Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Director: Guy Hamilton
After the unexpected of departure of George Lazenby following his sole appearance as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sean Connery returned one more time to reprise the role. He was lured by a ridiculous sum of about $20M pounds in today’s dollars. The outcome was Diamonds Are Forever –likely the worst of the Sean Connery Bond era. The idea for the story came to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli when he had a dream about visiting his famously reclusive friend, Howard Hughes, only to find an imposter in his stead. The film does incorporate many elements from the original Ian Fleming novel, but mostly in a campy, sloppy manner.
Throughout the film, Connery seems aged, tired, and according to legend, the last scene Connery filmed features him brutally beaten, thrown into a coffin, and pushed into a crematorium. It is a fitting metaphor for how Connery apparently felt about the series at the time. Diamonds Are Forever opens with a bizarre montage of scenes featuring head-shakingly bad dubbed-over dialogue as Bond tracks down his arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond is attempting to exact vengeance for the murder of his wife (per the closing scene of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), though this is never explicitly stated in the film. Bond appears to have assassinated Blofeld by tossing him into a sloppy puddle of chemicals before coyly remarking, “Welcome to hell, Blofeld” –cue the wonderful Shirley Bassey song “Diamonds Are Forever.”
In the film, Bond is sent to track down diamond smugglers incognito as “Peter Franks” (using an ingenious fake thumb print covering thanks to Q). Apparently, 80% of diamonds are mined in South Africa and profits have been declining leading to a concern that someone is hoarding the diamonds. The real Peter Franks has been arrested and so Bond has been sent to Amsterdam in his place (in the original novel, Bond travels to New York disguised as Peter Franks). This leads him to a scantily-clad woman named “Tiffany Case” (Jill St. John, the first American Bond girl) who instructs Bond as “Peter Franks” how to smuggle the diamonds to Los Angeles (in the novel he delivers the diamonds to New York and then heads to Las Vegas to receive payment from the House of Diamonds corporation). Tiffany has been concealing the diamonds in her chandelier. When the real Peter Franks escapes from prison, Bond confronts and kills him in an elevator, but Tiffany Case believes the dead man to be none other than the infamous gentleman spy, James Bond. They use the coffin of the deceased Peter Franks to smuggle the diamonds into Los Angeles. Upon arrival, Bond briefly encounters his old pal in the CIA, Felix Leiter. Bond then travels to a mortuary service where the coffin of Peter Franks is made into an urn filled with the diamonds, but Bond is then attacked and shoved into a coffin by a pair of awkward henchmen who are apparently gay lovers named Wint and Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith), but as it turns out Bond has delivered fake diamonds. Bond then visits a casino where a comedian named “Shady Tree” is performing (Shady Tree appears in the original novel inn an entirely different capacity). Bond hits the craps tables where he meets a young money-chasing floozy named Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood). Why is Plenty even included in this film? When they return to Bond’s hotel room, Bond and Plenty are surprised by a group of henchmen who toss Plenty out a window and into a pool several floors below. As it turns out, the assassins have been hired by Tiffany Case who proposes a 50/50 split for the real diamonds. Bond picks up a rental car while Tiffany picks up the diamonds inside a stuffed animal at a circus. Tiffany stashes the diamonds inside a lock box at the airport while Plenty O’Toole is later found drowned in a pool at Tiffany’s house.
There are a silly collection of scenes featuring Bond wandering around a research facility owned by Willard Whyte, a reclusive Nevada billionaire who is obviously modeled on Howard Hughes, while Bond is disguised as an analyst inspecting “radiation shields” before stumbling upon a faux moon-landing set (what in the world is this doing here?) in which he steals a mock moon rover and an ATV. Bond and Tiffany then flee into the desert which leads to a high-speed chase in Las Vegas. Now, they get a little help from Felix Leiter who keeps them under CIA surveillance which Bond easily outmaneuvers. The trail then brings Bond to the infamous Blofeld (who is rather flatly portrayed by Charles Gray). This was the final film in the Bond saga to focus on SPECTRE as a villainous entity until the 2015 film of the same name during the Daniel Craig era. Apparently, Blofeld has been using cloning technology on himself –in the beginning of the film, Bond had merely killed a clone, and Blofeld is rather unsurprisingly posing as Willard Whyte using voice-box technology. Now the real Blofeld is holding the world ransom using a nuclear-capable satellite, powered by the stolen diamonds (I think?), which threatens to blow up various locales. Blofeld sends Bond away in an elevator which poisons him, and Bond then awakens inside a metal tube at a remote construction site in the desert –the age-old question returns, why doesn’t Blofeld simply kill James Bond?
The plot leads us to a desert penthouse where we meet two female bodyguards: Thumper and Bambi (uncredited roles played by gymnast Lola Larson, her real name was Mary Hiller, and Trina Parks). They are protecting the real Willard Whyte who then attempts to stop Blofeld’s efforts but he is too late, so Bond tracks Blofeld to his oil rig off the coast of Baja. Bond receives a tape with the code for the nuclear satellite from Tiffany Case, but in a mix-up Tiffany switches the tapes back while Bond is led away to imprisonment (he has just enough time to release a red weather balloon which gives the signal to Felix Leiter to attack the rig). Bond then escapes and commandeers a crane. He prevents Blofeld from fleeing out to see in a vessel and instead uses it to bludgeon a satellite, thus preventing Blofeld’s satellite from detonating its nuclear missile. Like much of the movie, it is a most silly, anti-climactic ending to see Blofeld’s tiny submarine swinging around slowly by a crane while his oil rig explodes. In an epilogue, somewhat similar to the original novel, Bond and Tiffany are board a cruise ship together but they are confronted by the two oddball henchmen, Wint and Kidd. One is lit on fire and the other is tossed into the ocean with a bomb attached to him. It is a comical end to a ridiculous Bond movie.
Diamonds Are Forever serves as a segway between the sleek and impressive era of the early Sean Connery Bond films, to the goofy and campy era of Roger Moore as James Bond. The plot of Diamonds Are Forever is outrageously difficult to follow, the acting is not particularly memorable, Blofeld’s character is not as dark or mysterious as earlier films, the introduction of cloning and diamonds is not particularly intriguing, the stakes simply feel low all around in this wacky parody of a Bond film –and lastly, perhaps the worst part of the film, are the two gay henchman who give a strange performance when they pop up at various points throughout the film. At least, they are hilarious, but why are they even included in the film? Their role is simply baffling. There are far better James Bond films than this one, I might suggest the other movies in the early Sean Connery Bond era or the Daniel Craig era. At least the Shirley Bassey memorable theme song is another triumph! Diamonds Are Forever can be a fun experience after a few drinks and surrounded by friends in the mood for some laughter.
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