The good, the bad, and the Bond: Re-evaluating 007 – Diamonds Are Forever
WITH the unceremonious departure of George Lazenby, we now move on to the discussion of Sean Connery’s final, contentious picture: 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.
Daniel Abbott: I’ll level the field here: Diamonds Are Forever is undoubtedly the weakest Bond film of the Connery era. It’s burdened with lacklustre characters, impenetrable narrative machinations and a lead actor who visibly loathes his decision to return. The special effects are often laughable – as Andrew will demonstrate – paling in comparison to previous instalments, and its depiction and treatment of women is even more insidious than usual. It’s a hot mess that seems to act more as an awkward transition from the Connery era to the Roger Moore era, foregoing its own personality in the process.
What charm Diamonds does have lies in its more elemental aspects. Ignoring the fact that the plot makes little to no sense is easy when we consider the thrilling car chase in the middle portion, with Bond evading the Vegas police by tipping his Mustang onto two wheels. It evokes the raw muscularity of Bullitt, framed in more claustrophobic environs, momentarily capturing some grit before reverting back to its tone of heady camp.
The film’s sense of daft spectacle, otherwise bogged down in a cartwheeling plot and sagging performances, fully manifests with the re-appearance of Blofeld, played this time by Charles Gray. Gray is a godsend, imbuing Blofeld with chipper smugness. His master criminal is self-assured, sartorial and articulate; he is eternally unruffled, even when standing opposite his own
clone body double. Gray’s performance blends paradoxical contempt and respect for Bond’s exploits; he’s never threatening, like Pleasence’s version, but he is delightful in his pristine mannerisms.
Diamonds Are Forever prefigures the rampant camp of the Roger Moore films, hurling Bond into lavishly absurd scenarios that beggar belief. It’s impossible to take seriously when one of its centrepiece moments is a lengthy chase where Bond eludes quad-bikers in a moon buggy. Director Guy Hamilton of Goldfinger – who would later man the Moore classics, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun – set the tone for the Bond of the 70s: Richly vaudevillian nonsense buoyed by colourful villains, exotic locales and veritable harems of sexy ladies with plunging necklines.
It’s not necessarily a change for the better, granted, but it is a change in direction; the Bond series doesn’t get enough credit for taking risks within its own franchise. And even though a record $1.25 million salary couldn’t coax Connery into giving a shit, Diamonds Are Forever is still an entertaining enough romp with, incidentally, one of the finest themes in the series from Shirley Bassey. It’s not the most inspired Bond, and it’s certainly the least cohesive Connery film (including the underrated Never Say Never Again), but it’s perfectly good fun on its own terms.
Andrew Noel: What do you get if you mix a chunky middle aged man, a dreary plot and a load of continuity errors? Why, it’s Diamonds Are Forever! After George Lazenby’s one-shot attempt at Bond, the producers paid Sean Connery a record sum to come back and reprise the role. As a result, Diamonds Are Forever is a lot less bombastic than its predecessors.
When I say less bombastic, I mean…. really boring.
Where was the fun in this Bond picture? Where were the gigantic sets? The gadgets? The big fighting scenes? Nope, instead we have the same length of Las Vegas strip being used over and over again. There’s also a distinct number of scantily clad women throughout the film. I mean, this isn’t unusual for a Bond film, but I only counted one woman actually wearing real clothing (Miss Moneypenny). It would seem like the writers of this film decided to fill the void where there should be classic action scenes by capitalising on their demographics’ libido.
When there aren’t women in bikinis cartwheeling around the set, the storyline is actually quite dull. It’s all about getting diamonds from one place to the other, and then there’s some money or something. I won’t lie, I ended up being incredibly pacified by the whole procedure; it was a strung out, bland procession that left me pining for From Russia with Love. The special effects don’t help either; I know technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, but surely a missile exploding should be shown with more than just a small puff of smoke? The scenes of interest are sporadic to say the least and when they do appear they’re plagued by continuity errors or stupidity.
Take that classic scene where Bond tries to lose a police car by tilting it on its side and sliding down an extremely narrow passage. It’s probably one of the film’s most iconic scenes, but is ruined by the car magically flipping which side is slanted. Or the scene where Bond is being chased by some baddies and cleverly decides to hide from them. When he comes out to tackle one of the guards, the guy just casually sits there, waiting to be taken out.
So was it worth it; this drab storyline, over sexualisation, even by Bond’s standards, and continuity errors, for Sean Connery? Well quite frankly, no. Connery doesn’t up the game of Bond anymore than he did in previous instalments, and, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t look his best. Bond is a less a suave, sophisticated spy, more like a middle aged man running around. All that money, all that potential, for near enough nothing.