Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Posted: July 23, 2019 in James Bond
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Connery is back!

And to celebrate he beats up some stereotypical foreigners and throttles a woman in the pre title sequence.

Bond hits the 70s, and the producers move heaven and earth to bring back Connery, which proves something of a mistake. They don’t quite seem to know what to do with him, and Sean can’t be bothered to try and inject any kind of menace into the performance. This Bond is barely recognisable as the man who fought Red Grant. It doesn’t help that Connery is older and, with the best will in the world, slightly less lean than he once was. Less a caged tiger, 007 has become a toothless old circus lion fooling around with clowns.

Which isn’t to say Connery, or the film, don’t have their moments, but they’re few and far between and sandwiched between some incredibly dull set pieces.

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The pre-title sequence is clearly supposed to show Bond getting revenge for the death of Tracy, but it falls flat, in part because this is a different Bond and a different Blofeld, and in part because there’s no sense of threat. Connery’s camp hand gestures don’t help, and while Grey is wonderfully effete later on, here it’s just very obvious that this isn’t the hard-edged git who killed Tracy (well, technically the getaway driver of course).

Once we get into the film proper, those warning signs from the first section grow louder. I happen to like Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, they’re amusingly lethal (except when it comes to 007 who they go to Dr Evil lengths to avoid killing at one point) but they’re also exceedingly camp. Watching them murder their way through the diamond route is surprisingly good fun though (fun fact, Bruce Glover is Crispin Glover’s dad, which technically makes Mr Wint Marty McFly’s granddad, kinda)

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Bond really is a smug git, and Lee has some lovely facial expressions here, you almost imagine M might be quite happy if someone offed his most insufferable agent.

There’s a nice Moneypenny scene—in uniform again, and apparently she and Connery filmed their bits separately—as Bond takes the place of diamond smuggler Peter Franks. I liked this bit, it’s always good to see 007 go undercover and do some actual spying, and he’s back to being a policeman again it seems.

In Amsterdam he meets Tiffany Case who, for some reason keeps changing her hair. Bond is of course a perfect gentleman (not) and the collars and cuffs line is a trifle cringeworthy.

All’s going well until Peter Franks escapes and makes it to Holland. Cue a decent fight in a lift, after we’ve seen Connery snogging himself outside, and after a rare example of Sean doing an accent. “Who is your floor?”

Sadly the fight’s undercut somewhat by Bond slipping his wallet into Franks’ pocket for Tiffany to find. Not only do we discover Bond has his own Playboy card, but it seems Tiffany has heard of Bond, in fact she makes it sound like everyone’s heard of Bond—though clearly nobody’s seen him! It’s a terrible moment for a spy, and marks the beginning of the “Your reputation precedes you, Mr Bond” era.

Then it’s off to Vegas and the camp goes through the roof. There’s an argument that Bond always feels slightly out of place in the States, and never more so than in Vegas. I love Vegas, but it’s brash and colourful and obvious, everything 007 shouldn’t be, and the gangsters here seem like a throwback to the fifties and sixties. Gotta love an undertaker named Slumber though.

After a brief dalliance with Plenty O’Toole, Bond finally seduces Tiffany; or is it the other way around? After Plenty is mistaken for Tiffany and killed (in a scene that doesn’t make any sense without the deleted scene where she nabs Tiffany’s address) Ms Case decides to nominally join the side of the angels.

Fun fact, the clown balloon game Tiffany plays in Circus Circus? I’ve done that!

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“Who’s he, your mother?”

Bond finally discovers the diamonds are being used by Dr Metz to build a satellite at a remote research facility owned by mysterious billionaire Willard Whyte. And then we get two of the dullest car chases in the franchise. I’m not sure why they’re faking a moon landing there, nor am I sure why the astronauts stay in character and move in slow motion even as 007 nicks their moon buggy, but the resultant chase is yawn inducing, and soon afterwards we get a bland car chase through Vegas, which even the two wheel stunt or a proto JW Pepper can’t save.

maxresdefaultThankfully Bond’s infiltration of Whyte’s penthouse is wonderfully done, cool, nerve-wracking and very James Bond, and his confrontation with two Blofelds is nicely done too, and whilst his plan doesn’t pay off, his trick to try and ID the real Blofeld is smart thinking.

Why the hell don’t Wint and Kidd just kill him when they get the chance though?

Bond rescues the real Willard Whyte, after first reinforcing the patriarchy by nearly drowning Bambie and Thumper, but he’s too late to stop Blofeld launching a rocket, and before you can say “One million dollars” Blofeld has a laser armed satellite in orbit that he’s planning to sell to the highest bidder, though to paraphrase Number 2 in Austin Powers, why didn’t he just content himself with Whyte’s billions is anyone’s guess.

As diabolical lairs go, an oil rig is a trifle banal, and whilst a more exciting finale was planned, what we actually get is, well again a bit dull, and Bond’s plan to swap a marching band tape for Blofeld’s master control tape is about as half arsed as you can get.

Still at least Bond finally gets revenge for Tracy by, er, making Blofeld seasick or something.

I do quite like Bond’s final, and fatal, battle with Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, though the films ends as it began by being as camp as a row of tents.

Really this is a Moore era Bond film that just happens to feature Connery, and whilst Connery tries to lighten his performance, you can’t escape the conclusion that he’s a man who isn’t right for this film. He’s not the animalistic Bond he once was, yet isn’t charming enough to pull off a lighter Bond the way Moore will.

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As Tiffany Case, St John starts well, but it’s all down hill from there. Initially she’s a cool and sassy professional, more than happy to change sides if it’ll keep her out of jail, but by the end she’s a squealing bimbo who seems to have lost half her IQ—the scene with the submachine gun is just terrible. It’s a shame. Jill St John was gorgeous and could have been a great Bond girl.

With Grey we get our third Blofeld in a row, and is it even the same man? Forget his appearance, his entire attitude has changed, and it is mildly amusing when he exclaims that science was never his strong suit, given in the last film he was running a bioweapons laboratory. Fair dues though, he’s the only Blofeld who could pull off a dress, and probably the perfect Ernst Stavro for this film.

The soundtracks good of course, and its always nice to see Q in the field, not sure he should really be running a heist in the casino, however.

Bringing back Connery no coubt kept the franchise ticking over I guess, but this is a new era for 007, and to be successful in the 1970s you really need something…Moore…

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