Diamonds Are Forever:
If you thought it was weird having Sean Connery get replaced with no explanation, then it’s even stranger to have him randomly return with no explanation either. I discovered that Oor Milkman agreed to star in DaF for the (at the time astronomical) sum of £1.2 million, which he then used to found a charity, The Scottish International Education Trust.
A noble aim, but personally I think he should have asked for another million. This film was a real slog.
So the movie begins with plenty of ‘He’s Back!!’ fanfare, with Bond going on a bloodthirsty rampage to try and kill Blofeld. Remember what I said about James Bond movies not really having continuity in the same way we think of it? Well that’s especially egregious here. The film can’t make up its mind about whether it’s supposed to be a sequel to YOLT or OHMSS, so it’s kinda a continuation of both, and is entirely dependant on how much the viewer wants to pretend that Lazenby never existed.
Bond appears to find and dispatch Blofeld with relative ease, and kills him in a particularly humiliating way: dunking him into what looks like a hot-tub filled with molten custard. Not only that, but Blofeld is played by Charles Gray, e.g. the Narrator from Rocky Horror, which makes it impossible for him to be intimidating (“It’s just a jump to the left!”).
Then the titles begin. I was a bit taken aback by this: the Mastermind of all Masterminds, the big bad of the last five movies, is killed in five minutes by a custard bath? Ah well, at least it’s better than Ant-Man exploding out of Thanos’ butt.
In a lot of ways, it feels much more like a prototype Moore film than a Connery outing. Remember the Bond formula I outlined earlier? Yeah, that’s fully in place now, and it’s going to stay with us for another seven features.
The plot involves Bond investigating a diamond smuggling ring, which feels like small potatoes compared to what he’s usually up against.He travels to Amsterdam and meets with Femme Fatale Tiffany Case by breaking into her apartment while she’s undressed, making a filthy comment about her pubes, and threatening to grind her beans if she doesn’t talk. (What? Don’t complain! He’s the Archbishop of Banterbury!) Bond and Case then fuck off to Vegas.
Bond in Vegas is a funny thing. You’d think he’d go hand-in-hand with the casinos and the decadence of Sin City, but Vegas in the 70s (remember, this is the same year that Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo supposedly went on their psychedelic sabbatical) is so tacky and garish that Bond looks out of touch and out of place there. The other poker players are all wearing Hawaiian shirts and baseball caps while he swans about in a white tux like Jay Gatsby.
He then meets up with Plenty O’Toole (her parents must have hated her, it’s the only explanation) who we think is meant to be the Final Girl, but actually ends up being the Random Bint. She’s horribly killed in a case of mistaken identity by Mr Wint and Mr Kidd.
Ah yes. Now, there are some redeeming features to this film, and Wint and Kidd are one of them. Now, it’s always fun to have a pair of quirky hitmen called Mr X and Mr Y, but Wint and Kidd excel because they turn out to be a couple.
Yes, at last the franchise gives up with subtly coding the villains as queer, and just openly says: “Yup, these hitmen are gay as Elton John’s dressing room; gotta problem with that?” Interestingly though, they’re not played with effeminate mannerisms with some Kenneth Williams character, but just happen to be two gay partners (in more ways than one) who really enjoying murdering people together.
Okay, so their assassination methods are always very OTT, but they always follow them up by trading aphorisms and taking the piss. Plus, you know, they do seem to actually care about one another. There’s one scene where you can see them holding hands, and in another Wint appears jealous when Kidd remarks that Tiffany is quite attractive “for a woman.” That’s more than you can say for Mr ‘Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Man’ Bond. It’s not great LGBT+ representation, but they are treated as a serious threat, and Bond at least doesn’t say anything overtly homophobic to them (his quips are an entirely different kind of offensive).
There’s also a bizarre scene where two female acrobats called Bambi and Thumper (I smell a lawsuit) try to kill bond, and he defeats them by dunking them in a pool. Why? Don’t ask.
I didn’t understand the rest of the plot either. Blofeld (“Put your hands on your hips!”) turns out to be alive, and has kidnapped a stock Howard Hughes doppelgänger as part of a plot to build a giant laser. He also has a body double, who Bond kills almost immediately and serves no purpose.
Blofeld’s (“It was a night out they were going to remember for a very long time”) Evil Plan makes no sense. His motive now that SPECTRE is kaputski is to make some moolah, then wipe his record and retire … which he could do after successfully stealing a billionaire’s identity. Instead he opts to fart about with lasers and spaceships, which you can tell is what he does when he’s running on autopilot.
Blofeld kidnaps Tiffany and runs away to Mother Base to enact his scheme. Bond finds him and The Big Shoot Out occurs. Tiff develops a bad case of ‘The Bimbos’, a deterioration of mental faculties experienced when habitually-competent female characters come into close proximity with JB. Bond rescues her, and defeats Blofeld (“He was a low-down, cheap little punk!”) and he and Tiffany escape on a cruise liner and prepare for some well-earned nookie…
Except, of course, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd turn out to still be alive, and try one last time to kill Sean. What follows next is honestly one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen. I don’t honestly think a description can do it justice. Just … just watch:
Diamonds are Forever should have been the last Bond film, and if handled with any gravitas it could have been the best. It should have seen Bond going renegade, pulling every favour and exploiting every contact to avenge Tracy. We should have seen Bond pushed to the edge, and given Connery’s Bond an actual send-off.
But shoulda-woulda-coulda. Instead we get a story that seems like a Silver Age Batman comic. I was surprised that the Penny Plunderer and the Calendar Man didn’t turn out the be the main villains.
So Connery is gone (but still not for good) SPECTRE is no more, and a new decade has dawned. Now we have a proper changing of the guard, Roger Moore enters stage left, and everything gets properly wacky.
“I would like, if you may, to take you on a strange journey…”