Sean Connery is back, baby!
After George Lazenby passed on continuing with the role, film studio United Artists pushed the production team at Eon to work out a deal with Connery. It only took £1.25 million to do it. That’s a 1971 £1.25 mill. A record amount at the time. This had the production team extra motivated to make sure Diamonds Are Forever is a hit.
So, they took a Xerox machine to the most highly acclaimed film in the series and went full Goldfinger. Not only did Goldfinger‘s director, Guy Hamilton return but Shirley Bassey was brought in to sing vocals for the opening theme.
So, you have Connery, Hamilton, and Bassey. A sure thing, right? Well, not quite.
The film does begin very well. In fact, I’d say this cold open is one of the series best. I can’t go into the details too much without spoiling On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so I’ll just say Bond is out for revenge and at his most ruthless. But, if you watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it is all justified and awesome.
After the opening, we are introduced to assassins Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), who are strategically killing diamond smugglers. The head of MI6, M (Bernard Lee) believes the murders are an attempt to drive up the price of diamonds and sends Bond to investigate.
Undercover as the diamond smuggler Peter Franks, Bond heads to Amsterdam to meet his contact Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). To keep his cover, Bond ends up killing Franks (who escaped custody) and switches wallets with the man. This has Tiffany believing he killed James Bond. It was a cute, 3rd wall breaking-ish moment. Bond and Case then head to the USA with a pile of diamonds hidden in Franks’ cadaver. Ew.
After that, the plot becomes a little muddled to me. Bond is stuck in this diamond caper that has the contraband often switching ownership, Bond escaping a facticity where I think they’re faking a moon landing (?), and he gets away from bad guys on trikes in a goofy looking moon buggy. The film gets better once Bond finds out who is running the show, and you get to see him use his biggest mortal enemy as a wrecking ball…
…but otherwise it all feels a little same-y.
I know this is James Bond. I know this is comfort food for most. But part of the appeal of the films is watching the character go on a NEW exciting adventure. This one had me feeling like we have been here, done that. Another space weapon (You Only Live Twice), another oceanic base (Dr. No), another scheme for SPECTOR to get money they don’t seem to need.
I also didn’t like Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Not only did I cringe at seeing a gay couple be portrayed as serial killers (Characters like these did no favours for the LGBTQ community), but their inclusion in the film is clunky. I couldn’t tell who they were working for or why they were actively destroying the sweet pipeline they had to cheap diamonds. I suppose the film didn’t want to reveal too much for the “twists” later on but the execution could have been done better.
Bond also has a run in with Bambi (Lola Larson) and Thumper (Trina Parks), a couple of hench-ladies(?) who seemed to be added because the film needed some more bikinis and judo. It is moments like these that added to the feeling that the script is a little to safe and lazy instead of clever.
Diamonds Are Forever does sport some nice action though. I did enjoy the car chase in Las Vegas a lot. It was brilliant to have them tear through a full parking lot. And, I think Bond was the first to have a car drive on two wheels in film. The stunt was duplicated many times over on TV and movies in the ’70s and ’80s, but it was fairly unique at the time. So much so, the red ’71 Ford Mustang “Mach 1” that was used for the stunt became better known at “The Alley Car”.
I also like the part were Bond rides the top of an outdoor elevator to sneak into the penthouse. My vertigo was screaming at me to skip forward to the next scene. I don’t need to see how he gets there.
Now, for the continuing competition with Sarah to correctly guess how long it would take Bond to get laid. After almost getting burned last week, Sarah went with the tried and true 17 minutes again. This time, I attempted to get in on the action and rubbed up right next to her with 19 minutes. Yeah, I’m playing for reals this time! Well, Bond took his sweet ass time and waited 42 minutes and 26 seconds. Another wash. The score remains:
Sarah – 5
Mars – 0.0
Perhaps this feeling of déjà vu I have with Diamonds Are Forever could be a result of recently watching the previous films. Or maybe I’m disappointed by how it casually resets the growth On Her Majesty’s Secret Service strove to accomplish with Bond’s character. Or maybe I just didn’t like it as much. Still, I enjoy enough of what I saw to give it a pass overall.