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Should I Watch..? Diamonds Are Forever
What's the big deal?
Diamonds Are Forever is an action spy thriller film released in 1971 and is the seventh film to be released in the James Bond series. It saw the return of original Bond actor Sean Connery after George Lazenby quit after his sole outing as 007, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1). It would also mark the last time Connery would officially play Bond although he would appear in the unofficial Bond movie Never Say Never Again (2). Loosely based on the Ian Fleming novel of the same name, the film sees Bond battle an international diamond smuggling ring and encounters a familiar enemy still out for revenge. It was a commercial success but the film received criticism for its camp tone, unmemorable characters and the cast's performance. Over the years, the film's reputation has only gone down and it is now considered one of the least effective Bond films in the series so far.
What's it about?
Continuing his pursuit of Blofeld, British secret agent James Bond discovers a facility where an unknown number of people are undergoing surgery to look like Blofeld. After apparently killing Blofeld, Bond is ordered to investigate the systematic murder of diamond smugglers across the world as M believes that someone may be stockpiling them for some nefarious purpose. After disguising himself as fellow smuggler Peter Franks, Bond heads to Amsterdam and meets up with contact Tiffany Case. Together, they travel to Los Angeles to offload her latest shipment. But two assassins, Mr Wint & Mr Kidd, ambush Bond and hand the diamonds to another smuggler known as Shady Tree.
Barely escaping, Bond quickly heads to Las Vegas where Tree works as a comedian in Willard Whyte's casino, the Whyte House. But he soon finds that something isn't right - the reclusive billionaire Mr Whyte hasn't been seen in public for some time, there's a mysterious science facility nearby out in the desert and Wint & Kidd are still following his every move. As Bond gets nearer to the truth, he finds he's pitted against the last man he expected to see...
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Jill St John
CIA Agent Felix Leiter
Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz *
Release Date (UK)
30th December, 1971
Action, Spy, Thriller
Academy Award Nomination
What's to like?
Traditionalists will be delighted to see Connery back in a tuxedo, even his previous effort (You Only Live Twice (3)) was somewhat half-hearted. But he brings much of 007's swagger back with him - the gags come thick and fast and Connery himself seems to be enjoying the caper a bit more. You can tell his batteries have been recharged, even if the material he's given is pretty substandard. The series is also awoken from Lazenby's slumber by the irrepressible Shirley Bassey's marvellous theme tune - one of the best in the series, so good that Kayne West got his hands on it for his hit single Diamonds From Sierra Leone.
It still provides the series with some memorable moments such as the thrilling car chase in downtown Las Vegas and Plenty O'Toole setting the standard for Bond girls with pun names even further (or should that be lower?). This is a much more light-hearted affair than before - even You Only Live Twice didn't feel this comedic. The baddies - encapsulated by Glover and Smith's creepy duo - are more like bumbling minions like professional killers while the film's somewhat complex plot doesn't disguise the utter madness of Blofeld's ultimate scheme. Indeed, such ridiculous plans are now regularly recycled by later Bond films and endlessly parodied in stuff like the Austin Powers series.
- Connery's last ever scene filmed as Bond was the scene where he is loaded into a coffin at the funeral home. It was shot on Friday 13th August, 1971.
- Jill St John would go on to marry Robert Wagner, who would go on to appear in the spy-spoof Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (4) as Doctor Evil's right-hand man Number Two. Wagner was represented in the 1950's by none other than producer Albert Broccoli back when he was a talent scout.
- The movie contains one of the most infamous goofs in history involving Bond driving a Mustang on two wheels. It enters an alley tilting on one side and emerges from the other on the opposite two wheels, despite the fact that there clearly isn't space for the car to do that!
What's not to like?
Even since Goldfinger (5) smashed the box office open, the Bond films had gotten sillier and sillier until they reached this point. Diamonds Are Forever is one of the hardest Bond films to follow as very little makes any real sense. Not only that but it is treated in such a camp way, it feels more like the 60's TV treatment of Batman - would you be scared of a couple of gymnast bodyguards named Bambi & Thumper? The point of no return - not just for the movie but the Bond series as a whole - comes when Connery races away from a space-exploration centre in one of the daftest contraptions you'll ever see in the series and all you can do is sit and ponder what happened to that cold-blooded man of danger from From Russia With Love (6). The film has no real sense of danger as Wint & Kidd drop as many jokes as they do good guys and even Blofeld has a selection of one-liners to choose from. He even appears in drag at one point, something no Bond villain should ever do.
There are other worries too. After Connery had basically blackmailed the producers into paying his sky-high fee to return as Bond, the rest of the film had much less to go around. Effects are almost crude compared to what had gone before while the climatic battle on an oil rig feels cheap and made to a strict budget. It's also almost entirely American - bar the odd scene here and there - which was due to the series losing interest in America after On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I don't have anything against the Americans but Bond is associated with exotic locations and I'm afraid that Las Vegas isn't that exotic - hell, even I've been there!
Should I watch it?
What should have been a fitting tribute to Sean Connery's portrayal of 007 turns instead into the sort of mushy, inoffensive, family-friendly nonsense that would dog Roger Moore's entire tenure. Diamonds Are Forever is definitely one of the low points of the series, failing as a thriller, a comedy and even as a spy film. Its sheer goofiness is so off-putting that the series, and its once untouchable leading man, suddenly looked very old-fashioned and out-of-date indeed.
Good For: die-hard Bond fanatics, Las Vegas residents, Sean Connery's bank balance
Not So Good For: the Bond series, action fans, actual diamond smugglers who will be laughing their socks off at this
What else should I watch?
Throughout the years, Bond films have always had a sense of humour but it varies from film to film. The earliest Bonds - Dr No (7) and From Russia With Love - feel like actual spy movies with less emphasis on actions and jokes whereas the Roger Moore-helmed Moonraker (8) is a gloriously deranged piece of cinema, fuelled by a stupid story and frankly idiotic action sequences in space.
It's only in recent years that Bond has rediscovered his edge, heavily influenced by movies such as The Bourne Identity (9). With Daniel Craig now playing cinema's greatest secret agent, the likes of Casino Royale (10) and Skyfall (11) are blood-pumping thrillers that combine cutting-edge action sequences with arguably the best Bond actor seen since Connery. The Bond series may be over fifty years old but there's life in the old dog still and that's something everyone can enjoy.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox