After George Lazenby abruptly left the series, following his one and only outing as agent 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli tried to find a new Bond replacement but United Artists had decided that Sean Connery was needed back to save the franchise and with a then-record $1.25 million salary offered for his return Connery was back as Bond, James Bond.
This seventh Bond entry is another mostly in-name-only adaptation of Ian Fleming’s book, in the novel Bond was tasked with uncovering and infiltrating a smuggling ring and while undercover as a house burglar turned smuggler Peter Franks he meets up with an attractive gang member named Tiffany Case, a woman who had developed a strong antipathy towards men after being gang-raped as a teenager. Needless to say, this doesn’t stop Bond from falling in love with her or her with Bond and the two manage to topple the smuggling operation. In the book, there is no part for Blofeld or SPECTRE and their inclusion here is an attempt to keep the “Supervillain” motif alive in the franchise as we clearly can’t have Bond involved in anything as low stakes as diamond smuggling, so the screenwriters had to bring in Blofeld and space-based laser weapons.
While taking the smuggling element from the novel, as well as a couple of characters, the movie version of Diamonds Are Forever finds James Bond (Sean Connery) on the hunt for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray), who we see kill during the pre-credit sequence, but as it’s hard to keep a good villain down the movie introduces the plot device of Blofeld having several look-a-likes for Bond to kill. With Blofeld presumed dead ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) tasks Bond to head to Amsterdam to uncover a smuggling ring that could be stockpiling diamonds to depress the prices. Sure, hurting the economy is bad but not all that exciting so the movie really amps things up with the diamonds being used in the construction of a laser satellite, because of course we have to have a laser satellite, and while impersonating a smuggler by the name of Peter Franks (Joe Robinson) he encounters Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) who is to help smuggle the diamonds into the United States.
Throughout the film anyone who comes in contact with the diamonds are brutally murdered by a pair of homosexual assassins named Mister Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mister Kidd (Putter Smith), whose sexuality is in this film has nothing to do with the plot but a holdover from the novel and isn’t the best representation of the gay community, but what’s almost more distressing is how bad they are at their job. We see them quickly kill off numerous targets but when it comes to Bond they decided on elaborate methods to dispose of him rather than simply putting a bullet into his head, which puts them in the category of worst Bond henchmen. Now, I know it’s a Bond flick and the “Talking killer” cliché is king in this franchise but things reach new levels here as not only do these professional killers fail to end Bond but Blofeld himself has Bond at his mercy twice and fails to simply pull the trigger.
• In this film Blofeld is being portrayed by Charles Gray who had already appeared in You Only Live Twice as Bond’s MI6 contact Henderson, were Donald Pleasence or Telly Savalas not available?
• When Bond plants his own I.D. on the body of smuggler Peter Grant we get Tiffany Case exclaiming “You just killed James Bond?” This begs the question, just how well known is James Bond if even someone like a random smuggler would recognize the name?
• Poor Plenty O’Toole is the rare Bond girl who dies at the hands of the villains but who doesn’t actually get to sleep with Bond first, is that progress?
• While sneaking around the Willard Whyte’s Tectronics facility Bond uses a Scottish accent, which is a cute little bit considering actor Sean Connery is actually Scottish.
• Bond has been subjected to many death traps over the years but Wint and Kidd stuffing him in a section of a yet to be buried pipeline has to be one of the dumbest yet. For this plan to work it would rely on none of the construction workers seeing the obviously unconscious man lying inside the pipe or Bond waking up before it was buried. Even with those two somewhat implausible things happening Bond is still able to escape this “Death Trap” with relative ease.
• Tiffany recognizes Blofeld passing through the casino while in drag, which is odd considering she’s never met him before in or out of women’s clothing.
• Blofeld’s base of operations for the space laser is an offshore oil rig, which is the location our heroes have learned, yet instead of launching an immediate airstrike they have Bond show up at the facility in the hope that he can quietly switch out the control tapes. What’s sad here is that he actually fails to switch tapes and the facility is then destroyed by American attack helicopters, making Bond’s entire involvement in the film’s conclusion completely irrelevant.
Overall, Diamonds Are Forever is a rather lacklustre outing for the franchise and not helped by the fact that Sean Connery was displaying a Dad-Bod at the time and was probably in the worst shape of his career, then the film also fails to provide much in the way of great Bond action – this is mostly due to how much of the budget went to Connery’s salary – and though the moon buggy chase from Willard Whyte’s facility was fun it wasn’t anything special. But to me, the most damning element was in the casting of Charles Gray as Blofeld when they could have easily used Telly Savalas as that would have made Bond’s desire to hunt him down more personal as this was the man who killed Bond’s wife at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as is, we get Charles Gray giving us a campy Bond villain, one who was about as threatening as Burgess Meredith’s Penguin from the Batman television show.
The film does, at least, have a rousing John Barry score and I found Jill St. John to be one of the better Bond girls as she shows a bit more spunk and fire than most – though the film does undercut this by turning her into a ditz during the climax – and the plot about nuclear blackmail and space lasers is not only ridiculous but scientifically inaccurate as, apparently, no one told the screenwriters that you can’t make a laser out of diamonds, and Connery was clearly in this for the paycheck which he did give to charity, so that’s nice, but altogether this resulted in a less than engaging Bond adventure. Diamonds Are Forever isn’t the worst of the Bond films it’s just guilty of a little too much camp and not enough sensibility in the screenwriting department.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Movie Rank - 6/10
It’s a shame that George Lazenby’s ego caused him to leave the franchise as a sequel with him hunting down the murderer of his wife could have led to a powerful entry, sadly, what we got was Sean Connery sleepwalking through the role and Charles Gray hamming it up as Blofeld