James Bond Retrospective: Review of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

Sean Connery is back!  After George Lazenby’s less-than-stellar turn as Bond, the producers offered Connery a million dollars to return, which was a record at the time.  I taped this one off of television when I was about 8 or 9.  I watched it quite a bit back in the 80’s, but not so much in the past 15-20 years.  I always had fond feelings about it, so I was curious to find out how I was going to respond it.

This time 007 is undercover as a diamond smuggler named Peter Franks to investigate some missing diamonds.  He teams up with a fence, the sexy, but hard-nosed Tiffany Case.  But before they know it, several different baddies are after them and the diamonds.  They end up in Las Vegas when they think a millionaire named Willard Whyte may be involved.  There is also a villainous duo out for blood, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who work for the mastermind Blofeld.

I hated the Lazenby movie before this, so the pre-title sequence was a refreshing return to the Bond we love.  It begins with a man crashing through a window.  You see, in the last one, (spoiler!), Bond’s wife was killed by Blofeld.  So now, Bond is kicking everyone’s ass searching for him.  When he does find him, Blofeld is about to get plastic surgery, or so we think.  Before you know it, Bond kills a bunch of thugs (love the finger trap in his inside his shirt) and gets rid of Blofeld by throwing him into some boiling mud.  It was a great way to re-introduce Connery.  Then the terrific Shirley Bassey (returning to sing after GOLDFINGER) song.  This title track is among the best in the series.  So far, so good!

Then the movie starts right away by introducing us to Wint and Kidd, 2 (homosexual!) villains.  They steal diamonds from a doctor and then kill him by putting a scorpion down his shirt.  They blow up a copter, and then walk away holding hands.  What goofy shit!  But awesome goofy shit.  The pacing in this first half is nice and brisk.  There’s some good interaction between 007 and Tiffany.  She is NOT a mindless bimbo who is immediately taken by Bond.  She’s more of a challenge, which attracts Bond to her all the more.  There’s also a great fight between Bond and the real Peter Franks in a small elevator.  I love how Bond tried to get the first punch in, but puts his elbow through glass while winding up for the hit.  It’s pretty intense.  And there’s some thrills when Bond is trapped in a coffin, about to be cremated.

The second half gets a little more silly, but still fun.  While in Vegas, there are quite a few car chases.  One has Bond driving a Moon Buggy through the desert, and the other has him driving a sports car (sorry, I’m not a car dude.  It’s a red car!  OK?) through the streets of Vegas, which felt more like a Burt Reynolds movie (which weren’t around yet), but that’s fine.  Then Blofeld comes back.  Okay, so he isn’t bald or has a scar, but at least they cover it up by having the plastic surgery subplot.  Blofeld does feel more like Blofeld than he did in the last one.  The finale is classic Bond as it features a bunch of people running around on an oil rig while shit is blowing up.  And just when you think it’s over, it’s not, as Kidd and Wint show up for one of the more silly (yet violent) confrontations in Bond history.

Not sure if it was because of the big payday, but Sean Connery delivers a spirited, energetic and slightly campy performance as 007.  He doesn’t seem to be asleep like he did in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.  He doesn’t look all that great (he seemed to age 10 years in just 4.  At the age of 40, he looks closer to 50) this time out, but the girls still seem to go for him, so more power to him.  Still, he’s a lot of fun this time.  Jill St. John as Tiffany Case proves to be one of the best Bond girls.  She’s smart, sassy, sexy (in a Vegas showgirl kind of way), and even has a sense of humor.  Some of the jokes are at her expense, like when she shoots a machine gun and it throws her off the oil rig and into the ocean.  Love Bond’s reaction to her “disappearance”.  Charles Gray, despite not looking the part, surprisingly makes an effective Blofeld.  His voice, his slow mannerisms all seem right for the character, though when he appears in drag is rather questionable.  Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are a hoot.  I am a big Bruce Glover fan, who plays Mr. Wint.  He’s got such an interesting face.  Love that smile.  He is obviously having a ball hamming it up.  M, Moneypenny and Q all have moments to shine.  Especially Q, who is hilarious in a scene when he’s trying out some new magnet gadget on some slot machines.  Oh yeah, and Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole (“but of course you are”).  Yeah, she’s pretty busty, hough a tad irritating, so it’s good that her screen time was limited.

Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER) returns to the director’s chair, this time employing a different type of tone to the Bond franchise.  Where the other ones were a little more serious, this one definitely feels a little more campy, and has kind of a comic book feel to it.  In fact, this is how the rest of the series would be like throughout the 70’s.  I think some people don’t like this approach, but I think it’s awesome.  Instead of being over-serious, there is a sense of fun here that really hasn’t been present in the Bond series.  And again, John Barry has created a superior score for the movie.  Love the Moon Buggy theme!

After struggling with a few films to find the right vibe and tone for a Bond film, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER finds a nice balance that would work for a while.  It’s not great Bond (that would be FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE), but it’s good fun.  There’s gadgets, cars, chicks.  Wait a minute.  I forgot.  There are 2 other baddies that Bond battles.  Chicks named Bambi and Thumper, and they kick Bond’s ass.  It’s a pretty funny sequence.  Anyway, back to the wrap up:   I smiled during most of the running time.  There’s a couple of lulls around the halfway point, but there’s definitely enough action and humor to satisfy most Bond fans.  Not the best, but a good solid entry in the series.  ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Originally rated GP, but would get a PG13 today for some pretty intense violence, brief nudity, sensuality and a few cuss words.

– Running time: 1hr 59min.


Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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3 replies

  1. We disagree on this one. Never liked DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER much. Still, great review.

    • I agree with everything you said except for Tracy. She was great in the beginning but in the second half she seemed irritatingly weak. And I did not like their relationship and especially the ending scene.Tracy did nothing against the mythbusters attacking Bond, and she cared too much about the diamonds. I prefer the more serious plots, but the lighthearted tone is good too. I loved Bond toying with Blofeld, but again, why lock him in another room he can escape from?

  2. the first half of Diamonds Are Forever is some of the best Bond ever filmed! unfortunately it starts to fall apart somewhere between the reappearance of Blofeld (Charles Gray being the least interesting/effective of the actors to play him, though I never liked whiny Donald Pleasance either) and the horrible “out walking my rat” line, upon which the script turns increasingly lame both in terms of dialogue and action. For just one little example, Bond’s impersonating Saxby and Blofeld orders him to kill Whyte, so how exactly does Saxby himself show up on the scene with a rifle to kill Whyte? The finale was settled on as part of a last minute re-write of what sounds like an equally lame original ending, with Bond clinging to a weather balloon to chase Blofeld to a final duel at a salt mine! This might explain the cheap special effects that also mar the ending (though the short space shots are fine and maybe even better than those in Moonraker), and how about that cheap little globe with the toy satellite as Blofeld decides which city to destroy? Moneypenny hinting at a wedding ring seems awfully crude given Bond has just lost his wife and supposedly the opening of the film is Bond getting revenge on Blofeld for that. . . but sometimes I wonder, were the producers already trying to forget the relative failure of OHMSS (which I happen to think is one of the better Bond films in terms of overall production, tho I go back and forth on Lazenby’s performance)? is this why DAF starts out in a Japanese setting, as if we’re just a tick removed from the end of YOLT? Also in DAF Blofeld states that science isn’t his strong suit, but in OHMSS he’s right there in the lab mixing the toxins. One way to get around the continuity problem of Bond meeting Blofeld for the first time in both YOLT and OHMSS is to treat the Connery bonds as a set unto themselves and OHMSS as a one-off “reboot” (if you can ignore the title sequence with the scenes from the earlier films, and Lazenby fondling some of the props from previous films). The producers should have been more forward-looking since they couldn’t do OHMSS first cuz of logistics, if they intended to do OHMSS in it’s pure book form Bond has to physically see/meet Blofeld in OHMSS first because of the ancestry angle, in YOLT they should have used another henchman like Largo and kept Blofeld in the background to preserve the continuity . . . especially since Fleming’s book of YOLT was almost completely ignored and they could have done and did do whatever they wanted (the rocket inside the volcano was Cubby’s idea and I think most of the dumber ideas were Cubby’s). I still thinks it’s a shame Connery wasn’t in OHMSS, with Connery OHMSS could have been another From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, though even some Connery fans don’t think Sean could have pulled off Tracy’s death scene as well as Lazenby did (definitely Lazenby’s finest moment)

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