The Film: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The Principals: Director: Guy Hamilton, Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey.
The Premise: In the opening, a determined Bond is seeking out Blofeld to avenge the murder of his wife, Tracy (Diana Rigg) in the previous film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After disposing of Blofeld, Bond rejoins MI6 and accepts an assignment to pose as a diamond smuggler named Peter Franks in order to get to the bottom of suspected diamond stockpiling in South Africa. The case takes him first to Amsterdam and then Las Vegas, as Bond continues the charade with Franks’ partner, Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). There are also two men, Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover), who are eliminating everyone involved with the elaborate smuggling ring, continually on his trail. Bond soon discovers that Blofeld is not dead as he believed and is behind the smuggling ring as part of a master plan to create a killer laser satellite utilizing the diamonds.
Is It Good: This is one of the lesser Bonds, but not without some campy charm to it. This was the center movie in the biggest shakeup the franchise had where they had three different actors portray Bond in succession, before Roger Moore became the regular guy on the gig for the next decade plus. George Lazenby was offered a seven-film deal as Bond, but turned it down after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Sean Connery was lured back to the franchise for this last (official) go-round. It took 1.2 million pounds (that’s $15.9 million today, kids) to do so, plus a guarantee by the studio to back two films of Connery’s choice, one being The Offence.
This was the campiest of the Connery outings as Bond and it was really only that that even made the film somewhat palatable, because virtually everyone on the evil side of the playing field were complete buffoons and / or idiots. First you’ve got Blofeld (Charles Gray), who’s creating a basketball team of Maxi-Mes to throw Bond off his trail. It’s idiotic the number of times he and SPECTRE had Bond and let him off the hook. Donald Pleasance’s Blofeld was a lethal little asswipe who didn’t screw around. Sure, he monologued, but when it came time to handle business, he’d do it. But Gray’s Blofeld is a posturing ponce. He’s got a gun on Bond, in his (actually Willard Whyte’s) suite, then lets him go, only to gas him – not even with lethal gas but knockout gas – and have Kidd and Wint take him for a ride out to the desert, for what had to be Bond’s easiest damn escape from death in the entire franchise. Blofeld and especially SPECTRE by now were entirely played out and mostly a joke.
As for Connery, despite that he came back strictly for the money, I didn’t see any drop-off in his dedication to the role here. Although the hairline was definitely slipping, he wasn’t looking as geriatric as Moore was in A View To A Kill, probably because he was only 41 and not friggin’ 57. Connery still handled the physicality well (the fight with Franks was pretty good), and he still had the Bond charm that he invented. But the problem was that Bond slipped back too easily into his old ways considering the devastating turn of events at the end of the previous film. By the credits, it was all mai tais and Yahtzee again for 007, in a campy adventure yet. You look at Daniel Craig’s Bond in Quantum of Solace, it’s a completely different story. Yes he beds Fields, but he’s still tortured the entire movie by the loss of Vesper. Connery’s Bond was gonna give Lana Wood plenty of tool and he had a playdate with Bambi and Thumper. OHMSS was just completely glossed over in Diamonds as fast as the producers could get Bond in bed with the next chick.
The camp did work well in places though. One of the most incredible car chases in the franchise’s history was veiled in camp as Bond punked the LVPD in that parking lot with the Mach 1. Also, the moon buggy chase was nicely comedic. And other than the fact that Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint were complete fuck-ups as assassins when it came to Bond, you definitely weren’t going to see another pair like them anywhere. This movie definitely also needed more Jimmy Dean as Willard Whyte. Jill St. John was one the spunkiest Bond Girls, but still at the lower end of the scale. The climactic battle on the oil rig was also disappointing, especially in comparison with the prior three Connery Bond finales. So like AVTAK, this was a crossroads for the franchise where a reboot was mandatory.
Is It Worth A Look: It has its moments, but it’s bottom five of Bond films.
Random Anecdotes: The original plan for Diamonds was going to be Auric Goldfinger’s twin as the big bad, seeking revenge for his brother’s death. But Cubby Broccoli changed it after he had a dream where friend Howard Hughes was replaced by an impostor.
Cinematic Soulmates: Never Say Never Again.