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Derrick

Diamonds Are Forever

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DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

(1971)

United Artists

Directed by Guy Hamilton

Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Screenplay written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz

Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Memory is a funny thing. Ask me what I had for dinner last night and Ill probably take a few minutes to think about it. Ask me what I did last week and theres a better than average chance Ill tell you I have no idea. But ask me about the Saturday afternoon in 1971 when my father took me to see my first James Bond movie DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and Ill go on and on for hours recounting every single detail in such a way that you would swear it had happened to me yesterday.

I think that the major reasons DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is my absolute favorite James Bond film of all is because of two reasons: It was the first James Bond movie I saw in a theatre and I saw it with my father, who is also a huge movie fan. He took me to see Sam Peckinpahs THE WILD BUNCH during its original theatrical run and we drove my mother crazy discussing the movie for days and days afterwards. My voracious movie addiction can probably be blamed on them. A favorite story they like to tell about me is when they took me as a baby with them to see THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. While other babies in the theatre were crying and had to be taken out by their disgruntled parents, my parents claim I was totally silent, eyes open as wide as possible, staring at the screen as if hypnotized. I probably was. Movies do that to me, yknow.

The movies pre-credits sequence has an unusually brutal James Bond (Sean Connery) hunting down his archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray). Although its never stated outright, one can assume Bonds looking for Blofeld to take revenge for the murder of his wife, Tracy in the previous Bond adventure, ON HER MAJESTYS SECRET SERVICE. Bond seemingly dispatches Blofeld in a particularly nasty manner and after the gorgeously lush theme song sung by Shirley Bassey we get into the meat of the plot:

Startling amounts of high-grade diamonds are being smuggled out of South Africa to Las Vegas by means of an efficient pipeline of couriers. There is worry that these diamonds will be dumped into the market at some future time, which would drastically drop diamond prices. Bond is assigned to follow the pipeline, an assignment that he clearly thinks is beneath his talents but M (Bernard Lee) quickly puts him in his place: Blofeld is dead, 007. I think we have the right to expect some plain honest work from you now. Bond heads off to Amsterdam to take the place of Peter Franks, an international jewel courier and he makes the acquaintance of the superhot redheaded smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), the next contact in the pipeline. The trail of deadly diamonds leads Bond to Las Vegas where it quickly becomes apparent that smuggling is only the tip of the iceberg as Bonds archenemy Blofeld returns from the dead with a scheme to hold the world hostage that involves a diamond enhanced laser satellite.

Now when I lay it out like that, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER seems like your straightforward action/adventure, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. I broke the story down to its simplest elements out of space consideration but it has been said by many critics and reviewers that the plot of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is too complicated to properly explain and I have to agree. When you throw in the Howard Hughes-like Willard Whyte who for about half of the movies running time we think is the movies real villain, the homosexual killer duo Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint who run around whacking the various diamond smugglers for no apparent reason and even Plenty OToole (Lana Wood) who at one point in the movie shows up someplace she has absolutely no business being and is drowned for no reason at all…and thats not even half the inconsistencies and plot holes that stick out like a cockroach on a wedding cake.

But somehow, none of that seems to matter when youre right there on the edge of your seat watching the movie. Sean Connery IS James Bond and when hes on the screen you cant take your eyes off him. Connery understood the dynamics of a James Bond movie in a way no other actor who played the role would until Pierce Brosnan strapped on the Walter PPK and he occupies the center of the movie with total confidence. He doesnt take it all that seriously but his performance has such wit and charm that while hes clearly having fun with the character and the material he respects it and thereby respects us. The major acting disappointment comes from Charles Gray as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Gray is simply too effeminate to be a towering mastermind of brilliant evil bent on world domination. He looks as if he would be more at home organizing The Sisters of The Revolving Door Tabernacle Annual Cotillion and Fish Fry. And Norman Burton barely registers on screen as ace CIA agent and Bonds best friend Felix Leiter but lets face facts, except for David Hedison (who is the only actor to have played Felix Leiter twice) and Bernie Casey, Felix Leiter has never been played decently.

But weve got dependable regulars such as Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn (Q) and Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny) to pick up the slack and Jill St. John is wonderfully spicy and looks gorgeous as Tiffany Case. And any mention of the acting in this one isnt complete without noticing the excellent work by Putter Smith and John Glover (Crispin Glovers dad) as Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint. The pair are not only properly chilling but also provide a good deal of the movies humor as they grow increasingly frustrated as Bond continually manages to circumvent their efforts to kill him. And I have to mention Lana Wood (Natalie Woods sister) even though its apparent from her first scene that she wasnt chosen for the role for her acting ability. Why is she in the movie then? Ill give you a clue: 36C/D-24-35. Need I say anymore other than I commend the casting director for his excellent eyesight? I even liked Jimmy Dean as eccentric billionaire Willard Whyte. Today Jimmy Dean is mostly known for his line of pork products but back during the 60s and 70s he was a fairly popular country western singer who occasionally acted. Bond rescues Whyte from a Blofeld assassin and for the rest of the movie they click so well that I think the producers missed a bet by not having Whyte become a re-occurring character in the films. By the end of the movie Bond and Whyte seem more like best friends than Bond and Leiter.

And it never fails to amuse me that even though people will say that DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER isnt as good as the other Connery Bonds, its the one that has more action sequences people can readily name right off the top of their head than any other Connery Bond. Everybody remembers the chase through the desert with Bond in the moon buggy. Theres the classic Las Vegas car chase sequence that ends with Bond flipping his Mustang up on two wheels to slide through a narrow alley and evade his pursuers. Theres the nail-biting climb Bond performs on the outside of Willard Whytes Las Vegas casino/hotel. The fight in the elevator with Peter Franks. The fight with the outrageously beautiful pair of acrobatic karate killers, Bambi and Thumper. The helicopter assault on Blofelds oil rig headquarters.

I suppose that most who read this review will probably have seen DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER on television, either on TBS or SPIKE TV or on VHS or DVD and so wont have the same love I have for the movie as I do. But no matter how many times I see it on television, I always remember seeing my first James Bond film on the big screen with my father and the feelings I had that day have never left me and it was those feelings that made me want to create stories as exciting and thrilling as the one I was watching and I suppose that in a very large way, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER helped shaped my passion to write and for that if nothing else, it will remain my favorite James Bond movie.

125 min

Rated PG

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I do like it when people come up with strong arguments for films I don't initially think much of because it's a good way of encouraging debate. I can't remember off the top of my head what I rated Diamonds Are Forever on FYEO, but I think it was around the 5/10 mark. What I do remember however, is saying that I'd have marked it up a couple of points if they'd left in the deleted scenes as they flesh out the role that Lana Wood physically fleshed out (Plenty O'Toole) as well as adding extra menace to Mr Wint & Mr Kidd. I will say it's the most unconventional of Connery's post-Bondmania films (as Dr No and FRWL haven't really been replicated since the Cond franchise became a commercial hit), which is a plus, but I think some of the memorable parts of the film brought up here are memorable for the wrong reasons. The moon buggy chase is generally considered to be a tad ridiculous and the 2 wheeled stunt changing sides particularly irked Adham in that episode.

Even so, Diamonds Are Forever is not a bad movie overall and this is a very coherent argument for why you're such a fan of the film, Derrick. Good stuff!

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Diamonds Are Forever has always struck me as a Rodger Moore Bond film that has Sean Connery in it. A lot of the things that become staples of the Moore era first put in an appearance here. The gadgets become slightly sillier, the chases start to have a comedy element to them (Connery even has to deal with a dumb American sheriff as a prelude to the legendary J.W. Pepper). M seems to have less respect for Bond and acts more like a despairing parent which carries on into the Moore films. Overall the tone is much lighter than the films that proceed it and set a lot of the trend for the films that would follow.

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