Rio de Janeiro, as featured in Moonraker (1979)


In Ian Fleming’s novel Moonraker most of the action takes place around Dover on the south coast of England. It was clear, that the locations for the movie of the same name had to be a bit more exotic. The most exotic one is of course Outer Space, but also the more “down to earth” places have it all. For the shooting in 1978/79 the film crew went to Vaux-le-Vicomte, a chateau near Paris, the canals of Venice and to Brazil. It is the only time yet, that Bond has crossed the equator and he carried out his mission there on some of the most scenically beautiful and fascinating spots of this roaring South American country. In the first place it is Rio de Janeiro and secondly it is Iguaçu Falls, a magnificent waterfall on the Brazilian / Argentine border.
Situated on the border between Brazil and Argentina in the state of Paraná, Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu) is certainly one of the greatest natural wonders of Brazil, if not the whole world. It is surrounded by a national park of the same name, which is run by both countries. Unlike Niagara Falls, which consists mainly of the big Canadian Falls and the smaller American Falls, here it is a huge variety of about 275 cataracts of different sizes. The waterfall is fed by the Rio Iguaçu. An average of 15.000 barrel of water per second (1.800 cbm/sec) plunges over a precipice that is about 1.8 miles (3 km) wide.

You will probably arrive from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro by plane. Try to get a window seat on the left hand side. If you are lucky, the pilot will fly a lap of honour over the falls and you will have a marvellous general view of the entire area and a great opportunity to make photos. If you are on your own, the cheapest way of getting to the falls, is by public bus. It operates from the nearby city of Foz do Iguaçu on an hourly base, starting at 7 a.m. and costs about half a dollar (0,45 Euro). The entrance fee for the national park amounts to 3 $ (2,80 Euro).
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Drop off the bus at the Hotel das Cataratas, which is a good starting point for your expedition. There is a footpath that leads along the cascades. The best time to do it, is before noon, since then most of the falls are lying in full sunlight. Some of the larger ones have special names like e. g. Salto Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) or Salto Ramirez. The biggest part of the area is on Argentine soil, but the best vista you have from this trail on the Brazilian side. On the whole length of the track there are several viewpoints where you have outlooks upon breathtaking scenery. You will realize that during the shooting of Moonraker the water level was extremely low. On your visit there will probably much more water going over the edge. The range between Salto Tres Mosqueteros (Three Musketeers) and Salto Belgrano is the area where Bond flies along with the hang glider. In the film there are only one or two streamlets splashing out of the wall of rock, normally there are at least seven forceful cascades thundering down. Following the path you can watch colourful butterflies, big spiders, lizards, and nose bears.
Iguacu is where Bond landed his paraglider in Moonraker (1979)
Clever editing connects Rio locations with Venetian locations in Moonraker (1979)
The classic way to ascend Corcovado (Hunchback Mountain) is by railroad (Estrada de Ferro Corcovado). After your visit to this second most interesting sight of Rio and leaving the train at the base station at Rua Cosme Velho, you are supposed to walk this street a bit westward. After about 1000 foot (300 meters) there is Beco do Boticário on the right hand side, which is a little cobble-stoned alley that leads to Largo do Boticário (Druggist’s Square). The colourfully painted terrace houses at the background of the square double as the façade of the monastery that accommodates the HQs of the Secret Service. Bond and his two companions arrive there after their “Magnificent-Seven”-ride. The houses are now even more colourfully painted than while Moonraker was filmed.

The yellow house with the elegantly curved gable, balustrade balcony and dark blue window-frames is especially beautiful. On a metal plate you can read (in Portuguese and English) about the history of the square. A second board tells you (only in Portuguese) that in former times the indios used to bath in the nearby streamlet. That was supposed to enhance the women’s beauty and the man’s manliness. After Bond enters the house next to the yellow one (it’s now painted pink) the scene of action switches to Venice (see our story "Venetian Affair"). Who may wonder whether the residents know that their dwellings were already to be seen on the cinema- and TV-screens around the whole world.


This and much more can be found in the chapter 'Samba, Soccer, Sugarloaf' in ON THE TRACKS OF 007

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