The Our Word Is Our Bond series continues with Graham Payne making his debut on the MoM website, offering his analysis of Diamonds Are Forever (1971) starring Sean Connery, Charles Gray and Jill St. John.
Diamonds Are Forever marks Sean Connery’s return to playing Bond in the “official” franchise (for a widely reported high fee, which was in part used to kick-start his Scottish International Educational Trust foundation); but you get the sense that the film is parading Bond’s final mission before retirement, similar to Roger Moore’s final outing A View To A Kill. Moore was unavailable at this time to take over the Bond role, as he was contracted to film The Persuaders TV series with Tony Curtis. The film is also one of the most overtly violent and sexually explicit in the series to date.
It also, to some extent, marks the first time in the franchise that the film is a sequel to the preceding one, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The second Bond movie From Russia With Love did contain references to avenging the death of their operative Doctor No, and the recent Daniel Craig movies all have common threads between them. This movie’s pre-credit sequence commences with Connery’s voice and fist dispensing various henchmen to obtain Blofeld’s whereabouts – starting in Japan, then moving to Cairo, where following the “hit me” gag in the casino, he is told to find Marie. This is the first time we see Connery, an older and more outraged figure, swaggering onto the screen, his eyes as taut as his toupee – he almost immediately starts strangling Marie with the bikini top he’s torn from her – although the intensity of this assault is diminished by the “there’s something you need to get off your chest” quip.
This time Bond’s nemesis Blofeld is portrayed by the character actor Charles Gray, who seemed to enjoy camping it up, and indeed in one short scene later in the film, disguising as a woman. We see him for the first time dressed in grey uniform, complete with cigarette holder, awaiting plastic surgery to escape the avenging Bond. Gray had played the soon dispatched Henderson in Connery’s previous Bond entry You Only Live Twice – Diamonds also includes cameos by UK-based American actors Ed Bishop and Shane Rimmer, who had both appeared in Connery’s previous outing as 007.
The often confusing plot centres on Bond being sent to investigate the smuggling of diamonds out of South Africa, and he assumes the identity of the recently detained smuggler Peter Franks (who later escapes, ensuing one of film’s few hand-to-hand combat scenes in an Amsterdam lift). His contact in Holland, Tiffany Case (born in the store whilst her mother was looking for a wedding ring), is played by US actress Jill St John, who quips “You just killed James Bond” while swapping his Playboy club-card onto Frank’s body.
Although they do not have a confrontation with Bond until the film’s cruise-liner set finale, two of the more memorable villains in the movie are Blofeld’s sinister operatives, and implied lovers, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd – they are seen at the beginning of the film in a desert killing a courier with a scorpion, and later disposing of the body of another courier, an elderly schoolteacher, found floating in the Amsterdam canal.
Bond then travels (with the diamonds hidden in Frank’s body) to Los Angeles, where he is met by the local Mafia in a hearse and driven to the Slumber Inc. funeral home in Las Vegas, where Morton Slumber and Blofeld-stooge Shady Tree discover the diamonds have been taken from Frank’s coffin – relinquishing Bond from an untimely cremation – then moving to a Las Vegas hotel casino “The Whyte House” owned by Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), on the premise of procuring the real diamonds. The Whyte character is based on the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, who the Bond producer Cubby Broccoli knew.
After meeting Plenty O’Toole (“I’m Plenty” she says, playing up to Bond – “Well of course you are”, he replies) – played by Natalie Wood’s sister Lana – in the casino, she is tossed from the balcony in his hotel suite by Tiffany’s heavies, with Bond saying “Exceptionally fine shot.” The heavies’ reply: “I didn’t know there was pool down there…” There then follows a rather contrived and messy scene involving a payoff to collect the diamonds in the casino, and a theatrical show involving a gorilla-gone-wrong (you can see the actor’s eyes clearly in the suit), then a trip to Whyte industries’ subsidiary Techtronics desert base. After a moon buggy chase, the film’s infamous car chase through the streets of Las Vegas occurs. Veteran director Guy Hamilton had returned to UK to prepare shooting other scenes, leaving the filming of the chase finale to others, leading to the goof of the car entering the alley tilting right, but existing on its left side. The shot of it changing was added later.
Bond then enters Whyte’s penthouse to be confronted by Blofeld and his double, who is running the imprisoned Whyte’s empire from there by telephone using a voice box. He tries to kill Bond, first with the lift floor opening and then later being trapped in a tunnel by Wint and Kidd, exiting from an access opening. The real Whyte is then freed from the property he is being held at, following a confrontation with the exotic Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks).
Blofeld kidnaps Tiffany by encouraging her into a car dressed as a woman. The primary endgame is played out on an oil refinery off the Mexican coast. Bond arrives parachuting from a plane, where Blofeld is planning to use a diamond-powered laser-armed satellite to wipe out Washington DC. Again, pitfalls in the script show through with convoluted scenes of swapping the cassette tapes to reprogram the control systems. After marines attack, Blofield retreats to his escape pod, which Bond smashes against the control tower, but he escapes as usual.
The finale is set on a cruise liner, where Wint and Kidd, acting as waiters, deliver a meal to Bond and Tiffany’s cabin, with the latter being dispatched overboard with the bomb in the dessert strapped to his genitals.
This is an average movie in the series, but does as act as a transition from the action set pieces of the sixties to a more technologically complex world of the seventies Moore films.
MoM Rating: 6/10.