Given the current climate where the world gets news so instant that it hasn’t even happened yet, I wanted to be as up to the minute as I could be with this latest James Bond post. So after the struggles of walking down to the basement via stairs that the children have polluted with every single awkward sharp angled toy known to civilization, I grabbed yet another James Bond DVD box set with due haste and made the long journey back to the upstairs television.
After losing several Sherpa guides, most of our water, and the last of the Little Debbie snack cakes that I had so meticulously packed for this trip, my party emerged back up at the top floor of my home. I embraced all of the survivors like brothers and promptly fired them all. This way I wouldn’t have to pay them for participating in such an overdramatic reiteration of a retelling of how my children have way too many little plastic toys that manage to pierce through every nerve in your foot when you step on them. (When you step on the toys that is, not the children, although they are bony as well.)
I looked at my hand, saw nothing, and then looked at my other hand that actually held the Bond set. Let me tell you after such an overwrought excursion that was explained in such an overwrought sentence earlier in the above overwrought paragraph, a 007 adventure would prove to be the right ticket! And I knew the perfect one to watch as I continue on my ascent up the Bond movie ladder…
Yes, there was only one obvious choice: coming in at number 4 from the bottom, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. Oh, I know what you’re saying, “Hey man, I made it through your lackluster prose this far and you’re going to reward my efforts with this Bond movie?! You are a sad little man and a huge wanker.” Well, golly. I thought I knew what you’d say, but I didn’t know it would be that hurtful. Hm. Oh well, I’m going to press on anyway with some of my piercing insights and dreadfully witty repartee and overblown commentary. And as always, dear reader, you’re welcome!
Of course the late, great Sean Connery was the first Bond of the series and it rightfully made him a star. He was handsome, debonair, rough, tough, and had a Scot brogue that helped him woo the ladies along the way. He propelled the series through 5 movies in 6 years and helped it become a global phenomenon. Connery parlayed that fame by being able to work with Hitchcock in Marnie and Sidney Lumet in the underrated The Hill. (He also wasn’t shy about using or not using hairpieces along the way. Connery is unique when it comes to stars with receding hairlines: he can work with a rug, just as well without it. I submit this for consideration: did a toupee help him win an Academy Award for The Untouchables? Hm? Thank you, I rest my case.)
But after experiencing the unending swarm of fans while filming on location in Japan and playing James Bond for so long, Connery walked away from the role in 1967. The Bond series went forward without Sean and Connery’s career didn’t really light up the box office. (Shalako, anyone? No? Didn’t think so.) But EON had their new Bond in the meantime and went into production on the sixth Bond movie.
Yet when the preceding movie, 1969’s The George Lazenby Bond Movie That Shall Not Be Named Even Though I Like It A Lot,made ten dollars less than the immoderate extravaganza that was You Only Live Twice, the panicking Bond movie producers decided to do something novel: offer Sean Connery more money than had ever been printed before and beg, plead, and cajole him to return as 007. Sean reportedly thought about it for a moment and eloquently said, “Yesh.”
But what story to pick? There were still some 007 novels to choose from, but I cannot imagine why they went with Diamonds Are Forever. It certainly isn’t one of Fleming’s best, what with Bond in a rather pedestrian mission, battling gangsters in Las Vegas. This resulted with Diamonds Are Forever being the first movie in the series that took great liberties with the source novel and most of the time not with great effect. If you haven’t read the book, which is fine and I forgive you, here’s everything carried over to the movie: James Bond, Tiffany Case, the fact that they are in Las Vegas, and the two hired assassins of Wint and Kidd. Oh, and Bond is English in both the book and the film for the sake of continuity.
So Connery is back! This should be a good thing, right? What’s my problem with this one? Certainly not the score, because I believe that the best John Barry Bond scores were from 1967 to 1971. This film is his last truly remarkable 007 score and he deserves extra kudos for bringing back Goldfinger’s Shirley Bassey to sing the title song. Shirley should have sung every single theme song in the series. (Well, except for “Writing’s On The Wall” from Spectre, because no one should sing that. Ever. In fact, I don’t think that song was released as much as it escaped.)
Perhaps it is another Bond in the U.S. of A. plot that never really fires on all cylinders for me. I am thankful though that the producers did not include that awkward deleted scene with Sammy Davis Jr. in the final cut. Ye gods, this is where we’re at in the series in 1971? Celebrity cameos? Wonderful. I guess the circle comes completely around when Roger Moore shows up in The Cannonball Run.
Connery just appears tired in this movie and seems bored. Almost as if he wanted to get done with his shooting schedule so he could take a nap or go golfing or both. Oddly enough, he looks fitter and more energetic in Never Say Never Again, which was filmed twelve years later. Another remarkable point of interest is that over the course of the “official” Bond series, as Connery’s hairpieces become more noticeable, his eyebrows are progressively thickened and darkened to somehow distract the viewer. Of course it distracts from the story as well, which is just fine.
If you are familiar with the events of the previous movie’s plot, Bond’s wife Tracy was shot and killed by Blofeld, even though the Aston Martin she was in at the time should have had trusty Q Division bulletproof glass already installed in the windscreen, but I digress. So Tracy’s murder is the rather powerful motivating factor for Bond hunting after Blofeld in the follow-up movie which eventually ended up being Diamonds Are Forever.
Yet the point that Bond even had a wife in the first place isn’t brought up at all in the flick. Not one bit. In fact, Bond’s entire journey to hunt down Blofeld and seemingly kill him at the beginning of this movie is treated later with cavalier disrespect by M, who says “May I remind you 007, that Blofeld is dead. Finished! The least we can expect from you now is a little plain, solid, work.” Whoa! What a bastard! No compassion? M sure showed empathy when Bond was getting married, but now he’s back to being a crotchety martinet? Perhaps he saw how much Connery was getting for being in this flick and was rightfully testy…
Even worse comes later in the same scene when Bond asks M if they know who a diamond smuggler’s contacts are. M replies “We do function in your absence, Commander.” Then he rolls his eyes. I always wanted Bond to reply, “Oh, are you referring to that absence where I hunted down the bastard that killed my wife? Or was there some other absence you had in mind, YOU CANTANKEROUS OLD PRICK?!”
Speaking of the pre-credits sequence, we are introduced to our third visual incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, this time played by the effervescently fey Charles Gray. Now I’ve enjoyed Gray in other roles such as playing Mycroft to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes and of course as the Criminologist for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He even played pure evil incarnate in The Devil Rides Out. But as Blofeld? Well, he makes you wish for the miscast Telly Savalas and pray for the petulant and whiny Donald Pleasance.
Bottom line: I simply can’t believe a Blofeld that would seemingly want to date Bond rather than kill him. Now while I certainly admit that would be a far more complex and interesting angle to take the character in, any resemblance to characters with depth in this film is purely coincidental. That being said, Gray seems to have a certain amount of fun with the role and he’s definitely the perkiest Blofeld out of the lot of them.
As long as the topic of butch characters has been brought up, let us get to the dual assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. As I haven’t read the Ian Fleming novel in quite some time, I cannot for the life of me remember if they were originally portrayed as being this gay. I guess after using big Korean dudes with lethal bowler hats and then random guys in color-coded jumpsuits, the next logical step would be having two gay killers in your evil organization’s employ. However, as they never share any scenes with Blofeld, perhaps they are just killing for the sake of killing throughout the movie.
Oh by the way, Mr. Wint is played by Bruce Glover, who is the father of neverendingly weird and talented Crispin Glover. Can you imagine a 6 year-old Crispin hanging out with dad on the Bond set? This would make a far more interesting story I think.
So let’s look at Blofeld’s plot. He is stealing diamonds in order to have them placed into a satellite with a laser beam that he will use to zap fry stuff all over the world. He then demands money while he controls everything from an old oil derrick in Baha, California? Have I got that right? And Dr. Evil’s plans sound ludicrous when you say them out loud too. At least he’s got Robert Wagner being all Robert Wagner around him when you hear them.
I’m sure there’s a terrific reason why the United States couldn’t just bomb the living hell out of that location, making Blofeld into breathable dust particles. What that reason is, we don’t ever find out. The movie is far too busy making sure we get to see Charles Gray in drag before the end credits start.
Given the plot issues, at least the producers didn’t go with a story that would have cast Goldfinger‘s Gert Frobe coming back to play Goldfinger’s evil twin brother as the main villain. And yes, that almost happened. Ye gods.
Jill St. John isn’t the greatest Bond girl but she isn’t the worst. Kind of like the rest of the movie, you walk away just feeling a range of bleh to annoying about her. Jill St. John could’ve learned some groovy espionage stuff from when she went out with Kissinger for a time, bringing some ideas to the table. But unless Kissinger said that the best recruiting the State Department ever did was when they got homosexual assassins that banter with lousy puns, Jill St. John never shared any spy tidbits.
I guess the biggest problem I have with this movie is that it just plods along without much excitement all the while looking like a made for TV James Bond Movie. Roger’s first two Bonds suffer from the same film shooting style as well. It just feels like Jim Rockford or Dan Tanna is going to pull up at any minute, which at least means the driving stunts will start to be a lot better. (And Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton directed all three of these films. Hmmmm…)
I don’t want my Bonds to be pedestrian and boring and Diamonds Are Forever is dreadfully dull. There are some moments of forced wackiness (“Bond in a moon buggy?! That is so kooky, eh?”), but they do not charm.
At the end of the day, yes, we all missed Sean as Bond, okay? But the whole movie seems like a test to see how much nonsense they could put the audience through in order to see Sean again. “Well, you wanted him! Here he is picking up a random gold-digging American bimbette at the craps table. Still want more? Okey dokey! Here he is doing it while wearing a white tux amongst the American rubes on the dingy floor of the Golden Nugget. Still more? How about an elephant that wins at a slot machine? Wow, you must love Sean! How about if we let cornpone Jimmy Dean steal scenes from him? You got it!”