James Bond Overdose Part 7 – Diamonds are Forever (1971)

A most happy new year to you all! While we usher in the new, let’s enjoy a fun throwback from the days of (sorta) old.

Sean Connery is back. For a bit.

When I was younger, this was one of my favorites. It had rockets, evil space lasers, lots of flashy Vegas stuff, explosions, and two of the creepiest henchmen in the Bond canon. Plus, it was goofy, fun, and featured a number of silly moments that I always appreciated.

I’m not sure who convinced Connery to return, but apparently he was offered such an insane sum of money that the special effects budget was hamstrung to make it happen. After George Lazenby backed out, they were clearly desperate, but I’m glad Connery decided to come back despite his weariness with the character. He pretty much carries the whole film himself, turning an inconsistently plotted and oft ridiculous story into a passable film. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good send off for Connery.

Following Tracy Bond’s death at the hands of Blofeld, James Bond (Sean Connery) begins by tracking down his wife’s murderer, going through contact after contact, until finally he meets the man himself and kills him (all before the opening credits, so we know something’s up). Mollified somewhat, he is given a new assignment by M: infiltrate a vast diamond smuggling operation and bring it down. Taking on the identity of diamond smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson), Bond rendezvous with the lovely Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), and infiltrates a complex smuggling chain wherein, as one character puts it, “everyone who comes in contact with the diamonds seems to die.” His adventure takes him from Amsterdam to Las Vegas where he encounters the mysterious hermit Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), a casino mogul who seems to be an integral part of this smuggling operation until Bond discovers that his old buddy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray) has been pulling the strings behind the scenes, impersonating Whyte and hijacking his industrial empire. Ultimately, Bond discovers that Blofeld has been using the diamond smuggling to construct a weapon with which to hold the world ransom, and it’s up to Bond to stop him one last time.

In many ways, this is very similar to Goldfinger: both are directed by the same person, both are clearly targeting American audiences, and both revolve around a precious commodity. I think this one tends to be more enjoyable overall, than Goldfinger, but once we get to the big showdown at the end, everything falls completely to pieces. But I’ll talk about that later.

First, I have to say that I love Connery in this. Even though he wasn’t a fan of the role anymore and wasn’t really all that interested in becoming typecast as Bond, he still turns in a fun performance that doesn’t reveal any of his real-world hesitations. Dark comedy, sarcasm, perfectly-timed one-liners, and enough suaveness to fill an Aston Martin are all present, just as we’ve all come to expect. Plus, Connery shows that one can have a sleek, classy wardrobe without going overboard *looks at Lazenby*. And even though he is perhaps aging out of the role at this point, he still pulls the character off well. Perhaps I’m just going through Connery withdrawal since we won’t see him again (and we’re never going to mention Never Say Never Again ever ever ever. Never. Again), but he’s my favorite Bond (tied with one other whom we’ll meet later). Even though his run was very up and down, he, as an actor and a character, managed to be consistently awesome, to the point where weaker entries like Dr. No and Goldfinger are still enjoyable and iconic. So, my hat goes off to you, Sir Sean Connery, for getting this whole wacky ride started for us! *tips hat*

While I’m discussing the positives, I also should note that the opening theme deserves its fair share of accolades. “Diamonds are Forever” is my favorite Shirley Bassey Bond theme, and one of my all time overall favorites. It’s bold, sexy, and beautifully arranged, moving from a restrained opening reminiscent of a black widow spider crawling out of the shadows, to a strong showy climax that kind of makes you want to just climb up onto a pile of diamonds and laugh self-indulgently as you push a button and drop your enemies down a trap door into a pool filled with crocodiles.

Not that I’d ever do that…

Anyway, it’s wonderful, and Maurice Binder’s opening credit animation is top notch, featuring Blofeld’s diamond-studded cat quite prominently along with the usual naked women in silhouette and lots of titular diamonds (I’m really sorry to say that that pun was completely intended).

Throughout the movie, there are also lots of great moments. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) are creepy as all get out, as henchmen go. I get that their evil deeds were meant to be a reflection of what would, at the time, be seen as their “homosexual deviance,” but in this day and age, they just happen to be a happy couple of murderous psychopaths who can walk away from a burning wreck of incinerated corpses proudly holding hands. I dunno. They freak me out, but I like them. *shrugs*

I’m also a fan of the pre-credits rampage wherein Bond goes from person to person in search of Blofeld. It’s short and silly, but stylistically, it seems to echo the first couple of Bond films, right down to the obvious voice dubbing. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it still amuses me.

This movie also has quite a few wonderful one-liners, ranging from the wry (“Hi, I’m Plenty!” “But of course you are.”) to the sarcastic (“You press ‘L,’ Mr. Bond. The word ‘lobby” begins…with ‘L'”) to the ironic (“My god! You’ve just killed James Bond!”) to the endlessly useful in conversation (“Well that’s a neat trick.”). I quote this movie a lot…

And there are the elements of this film that start out great and sort of fall apart like sloppily made lasagna (sorry, I’m thinking of lunch right now). Tiffany Case, our main Bond girl, starts out as a clever, strong-willed, and self-assured woman…but as soon as she stops being “Smuggler Tiffany,” she becomes a silly bozo who scampers about in ridiculous bikinis and loses brain cells by the second. Overall, she’s not my favorite. She has a lot of potential in the beginning, but it’s obvious that, as soon as the writers had no more plot-based use for her, she transforms into scantily-clad window dressing.

The same goes for Blofeld (sans bikinis). Charles Gray, who had previous appeared as Mr. Henderson in You Only Live Twice, takes on the villainous role, and I really like him at first. He’s self-assured, pompous, bitingly sarcastic, and a bit of a posturing diva. He’s not threatening, by any means, but he’s fun in a campy way. You like him for the same reason you like Scar and Ursula, despite the fact that they’re villains in their respective Disney movies. At one point, Blofeld appears in full drag as he captures Tiffany, and I gotta say, he makes a horrendous woman, but the scene is so completely hilarious and unexpected that you’ve got to give Blofeld mad props for his boldness. I’ve included a picture just because I couldn’t help myself.

An entire blog post could be written about his outfit alone. Also, it’s clear that his cat is as horrified as we are that Blofeld went with that outfit, when there were a million better choices that would have looked fabulous on him.

Also, by the time the movie gets to the big showdown, Blofeld begins making illogical decisions. His plan is actually a really good one, but when Bond shows up, he spends his time talking to him and showing him how everything works, then placing him in an easily escapable brig (that’s actually a utility closet) so that Bond can not only alert his allies to Blofeld’s location, but destroy it pretty easily. When it comes to Tiffany, Blofeld captures her for seemingly no reason. I guess he wants to keep her from sharing any more information with Bond’s American allies, but when every other person involved in the diamond smuggling operation was killed by Mr’s. Wint and Kidd, why would she be kept alive? When villains become so dumb that they sabotage their own plans, it sort of makes the whole thing uninteresting. The end of this movie is kind of a yawn-fest for that reason.

Diamonds are Forever is a goofy confection of a movie that doesn’t tax its viewers much, despite some redeeming moments. I liked it much more as a kid than I do as an adult.

Random Observations
-I love the “If in Doubt, Ask” signs all over Blofeld’s facility
-Q cheating at slots!
-I love how Plenty says, “Oh, how pretty! What a super place you have!” when she walks into Bond’s darkened apartment and we can’t see anything.
-The whole Zambora scene is super racist…
-The VHS copy of this movie we had as a kid was part of a set that featured iconic quotes from the movies on the back of the case. This one, for whatever reason, chose, “I’m Klaus Hergishimer. G Section.” Lord only knows why…
-lol at the whole “filming the moon landing” set
-I want a fishtank bed, but I’m not sure how comfortable it would actually be…
-I love how, after Bond is left in the section of pipe, the construction guys get all the pipe laid and assembled for miles around in a single evening.
-It makes me giggle that this huge weapon of mass destruction is controlled by a cassette tape.
-“Lower! Not up!” another quote I use all the time when someone is being incompetent.
-And, yet again, Bond ends the movie in a boat…

Join me next week as we welcome the next long-term James Bond leading man: Sir Roger Moore!

Ciao for now!

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