End of the Lazenby and Connery era, ladies and gents. After this review it’s all cocked eyebrows for the next week or so.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After On Her Majesty’s Secret Service didn’t do particularly well at the all-important box office, another rethink was needed. The Bond producers were apparently happy with Lazenby and offered him a seven picture deal. Lazenby’s agent, however, convinced him that Bond was a pop culture has-been and that he had no place in the go-go ’70s. On the strength of that, Lazers declined. So, it was back to square one in terms of casting Bond. They tempted Connery back with a then record amount of $1.25 million (about 7 million in 2012 money) and sweetened the deal by backing two films of Sean’s choice. With that, Connery was back in the tuxedo. Part of me (my fucking brain) wishes he hadn’t bothered.
Whilst investigating a diamond smuggling operation, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds out his arch-nemesis Blofeld (Charles Gray) is behind it all, planning to use the diamonds for some sort of deadly laser satellite thing. Bond enlists the help of smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St.John) to help him take the face shifting bastard down. The plot isn’t too bad, although it hops on a bus destined for WTFtown about halfway through. Connery doesn’t seem like his heart’s in it anymore (as it probably wasn’t) and it’s a shame this is his final (official, you goddamn pedants) time as Bond. You Only Live Twice was a great swansong, but oh well. Can’t be helped. Charles Gray (previously seen as Henderson, Bond’s contact in Tokyo in YOLT) gives a decent performance as Blofeld. Certainly more interesting than Kojak did. Jill St. John is lovely, but Tiffany Case has to be one of the most useless Bond women to date, constantly fucking things up left, right and centre. Her introduction is interesting, changing her hair colour and sexy attire to mess with Bond’s head, but she soon turns into a dumb bikini babe tottering around from scene to scene.
I don’t mind a bit of campness in the Bond films. Some of the classics have more than a little in them and that’s part of their charm. However, this is fucking ridiculous. Diamonds Are Forever is so ludicrously camp and unforgivably shit it’s embarrassing to watch. There is visual buffoonery (an elephant playing slots, getting a jackpot and celebrating being the one that sticks in my mind and craw the most), a character who’s a walking knob gag set-up in the shape of Plenty O’Toole (no, really) and all sorts of other japery that wouldn’t be out of place in a particularly bad Carry On… film. I genuinely had to fight myself from turning it off. My guess is that after OHMSS failed to endear itself to audiences with its darker tone, the producers felt they needed to dial down the serious aspects and make Bond light and fun again. Thing is, they threw moderation out the window and span the dial all the way round to “reprehensibly wacky”.
There are a couple of really ugly things about the film too. For starters, it looks rougher than an inside-out dog. I’m not sure this was down to budget constraints (maybe Connery’s astronomical fee meant less funding for the polish department) or whether the early ’70s were an awkward transitional period film technology-wise. Either way, it ain’t pretty. The second instance of ugliness comes from the script itself. The opening scene is meant to be really badass, with Bond going around beating people up and interrogating them as to the whereabouts of Blofeld. There are some unconvincing stage punches until he meets a bikini-clad woman lounging in the sun. They share some flirtatious banter before Bond whips off her bikini top and starts strangling her with it. What the shit. There’s also the duo of killers, Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover) who are portrayed as GAY and are therefore BAD. They’re weaksauce villains, but the film seems particularly spiteful towards them.
I’ve been wracking my brain to think of something I like about Diamonds Are Forever. There are a few small moments. I like the bit when Bond meets acrobatic duo Bambi & Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks). The two are gymnastic bodyguards and flip and dropkick Bond all over the place. It’s fun to see Bond out of his depth, at least for a small while. There’s a bit where Bond is trapped in a coffin inside a crematorium oven which manages to be quite tense. I quite like the car chase as well, especially when Bond drives a Mustang on two wheels, but as with all the above examples, this joy is fleeting. Soon enough it’s back to “fnarr, fnarring” in my face.
If you bothered to read the paragraphs above, you will have gathered that I think Diamonds Are Forever is a terrible film. It’s hellbent on being the dumbest, campest thing out there and is so far away from good Bonding it’s almost laughable. Fucking dire(monds).