Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diamonds Are Forever: Vegas Baby

Diamonds Are Forever - 1971

Bond: Sean Connery
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Produced by: Harry Saltzman & 
Albert R. Broccoli
Theme: "Diamonds Are Forever" performed by Shirley Bassey

And suddenly it's the seventies. It's amazing how On Her Majesty's Secret Service released in 1969 is so classically sixties, while Diamonds Are Forever released just two years later in 1971 is so tragically seventies. Connery enthusiasts like to give Roger Moore a lot of shit for the campy Bond films of the seventies and eighties. I just have one question for them: Have they seen Diamonds Are Forever? What could be campier than Bond in Vegas, gay henchmen, and Blofeld in drag? The franchise had already gone there before Moore came along, Moore just played it well. Better than Connery for that matter.

Connery's a fish out of water in this movie. A relic of the sixties trapped in the seventies going through the motions for a paycheck. He looks old with his graying hair & toupee, and he's a good decade older than Lazenby in the previous film. He was lured back to the part by an astronomical £1.25 million pay day. The producers had signed American actor John Gavin to play the part, but the studio wanted Connery back at any cost. £1.25 million is £20 million in 2012 pounds sterling. That's quite a cost, plus they had to pay Gavin's contract in full, but it paid off as Diamonds made over $116 million.

And it's not like Connery took the money and used it to buy a yacht or a private island or something. He was already loaded. He used the money to start a charity in Scotland. Can't blame him for cashing in, but his heart and mind are definitely not in this one.

In a blatant attempt to pander to an American audience that stayed away from OHMSS in droves, most of this movie is filmed in the US and features the first American Bond girl, Jill St. John:

The previous film is ignored almost entirely. Diamonds opens with Bond trying to hunt down Blofeld. One assumes it's to get revenge on (OHMSS SPOILER ALERT) Blofeld killing his wife, but it's never overtly stated. Connery plays the revenge-drive Bond with about as much emotion as someone trying to flag down a customer service representative at Banana Republic.

The only other allusion to the previous film is a WTF look Bond gives Moneypenny after she asks him to bring her back an engagement ring from Amsterdam. It's a typical Moneypenny request, but considering (OHMSS SPOILER ALERT) we just saw Bond's wife murdered on their wedding night, it's in terribly bad taste. Hence, the WTF look from Bond. Otherwise you could watch this movie after You Only Live Twice  and never know there was another movie in between, making it even easier for me to view OHMSS as a stand alone tangent.

It's interesting to note that had Lazenby stayed on and Peter Hunt returned to direct, Hunt planned on ending OHMSS with Bond and Teresa driving happily away from their wedding. (OHMSS SPOILER ALERT) Her murder would have then come in the pre-title sequence in Diamonds. Then we would have had a direct sequel with Lazenby playing a brooding love-sick revenge-driven Bond that we don't get until Quantum of Solace. It's tempting to imagine such an alternate Bond universe, but it would have also robbed OHMSS of it's poignant and atypical Bond-ending.

SPECTRE is never mentioned in the film, and this is the last film where Blofeld is mentioned (he appears briefly in For Your Eyes Only). That is because it was just after this movie that courts ruled that Kevin McClory owned the rights to those characters from his work on the original Thunderball script. Blofeld is played by Charles Grey, who you may recognize as the actor who played Bond ally Dikko Henderson in YOLT. This always confuses me, mostly because every time I watch YOLT I think "He's a bad guy! Don't trust him!" Then he gets killed and I think "oh, right."

Not that this movie is all bad mind you. Seeing Bond gallivanting around Vegas in the seventies is priceless. Although, Bond is a little too classy for Sin City. The only thing missing is Elvis. And Jill St. John is certainly easy on the eyes, especially in her purple bikini. As is Lana Wood as the improbably named Plenty O'Toole. It's a little too bad the original idea for the film's villain, Auric Goldfinger's twin brother, was scrapped. I'm not sure if he would have been Mr. Diamondhand or what, but it would have been fun to see Gert Fröbe back in action.

Personal Rankings:

  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. You Only Live Twice
  4. Dr. No
  5. Diamonds Are Forever
  6. Thunderball
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service - In a place all to itself 

1971 Context
President: Richard Nixon
Queen: Elizabeth II

The Ed Sullivan Show goes off the air and All in the Family premiers.
Disney World opens.

Best Picture Nominees:
The French Connection

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