James infiltrates a smuggling ring to find out who is smuggling diamonds, and, in doing so, uncovers that his thought-dead nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has a nefarious plot to use the diamonds for some kind of space laser.
Bond, James Bond:
After a very brief run by George Lazenby, Sean Connery returns for his final official appearance as James Bond (he would return over a decade later in a non-Eon produced film called Never Say Never Again, which will not be covered on this blog). Prior to his previous film, You Only Live Twice, Connery had already been expressing frustration with the series and its producers, so, when the film wrapped, they were ready to move on. After Lazenby turned down a seven-film contract, the production company worked on casting the famous character again, and after several people declined, Connery was offered a larger contract than he had received for previous films, sweetened by the promise to produce two films of Connery’s choice. Connery accepted, utilizing the salary to establish the Scottish International Education Trust (proof that trash bag humans are able to do good things every now and then).
Connery’s return is about what you would expect from someone who hadn’t given a captivating performance as the character in seven years (1964’s Goldfinger). He has a few more moments of comedy than has been typical for him in previous films (although that is just a general feel for this entire movie), which he delivers well enough, but he is predominantly pretty checked out in this movie.
As a person, this isn’t James at his worst, necessarily, but this isn’t him at his best either. The film’s cold open is Bond tracking down Blofeld’s current location (no explicit mention of his dead wife is ever made in this movie, but it is not a difficult leap, considering the end of the previous film, that this is a personal matter). While doing so, he meets a woman on a beach, tells her there’s something he wants to get off her chest, and then rips the bikini top off of her and begins to strangle her with it. Later, he slaps another woman, because she isn’t giving him information. It says a lot about the prior films in the franchise that I can think about that moment and then say “well, it could have been worse?”
After the instrumental theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service blew me away, the production team returned to Shirley Bassey for this film’s title song. After she changed the Bond song game in the early days of the franchise with “Goldfinger,” she had a lot to live up to, and she does just that. Her voice is just so perfectly suited for this franchise, and this song matches it with some really booming horns and a bass line that changed my life for the better. They lyrics are focused on how “unlike men…diamonds linger.” Although it never reaches the heights of her prior effort, this comes impressively close, and finds itself among my top ten.
For the third straight film, our main villain is Blofeld, and, for the third straight film, he is portrayed by a different, albeit familiar, actor. Charles Gray briefly acted alongside Connery in You Only Live Twice as a British spy in the field in Japan, but returns here as Bond’s nemesis. Although no explanation is deemed necessary by the film, the semi-cloning plot line could theoretically suffice if the canon is that important to you (hot take: don’t let the canon be that important to you, it’s a living nightmare). Gray makes a decent enough impression as Blofeld, never feeling like any sort of impression of Pleasence or Savalas, but instead just feeling like a very proper British Blofeld. Unfortunately, compared to the look of Pleasence and the outright terror of Savalas, Gray just doesn’t come close to be interesting as a character. The clone plot, that allows us to briefly believe that Blofeld dies at the beginning of the film, and then the scene where James has to deduce which of the two Blofelds is the true Blofeld, does the real heavy-lifting on making this Bond/Blofeld pairing memorable.
The fact that this acts as Blofeld’s last official appearance until 2015’s Spectre (not including Never Say Never Again or a brief moment in one of the Moore films where he kills someone who looks remarkably like Blofeld) means the character goes out on a bit of a weird note. A villain as important to the franchise as Blofeld appearing in such a goofy film, all while cloning himself and being defeated by James constantly taking Blofeld’s escape submarine in and out of the ocean, feels wildly anticlimactic. Obviously at the time, they could not have known the legal trouble they were about to face (again, too complicated sounding for me to try to really explain), but it is disappointing that this is the goodbye the official goodbye the character would be stuck with for over four decades.
Admittedly, whoever had to follow-up Diana Rigg’s Tracy was going to have a lot to live up to, so in a lot of ways I feel bad for Jill St. John and Lana Wood. They already were going to pale in comparison, but this script does not do them any favors. St. John’s Tiffany Case starts out as a talented diamond smuggler, but eventually turns into a deeply stupid damsel in distress who threatens people with lines like “blow it out your pants” and “keep leaning on that tooter and you’re gonna get a shot in the mouth.” However, the pinnacle of her idiocy comes at the end of the film, when she and James are being attacked by Wint and Kidd (more on them in a bit, but, spoilers, they’re the best). James is getting choked out by Wint, and Kidd is approaching Case with two flaming swords, and her reaction is to remain seated and exclaim “eee!” Reading this is not enough, so below is a video. It’s truly a masterclass on how not to react to someone who is about to murder you.
Wood’s Plenty O’Toole (which, okay, sure, fine) only has a few scenes, and she basically plays a gold digger who follows James around once she finds out he’s making money in the casino. Wood does not give a strong performance here either, with yet another strange reaction to a threatening situation. She is bombarded by a bunch of men who have broken into James’ room. She questions if this is a pervert convention, and continues sass-talking the villains as the escort her to the window and her off of the balcony. She does not start screaming until she’s midair. Literally, as she is released, she is still sass-talking. This movie’s women have zero idea of how to properly react to murder staring them in the face.
I usually write about the henchpeople first in this section, but I hold the henchpeople in this movie in such esteem that I want to save them for last.
James has a handful of returning friends in this movie, including the MI6 triumvirate (M, Moneypenny and Q) and, briefly, Felix Leiter. The CIA’s Felix is portrayed this time by Norman Burton, and, like most other Leiters, does not make much of an impression, although he is not given very much time to do so in this movie. The MI6 group also does not get much to do in this one, with the exception of Bernard Lee’s M. Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny is only in one scene, giving James information in the field and asking him for a diamond ring (again, last time we saw her, she was at James’ wedding. I cannot stress enough how frustrating this canon can become). Q’s best moment is better discussed in the gadget section, so I’ll leave that for below, but I do wish he had more to do. Lee at least gets a couple of extended scenes, and he is, somewhat confusingly, in full Bond-hate mode. He seems genuinely upset that Bond has gone rouge and (seemingly) successfully killed their greatest nemesis. I understand going rogue is not ideal, but he did just kill a dude who has been giving you trouble for most of these movies. I feel like a “thank you” would have sufficed instead of claiming Bond needs to get back to doing some “good, solid work.” I mean, I’m always onboard for Sean Connery’s James Bond getting hate, but this just feels weirdly misplaced.
Of the movies I have seen so far, Oddjob is clearly the most famous henchperson, and for good reason. He has a murder hat, he’s kind of quirky, and he can hold his own against Bond. Misters Wint and Kidd in this film are two of the oddest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to watch in a movie, and I am so grateful for everything that they have done to increase my quality of life. Wint is played by Bruce Glover, and his performance is as over the top as you would hope for, coming from Crispin Glover’s dad. There’s a scene where Wint is pressing buttons, and all you see is the character’s hand, and even that feels overdone. He is paired with jazz musician Putter Smith who is on the complete opposite side of the acting spectrum and has clearly never acted before in his life. Somehow the combination of sceney-chewing and nap-taking create a wonderful impression on me, and every time these two oddballs showed up on screen, I couldn’t help but grin. It is unfortunate that the film seems to claim that their homosexuality contributes to how odd they are. Again, the standard phrase for these early films are that they are a product of the time, but I refuse to allow that to be a magic wand, forgiving them for their closemindedness. That being said, side-stepping that issue a bit, I still deeply enjoyed the time I got to share with these characters.
Although I don’t recall a full Q scene in this movie, it does have a few gadgets. Tiffany has a fingerprint camera, that is connected to some intense fingerprint database in her bedroom, which seems excessively high-tech for a random diamond smuggler, but it somehow fits in this movie. It also allows us to see James utilize a fake fingerprint, which was probably pretty awesome for the early 1970s (James then makes some quip about how one of Q’s gadgets were finally useful, further proof that he is a trash human being).
Both James and Blofeld utilize a voice changing machine that disguises their voices, which would be much more impressive in the film if the ADR was better.
There is an extended chase scene where James finds himself on a fake moon landing set where he steals an inexplicably well-functioning moon buggy. He drives throughout the desert and is chased by local police on odd three-wheeled bikes. If the scene had been scored by Junkie XL, it might have been awesome, but here, it just feels wildly out of place.
My favorite is probably Q’s slot machine ring, which helps him win jackpots every time. I love this scene because he is just casually walking to machines and winning jackpots as if he were Dougie Jones saying “Helllooooo” to machines, and then Tiffany Case shows up, calls him “Mr. Q” and then walks away as if the thousands of dollars he is winning is meaningless to her.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-For a series that has done an excellent job of ADR in the past, this film’s cold open is filled with people’s voices who aren’t even remotely matching their mouths. It’s heinous.
-At one point, James does the thing where he wraps himself in a hug and moves his arms, in order to mime making out with someone. It’s simultaneously impressively done but also the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s not because it reminds me of how lonely I was in high school.
-This film briefly goes to Circus Circus in Vegas, and I dearly hope that the costumes they had to wear in this movie do not actually match their uniforms.
-At one point in the casino, an elephant wins at a slot machine.
-At Circus Circus, a woman is billed as “the strangest girl ever born to live,” which is utter nonsense, but then her skill is that she can turn into a gorilla. I watched this at midnight after Thanksgiving, and I was just tired enough to think “how’d they do that effect”
-The fake moon base sequence is so odd. The fake astronauts chase him in slow-motion, as if impacted by the low-gravity in space.
-There are a startlingly amount of moments when we almost see James naked in this movie. Not sure why Connery’s sixth appearance is the one where we see him in varying stages of undress, but you do you, movie.
-At one point, James speaks to a rat. I genuinely do not understand most of this movie.
-Jimmy Dean is in this movie. As in, the sausage guy, Jimmy Dean. He is a terrible actor and has some odd line deliveries, but, I have to admit, him saying a guy who James murdered “should be fired” made me laugh louder than it should have.
-The diamond space laser sequence shows people just fully engulfed in flames. It is so startlingly in an otherwise goofy movie.
This is a very weird movie, especially considering what we had seen beforehand. Although, outside of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, none of the other movies were exactly dark, this movie leans so hard on the goofy it feels out of place (although, from my understanding, it might be a good way to ease oneself into Roger Moore’s films). That being said, the goofiness is endearingly entertaining, and Wint and Kidd are just exquisite henchmen, even if they are both giving strange performances. Overall, this isn’t a movie I would avoid (like Thunderball) but I don’t think I would ever show this movie to someone in order to help them understand the character. It’s just a wonderful, odd experience. 006 out of 0010.
TJ Hizer Will Return With: Live and Let Die, beginning my time with the longest tenured Bond, the late Roger Moore
Referencees Diamonds are Forever Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamonds_Are_Forever_(film) Diamonds are Forever IMDb Quote Page http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066995/quotes Diamonds are Forever Gadget Page http://www.universalexports.net/Movies/diamonds-gadgets.shtml Photo Credits Cover Photo https://i.ytimg.com/vi/bHmzwZ8h9oc/maxresdefault.jpg Bored Sean Connery https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/flx-editorial-wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/DiamondsAreForever.jpg Charles Gray Blofeld https://i.pinimg.com/originals/58/89/ef/5889ef409a2383c075d97722f774e19a.jpg Wint and Kidd http://www.writeups.org/wp-content/uploads/Wint-Kidd-James-Bond-Glover-Smith-h1.jpg Circus Circus https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/0d52d-diamondswaterballoons.jpg Astronauts https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/c31ad-bond2bdiamonds.jpg