It’s been a dog’s age since I’ve blogged 007, and even longer since I hit one of the films. Too long, I agree. All I can say is the loss of Roger Moore hit me harder than I initially thought, and the next film in line to discuss — this one — isn’t exactly my favorite. Even so, the show must go on. It seems that Sean Connery felt the same. At the time, he’d scored a deal that gave him more leverage, and even though other films he’d done outside of Bond weren’t nearly as successful, he’d decided this one would be his last. And it was, officially. We’ll talk about the unofficial one when we get there. If he could make this film, the least I can do is blog about it properly.
Diamonds Are Forever was designed from the ground up to pay homage to all that the Bond franchise had built, but it was also intended as a reboot of sorts to gain the support of an American audience. For this reason, American actor John Gavin was initially cast. Given the perceived lack of success over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds was also intended as a sequel to You Only Live Twice, presumably ignoring Tracy’s death and the events of OHMSS. With that in mind, I’m forced to wonder why the shot up Aston Martin would need an Q-branch overhaul. Details are everything. And sometimes nothing when it comes to film continuity.
Either way, the producers weren’t exactly thrilled with Lazenby and were in no hurry to repeat the experience with another unknown, so they backed up dump trucks full of money and convinced Connery to take up the mantle one last time. The irony is thick in that at one point Bond “kills James Bond” in front of Tiffany Case, and in another sequence Bond is put in a coffin and nearly cremated. Could we be any less subtle about this?
The film itself is nearly a complete rewrite of the original Ian Fleming novel. The characters of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are pretty much the same, and Tiffany Case is still a diamond smuggler, but that’s about where the similarity stops.
This time around, Bond is infiltrating a South African diamond smuggling operation posing as Peter Franks. As M so eloquently put it, after Bond dispatches his archnemesis Blofeld in the pre-titles sequence, it was time for 007 to get back to work. With the help of Tiffany Case, Bond is able to intercept the diamonds, but only temporarily.
Ultimately we learn that Blofeld didn’t die after all (surprise!), and he’s used the diamonds to create a laser satellite capable of destroying any target on Earth. He starts with military nuclear installations in the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China. As an encore, he holds the world ransom in traditional Blofeld fashion, holding an auction. Nuclear supremacy goes to the highest bidder.
The character of multimillionaire Willard Whyte is a thinly-veiled version of Howard Hughes, who was a friend of producer Cubby Broccoli. Having Blofeld take over Whyte’s operations was a means to keep the character in play without referencing SPECTRE, thus potentially reducing legal issues already in play from Thunderball.
I mentioned up top this wasn’t one of my favorite Bond films. That’s not to say there aren’t things in it I enjoy. It’s Bond. There’s always something to enjoy. From the top down and by the numbers, this is everything a 007 film is supposed to be. The problem comes down to one of perception. Connery is incredible even when he’s phoning it in, but he’s still phoning it in. Charles Gray did a good job as Blofeld, but he’s no Donald Pleasence. Jill St. John is one of the more crafty and independent Bond girls, especially early in the franchise, but she comes across more than a bit abrasive for most of her scenes. One of the things that always bothers me is sound stage where they’re faking astronaut moon landing footage. I get the joke, but as someone who grew up with an undying respect for NASA and the astronauts, it just rubs me all wrong. It’s that “but” that I can keep applying to things that drives this one down the ranking list for me.
For this reason, I tend not to care enough to go truly in-depth on this one. It’s a struggle in the best of times for me to sit through it. When it hits the right notes, it still works, so at least there’s that much going for it. I will say this much for it. Even without the rest of the movie, the pre-titles sequence is extremely satisfying to watch, and it’s hard to argue with the return of Shirley Bassey for title song vocals. The movie’s pretty much downhill from there, but certainly not a disaster.