Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)

Starring Sean Connery, Jill St. John, and Charles Gray
Written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Rated PG - Violence, sex
Running Time: 120 Minutes

Agent 007, James Bond (Sean Connery) tracks down his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray) and kills him, to get revenge for the death of his wife Tracy in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."  Soon after his return, M (Bernard Lee) assigns him a new mission: to uncover a diamond smuggling ring.

Bond travels to Amsterdam and impersonates a smuggler named Peter Franks, setting up with a woman named Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) to transport a large load of diamonds to the United States without getting caught.  When they arrive in Las Vegas, Bond begins to unravel the threads of the diamond smuggling ring, including run-ins with two assassins named Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith).

Bond suspects that the head of the smuggling ring is the massively wealthy and reclusive entrepreneur Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean).  But no one has seen Whyte in years, and arranging an audience with him is impossible. While maintaining his cover as diamond smuggler Franks with Tiffany, Bond tries to ingratiate himself into Whyte's organization and finds that the diamonds are to be used in the construction of a space weapon that can annihilate anything from orbit.  But Bond discovers that Whyte is not behind this dastardly plot to hold the entire world hostage.  Who, then, is calling the shots?  And from where?

George Lazenby decided not to return to the role of Bond after "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," and while the producers spent some time searching for a replacement, they ultimately decided to lure Sean Connery back with the promise of huge sums of money and to produce who other non-Bond films of his choosing.  The resulting "Diamonds Are Forever" isn't bad, but it's hardly a top-notch Bond film.

There are several sequences of note, including an elevator fight, a car chase through the streets of Los Angeles, and the climactic battle aboard an oil rig, that make the film more fun than it has a right to be.  Certain aspects of the script don't work all that well.  Certainly, the appearance of henchwomen Bambi (Lola Larson) and Thumper (Trina Parks) is one of those. The sequence is almost painfully bad, with poor fight choreography, and some terrible line delivery from all involved.

A chase sequence between Bond driving a moon buggy through the desert and some of Whyte's security guards is also kind of lame, played a bit too much for comedy.  A later chase between Bond driving a red Ford Mustang and the Las Vegas police is better, though it also has a bit too much comedic slant.  But an early fight aboard an elevator between Bond and a diamond smuggler, and that climax in which a fleet of helicopters assaults SPECTRE's oil right base off the coast of California are both fine action sequences.

Connery himself seems to be getting a bit long in the tooth to be playing this role; his hair is graying around the temples and he doesn't seem to be in quite as good shape as he once was.  You can also tell at times he doesn't quite seem too enthused to be back as 007.  Some of his deliveries are a little too flat, though overall he does well.  That's a feeling that pervades much of the entire film, that it simply goes through the motions rather than really grabbing its story by the balls.  Still, when it comes alive, it does so quite well and shows why these films are so beloved the world over.

As Connery's last (official) outing as 007, "Diamonds Are Forever" isn't bad, but it's not that great.  It has some fine sequences, but overall is a middling adventure and really only worth watching for fans intent on seeing all the films.

See Also
James Bond