After George Lazenby quit James Bond after just one film there was a scramble to find who would take on the mantle. However the studio had an idea – throw money at Sean Connery until he agreed to become 007 one last time. It worked. Connery was not the only returnee to the franchise, Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton signed on for his second film – and he would go on to direct the following two as well. Diamonds Are Forever had a somewhat better showing than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with box office takings of $116 million, but reviews were mixed due to a much campier tone than its predecessor.
Diamonds starts with Bond on the hunt of Blofeld, angrily taking down his henchmen one by one until he found his arch nemesis. Blofeld has a plan to create a body double of himself however Bond kills both the man who would become Blofeld and the man himself, thus ending his feud with SPECTRE.
With Blofeld out of Bond’s consciousness he is assigned a new mission, to figure out why diamonds are being smuggled and why whoever is doing it is stockpiling them instead of selling them on the black market like a good boy. We see clips of the smuggling operation in action, ending with the death of a corrupt dentist at the hands of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd – who seem intent on killing everyone involved in the diamond smuggling ring.
007 is sent to Holland to impersonate a smuggler called Peter Franks, this is where he makes the acquaintance of one Tiffany Case (Jill St. Jon) who tells ‘Franks’ his job is to smuggle the diamonds into the US. Bond, through the use of a fake fingerprint, gets Tiffany’s trust but his cover is almost blown when the real Franks shows up. A tussle in an elevator follows but Bond gets the upper hand and sends Franks several floors down. Bond tricks Tiffany into thinking that Franks was Bond, so she still believes Bond is Franks but Franks is dead because Bond, disguised as Franks, kills Franks and switches Franks’ ID with Bond’s wallet thus completing the ruse.
Using Franks body to smuggle the diamonds in the US – with a little help from old pal Felix Leiter – Bond attends a funeral service for the now dead Franks and is given the urn with the diamonds. However, as he makes the drop off he is attacked by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd who trap 007 in a coffin and are set to incinerate him. Luckily he is saved by the funeral director and the man who was meant to pick up the diamonds, Shady Trees, on the account of Bond using fake diamonds and they are quite mad about it. Bond promises to give the real diamonds to them when they pay him the real money.
Bond goes to a show where Shady Tree is performing stand up. Little did he know that he would no longer be performing stand up and would soon by performing LYING DOWN…DEAD. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd strike again. Bond then strikes up a conversation with a lovely lady with an eye for a rich guy in Plenty O’Toole. Yup, nothing quite Pussy Galore levels but boy is it getting close. Bond takes O’Toole back to his room but is rudely thrown out of the window and into a pool by guards working with Tiffany Case who also wants the diamonds back. She hatches a plan with Bond to pick up the real diamonds while he gets a rental car. Of course, she tries to trick Bond and escapes the CIA’s attention but comes back to her house to find Bond waiting for her and poor Plenty O’Toole drowned in her pool tied to a cement block. It seems Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd had a little case of mistaken identity. With her life in danger she decides to help Bond get the diamonds back. This would be the last time she actually did anything of any note for the rest of the movie.
Bond follows the diamonds to a laboratory owned by Willard Whyte, a reclusive billionaire who is definitely not meant to be Howard Hughes nope, no sir, definitely not at all. There Bond finds the diamonds are in the hands of a scientist called Dr. Metz along with a satellite. However Bond is then discovered and so he makes his dramatic escape on a moon buggy. With flappy arms. Remember when I said critics complained this film is too camp?
Bond and Tiffany move into the bridal suite of a hotel owned by Whyte and climbs his way into Whyte’s penthouse only to be faced by not one, but two Blofeld’s. Turns out Bond had killed the first body double earlier. The second body double has been acting as Whyte over the phone while the real Whyte has been kidnapped. Bond kicks at Blofeld’s cat to see which one it runs to and kills that Blofeld however it turns out there is also two cats now and Bond only managed to kill the other body double. Blofeld appears to let Bond go and Bond just casually accepts his invitation to leave via a secret elevator which obviously fills up with gas. He is then taken by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd and left inside a pipeline. Overnight. No one noticed. Which is then placed underground. With Bond in it. While he sleeps through the whole thing.
Bond awakens underground and notices he reeks of perfume – which Mr. Wint (I think?) uses. Bond eventually escapes the tunnel and with the help of Felix and the CIA rescues the real Willard Whyte. Together they discover that Blofeld has built a laser satellite with the diamonds he’s been smuggling and shoots a few missiles in USA and Russia to show off it’s power. Usual Blofeld shenanigans, he threatens to blow up a major city if he is stopped. Along the way Blofeld kidnaps Tiffany and escapes to his base, which Bond figures out is in Baja, California.
Bond arrives in time for Blofeld to decide to blow up Washington D.C. in order to force a response from the US Government. However, 007 is immediately captured but not before he successfully switches the control tape for the satellite with one that just plays march music however Tiffany, reading the situation hella wrong, switches the tapes back thinking that that’s what she was asked to do. The rest of Felix’s attack crew bombard the base with bombs and gunfire. Bond escapes his makeshift prison cell in time to catch Blofeld escaping in a little sub which is being craned into the sea. James takes control of the crane and using the sub manages to blow up the command station before escaping in time before it blows the hell up.
As thanks for saving the world yet again, Whyte puts Bond and Tiffany up in a fancy cruise ship. However there they are interrupted by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, masquerading as waiters. They put on a nice dinner for the guests with an explosive dessert – the dessert is a literally bomb inside a fake cake. Wouldn’t personally order it for myself, not after last time. However, Wint’s perfume gives him away and a scuffle breaks out. Kidd tries to attack Bond with shishkebab that has been set on fire but Bond throws alcohol at him, engulfing him and he jumps off the ship. Wint gets an even worse death, being attached to the bomb and thrown overboard – exploding to death. Yeah, that’s what I remember my bomb cake experience being like too.
SO, Diamonds Are Forever is considered a pretty weak Bond film and unfortunately…yeah. It is the worst one so far in this watchthrough. Connery’s charm does a lot of work here but at this point it really is starting to fade. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s tone suggested that we might get a more serious Bond from now on but in reality they really doubled down on the campiness and it has not really worked out in this case. A film being camp is not a bad thing but a film TRYING to embrace campiness never works as well. That’s why a film like Goldfinger works and this doesn’t quite hit the mark. That film is made with an earnest sincerity that Diamond forgoes in favour of ridiculous scenes and characters.
The scene where Bond escapes the facility on a moon buggy is usually noted as an example of how silly Diamonds gets, and it’s not funny enough to be classed as comedic. The humour in this film never truly lands for the most part. The car chase scene in Vegas which happens fairly soon after the buggy scene is actually pretty cool with one of the more iconic Bond moments – where he drives two wheels up a ramp to send the car at an angle to fit through a tight gap. That’s cool. Most of this film is not cool unfortunately. In fact it very much felt like the precursor of the Moore era, for better or for worse.
As for the characters well Tiffany Case starts off fairly intriguing, she’s part of the diamond smuggling gang and her increasingly complicated relationship with Bond as she tries to use him as much as he uses her to make sure she follows through with her side of the plan could have been quite interesting except she really doesn’t do enough throughout the movie to leave an impression on the viewer. Blofeld gets his fourth actor in as many films but the actor playing him here actually appeared as a character in You Only Live Twice, Dikko Henderson. I spent most of his scenes wondering why I recognised his face until I read the cast list and noticed Charles Gray’s name. Not a huge deal to be honest but when you’re watching all these in a short succession it’s a little distracting.
Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd though are…jeez. So they like to kill people, they make increasingly ludicrous quips after each death – when sending Bond to be cremated they call the service “a glowing tribute” and “heart-warming” for an example. However the characters are treated like oddballs and then you add the fact that they are heavily implied to be a couple which wouldn’t be a problem if this film wasn’t made in 1971 and yeah it’s not treated with respect. They’re not good characters and they add a problematic layer for a modern day viewer.
Diamonds Are Forever feels…off. It just feels like nothing is quite coming together – the title track is pretty good with Shirley Bassey returning to perform it, but a lot of the score feels empty. I remember thinking that the song that plays during the buggy escape scene just sounded bad whereas the car chase scene for the most part was soundtracked by nothing but car engines and police sirens. You’d expect this to be accompanied by a big boombastic backing track but there’s just nothing.
Overall, I think Diamonds Are Forever just feels tired especially compared to its predecessor which has aged really well. This felt like taking two steps back, tripping over a loose wire and then falling out of a window. It really is a skippable Bond film and it might just be the worst of the Connery era.
FINAL SCORE –