DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (director: Guy Hamilton; screenwriters: Richard Maibaum/Tom Mankiewicz/based on the novel by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Ted Moore; editor: Bert Bates/John W. Holmes; music: John Barry; cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Jill St John (Tiffany Case), Charles Gray (Ernst Blofeld), Jimmy Dean (Wilfred Whyte), Putter Smith (Mr Kidd), Bruce Glover (Mr Wint), Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewellyn (Q), Lana Wood (Plenty O’Toole), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Norman Burton (Felix Leiter), Joseph Furst (Dr. Metz), Leonard Barr (Shady Tree), Margaret Lacey (Mrs. Whistler), Joe Robinson (Peter Franks), Trina Parks (Thumper), Lola Larson (Bambi); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Albert R. Broccoli/Harry Saltzman; United Artists; 1971-UK)
“The clumsily executed climax reduces the quality of the film considerably.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was the seventh Bond film, a campy edition to the box office successful but already well-worn series. Sean Connery missed the train wreck at the box office of a sixth film entitled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), that starred Australian underwear model George Lazenby. To lure Connery to again play Bond, it offered the star over a million bucks, a percentage of the profits on the film, and an agreement of the studio to back two films of Connery’s choice.
Shirley Bassey sings the title song. Guy Hamilton (“An Inspector Calls”/”Funeral in Berlin”/”Battle of Britain”) directs this disappointing but nevertheless entertaining feature; it’s written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz, who never make clear what the plot is leading to (which in a film like this might not matter to most, but does indicate some fuzzy writing).
James Bond (Sean Connery) is after diamond smugglers and his assignment takes him to Amsterdam, where he poses as the smuggler Peter Franks and kills him in an apartment lift when he shows up unexpectedly. Making contact with the decorative Tiffany Case (Jill St John), Bond smuggles the diamonds into LA in the corpse of Franks with the help of CIA operative Felix Leiter posing as a customs inspector and then is almost cremated in the shady Slumber funeral home in the desert after delivering the body with paste diamonds. After escaping from that assassination attempt the next stop is onto Las Vegas with Tiffany soon in tow, where it’s learned that the smuggling ring could not only create a financial disaster but subject the West to nuclear threats. There are two perversely amusing homosexual psychopathic contract killers, Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover), innovatively eliminating all those connected on the pipeline of the smuggling organization, and Bond has now become one of their targets.
The trail now leads to the reclusive Howard Hughes-like Wilfred Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who runs his own space program and lives unseen in the penthouse in the Las Vegas casino he owns. When Bond ignores Leiter’s advice and breaks into Whyte’s penthouse suite, he finds there his archenemy Blofeld (Charles Gray) and his identical cloned double. Both Blofelds reveal that Whyte has long served as the perfect cover for the diamond smuggling, and by using a voice machine to imitate Whyte’s voice Blofeld has passed for the recluse. Bond after learning that it’s Blofeld and not Whyte who threatens the world’s security, kills the fake Blofeld by mistake. Bond is gassed in the elevator by Blofeld as he exits the penthouse and then dumped in a large oil pipe in the desert by Kidd and Wint. Bond escapes being run over by the robotic security machine by short-circuiting it and then sorts out where Whyte is imprisoned. The prisoner is guarded by two lethal karate-kicking girls named Thumper and Bambi, whom Bond must fight to gain access to Whyte. After taking care of the toughie gals Bond then must destroy the satellite launch base that Blofeld has armed with nukes, as the villain has threatened to blow up Washington D.C. to show he means business if he’s not paid off and the world’s nuclear programs are not turned over to him. In the meantime, a diamond encrusted satellite supporting a powerful laser beam has been lauched by Blofeld–which gives the film its title of Diamonds Are Forever.
It was actually a hoot with its lighthearted jokey and tacky approach to real socio-political problems such as nuclear blackmail and its bug-eyed assortment of villains, that is until the clumsily executed climax reduces the quality of the film considerably. We are thus left with just pleasant memories of the absurd Keystone Kops car chase across the Las Vegas Strip, all the wonderful techie gadgets, all the hot chicks wanting some action with Bond (including Natalie Wood’s sister Lana as one of the doomed Bond girls), Jill St John as one of the few Bond girls who not only looks hot in a bikini but can act, and of Bond stealing a moon rover from the Nevada space center and racing it across the desert’s testing ground while pursued by security in scooters. Though if you’re looking for a film that made sense, this one is certainly not it. That Bond is not immediately killed by his enemies but instead is repeatedly given a second chance which he takes advantage of to make his daring escapes look so easy, makes things not too credible even for such a fantasy escapist film as this one.
REVIEWED ON 2/13/2009 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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