BOND IS BACK – Sean Connery is BOND
It may be blasphemy to say, but perhaps everyone’s ideal James Bond- Sean Connery- should have stayed away after You Only Live Twice. He’d made it perfectly clear during the filming of that picture that he was done with Bond and had no interest in carrying on in the role.
So Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli went out and got themselves a new James Bond. George Lazenby to be exact. But many, especially American audiences, found Lazenby not up to the challenge and stayed away from his only Bond, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the picture did well enough elsewhere, it was clear that Lazenby wasn’t the answer.
Eon Productions had a problem. They had a Bond who didn’t really work. Could they afford to relaunch Bond with yet another new actor, or could they continue with Lazenby. Or, perhaps, could Connery- Sean Connery, be cajoled to return?
They went with the third option and for a huge payday Sean agreed to return, for one last fling as Bond- at least in the official series. Part of the reason Diamonds is such a weak film is that so much was invested financially in Connery that most everything else had to be scaled back. It is so prevelant that you can see it onscreen. It is also the first Bond picture set predominantly in the United States, one of many concessions to try to regain the American market.
Production brough back many of Connery’s old colleagues from You Only Live Twice and other previous Bond pictures, most notably director Guy Hamilton. Shirley Bassey returns for the second of her three Bond title tracks, the most for any performer. The title track is, sadly, one of the better facets of the film.
The end result that was released in theaters is in many ways a Roger Moore Bond without Moore. In some cases it lacks even the admittedly fleeting charms Moore brought to many of his pictures. (Though not to be a complete detractor of Roger Moore in the role, a few of his are damned good.) Diamonds has some of the most coarse and campy humor of the entire series. Only in Diamonds do you have the rather creepy line, “You’ve caught me with more than my hands up.”
We are presented with a new Blofeld, in the person of Charles Gray, who somehow ends up in drag for one inexplicable scene- one of the few instances of transvestism in the entire series. We also have the pretty much openly homosexual pair of Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, who bumble their way through things until the very end. Though most find Kidd and Wint a tremendous negative in the picture I actually think they fit right in and actually help the proceedings a bit.
The plot involves diamond smuggling- or perhaps hoarding, and within a bit centers almost entirely in Las Vegas, though the term Las Vegas is never uttered on screen. Also in play is the mysterious Willard Whyte played by none other than singer Jimmy Dean, with Whyte framed clearly as a stand-in for Howard Hughes. Surprisingly Hughes permitted filming in his hotels and casinos in spite of this. The plot gets rather convoluted and overly complicated, though one should never put a whole lot of scrutiny on the plots for the Bond series.
During the course of the film, Bond runs from one tepid chase scene to another, but all are pretty lackluster. Sets are weak, which is especially apparent when Bond absconds with a lunar rover of sorts, with Blofeld’s folks in hot pursuit. He gets beat up for the most part by two bikini clad women named Bambi and Thumper, defeating them only by holding them underwater. The lunar rover chase is comical and rather poorly executed, giving one of the better examples of shoddy props inherent in the picture. Bond’s trouncing by Bambi and Thumper is just inexplicable.
As referred to above, he does meet Blofeld again, who supposedly murdered his wife (in OHMSS). However, Bond isn’t upset nor does he even mention it. It just doesn’t make sense.
For all the money he was paid, even Connery fails to appear in anything but the flesh. Mentally he seems to be already wondering how to spend the money and which projects he will proceed with next. This older, slightly paunchy and abysmally dressed Bond doesn’t have a chance.
Though some adore this picture, it is one in the Bond arsenal I tend to avoid as there isn’t much to endear one here. Even Jill St. John, the first American Bond girl, doesn’t hold your attention for more than a moment. She’s more helpless and flippant than most Bond girls, and the kaleidescopic attire hasn’t aged well either.
Like most Bonds Diamonds are Forever is easy to find, but look elsewhere in the series for your Bond fix. Its predeliction for America and relatively low production values, coupled with a visibly uninterested Connery, make it a borderline sub-Moore offering.
And that is saying something.