007 Cinema Dossier: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies, What's Streaming? by - May 11, 2020
007 Cinema Dossier: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

“Well just goes to show, no one’s indestructible.”

With an at the time record setting salary, producers Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman lured Sean Connery back into his hairpiece and James Bond’s Walther PPK holster one more time for the series seventh film, Diamonds Are Forever. Though this was more at the studio’s request (and the producers now had a strained relationship with the actor). Can you believe Burt Reynolds was this close to being signed?. Because for the second time, with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being the first (introducing a new Bond), the franchise was at a make or break junction.

Budgets had spiraled higher and higher, and the studio wanted the bang of Goldfinger, but the smaller budget of Dr. No. Using the fourth book in Ian Fleming’s 007 series as a launching point, though a lot of it is similarities were carried over, Richard Maibaum gives it the big screen makeover. He adds some silly humor, and nods to conspiracy theories. Initially though the idea of bringing Gert Frobe back to play Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother was thrown around . Glad that one fell along by the wayside.

Instead, the film picks up with Connery’s Bond on a mission of revenge against Blofeld (Telly Savalas is replaced by Charles Grey, not to be confused with his appearance in You Only Live Twice when Donald Pleasance played the cat-stroking villain) for the death of his bride. Once the moment is achieved before the opening credits featuring Shirley Bassey belting out another great title tune, the character of Tracy won’t be mentioned by name, or intimation until 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

In fact despite confronting Blofeld again later in the film, the plot point doesn’t come up once, and that obviously would have been a great bit to throw into the film franchise. Have Blofeld needling Bond over the death of his wife, and then picking up with diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St.John, not the weakest casting in the series, but…).  But those are ideas of continuity that we as a modern movie going audience like. In the early years Bond films are all stand alone titles with little to no crossover with the exception of some supporting characters, and interchangeable actors apparently.

And speaking of interchangeable, and previously mentioned difficult actors, Connery was a little put off by both Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell being able to find other work. And if you watch, Connery and Maxwell despite their characters being in the same scene don’t share a moment together when Bond drives through customs. Maxwell was also a little put out by the films as they interfered with her career, several days for only short scenes. And like Connery, she had held out for more money for this appearance.

Obviously her opinion changed over the years. Her iteration of the character was with the series all the way up until Roger Moore’s departure from the role with A View To A Kill.

We also get yet another actor in the role of Felix Leiter. He makes a very brief appearance as Norman Burton, perhaps the most forgettable incarnation of the character.

Locations are always a big thing for Bond films. And despite the side trip to the Netherlands, most of the film is set in Las Vegas. It’s an effort to appeal to American audiences who had embraced On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as easily as the rest of the world. To today’s audience is, this anything but exotic, even the old-school version we see on the screen here.

Bond finds himself enmeshed in yet another SPECTRE plot. It’s the last time they appear until they are reinvigorated in the 21st century. Though they are alluded to in For Your Eyes Only. This one involves satellites equipped with smuggled diamonds to help refract and enhance the power of the lasers each satellite carries. And SPECTRE plans to use to hold the entire world ransom. Or they’ll use the weapon to detonate nuclear weapons in their silos.

Helping SPECTRE out are a pair of assassins, with perhaps, homosexual tendencies, much like the original novel, Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover), and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith). Q (Desmond Llewelyn) shows up, but sadly, he’s kept to a bit of comedic background. It honestly wastes the character, no matter how good it is to see him and the actor on the screen.

To help bring some of that Goldfinger back to the screen, Guy Hamilton returns as director. But despite his best efforts, the film feels a little tired. Fun, but tired, and Connery is very obviously over the role. And this marks his last canon appearance as the character.

Ken Adam returns to do the set design. He returns us to the larger than life world he’d created for the characters. And all of it looks brilliant. None are more impressive than Blofeld’s hotel top penthouse in Vegas (though the oil rig base is pretty sweet). Peter Lamont also returns as set decorator, while Ted Moore continues as DOP.

John Barry gets to bring out his 007 Theme towards the climax of the film. There, it fits perfectly with the movie’s actions. Each of his scores since Thunderball have become more and more intricate. He uses themes, motifs, all of it working to layer out the film. And at this point in the series, I am enjoying the music, the set pieces and the moments, as opposed to the actor in the lead role. And that’s too bad. Because if one doesn’t relate to Bond, one at least wants to be Bond.

In this film. I’ll pass. This entry feels a little uneven. Connery still has the charm, and even, arguably, the edge. But the franchise feels tired at this point, and needs an injection of adrenaline. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fun, but lacks the energy and sheer excitement of Goldfinger and Thunderball. And it’s more interested in super spy escapades as opposed to the spy thriller aspects of From Russia With Love.

It’s very clear that it’s time for a new actor in the role. But at the time, this one delivered, and kept the franchise alive. It enabled the rebirth of the series with a new actor, but that was two years in the future. Even before filming wrapped the hunt was underway.

But first the film had to be promoted and released. Robert McGinnis returned to deliver the UK Quad and US one sheet. And despite the artistry, the poster lacks a bit of the flavor of the previous posters. This seemed to be a one-off, and he’s back on track for the next film.

Diamonds Are Forever opened on 17 December, 1971 in North America (30 December in the UK). It earned  a record high three day gross, and was actually nominated for an Academy Award, unsurprisingly for Best Sound.

The next film would not only introduce us to a new Bond, but a new style. As the film’s began to truly embrace their stunt work… But who would play Bond? The film drew to a close. And audiences were delivered with the promise that James Bond Will Return in Live And Let Die.

Thanks again to the James Bond library of DK Canada. Information has been culled from their fantastic books, James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters, Bond By Design: The Art of the James Bond Films, and The James Bond Encyclopedia.

This post was written by
TD Rideout has been a movie fan since the moment he first encountered Bruce the Shark in 1975. As passionate about cinema as he is popcorn movies, his film education is a continuing journey of classics new and old. He is at his most comfortable with a book, a drink, his partner and his dog.
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