Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Directed by Guy Hamilton – The 7th James Bond Film; the 6th (of 6) Sean Connery Films – Starring Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Glover, Putter Smith, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, and Desmond Llewelyn.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER makes me like ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE even more. It’s not because DIAMONDS is a dull movie (which it is), but because it walks all over SERVICE in a manner far too disrespectful for a movie franchise that, at this point in its history, is actively telling an ongoing story.
When DIAMONDS opens, we see James Bond working his way up the SPECTRE ladder on his quest to get revenge on Blofeld for killing his wife, Tracy, at the end of SERVICE. (Technically, Blofeld just drove the car.) It’s all well and good at the start – Bond is cold and ruthless, knocking henchmen around and choking a woman with her own bikini top. It’s good stuff – hard and serious, just how revenge should be undertaken.
Things start to go wrong when he finally gets to Blofeld. Here’s Bond’s nemesis – the head of the biggest criminal organization in the world and the man responsible for killing the woman he loved – and the confrontation we’ve been waiting to see. Bond should be beside himself with rage and yet he and Blofeld end up having a chat and trading barbs like this is all some big game between poker buddies.
It’s a ridiculous confrontation, and it cheapens everything that happened in SERVICE. Throughout DIAMONDS, it’s like Connery and the filmmakers are determined to diminish everything about the Lazenby flick. The attitude that comes through is that Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg) was just some woman Bond fell for on his mission, and not his once-in-a-lifetime love. I don’t know if this is born from Connery being a dick or from the filmmakers desire to distance themselves from Lazenby, but it’s extremely disrespectful to everyone who worked on SERVICE and it ruins the franchise’s continuity. In later years, when EON was bascially just making stand-alone films, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but here it’s jarring. (If you’re watching the films in order; if not, it likely wouldn’t strike you as hard as it did me.)
Compare Bond’s obvious pain at losing Tracy in future films – Roger Moore visits her grave in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, Timothy Dalton is clearly pained when Felix Leiter’s wife tosses him the bridal garter in LICENSE TO KILL, and Pierce Brosnan turns downcast in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH when Elektra King asks if he’s ever lost anyone he loved. My favorite Tracy Bond reference comes in Moore’s THE SPY WHO LOVE ME, when the Russian female agent Anya recites some details from Bond’s biography. When she gets to the marriage reference, Bond is pained and changes the subject, causing Anya to remark that she’s surprised at his sensitivity on the matter.
But not Connery’s Bond – he treats Tracy’s death as if it were just some unfortunate thing that happened to some unfortunate woman.
Which, you know, I’ll say again – people who worship at the Connery Bond altar and I do not see eye-to-eye.
It’s not just Connery, either. The plot of DIAMONDS sees Bond getting involved in a diamond smuggling operation and when he replaces his mark, Moneypenny is there to hand him his new identification materials. Bond asks her if there’s anything he can bring back from Switzerland for her and she replies something like, “A diamond. On a ring.”
Moneypenny, you insensitive b*tch.
Bond just laughs it off and something silly and stupid like this is any other banter fest with Moneypenny. At the wedding between Bond and Tracy in SERVICE, Moneypenny was clearly affected by seeing Bond marry someone else and here she is back to trading quips about her unrequited love. It would all be acceptable if she was doing this in order to try and return Bond to a sense of normalcy, to stop him from going off half-cocked where he could get himself in trouble, but it’s not. It’s just Moneypenny being back to her joking, Miss Lonely Hearts self.
Bond goes off on his mission like he’s perfectly well-adjusted and back to the game, which is what the film wants. Forget that lingering pain bit. This is the first Bond film that really starts filling the one-and-done mold, where each film begins to exist wholly in its own universe. Up to now we’ve been getting a longer story, and DIAMONDS should be the end of this story but instead of feeling like this is the real end of the Blofeld and SPECTRE story, it just feels like this year’s cookie cutter Bond movie.
The film itself is painstakingly dull, which is mirrored by Connery’s almost complete disinterest in bringing anything to this role that isn’t on the scripted page.
Everyone always gets on Moore for being too old at the end of his run (which he was) but the same could be said for Connery here, too. (Let alone NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.) He moves like an older, stiffer man and everything he does is tainted with a sense that he’s done all of this before and done it better and just doesn’t care that’s a step slower.
There’s a pair of gay assassins in DIAMONDS who catch a lot of flack from the fans, but I think Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are actually the best part of the film. They’re something new, they’re funny, and they’re good at their job. What’s not to like? I love the idea of these two pasty middle-aged guys – one a frumpy, disheveled mess and the other a fashion-obsessed metrosexual with a wardrobe bought off the rack at Woolworth’s – killing everyone after they’ve handled the smuggled diamonds.
Jill St. John is terrible as the love interest, the stunts are all pretty blah, and setting the story in Vegas is a mistake. Probably the only thing that keeps Ms. St. John from taking her place alongside Denise Richards, Carey Lowell, and Talisa Soto among the worst Bond women is that she’s so completely forgettable in such a completely forgettable movie. Forgotten though her performance may be, she’s terrible here.
Charles Gray isn’t horrible as Blofeld, but it’s a step down from Telly Savalas. In Savalas’ hands, Blofeld was an aggressive force to be reckoned with, but with Gray, Blofeld is this “I’m so clever” master planner type who calls to mind Burgess Meredith’s Penguin more than the ruthless, visionary leader of the world’s biggest criminal empire.
It’s all one big, wet turd of a movie. It does have the decency to stay away from silly gadgets, but it also gives us a horribly goofy chase scene that sees Bond driving a moon rover off a moon landing set. The best DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER can manage is that it occasionally doesn’t suck.
Bring on Roger Moore.
Maurice Binder’s usually phenomenal opening titles are a bit weak here, but the Shirley Bassey title song is pretty darn great: