Diamonds Are Forever (1971 United States)

diamondsmustang5rg7.303What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, probably. After seeing this, oh so many moons ago, I have to admit to feeling severely stirred, but never shaken. Almost every line hits you with naughty double meanings. Then, just when you think you are in a smutty comedy, it turns very sinister, not to mention surreal. This uses camp to pad out the lack of action very well.

You have two of the creepiest hit men ever seen on screen thrown in there. By today’s standards, they’re not too politically correct. But whether it was then or now, they still seem to have been airdropped in from a much darker story. Richard Maibaum’s revenge-driven Bond script was rewritten by Tom Mankiewicz into a light-hearted, witty spoof of the earlier 007 films, ignoring his wife’s death, and concentrating on gadgets, sex, and superhuman heroics. Director Guy Hamilton was brought back to direct the project…and producer Cubby Broccoli, bowing to pressure from the 007 audience, approached Sean Connery to take the role one more time. He did not work out and looks very middle aged.

The comedy-orientated Diamonds Are Forever would become one of 1971’s biggest hits. Connery tossed off one-liners with ease, Jill St. John ‘channeled’ Lucille Ball in her performance as klutzy ‘Tiffany Case’, and Charles Gray would be sexually ambiguous rather than threatening as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (His two henchmen would be gay as well, and so caricatured that the homosexual community would protest the film). Loaded with car chases, fistfights, explosions, sick humour about death and gadgets galore. Bond ‘purists’ were appalled by the end product, but a successful new ‘formula’ had been created, one that would serve Roger Moore very well during his long tenure as 007: harmless, high tech camp.

Blofeld Diamonds are Forever holding gunThroughout the film, Sean wears a sardonic smile. His whole demeanour says: ‘Look, I’m only back because I’m being paid a million dollars’. Frankly, this works on screen very well. Sean looks older, rougher, more world weary and ready to take the role with a good pinch of salt. Jill St John makes for a fantastic heroine. She plays a vastly different leading lady role to the Bond chicks of the 60s. She’s a smart alec, wise cracking, hard nosed so and so. Her relationship with Sean is great – more brother/sister than romantic.

It’s great to see a woman busy with her own strong agenda; she’s more interested in getting what she wants rather than submitting to Bond’s ‘incomparable charm’. As for the hired killers – they rank as the best villainous henchmen of the entire franchise on par with ‘Odd Job’ from Goldfinger. They are a seriously camp and disturbed pair of old queens. The producers of Diamonds were either extremely intelligent or just damned lucky that they decided to use and abuse dozens of cars in a variety of smash ’em’ up chases and stunts.

The Moon buggy chase through the desert and the police chase through Downtown Las Vegas are two of the more amusing ever filmed, and certainly inspired numerous copies throughout the 1970s. I think this is a Bond film worth watching because it does not take itself seriously, and the franchise had not yet been overwhelmed by hi-tech gadgetry and increasingly pointless stunts. This is a slice of very surreal entertainment. Definitely one of the best.



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