Posted by: dougery | April 25, 2011

Better Late Than Never: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Above all else Diamonds Are Forever (1971) is a predictable course-correction in the Bond movie franchise. It is also a shameless cash-grab, ridiculously campy, ofttimes entirely nonsensical and hilarious despite itself.  Yet these were already the defining traits of the series. Diamonds follows a limp-wristed attempt at kind of sorta maybe pushing James Bond in interesting new directions with a calmer, quieter, somewhat classier and most importantly, more romantically inclined Lazenby. When he wouldn’t return tv’s Adam West was approached (good lord what kind of Bond would that have been?) as well as Dumbledore (no seriously, Michael Gambon turned down the role too).

So producers Saltzman and Broccoli piloted a jet laden with English pounds over to Connery’s private island and gilded sovereign state to beg him to come back. Made a deal to produce other non-Bond films and so forth. So for the seventh Bond film (such a missed opportunity, that magic number) Sean Connery returned as Morrissey James Bond.

The following is a list of things that actually happen in this movie:

a) Bond is accosted by two female body guards named “Bambi” and “Thumper” (naturally they all end up in the pool).
b) A car chase down the Las Vegas Strip that wrecks twenty police cruisers (conservative estimate).
c) A moon buggy chase in the desert southwest followed by…
d) An ATV chase (see above) driven by what look to be proto-Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
e) Bond kills a man by drowning him in shit. (okay, fine, icky brown ‘super-heated mud.’)
f) Bond uses mountaineering equipment to climb a Casino.
g) Bond converses with and befriends a rat (no, seriously).
h) Bond tries to bed a woman named Plenty O’Toole but only succeeds in shagging Tiffany Case.

And finally, the omnipresent theme of Real v. Substitute, Impersonation, doppelgangers and mistaken identity. By my count there are at least seven major plot elements that involve this theme.

Blofeld is first seen creating copies of himself through plastic surgery before he is killed (and by him I mean one of his many fakes).
The aforementioned Plenty is killed because she is mistaken for Tiffany.
The villainous Kidd and Wint partners are inseparable and seemingly cannot function or even speak without constantly saying each others name. A typical pun filled exchange after they place Bond in a coffin headed down a crematorium:

Mr. Wint: Very moving.
Mr. Kidd: Heartwarming, Mr. Wint.
Mr. Wint: A glowing tribute, Mr. Kidd.

Blofeld has a device that mimics the voice of mogul Willard Whyte.
There is counterfeit money and counterfeit diamonds all over the place.
Felix Leiter, the American CIA agent is always in the wings, 007’s yankee twin ready were James to fail.

Course-correction I said? Its funny but Diamonds are Forever seems obsessed with authenticity, of driving back to what is real. Perhaps it is afraid that Bond has become nothing but a campy characterization of itself.

Thus the only logical way to proceed would be to kill off all fakes and impostors. So at one point, while impersonating the smuggler Peter Franks, Bond kills the real fellow and then convinces Tiffany he has just killed James Bond. That’s right, in this film

Bond gleefully takes credit for killing himself.

And that isn’t even the last time 007 pulls the old impersonation trick in Diamonds are Forever. This damn thing is like a hall of mirrors, extending infinitely in every direction.

And the one-liners… Jiminy Christmas. A sampling, in a review already full of lists (I apologize, they are how I think):

When asked where the diamonds are located on a corpse Bond says “Alimentary, Dr. Leiter.”
While visually assaulted by Plenty’s decolletage the young woman introduces herself “I’m Plenty,” to which Bond replies “Of course you are.”

It gets better.
She continues, “Plenty O’Toole,” and Bond riffs, “Named after your father perhaps?”
After slipping a cassette in Tiffany’s bikini bottom he jokes, “Your problems are all behind you now.”
and so forth.

Groaners the lot of them. Which is not to say Diamonds Are Forever is legitimately funny. Because often enough it is. Just never when it is trying to be.

Bond Grade: 003 (out of 007)


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