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Reviews > From A to Bond: Diamonds Are Forever
tederick | 11 Oct 2012 | 865 Views | 2 Likes | 0 Dislikes
From A to Bond: Diamonds Are Forever
Which one is this? The Vegas diamond caper.
Who’s who in this one? Connery (Bond); Lee (M); Llewelyn (Q); Maxwell (Moneypenny); Burton (Leiter).
Where did you first encounter this one? On TV when I was twelve.
Who’s the bad guy, and what does he want? In spite of being killed in the teaser, it turns out to be Blofeld again (Charles Grey), who wants to rule the earth with diamond lasers from space.
Who are the Bond girls? Jill St. John as smuggler/hussy Tiffany Case, and Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole, who takes a topless topple out of a casino window and lands in the hotel pool. Fortunately, she carries a pair of the series’ best personal flotation devices.
Opening number? Shirley Bassey returns to the franchise for the title tune, which ain’t great, but has a maddening ability to get stuck in your head. The Maurice Binder title sequence shines various coloured lights on various women, set against various shots of sparkling diamonds.
What’s memorable about this one? The psychotic homosexual assassins. Bond nearly getting cremated alive. Bambi and Thumper, the Amazon gymnast ninja chicks. Being only the first time Sean Connery broke his word on “never” playing James Bond again.
What did you rate it out of ten, from memory? 4. I’ve pretty much always hated this one – too surreal, and ill-fitting.
What do you rate it now, having seen it again? I was too kind. This is a 3 at best, more like a 2. It’s not even surreal – it’s just a real bore.
From the gambling-themed shenanigans of Casino Royale I’ve landed in 1971, in the gambling-themed shenanigans of Diamonds Are Forever. The comparison is not a kind one. Legendarily, Sean Connery quit the franchise (temporarily) after You Only Live Twice, and from moment one of Diamonds Are Forever, it’s clear that he should have stayed dead. Trending into silver fox territory with noticeable facial lines and grey hair, Connery is appealing enough here, but sleepwalks through the role, probably because he has no reason not to. Diamonds Are Forever is a sleepy, inconsequential detective story which is difficult to sit through.
Diamonds throws away one of the franchise’s only great moments of continuity, when Bond, in the opening moments, scours the earth to find Blofeld – who, in the closing moments of the preceding On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, murdered Bond’s wife. But this opening sequence, like everything in Diamonds Are Forever, is played entirely cartoon, and those who snark the Roger Moore entries in the franchise would do well to remember that the Bond movies started treating themselves disrespectfully long before Moore was on the case. Diamonds fails to find the mixture of offbeat and thrilling that made the early entries what they were, settling instead for a knowing, misplaced confidence that simply tapping all of the franchise’s established beats would somehow add up to a good movie.
The drab plot is about a Howard Hughes-ish American millionaire named Willard Whyte, who has long since retreated into seclusion on the penthouse floor of his “Whyte House” casino, and whose operation is involved in some way in a diamond smuggling ring, which Bond is investigating. In spite of his onscreen death in the opening, Blofeld turns out to be very much alive, and running Whyte’s organization while feigning Whyte’s voice. In fact, Blofeld is too alive, showing up as a pair of duplicates (with duplicate white cats!) while taunting Bond that the man he killed to avenge Tracy’s death was, in fact, a third clone.
One would expect Bond and Vegas to go together like peanut butter and chocolate, but the setting is largely incidental to Diamonds’ action. There’s a solid car chase through the neon streets which climaxes in a decent stunt where Bond rides Tiffany’s car on its side wheels to squeak through an alley, but otherwise, the movie could just as easily be set on the moon – as Diamonds capably demonstrates, when Bond infiltrates Blofeld’s lair and breaks out in a working moon buggy which Blofeld’s goons are inexplicably testing. Someone probably figured that mixing Bond up with mob-run Vegas in the ‘60s would produce some sparks, but we find ourselves lost amongst the worst movie clichés of mafia goons instead… and whenever those sneering Italian stereotypes aren’t around, we get Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
Wint and Kidd, the psychotic homosexual assassins – who murder a man in the African desert and then skip off across the dunes, holding hands – are Diamonds Are Forever’s ickiest component, and, forty years later, most embarrassing bit of “wrong side of history” bigotry. They stick out like sore thumbs, and probably seemed dated even in ’71, let alone today. Kudos to John Barry for signaling the hit-men’s presence with a jazz flute riff which actually manages to sound limp-wristed, but Wint and Kidd seem to be symptoms of a series which had run completely out of good ideas.
There is only one interesting aspect to Diamonds Are Forever, which may admittedly be entirely incidental: the movie has a seeming fascination with death. It opens on revenge for a murder and Bond sending Blofeld to “hell” by way of submerging him in sulfurous mud; later sequences in the film see Bond nearly cremated alive, and then successfully buried alive. Blofeld is, of course, resurrected (at one point, outrageously, as a woman in drag), and Connery, too, is “resurrected” into the franchise after Lazenby’s solo turn in the black tux. Bond smuggles the diamonds into America by secreting them into the corpse of a deceased heavy, who he claims is his brother; Lazenby, perhaps? Even the funeral director gets a gag name worthy of the best of the Bond girls: Morton Slumber. The pervasive death theme heightens an unstated onscreen fact: grey and tired, Bond looks about ready for his eternal rest throughout. Diamonds might be Forever, but youth is not.
From A to Bond counts down the Bond movies, in alphabetical order, every day of the week leading up to the release of Skyfall. If you live in Toronto, Diamonds Are Forever is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on October 27, December 8 and January 1. If not, the entire series is available on blu-ray.