Diamonds are Forever (1971)

*. The seventh “official” (Eon Productions) Bond movie, and as with any long-running franchise they’d reached a point where they had to decide whether they were going to make a break and head in a new direction, or try to turn back the clock. George Lazenby wasn’t interested in returning and while different actors were tried out (including Burt Reynolds, Adam West, and Roger Moore, who had a prior commitment), the studio wanted Connery back and were prepared to pay anything to get him. In this case “anything” being $1.25 million, which set a record at the time.
*. This was a big mistake. Connery looks tired and puffy, and his performance is only a notch above mailing it in. But pretty much everything else about the production seems just as worn out, despite the all-hands-on-deck approach. Guy Hamilton, who’d directed Goldfinger, doesn’t add any energy or sense of style. Just compare the helicopter raid at the end here to that at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Even Shirley Bassey can’t save the worthless theme song. The sets by Ken Adam all seem infected with a tacky spirit of sameness.
*. That tackiness is evident everywhere. Maybe it’s the Las Vegas setting. Maybe it had something to do with the budget having to be scaled back to make up for Connery’s salary. Whatever the reason, the look is just ugly, starting with the opening kill in a giant, colon-cleansing release of muddy slop.

*. In addition to this ugliness and feeling of being tired there was also a somewhat intentional decision made to play more for laughs, moving in a very different direction from the previous film. So we get the gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, the comedian Leonard Barr as Shady Tree being one of the Vegas gangsters, and a chase through the desert with Bond driving a space buggy. Plus all the usual dry quips. Funny? I didn’t think so when I first saw the movie and I still don’t. So I can’t entirely blame my worsening sense of humour.
*. The script by Tom Mankiewicz (son of Joseph L.) is junk, leaving most of Ian Fleming’s novel behind. Apparently the whole idea of introducing the Willard Whyte/Howard Hughes character came about as the result of a dream Cubby Broccoli had. I can’t think of a worse idea for writing a screenplay than listening to a producer’s dreams. And so what we end up with is a wholly useless character who gets thrown at us late in the day and who takes up far too much time. He’s basically just a repeat of the Draco character from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and he leads the exact same helicopter assault on the villain’s lair at the end. They weren’t thinking outside of the box here.
*. Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case should be a lot more fun, but she goes from being a resourceful criminal mastermind to being a bimbo in a bikini in the final reel. What a waste.

*. I’m sure Charles Gray is a capable actor, but he’s totally miscast as the third different Blofeld (or fourth, depending on how you count these things). Again we go from the threatening Telly Savalas to a fussy Brit who even shows up in one scene in drag. I suppose that was another attempt at humour. How we are supposed to believe that he’s interested in Tiffany is beyond me.
*. The drag Blofeld is one of the reasons Diamonds are Forever is often referred to as camp. I don’t think the label quite fits, and think I’ll stick with tacky. Tacky like the dreadful fake explosions as the diamond-powered satellite takes out subs and missiles. A real low for the series thus far.
*. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith) are often panned as being among the worst of the Bond villains. I don’t agree. They may be campy too, and the way they keep coming up with the most theatrical ways they can think of to get rid of Bond, just so he can escape, makes you roll your eyes, but I rather like them. I also find them among the most memorable henchmen in the canon. I also like Bambi and Thumper, and think they are sadly underused.
*. That’s about all the good I can say about Diamonds are Forever though. This is not just the first Bond movie that actually seems dated to me, but the first downright bad Bond flick. Bond would indeed prove to be forever and so come back, but at this point you’d be perfectly justified in thinking the franchise was played out.

7 thoughts on “Diamonds are Forever (1971)

    1. Alex Good

      As a franchise they did a pretty good job reinventing themselves. I mean, Bond is as big today as he ever was. But Connery was done by this point. Awful that they dragged him back for Never Say Never.

      Reply

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