Stupid is as James Bond does.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is one of those movies where you can’t get over the stupid!
This film makes us wonder whether author Ian Fleming ever plotted his novels so badly. We place half the blame on director Guy Hamilton, who brought us the turgid stupid of GOLDFINGER, and half the blame on screenwriter Richard Maibaum, who has been bringing us childish stupid since the first Bond film.
Together, they are unstoppable Stupid!
Sean Connery returns for his sixth James Bond in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (after George Lazenby did a good job keeping the martinis cold ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE). So what enticed Sean back to a role he had grown to disdain? Well, diamonds are forever (an unprecedented $1.25 million – a Guinness World Record at the time)… People give chicks a hard time for being gold-diggers, but when the gold is this thigh-deep, men will dig just as hard as women.
From Ian Fleming’s 4th James Bond novel (publ. 1956), the cold open finds Bond tracking and killing Blofeld! In the minds of Bond fans, he is burying Blofeld in a mudbath as revenge for Blofeld killing his wife in the last movie. But Bond isn’t the tortured soul one might expect after the trauma of his wife’s murder – killing Blofeld just seems to be closure, so that Bond can get on with his one-night-stands, a lifestyle he dives back into with nary a dick-twitch regarding his poor dead wife.
Face it, Blofeld’s death has nothing to do with Bond’s wife; it was a narrative that Bond fans inserted to humanize their hero. Blofeld’s death is to serve the plot twist later when he is revealed to be alive.
Old Bond, new Blofeld! Not counting all the mentions of SPECTRE or “Number One” throughout the Bond franchise, Blofeld (SPECTRE’s Number One) has been onscreen in three movies: Donald Pleasence in YOLT (still the best!), Telly Savalas in OHMSS, now Charles Gray in DAF. (Blofeld is quickly becoming the Felix Leiter of the Bond series. Too much of an in-joke? The Bondaphiles know what I’m talking about, yeah baby!). He’s the least intimidating Blofeld ever (heeey! Weren’t you in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE as an MI6 operative?). The filmmakers make up for Gray’s lack of screen presence by having lots of him – Blofeld’s “impostors”! (They are not clones, but henchmen who have been surgically modified to look like him – obviously played by Gray himself – that’s some damn fine surgery! Cloning was not as mainstream as it is now, and obviously not regarded as a viable plot point in this already-cheesy movie. Bond unwittingly killed two Blowie impostors in the cold open.)
On Bond’s rampage to extract information about Blofeld, in one quick move he pulls a bikini bra off a chick and wraps it around her neck – and instead of grabbing at the bra to stop herself from choking, she uses her arms to cover her tits! Really, your priority when a stranger chokes you is that he doesn’t see your magic nipples? Is that the first move of a NORMAL human, or a SPINELESS CENSOR?
Opening titles, Shirley Bassey returns (from GOLDFINGER) to sing Diamonds Are Forever.
Another English toff (Laurence Naismith – Argus from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS) meets with M (Bernard Lee), to send Bond sniffing out a diamond smuggling ring, which would lead him to Las Vegas. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) in a uniform, looking hot, even eliciting a sexy comment from Bond; still desperate for him, she urges him to bring her back a diamond ring. As Bond jokes maybe it’ll just be a tulip, she says yes as he drives away. Now I feel really sad for old Moneypenny…
We meet two weirdos, Mr. Winn (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), under Blofeld’s employ, killing all the diamond smugglers they come across. In the desert, after exploding a helicopter, they walk off hand in hand. (Was this the first gay representation in a Bond film? Of course they had to be villains, because no good guys could possibly be gay!)
Bond tracks down smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) who comes out in assorted slut costumes while turning down his advances. “That’s a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing.” No reason for her slutty attire except maybe to distract Bond that she is lifting his fingerprints from the drink she gave him. Oh, and Bond is actually working under an ALIAS – Peter Franks (at last figuring out how good spies did it!). Bond kills the real Peter Franks (who is planted with Bond’s ID – a plot point which is never mentioned again, even though it could serve as that old trope of the villain thinking the hero is dead) and he and Tiffany smuggle diamonds in Franks’ coffin into Vegas.
The gay guys follow. Kidd says to Winn, “Miss Case seems quite attractive… for a lady,” and is met with a look from his life-partner.
Bond’s CIA go-fer Felix Leiter is here (Norman Burton, the 4th actor to play the role); doughy guy extraordinaire, he’s supposedly got Bond’s back, yet can never save Bond from getting captured or Spock Chopped.
In a funeral home where the stained glass window resembles a diamond, Bond plays a fakeout scam, which almost gets him killed. He delivers fake diamonds, gets paid, then gets knocked out and put in a coffin, into the cremation oven, where flames lick at his shoes as he comes to. Suddenly rescued – no, not by Felix, that’d be asking too much – by a henchman asking, “Where are the real diamonds?!”
Bond says, “I didn’t think you’d burn the cash,” reaching into his pocket to bring out the envelope—wait, they could have removed that while you were unconscious, dummy! Then you’re relying on them discovering the diamonds are fake before the fire consumes the coffin; then you’re relying on them thinking you know where the real ones are, instead of just letting you die and going after the person who sent you; the number of factors that had to go right for this dummy secret agent not to get burned is astonishing. Richard Maibaum’s fantastic non-sequitur plotting in action.
Bond meets Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood, ravishing beauty) in the casino. When he takes her to his room, he finds three henchmen waiting for him. They throw Plenty out the window into a pool (that old gag about “Good aim!” – “I didn’t know there was a pool there,” also used in THE WOLVERINE decades later), then they all clear out, still aiming guns at Bond. What the—? Seems Tiffany is waiting in his bed. So let me get this straight: the three henchies were there to simply throw out any stray women Bond brought to his room? Wouldn’t the presence of Tiffany be enough, as in, “I’m his wife – get lost!” And what if there wasn’t a woman? He’d come in, discover them, and they’d politely excuse themselves and leave?
Tiffany wants to double-cross her mates and run away with James. That would make sense if we knew who she was working for. As usual, a Bond movie is plotted like a child making up the car chases and chair fights as they happen. Then they have sex, an act which shall never be seen in any Bond movie. We always come back to Bond and bimbo lazing in bed, Bond’s hairy torso exposed, and a desperate blanket up to the girl’s chin. Then a sequence following Tiffany transporting a plush doggy with diamonds in it, a ridiculous moon buggy chase that is meant to ooze cheese, and a pretty good musclecar chase through the streets and sidewalks of Vegas. If you try to figure out what is happening, it will make less sense than if you just leave it alone.
Bond discovers Blofeld posing as a hotel tycoon, Willard Whyte, the real Whyte held captive somewhere secret. A Blofeld “impostor” also enters the room, and together, they tell Bond their plan (of course they do): killing off diamond competitors through their gay muscle and stockpiling the precious stones for a malign purpose.
The filmmakers really get into the overdubbed voice gimmick in this movie – it worked so well for George Lazenby! (Remember Lazenby spent a large part of the second act posing as Sir Hilary, with a posh British accent – it was all seamless overdubbing!) Blofeld takes a phone call, presses a voice modulator button, and speaks in Whyte’s voice. He says there’s a miniature version of the modulator implanted in his neck… ooookay… Why bother pressing the button then? —
— and how does Bond do this with no modulator in his neck? Bond calls Blofeld later posing as his henchman Saxby. To be clear: it’s not that Bond is speaking into the phone and his voice is being manipulated and coming out the other end sounding like someone else, no. Saxby’s voice is coming out of Bond’s mouth! It’s a good audio replacement dubbing job – but it makes absolutely zero sense. Gadget-guy Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is there with a machine attached to the phone – but Bond’s voice is affected BEFORE IT EVEN REACHES THE PHONE – it’s coming out of his neck as Saxby’s voice! I really want to hit someone right now…
After Bond kills one of the Blofelds, the remaining one holds a gun on him and tells him to get in an elevator; gassed unconscious, down to basement, the gays put him in trunk of car, drive to desert— Jesus! Just shoot him! JUST SHOOT HIM!… They leave Bond in a giant section of pipe. He’s totally dead now… IF he doesn’t wake up and walk away, IF a stranger doesn’t find him in the pipe, IF the construction crews that lay these pipes the next day do not have competent safety measures to check for blockages in the pipes before laying them, IF he’s not buried near one of the many manholes that leads up to the surface… The incompetency of these henchies is astounding. Meaning: the incompetency of the screenwriter is astounding.
When Bond calls Blofeld as Saxby, he learns where Whyte is being held – at Whyte’s own home. Felix leans over and whispers to Bond he knows exactly where that is. So lemme get this straight: all this time you’ve been looking for Whyte and never thought to check his own home first? Blofeld orders Whyte killed – remember he thinks he is talking to Saxby – so Bond and Felix head to Whyte’s place to rescue him.
At Whyte’s mansion, Bond enters and fights two judo chicks to find out where Whyte is. But did he even need to fight them when he had Felix’s CIA force waiting outside? Or just take out your own gun and threaten them, Bond. How long have you been a secret agent again? When Bond has both the chicks’ heads underwater, Felix runs in and quips, “Whyte’s about to be executed and you’re doing the breaststroke.” But waitasecond, Felix: how is Whyte gonna be executed? Blofeld gave the order to BOND, not to the actual Saxby – and yet… When they step outside with Whyte…
…the actual Saxby fires on them from a ridge. But how did he find out he had to kill Whyte when he was never told?!
Blofeld in drag. I mean, really, with those two gay assassins and Blofeld in drag, I think someone is trying to tell us something.
The grand plan is eventually unveiled, Blofeld’s stolen diamonds powering a satellite that is firing down on Japanese missile bases and American submarines, with Blofeld planning an international auction, selling nuclear control to the highest bidder.
Bond is air-dropped near Blofeld’s oil rig. He arrogantly swims to it, not even doubting they will take him onboard rather than machine-gunning him in the water. Of course, Blofeld is on the oil rig. No reason why he came here from the Vegas location. I guess he heard there was going to be a movie climax here or something. Or a gay pride parade.
Blowie talks instead of shooting, actually taking Bond on a tour of his oil rig! Tiffany is there in a bikini. Because does it matter how she got there, whether she’s a double agent, whether she was forced by Blofeld, or whether Maibaum is just writing her in with his hand on his cock?
Bond switches a cassette tape of satellite codes that he lifts from Blofeld’s desk, only because Blofeld told him it was the satellite codes, when he could’ve just kept his mouth shut.
Tiffany, trying to help, switches it back inadvertently, because in the lethal satellite’s control room, a bombshell in a tiny panty can easily gain access to the cassette deck that powers the whole operation. What I’m saying is: Every henchie will have EYES ON those barely-covered nips, flat naked belly and cameltoe panty every second, and wherever she walks in that room will be monitored excruciatingly closely by 50 pairs of hungering male eyes, and no one – NONE of these repressed sea men who have probably not been onshore for months – noticed this dripping creampie stepping to the cassette control panel?
Bond: “You stupid twit! You put the real one back!” She doesn’t even flinch. Because in those days, women be twits.
Bond is locked in a brig with – no kidding! – a hole out the bottom to the underside of the rig, with ladders and struts for easy spy access.
Blofeld gets into a tiny escape sub, which requires a crane to lift him off and into the sea. (Excellent tactic: depending on someone onboard a compromised ship, which you need to escape, to lower you into the water.) Bond Spock Chops the crane operator, and proceeds to swing Blofeld around, making him very angry. It’s almost exciting.
An inauspicious final scene, where the two gays pose as waiters for Bond and Tiffany onboard a cruise ship, and try to plant a bomb in their dinner. We give up, movie! You win the Stupid!
The outro credits declare: “James Bond will return in LIVE AND LET DIE.” The studio (Albert Broccoli’s EON Productions) were buying the book rights well in advance, and were moving ahead with Bond productions with or without actors actually signed to the role of Bond! In retrospect, it was a good tactic, because the sheer quantity of Bond films lent the whole collection a sheen of quality, when most of the pre-2000 movies are B-movies at best, failed cheesy satire at worst.
The campiness of the Bond series hit an all-time low with DIAMONDS, and Connery would once again jump ship after its completion. I don’t blame him. In the time he was away, he stretched his acting wings with Westerns, Arctic expeditions and coal mining.
And he was aching to don those futuristic thigh-high boots, red panties and garter man-belts in ZARDOZ.