Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz
The heralded return of Sean Connery to the franchise, Diamonds are Forever finds Bond entering a new decade as he crosses the pond to tear up the Vegas strip in an effort to break-up a diamond smuggling ring and destroy a space laser.
The seventh installment in EON Productions run was one of the campiest in the series, and you can see the tonal shift the franchise would move towards during the Moore era starting to take shape.
I don’t mind campy Bond movies, they can be really fun, but Diamonds finds its way to bottom of the list with some really dreadful acting from the majority of the supporting cast and a strange, almost jokey continuation of the Blofeld/On Her Majesty’s Secret Service plot.
The Cold Open:
Hiding the return of Connery till he tries to strangle some girl with her bikini top, the cold open to Diamonds has Bond hunting Blofeld all over the world, beating up SPECTRE operatives, till he tracks down his nemesis and enacts revenge for the murder of his wife, Tracy, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
On paper, this opening should be great. Everyone is out of their minds excited to see Sean Connery again, and this time he’s on a revenge mission…hell yeah! But it just doesn’t really work. The action is pretty lame and Charles Gray has nowhere near the presense as Blofeld that Donald Pleasance or Telly Savalas had. Hell, we had just seen him as the most British man alive, living in Japan working with Bond in You Only Live Twice. It’s not like he isn’t recognizable.
This opening could have had some real bite to it, but it ended up being blah.
The Credit Sequence:
While the cold opening was a dud, the credit sequence was classic Bond. Binder, Barry and Shirley Bassey drop a bombastic song over the silhouettes of naked ladies while the diamonds motif is established.
Any opening sequence with a Shirley Bassey song is a good opening sequence. Unfortunately, the film went terribly wrong after this.
Thinking the business with Blofeld is over, Bond is sent on assignment to investigate an international diamond smuggling ring that leads him to Las Vegas, where he trounces through casinos and fake moon landing sets, battling the mob before discovering Blofeld isn’t dead. Our boy Ernst is apparently constructing a space laser weapon that he plans to use to hold the world for ransom.
This could have been good if it had a better cast. Yes, they pull an almost insane pivot to the side of campy, which is odd since Majesty ended on such a dour note, but Connery couldn’t give a shit less, he got paid, and no one else in the cast had any idea what the hell was going on.
The most tell tale scene for the failures of this movie involves our beloved Miss Moneypenny going undercover in the field as a toll booth operator or something. We had just watched Bond enact revenge for the murder of his wife on their wedding day and Moneypenny just starts flirting with Bond saying she wants him to give her a diamond engagement ring. It’s a scene so insanely insensitive, one has to wonder if anyone in this movie was paying attention.
Space laser aside, this is actually one of the least fantastical of the Bond films. A voice modulator and facial reconstruction surgery isn’t completely insane. A surprising display of restraint for a film that otherwise had none.
Blofeld Pt.3 is a bottom rung villain, almost entirely due to the cripplingly British Charles Gray. The scheme isn’t half bad, kidnapping a casino tycoon and using his resources to fund an evil plan to hold the world ransom with a giant space laser. But Gray just can’t do the character justice after we’ve seen such interesting incantations before.
I don’t know if recasting Gray would necessarily save this movie, but it would have been a good start.
Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, the ambiguous assassins, are pretty silly. Henchmen have to be either menacing, insane or competent and I don’t think these two managed to pull off any of that.
Not willing to stop at one set of failed henchmen, Diamonds had generic mobsters scattered all about and the acrobatic bullies, Bambi and Thumper, tacked on the end.
What were we supposed to feel when these are the bad guys they throw up on screen in this movie? Were we supposed to laugh?
The Bond Girl:
Jill St. Jean might be one of the beautiful women ever to appear on film. She is stunning. She also might be one of the worst actresses of all time.
Perhaps a victim of the confusing tone in the movie, Tiffany Case hams it up as though she’s in a Three Stooges sketch. As bad as she was, if they would have just trimmed out all the silly cutaways of her cringing, and maybe a few of the clunky lines, they could have made her less than awful. But of course, they didn’t.
Overall Score: 1/5