Page to Screen: Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Diamonds are Forever
based on the novel by Ian Fleming


Well… that’s it. I’m done with Sean Connery as Bond. Well, there is Never Say Never Again, which I imagine I will eventually watch, but it’s not an Eon production, so it’s not canon. If I was an extra-canonical (thanks, Holmesians) completionist, I would never get anything done. My attention span is simply not suited to that much of a commitment. After the heights of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and becoming rather fond of Lazenby’s take on the super spy, it was a bit of a bumpy road back to Connery, especially since I loved On Her Majesty’s Secret Service so much (well, comparatively). Can Connery reclaim his territory once and for all? Well… not so much.

Diamonds are Forever opens with Bond apprehending, for once and for all, Blofeld. Back in England, Bond is summoned to investigate a diamond smuggling ring. Diamonds from a mine in South Africa have been disappearing systemically for years, but haven’t shown up on the black market, making the British government fear that someone is stockpiling them in order to dump them all on the market and depress the prices. Bond impersonates one of the smugglers and becomes entangled with the smuggler Tiffany Case, who accompanies him to the outskirts of Las Vegas in America for the drop-off. But what seems like a simple smuggling ring is much more than that, and entire cities could be at stake

When we last met Bond, his track record with women was actually pretty decent, especially for 1969—he’d fallen in love with shrewd, generous, and amazing driver Tracy and dallied with Ruby Bartlett, a cute, flirty Brit who brought more to the role than it actually deserved. So, now that we’re into the seventies and second wave feminism is a definite thing now, how does Bond fare? Well, in the pre-credit sequence, he forces a woman to confess Blofeld’s whereabouts by choking her with her bikini top. It’s a brutal opener, all around, probably to emphasize Connery’s thuggish strength over Lazenby’s sensitivity, but that moment just sort of encapsulates a conflation of sex and violence when it comes to women in the series. It’s almost as if to make sure I walk away from the Connery years with that image hanging over my head, blotting out Domino’s revenge arc or Fiona’s rejection of precisely such a narrative in Thunderball. Tiffany Case doesn’t fare much better as a Bond girl. Anyone following Diana Rigg has a tough act to follow, but Tiffany, despite how much I appreciate her breezy, flippant attitude towards Bond, is pretty much useless. She has one moment where she could have been useful, and it’s used to make a joke about how useless she is. Alas.

I open with that, because otherwise, Diamonds are Forever is kind of boring. True, there are a few great set pieces—a fight in an elevator is claustrophic and actually threatening, while a car chase through Las Vegas boasts a Three Stooges-esque bit in a parking lot—but most of the film takes place in and around a fancy hotel in the back of Nevada. In fact, the name Las Vegas is never even mentioned. Bond films tend to be known for their extravagant locales; Skyfall, whose plot is arguably probably one of the smaller and more intimate ones, still manages to pack in Shanghai and Macau. Briefly stopping over in Amsterdam before spending much of the film in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I’ve read somewhere that Connery’s salary (1.25 million, unheard of at the time) necessitated a scaling down of scope, but I’m not digging that up, so I’ll just leave that there.

Diamonds are Forever also boasts the first queer villains in the series (eat your heart out, Silva); Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, two assassins working for Blofeld. While the film takes a very dim view of them and their queerness is used to make them seem even more dastardly, I was weirdly charmed by them. They walk off hand in hand after a murder, they trade extraordinarily labored quips with each other (imagine the most tiresome college students trying to sound witty), and are so comfortable with each other that they don’t need to talk all that much. Of course, they’re also twisted killers who joke about sending pictures of a murdered woman to her students, but, given the treatment of women in the film, I had expected worse. I also must mention that Charles Gray is an amazing Blofeld, blissfully camp while still remaining an actual threat. Other than that, though, there’s not really that much memorable about Connery’s last official outing as Bond, and that’s kind of a shame.

And yet, film marches on. Onto Roger Moore and Live and Let Die!

Bottom line: Connery’s last official outing as James Bond is, sadly, a little forgettable, with its cramped location and utterly awful Bond girl. Charles Gray makes a great Blofeld and one or two action set pieces are quite interesting, but otherwise, not so much. Eh.

I rented this DVD from the public library.

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