×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Revisiting 1971’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’

50 Years of Bond

As much as I dislike “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” that wasn’t necessarily the view of the series’ producers. Eon had offered George Lazenby a seven-film contract and originally wanted “OHMSS” director (and longtime 007 editor) Peter R. Hunt to helm “Diamonds Are Forever.” Lucky for us, both plans fell through, clearing the way for a reunion between “Goldfinger” director Guy Hamilton and Sean Connery (enticed with a record-setting £1.25 million payday and a promise to produce two passion projects of his choice).

Believing that he has killed Blofeld in the opening scene – and therefore avenged his wife’s murder in the previous film – Bond is understandably unenthused to be presented with a beneath-him assignment to investigate a diamond-smuggling operation. Little does he realize that Blofeld is behind this plan as well, having fooled Bond with a body-double in the earlier confrontation.

Gimmicks like that are what make “Diamonds Are Forever” the first in a new wave of Bond pics, adventures in which the already implausible is pushed to virtually laughable extremes (a few films later, Bond would be battling bad guys in space). Here, Blofeld has recruited two decoys to have their voices and faces altered to match his own – all the better to fool Bond. But why treble a new actor (the great Charles Gray, who played a good guy in “You Only Live Twice”) when you Eon could have instead convinced all the actors who had portrayed Blofeld to date (Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas) to come back and boggle Bond’s mind. The challenge: Which of these men was the real villain?

In Ian Fleming’s novel, the villains were a pair of mobsters, the Spang brothers, though Eon could hardly follow up the downer ending of “OHMSS” by letting Blofeld off the hook, so they worked him into the plot, too. The continuity of these stories had long since been compromised: Book-wise, “You Only Live Twice” gave Bond a chance to kill Blofeld, though the two movies arrived in reverse order. As the series continued, Eon eventually reached a point where little more than the titles remained, plus the names of a few key floozies.

And so “Diamonds Are Forever” serves as a relatively pure exercise in spinning a plot according to what kind of set pieces and stunts might most delight audiences. Another Blofeld showdown? Check. Adding glitzy Las Vegas to the list of exotic destinations? Check. And of course, Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole (“Named after your father,” har har) and Jill St. John as the barely-dressed Tiffany Case (inspiring the great line, “That’s a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing”).

Watching the movie last night with my younger brother, I was surprised by how recent he thought it was, assuming it was a mid-’80s installment. Though weary, Connery doesn’t look that old, and all those big American sedans certainly don’t look that new, but he was on to something: There’s a quality in the writing that still dominates summer tentpoles today.

The eye-rolling one-liners are still there (emerging from a sewer pipe in the middle of the desert, Bond offers, “I was out walking my pet rat and seemed to have lost my way”), but everything else has been engineered to match that same flip style. Whatever connection Bond had to the real world has now been severed in favor of delivering the most satisfying possible experience for audiences, such as a throwaway scene of Q using an electromagnetic device to beat the slot machines or allowing homosexual henchmen Wint and Kidd to devise elaborate (and yet easily escapable) traps. It’s silly, sure, but that’s precisely the tone the series would need to sustain what Roger Moore would bring to the role.

Revisiting 1971's 'Diamonds Are Forever'

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content