.)

Oh, it’s banging time.

Whoa… magic dick didn’t work. (Yet.)

Please.

Get the information…

… then the fun part.

“Well… three minutes… I think it’s about time for me to get out of here…”

Tits.

This is so Les Vampires. I love it. (Seriously, when has anyone known me to not post something that reminds me of that serial?)

Time to check out Drax’s office, naturally.

One of the most fascinating things about this franchise is that either he doesn’t know or doesn’t care that he’s going to get all these women killed. And I’m never quite sure which it is. The films usually add that moment of, “Oh, how sad,” after they’re dead, with him seemingly feeling compassion, but I don’t know how much I buy that being his true feelings and not filmmaker-imposed.

Are those looseys?

Nice camera.

“I’m gonna miss you when you’re dead.”

NINJA Asian manservant!

Pheasant hunting! (Someone’s getting shot.)

See?

Great scene. Total understanding – I want you dead, you want to arrest me, yet complete cordiality the whole way. This is why Bond is great.

Poor Corinne. (Also, when did this turn into a fucking horror movie?)

Ah… South Africa.

Bond goes to check out that glass place he saw on the plans in Drax’s safe.

Hey look, it’s Holly Goodhead.

Sneaky, sneaky.

Bond tries to flirt with her. It doesn’t work.

I love that he’s got his own boatman.

TokyoRemix:

I always wonder why they don’t kill Bond first, like in Quantum of Solace. He shoots the other guy first and gives Bond time to react. He knows Bond. He should know what to do. Shoot THIS motherfucker.

And the chase is on.

They never can shoot.

That wasn’t as ridiculous as I’d have thought it would have been.

So that happened. And yet – for some reason I totally went with it.

TokyoRemix:

I didn’t. I hate this vehicle. I was going to go with it until this happened, but it sort of begs the question — why have the boatman in the first place? There are normal boats in these canals, too, why do we have to be undercover in a gondola? The bad guys have demonstrated that they know where Bond is at any given time anyway, so way to be incognito.

So you get your dude killed and now you have a powerboat gondola that becomes a hovercraft? You just went from trying to be stealthy to being the most noticeable thing in the entire city. And are we to believe that MI6 randomly made this vehicle just for Venice, which is the only place it’d be appropriate?  And that it was just chilling for Bond to use it this once? 

During the early Connery years, there were very few things that you had to just “go with.” Those sorts of things steadily increased until we peaked in the middle of the Moore years with stuff like this and the alligator submarine in Octopussy. Daniel Craig’s sort of brought us back to that — we don’t have to just accept too much on screen anymore.

Look who it is!

TokyoRemix:

I see you were merciful and left out John Glen’s famous pigeon double take, where a pigeon turning its head is edited to look like it’s shaking with disbelief at what it sees. Properly awful.

Later that night –

It’s just not the same without Moneypenny.

So Bond sneaks around the glass factory –

A Close Encounters reference? Really? (Well, then again, considering the film… never mind.)

Nerve gas.

That only kills humans.

ASIAN HENCHMAN BATTLE!

He just happened to be training around the corner.

This is why we can’t have nice things!

Wonder where they’re going?

Oh, nice to know YOU’VE BEEN FIGHTING THE ENTIRE TIME WITH A VIAL OF POISONOUS GAS IN YOUR POCKET!

HENCHMAN OUT OF NOWHERE!

Hugo?

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Drax. Actually, the kid in Hugo and Hugo Drax would be about the same age. Interesting.

“Play it again, Sam”? That’s not even the right quote, and what the fuck does that have to do with Pagliacci? I can normally abide the quips, but what the fuck is this one?

Time to get some Goodhead.

So… she’s got gadgets…

I like this. She’s got Bollinger. “A ’69, you were expecting me.”

Guess what? She’s a honky from the CIA.

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Bond’s about to use the old “French the enemy” trick from ‘Nam.

But who cares… they’re fucking.

I hate everything about this shot.

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I suddenly feel like flying to Paris to pick up a pack of Marlboros. No idea why.

Her performance is terrible. Guess I don’t like her as much as I thought I did.

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I didn’t really like her from the start. She’s unconvincing. Her face and hair are reminding me of mid-40s Bacall in ways that I don’t like, cause this ain’t Lauren Bacall. And they make her a totally prickly pseudo lesbian without giving her the slightly masculine clothing, like with Pussy Galore or Vesper. Then she’s just randomly an agent. All…all right. Fine.

They fucked and he’s gone.

And she’s planning on getting the fuck out of there.

Then M and the Minister of Defence come to meet Bond to go after Drax.

I’m not really sure what their plan was – they walk into Drax’s place with gas masks like he’s holding up the place with it. And then there isn’t any there, so the minister apologizes. I’m really not sure what they were expecting, or why this scene was even in the movie. They could literally have just cut to this next scene – with Bond asking M to have Q analyze the gas – and everything would have made sense.

So now Drax has to replace his bodyguard.

OH SHIT ITS JAWS NIGGA!!!

So then Bond goes to Rio.

There’s a girl in his room making a martini – shaken, not stirred. She’s the same one who was following him in his cab and taking pictures of him. She’s Manuela, Bond’s contact.

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I got a weird Indian vibe from her for some reason. Dot, not feather.

(Mike Note: Deli, not casino?)

Well fucking really.

Carnival.

This is either a great moment or a terrible moment, depending on your feelings about Moore as Bond. I fucking love it. I love that he just sort of hops around to fit in, for nobody’s benefit but the audience’s, and then is like, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?”

So Bond and Manuela go to check out an import/export warehouse…

This is a great shot, and you’ll find out why in about thirty seconds.

Love the flashing yellow light. Not enough movies have random flashing lights over scenes.

Random dancing people.

There’s a fucking creepy shot.

So Bond goes to check out the warehouse…

This shot is amazing. The shadows walking by, and the colorful lights. It’s terrific, and yet it makes perfect sense in the world of the film, even though it’s completely ridiculous.

Yes. I caught that. What the fuck is that? The Iron Sheik in a dress?

Imagine this happened to you. Anywhere.

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I’m not gonna lie. This scared the absolute shit out of me. Like, in five seconds it makes perfect sense, but as this creepy clown thing was coming towards the camera, I was just scared. Didn’t even think about what it might be, just about how to get the fuck out of there. You know how people talk about being afraid of clowns, and you laugh at them cause that’s pathetic? I’m afraid of this clown. This was the most powerful moment of the movie for me. Terrifying.

MOTHERFUCKIN’ JAWS is in the house.

Yeah, you try using that knife and let me know how it works out for you.

Best moment in the film.

He dances with her!

I love Jaws.

TokyoRemix:

This scene is less scary with the head off, cause that clown thing was way scarier than Jaws. I don’t mess with that. Jaws, sure. He’ll bite you to death. But that clown thing — I don’t want any part of whatever kind of freaky hell I imagine that thing conjuring up.

(Mike Note: He means Octopussy.)

But back to business. It’s killing time.

Oh, Bond had to go and fuck it up. Man was just looking for love.

Jaws –

Looks so happy to see Bond. He’s been waiting for this moment.

Nice.

These people have impeccable timing.

I love this moment. “Oh, we’re gonna fight, but can you believe this shit?”

Oh no, he got pulled into the Conga line! He’s powerless to stop it! (Just like it said in the Zimmermann Telegram.)

Oh fuck it… lets dance.

Wouldn’t it be great if that were the end of Jaws?

Just dancing off into the sunset?

The tits should be the focus of this shot, but the trombone-playing Dalmatian is really making a play for it.

Bond then goes to check out shit from up high.

My favorite thing about Bond is that the shots of these countries look so good that you just assume they’re fake. Look at that fucking background. It’s like it can’t possibly be real. It looks better than most shots of exotic countries now.

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Can’t see the favelas. 

And look who’s keeping tabs on him.

She’s like Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not only if she were not interested in sex at all. (To everyone who just said, “Then what the fuck is the point?”, my answer is I have no idea.)

TokyoRemix:

See? We both had Bacall vibes! I don’t like that! What the fuck?

Walk and talk.

OH BUT JAWS IS BACK!!!!

Oh man. Cable car. This will end well.

Bite the cable…bite the cable…

That works too.

Nobody fucks with Jaws.

TokyoRemix:

Someone will eventually. That’s a major plot point. 

I also love this moment. He makes it stop by sheer strength, then it moves.

“Motherfucker, did I tell you you can move?”

And it doesn’t move again.

Naturally he needs to climb up to take a look.

YEAH HE’S BITING THE CABLE!!!

TokyoRemix:

The best part about Jaws is, even having sharp, metal teeth like that isn’t enough to bite all the stuff he’s bitten through. Padlocks and this wire cable that’s probably rated at several tens of thousands of pounds. You’d need Superman’s jaw muscles. But fuck that, it’s JAWS!

Oh, it’s go time.

I fucking love Jaws.

Oh, I’m coming for you, motherfucker. You better be ready, cause Imma FUCK YOU UP ANYWAY!

“Do you know him?”

“Not socially. His name’s Jaws. He kills people.”

If two cable cars, traveling at 30mph…

Oh this shit is so on!

I love how they smile at each other every time they meet. It’s like a gentleman’s game.

TALLY HO!!

Nigga can fly, man.

TokyoRemix:

Pretty sure Richard Kiel was afraid of heights and had issues shooting parts of this scene on location.

(Mike Note: Oh the irony. He’s 7’2”.)

Don’t punch him. You’ll only make him mad.

Bitch, get out mah way!

Come on, motherfucker. Give it some gas!

Jaws is pleased.

And that’s the end of Jaws…

…or is it?

YES!!!!!

This makes me so happy.

And Moore has the decency to not even make a quip about it. That would have been Unforgivable.

Probably because he’s too busy getting busy with Goodhead.

Always EMTs when you least need them.

But those aren’t EMTs…

How does he fall for it every time?

At least he gets out of them easily enough.

Product placement!

I love this shot. Because that’s what you do. Just sort of start walking.

Magnificent Seven? At least they steal the film scores of the good shit.

A duster? Really? Only in a Moore Bond movie…

The Man with No Shame.

I knew that’s what really happens in monasteries…

I love when M has his office set up somewhere ridiculous. It’s always terrific.

Q!

Gadgets.

TokyoRemix:

I’d like the record to show that I’m pleased to no end that Q designed a machine gun emplacement to look like a lazy Mexican.

A bit much, but I understand. He didn’t need to be in a robe, though.

For god’s sake, take the goddamn duster off already. We got it.

Q basically explains what the visuals already have – Drax is making a nerve gas that kills people but not animals. Basically it’s some rare flower thought to be extinct. So they send him up to where the flower was found. Somehow Bond knows the exact location of where it is better than Q does.

TokyoRemix:

Didn’t know he got Botanical Quarterly.

In a boat. (Motherfucker.)

Why is he hitting every bush and tree that’s in his way?

Sure is a nice boat, though.

Oh it’s on.

Yeah, mortars!

Simple. Efficient. Not too crazy.

And automatic weapons. What would a Bond chase be without automatic weapons?

Pokémon.

(Look again. It made sense.)

YEAH JAWS IS BACK!!! I fucking love him.

The mortars really make this sequence great.

Motherfucker, I’m running this shit. You go that way.

Weird how the torpedo hit in the back of the boat and the explosion started in the front of the boat.

BUT WHO GIVES A SHIT JAWS IS BACK!!

Oh, I got ya, bitch.

I love these shots. They just enjoy seeing one another.

WATERFALL!

Well at least the boat doesn’t turn into it.

Nigga, is you serious?

TokyoRemix:

This is the second time Bond has used a hang glider, the first time being in Live and Let Die. We never see him do it again. It’s a Moore monopoly. And I’m good with that.

And that’s the end of Jaws.

… or is it?

I also really love how Moore never makes a quip about Jaws. It shows he really respects him.

Nice hideout.

All the hideouts look like this, too.

Mo bitches.

I could retire to here.

TokyoRemix:

We don’t know for sure that men come first in this place. 

(Mike Note: Give me three and a half minutes. We’ll find out.)

Always.

Anaconda in the water.

Does the CIA get credit for that kill?

But wait…

Oh, you know what’s coming.

JAWS!!!!!!!

Come to papa.

Motherfucker, what are they wearing? (Lots of yellows and browns in this franchise.)

“Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.” Great line.

“Why did you break up the encounter with my pet python?”

“I discovered he had a crush on me.”

If you’re gonna give more constant quips, at least make them good. That’s just lazy. It doesn’t even make any fucking sense. At least let them be hokey. What the fuck does that even mean?

Oh yeah… space shit.

TokyoRemix:

And I’m having N64 flashbacks. Everyone remembers that Aztec was the hardest level in GoldenEye.

“I know this part… this is the part where you tell me exactly what your plan is.”

And guess what? He does. Well, not really. Mostly he explains that The plan is to kill everyone on earth with the plant toxin. Not so much the other part we’ll find out later. He also explains that he stole the Moonraker shuttle at the beginning because one of his broke down and he needed it back. (So basically, were it not for a random malfunction, no one would have been wise to his plan and everyone would have just been dead? So by sheer luck, the entire world is going to be saved.)

So Jaws –

Takes Bond to where Goodhead is being kept.

Look at his stance. I love Jaws.

TokyoRemix:

This is something I’ll get into later, but this franchise has a real thing about rooms like this. It’s hard to miss them, there are always rooms with weird, oblong floor plans and circular ceilings. All the way back to Dr. No

(Mike Note: And I wish more films would use rooms like this. Great set design is a rarity these days.)

Unfortunately, the place he took them too is also there.

Checkmate, motherfucker.

Well fucking obviously that’s the place to go.

We weren’t briefed on this.

But it’s not outside the realm of the kind of watch Bond would have, so we didn’t really need it.

The classic fire through the vent shot. Love it.

Don’t worry, though. They still need to load the bitches.

I want a place where I can just drive a car through caverns like that. That’s awesome.

Good thing she’s trained as an astronaut, huh?

Wouldn’t now be the optimal time about how 3 Gs is nothing?

Bond realizes the rest of the plan is that Drax is going to selectively breed a new race, Noah style. (Psst… they’re all white, just FYI.)

“That’s no moon.”

This dialogue scene is fucking hilarious.

“There’s no image on the radar scanner… an entire city in space. And still nothing on the radar scanner.”

“So nobody on earth knows it’s there.”

“Right. Drax must have a radar jamming system.”

YOU’RE A FUCKING ASTRONAUT! OF COURSE HE HAS A RADAR JAMMING SYSTEM!

So many great shots.

Jaws!

Basically Drax gives a speech about how he’s starting a new colony of “perfect specimens.”

“What now?”

“We gon’ fuck.”

(Also, this is totally a video game moment. They get on the ship, there’s a cutscene, Drax makes his speech, everything pauses, and then the action just continues.)

“Where do you think the radar jamming system is?”

“We didn’t pass anything on the way in, so let’s try this way.”

Wow.

“This is it – the radar jamming system.” Why are you doing this to me?

At least take him out with one punch. What the fuck, Goodhead? Step it up.

That’s how you take a motherfucker out with one punch.

General Gogol. Yes.

And he’s got a bitch with him.

TokyoRemix:

This is probably the best scene of the movie. Gogol makes everything better. Like, he’s a communist, but he’s not a communist. He’s on the phone talking about how he can’t sleep because of all these “problems,” and as he says it, they pan over to the chick he’s in bed with. He’s got 99 problems, and bitches are like 98 of them.

(Mike Note: It would suck if erectile dysfunction and the French were the other two.)

Yeah, I’m sure we can always get a rocket ready that quickly.

The poisoning begins.

I fucking love Jaws.