CAST: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Grey, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Glover, Putter Smith, Desmond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Joe Robinson, Norman Burton, Joseph Furst, Lana Wood, Bruce Cabot, David Bauer, Marc Lawrence, Sid Haig, Leonard Barr, Laurence Naismith, David de Keyser, Shane Rimmer, Lola Larson, Trina Parks, Ed Bishop
RUNNING TIME: 120 mins
BASICALLY…: James Bond (Connery) impersonates a diamond smuggler and heads to Las Vegas, where he uncovers a major plot by his old nemesis Blofeld (Grey)…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
With No Time To Die being pushed back all the way to November, the world needs its fix of Ian Fleming’s ace secret agent to tide them over until then. That’s why, every week until it finally comes out, we’re going to be taking a look at each previous movie in the series to see if, and how, they hold up today.
This week, Sean Connery returns for one final outing as James Bond (not counting the unofficial entry Never Say Never Again in 1983, which we’re not covering during this retrospective, by the way) in Diamonds Are Forever. Connery’s return, after George Lazenby declined to reprise the role, came despite the actor’s growing disenchantment with the part during the last couple of his entries, but a then-record £1.25 million salary enticed him back (which, to his credit, the actor used to establish the Scottish International Education Trust); Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton was even brought on board to replicate the success of that film, and presumably to ensure that this film would meet the high standards set by that other one.
In short, this is no Goldfinger; in fact, this might well be the low point of Connery’s run as Bond, because it certainly doesn’t feel like it was made to work around the actor’s natural charisma, which is noticeably on auto-pilot here, and it’s considerably more ridiculous than any of the previous ones.
This one begins with Connery’s Bond searching obsessively for Blofeld – if that’s due to what happens at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, presuming it is indeed in canon with the others, then a) he seems to have gotten over it very quickly, and b) he’s not exactly being very subtle about it. Either way, after he presumably finishes Blofeld (now played by Charles Grey) off for good, he’s drafted in to go undercover as diamond smuggler Peter Franks, in order to investigate a ring of criminals who seem to be stockpiling South African diamonds for nefarious purposes. Bond’s ruse brings him into contact with fellow smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), and towards the city of Las Vegas where Bond and Tiffany dig deeper to uncover the reasons behind the stockpiling, as well as who may be behind the whole operation (no prizes for guessing who it may be).
You can tell that the producers of this film were starting to lean towards a campier tone for the series, from its tongue-in-cheek humour to some laughably silly action sequences to some extraordinarily random moments that defy even the simplest of explanations. Unfortunately, similar to how they didn’t entirely figure out the exact tone in Dr. No, there’s something about this movie that just doesn’t seem right, and honestly a lot of it has to do with having Sean Connery in the lead role. When you put Connery’s suave and sophisticated portrayal of the character in a film that’s a lot more reliant on silly humour and imagery that’s straight out of a Blake Edwards movie of the time, you’ll start to notice the glaring differences between the film’s overall tone and the way that the character is both performed and written. If this had been Roger Moore’s first go as Bond, then it would have been a different story because that would have been par for the course for the rest of his era, but not only does Connery’s version really not fit along with the vibe of the rest of the film, but it barely seems like Connery is even remotely interested in the part anymore. He spends most of his scenes looking like he’d rather be playing another round of golf than listen to another gadget demonstration from Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, or flirting with some of the more obnoxious Bond girls of the earlier films with Jill St. Clair being mostly useless and Lana Wood as the aptly-named Plenty O’Toole serving as yet another disposable piece of eye candy.
While it’s definitely campier than Connery’s previous outings, in ways that don’t even seem like it’s taking place in the same universe as them, the movie is also rife with a world-domination plot that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When you start to hear about diamonds being used to dismantle the world’s weapons via a laser-beam satellite, as well as introducing voice-altering technology to hide the identity of the glaringly obvious main villain, it suddenly dawns on you that Moonraker is hardly the first in this series to dabble in science-fiction. There are also several moments and characters in this film which are so strange that they need their own explanation; there are these two weird henchmen who pop up every now and then in the movie, who talk and act like they’re mobsters out of a 40s gangster movie but look like the unholy team-up of Jerry Lewis and Matt Lucas’ Andy from Little Britain, there is a chase scene with the silliest-looking moon buggy that people in cars seem to have a difficult time chasing down; and there is an entire 30-second scene dedicated to an elephant winning a jackpot on a slots machine.
None of that is made up, by the way; these are actual things which exist in this Sean Connery Bond movie, and it’s easy to see why the actor decided to jump ship for good afterwards, because the series no longer seems to match the star who helped bring it to life.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Diamonds Are Forever suffers from an overly campy tone, which feels completely mismatched with the suave and sophisticated portrayal of Bond by Sean Connery, who doesn’t even seem interested in the material anymore as he plods his way through one ridiculous sequence after another with little regard for the overall direction this series is starting to lean towards.