Sean Connery as James Bond 007 in Ian Fleming’s “Diamonds are Forever”

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The previous film ended with George Lazenby as Bond crying over his dead wife.  Lazenby is out and Connery is back in, but that wife-murder seems like an event that needs addressing.   And so the film starts with a montage of Bond torturing people in order to find Blofeld. The sequence is played broad, culminating in Bond ripping the bikini top off of a woman and strangling her with it, which is meant to be hilarious, not cruel and ugly. It is clear from the start that Bond-as-Human has been written off as a failed experiment. The filmmakers have returned to Bond-as-Hideous-Monster.  The problem is, the makers of the film seem to be chuckling along with his boys-will-be-boys antics.

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While Bond searches, Blofeld is arranging to create a surgically modified doppelganger of himself, a man that appears identical to him in all ways. Of course, Blofeld is now played by Charles Grey, a man with no neck, no facial scar, and plenty of hair, and who previously played a murdered good guy in You Only Live Twice. Maybe that guy was secretly a Blofeld doppelganger all along.

Before Blofeld can make his duplicate, Bond arrives and gleefully drowns him in some sludge. Blofeld’s kitty cat cries in distress. And it appears that anticlimatically, that is that. Bond has had his revenge and can move on from the previous film. At no point in this intro sequence is Tracy referenced.

The credits are super weird, prominently featuring Blofeld’s cat and of course diamonds. The song is good, sung by a returning Shirley Bassey, but it sounds weird to my 21st century ear due to the lack of Kanye West. Also, man, we have clearly left the 60’s behind and are now stuck in the 70’s.  By which I mean every aspect of this movie looks garish and ugly.

After the credits, we witness a diamond smuggling operation go bad. Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are a pair of bizarre homosexual assassins who have started killing everyone involved in a particular operation. The filmmakers clearly think the notion of gay killers to be a self-evidently hilarious one.

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Bond has been tasked to investigate an increase in diamond smuggling which seems pretty penny ante for 007. He is sent to Holland to pose as a smuggler. There, he meets the eye-rollingly named Tiffany Case. Somehow that stupid pun name bothers me more than “Pussy Galore” or any of the others.

Bond kills the dude that he is pretending to be while Case watches, and then he swaps the corpse’s wallet for his own. She finds the only piece of ID the man has: James Bond’s Playboy Club membership card. “Oh my God! You just killed James Bond!” James Bond is so famous of an operative, random smugglers in Holland know of him.

Bond’s investigation leads him to Vegas on the same plane as Kidd and Wint. There are all sorts of unfocused, poorly-paced shenanigans that we are given no reason to care about, including a near-miss live cremation and a trip to the circus. At one point, gangsters throw a girl Bond has brought back to his room out of a window so that Case can sleep with him.

Bond’s goals during these antics are completely opaque. He seems to have no plan others than fuck with some random diamond smugglers and fuck some random women and see what happens. One thing that happens is that Bond seems to stumble upon the site where the moon landing was faked, leading to a protracted chase scene with Bond in a stupid-looking moon buggy.

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Eventually, Bond concludes that a millionaire named Willard Whyte is the key bad guy, although I honestly cannot follow why. Felix Leiter (yet again recast: this time older and grouchy) has not been convinced that Whyte is a criminal, so Bond sneaks into Whyte’s office at the top of a hotel/casino.  Er, or actually he sneaks into Whyte’s ridiculous super-bathroom, complete with telephone, closed-circut television, and computer.

Upon leaving the bathroom, what Bond discovers is Blofeld, alive and well and still Charles Grey. Actually there are two of them. One is a doppelganger but it is unclear which one is real! Apparently Bond murdered a duplicate earlier?

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Blofeld has been posing as Whyte although he looks like what we are apparently asked to believe he as always looked like, despite having access to ridiculously sophisticated face-change technology and despite being the most wanted criminal in the world. Instead he just apparently likes to make lots of copies of himself.

The Blofelds gloat that Bond cannot take action because he would not know which one of the two to kill. Bond responds by kicking Blofeld’s cat and shooting the Blofeld it runs toward in the head. It seems like a clever (albeit cruel) solution but after the the surviving Blofeld draws his gun on Bond a doppelganger cat saunters into the room.

Screenwriting nerds like to talk about “save the cat” moments, which are scenes where the hero performs an action that establishes the noble nature of the hero who might otherwise be unsympathetic to the audience. James Bond goes a different route.  The best scene in this movie is the one where the hero kicks a cat as part of gambit that fails.

Rather than shoot Bond, Blofeld gasses and delivers him to Kidd and Wint who take his body out to the desert and stick him in a large pipe while he sleeps. Bond survives this because it is not a death trap. It is an inconvenience.

Back in his hotel, Bond uses a Q-supplied voice change device to trick Blofeld via phone into revealing the location of the real Willard Whyte.  He turns out to be in his own summer home.

Bond arrives at the summer home to discover Bambi and Thumper, two female killer acrobats who clearly love their job. They kick Bond’s ass right up to the moment where Bond beats them in an act of truly pathetic filmmaking. The acrobats have the upper hand right until the end of the fight when they just sort of relent because Bond needs to win the fight, completely unearned. Bond wins because he is the white imperial alpha male. Bambi and Thumper lose not because they screw up or are outfought, but because the universe in which they live cannot allow them to live.

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Bond finds the real Willard Whyte who is, I guess, a good guy. While he attends to Whyte, Blofeld escapes the casino, dressed in drag for no good reason, while Q uses a gadget to cheat at the slots for no relevant plot reason.  This is not a movie concerned with reasons.

One hour and thirty five minutes into this film, the real plot of the movie, which up until now has ostensibly been about diamond smuggling is revealed. Blofeld has used Whyte’s resources and many many smuggled diamonds to construct a diamond-powered orbital death ray, capable of destroying all the world’s nuclear armament. Rather than ransoming the world, Blofeld is opting to auction nuclear supremacy to the highest bidder.

It is worth noting that there has been no reference to SPECTRE in the past two films.  Blofeld is now portrayed as a lone mastermind, with resources to be sure, but nothing approaching the scope of the organization he ran for the first five films, with no word of what happened to it. He also has lost his penchant for shooting unexpected people.   He’s been reduced to little more than a neckless jerk in a Nehru jacket.

Bond parachutes into Blofeld’s pretty sweet oil rig secret base and immediately surrenders to Blofeld’s men, because most of his endgame plans start with being captured by an enemy who doesn’t want to kill him but instead wants to hang out and gloat. Tiffany Case is lounging on the deck of the oil platform, for no adequately explored reason.

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Case, played by Jill St. John, has been a pretty large presence in this film, even though she has no real motivations, no real competencies, and randomly shifting alliances.  Despite all of this, St. John is easily the most likeable person in this movie, which peversely makes her seem even more out of place in this bleak, unpleasant film.  Her character has negligible effect on the plot and no real reason to be in the film.  She exists to wear ugly revealing clothing and have sex with Bond.

On the oil rig, there is a bit of nonsense where Bond and Case both swap out the tape that contains the codes that control the death ray activation codes with a fake, canceling out eachother’s efforts. In a real movie, the audience would be led to believe that they had failed to successfully swap them but that there had actually been a double-bluff. But in Diamonds Are Forever, the scheme just flat out fails.

A bunch of helicopters proceed to attack the base. Felix is onboard, so I guess they are CIA? Blofeld tries to escape in what appears to be a tiny submarine, but Bond lifts it with a crane and just starts fucking with the villain like a high school bully, swinging and banging the sub all around.  After a bunch of that, he and Case jump off of the rig shortly before the helicopters destroy it and also presumably Blofeld. The bit of business with the tapes was completely unnecessary, all that was needed was tho blow up Blofeld’s base with helicopters.

Later, as Bond and Case relax on a cruise ship, the two homosexual killers arrive posing as waiters. Kidd and Wint serve them a meal including a pastry with a bomb inside it, which Wint oh so cleverly calls “la bombe surprise.” Bond recognizes Wint’s terrible aftershave and and thus is able to ever so subtly defeat his gay assailants by setting one aflame and literally shoving a bomb up the ass of the other. This is the classy note that the film ends on.

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This movie is utter garbage. The plot is incoherent and stupid and the filmmaking is consistently lazy. It is a mean spirited and ugly film that leaves the viewer feeling like they need a bath afterward. Even the set dressing and costuming are unattractive and grungy.

This is Connery’s last canonical Bond appearance and I am ready to see him go.  The Bond of this film is a monster again, but he’s no longer the cool ruthless bastard of Dr. No or From Russia With Love anymore. He’s just a petty bully who gets to be cruel and smirk because the world is built to give him whatever he wants.

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