Getting Sean Connery to return as James Bond was major news in the early 1970s. After George Lazenby’s one and done (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), the idea that the two producers Connery loathed (more Harry Saltzman than Cubby Broccoli) and $1.2 million (a record at that time) could lure him back for his sixth turn as 007 was mind-blowing.
Unfortunately, you can see Connery mentally cashing his paycheck many times throughout Diamonds Are Forever. To the actor’s credit, he gave $1 million of it away to charity. Connery was not the same dashing spy we remembered uttering the famous “Bond, James Bond” line in 1962’s Dr. No. By 1971 he was in full “dad-bod” mode and audiences knew that this would be just a one time deal. Connery was only 41, but he somehow managed to look much older.
Diamonds Are Forever was the hit the producers were looking for and it’s mostly thanks to the return of Sean Connery. This movie is fun and messy at times, more campy than Connery’s previous five movies combined, and there are a number of scenes that just don’t look like they belong in a Bond movie.
The film opens up with Bond on the hunt for his arch nemesis, Blofeld. Bond is out of revenge for the death of wife Tracy, who was gunned down at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After physically assaulting characters who have horrendous ADR, eventually 007 finds Blofeld at a facility where look-alikes are being created through plastic surgery. Bond kills one of the soon-to-be Blofelds by drowning him in a mud bath. The real Blofeld and his goons then show up. After Bond (for some odd reason) uses a mouse trap hidden in his suit as a weapon, and uses a goon as human knife-throwing practice, Bond (Connery, not Lazenby) finally gets his revenge on Blofeld (Charles Gray, not Telly Savalas from OHMSS) by drowning him in a pool of superheated mud.
After the opening title sequence, we meet assassins/gay lovers Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. They are serial-killing their way through diamond smugglers in South Africa and Holland. M believes these diamonds are being stockpiled to depress prices by dumping, and sends Bond on what seems to be a dull mission to uncover the smuggling ring. Still with me? The plot ends up all over the place.
Bond poses as professional smuggler Peter Franks and travels to Amsterdam to meet Franks’ contact Tiffany Case, played by actress Jill St. John. The real Franks and the fake Franks (Bond) meet and end up having a killer fight in the world’s tightest elevator. After Bond kills him, he switches IDs to make it seem as though Franks is Bond and vice verse. Case and Bond then fly to Los Angeles, smuggling the diamonds inside Franks’ corpse. Where inside the body? Bond can be really anal about some details.
At the airport Bond meets his BFF, Felix Leiter of the CIA, and then drives with gangsters to Las Vegas. At a funeral home, Franks’ body is cremated and the diamonds are passed on to another smuggler, an old curmudgeon of a comedian named Shaddy Tree. Are you sure you are still with me? Now we got old stand-up comics! Bond is nearly incinerated when he is put into a coffin and sent to the cremation oven. However, his life is spared since the diamonds were fakes planted by Bond and the CIA. Bond stays alive until he finds the real diamonds.
While in Vegas, Bond goes to the Whyte House, a casino-hotel owned by the reclusive billionaire (*cough* Howard Hughes *cough*) Willard Whyte. Shaddy Tree works as a stand-up comedian at the lounge and Bond catches Tree’s old shtick. He heads to his dressing room, where he later discovers there that Tree has been killed. It was done by that twisted duo Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. The diamonds everyone wants are still fake, by the way.
At the craps table Bond meets a gold digger with a heart of…well, gold… named Plenty O’Toole (insert classic Bond line here _________). After winning, because that’s what 007 does when he gambles, he takes her back to his room. Before Bond adds Plenty to his sexual conquests list, he’s caught with more than his arms up, by those same gangsters who drove him to Vegas. They throw Plenty out of the window and into the hotel pool. Bond moves on very quickly and spends the rest of the night with Tiffany Case. During some pillow talk, they hatch a plan to retrieve the real diamonds at a circus. Yes, Bond goes to the circus in this one.
Tiffany double crosses Bond and instead flees all this trouble. When she gets home she sees Plenty O’Toole floating in the bottom of her pool. Plenty was killed after being mistaken for her, even though the movie fails to set this scenario up. All we know is that Plenty O’Toole and swimming pools are a bad combo. Tiffany changes her mind about being a pain in Bond’s arse and drives Bond to the airport, where from there the diamonds are delivered to a remote facility out in the desert. The research laboratory, owned by Whyte, is where a laser satellite is being built. Bond’s cover is blown at the lab and he escapes the security guards by stealing a moon buggy. Bond and Tiffany make their way back to Vegas, where they are seen by the Las Vegas police department and a very silly car chase occurs on the Strip.
Bond decides to confront Willard Whyte but soon discovers two identical Blofelds, who used an electronic device to sound like Whyte over the phone. This neat trick worked since Whyte had been a recluse for years, all Blofeld needed was his voice. Bond kills one of the Blofelds, but as usual the wrong one. The real Blofeld pulls a gun on Bond, and instructs him into a elevator, where he is knocked out by gas. He is picked up by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and taken out to Las Vegas Valley, where he is placed in a pipeline and left to die.
Spoiler alert: Bond escapes and finds out where the real Willard Whyte is being kept. After a brief, embarrassing battle with Whyte’s female bodyguards Bambi and Thumper, they rescue the very clean-shaven wealthy recluse. While all this is going on, Blofeld (in drag for some reason) abducts Case (who for some reason decided to follow “drag Blofeld”).
Bond discovers that Blofeld’s plot is to create a laser satellite using the diamonds. With the satellite already in orbit, Blofeld destroys nuclear weapons in China, the Soviet Union and the United States. He wants to setup an international auction for global nuclear supremacy, highest bidder wins. Whyte identifies an oil platform off the coast of Baja California as Blofeld’s likely base of operations and 007 heads there. Bond attempts to change the cassette containing the satellite control codes, and rescue Tiffany, all while a helicopter attack on the oil rig is launched by Felix Leiter and the CIA. Blofeld tries to escape in some sort of ocean cocoon pod, but Bond gains control of the crane that controls it and crashes the sub into the control room, causing both the satellite control and the base to be destroyed. Blofeld is left alive in that pod, presumably just muttering over the intercom.
Bond and Tiffany end up on a cruise ship for some downtime, where Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd pose as room-service stewards and attempt to kill them with a bomb inside of a cake. Yeah, it gets sillier. Bond sets Mr. Kidd on fire and he falls overboard to his death, while Mr. Wint is killed by Bond by having his balls attached to the bomb. Bond flips him over and he explodes as he hits the ocean. Tiffany then asks James: “How the hell do we get those diamonds down again?” Cue the title song by Shirley Bassey as they both look into the night sky.
Bond’s coolest moment? When he first meets Tiffany Case. It’s Connery’s Bond at his most charming.
Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Plenty (no pun intended) to choose from, but I’m going to with Bond getting beaten up by Bambi and Thumper. Moon buggy Bond is a close second.
Bond’s best line? The Plenty O’Toole reply of “but of course you are” and “named after your father perhaps” are too classic and easy to choose. I will go with Bond’s underrated “small world” comment to the dumb gangster who says he “also got a brother.”
Best acting performance? Bruce Glover (father of Crispin) as Mr. Wint is the best choice. This is one of the campiest Bond movies ever and the actor goes for it!
Bond’s most “sexual predator” moment? Ripping off a girl’s bikini top after telling her “there’s something I’d like for you to get off your chest” and then proceeds to strangler her with it.
Worst line in the movie? Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) saying either “blow up your pants” to a kid, or “keep leaning on that tooter, Charlie, and you’re gonna get a shot in the mouth” at the gas station.
What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 77th time? It just dawned on me that Bond was in that car with those gangsters from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for about four hours. What the hell did they talk about?
Best action sequence? That elevator fight between Bond and Franks is in the top five best fights ever in the Bond franchise.
Who or what is the title song about? Rumor has it that composer John Barry told Shirley Bassey to sing about a man’s penis. Shirley is definitely singing about not needing a man like Bond in her life, since she has her diamonds. “Men are mere mortals who are not worth going to your grave for”… damn Shirley!
Best looking cinematic moment? I think the oil rig action sequence is well done. Especially the pull away shot at the end.
How could the villain have succeeded? Blofeld has a gun on Bond and doesn’t use it. Instead he gases Bond in an elevator, only to have him buried in a pipe. Making things way too complicated.
Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? This is easy. Roger Moore. Moore took over just two years later and was meant for a campy side of Bond.
Does Bond ever think he might die? He looks pretty damn worried during his almost cremation.
What would have made the movie better? If it had been a direct sequel to OHMSS and starred Lazenby. Think 007 meets Taken. No offense to Connery, but he phoned this one in.
What’s in a name? Bond uses the name Peter Franks and also pretends to be Franks’ brother. He also uses Mr. and Mrs. Jones for a bridal suite at the Whyte House.
What’s in a title? Diamonds Are Forever comes from the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. The title is perfect and fits the plot of the movie.
Drinking game: Take a shot of Belvedere Vodka every time the word “diamond” is uttered (not counting the song). You will be drunk before Bond gets to Amsterdam.
“WTF?!” moment: Where to start? Bond making out with himself. A woman in the circus “turns” into a gorilla. An elephant plays the slots and wins money. But the winner is Blofeld in drag. There’s no explanation for it, other than Charles Gray in drag works better than Donald Pleasance or Telly Salavas in drag.
Fun fact: The original plot had Goldfinger’s twin brother as the main villain. I’m guessing this brother loved diamonds?
Overall ranking: 24th best Bond movie out of 24 Bond movies.
Review synopsis: James Bond just doesn’t belong in Vegas. Gray is the weakest Blofeld. The revenge plot goes away too quickly and the rest of the story is all over the place. Jill St. John isn’t a very interesting Bond girl. Connery is the greatest Bond of all-time, but he goes out with a dud. As a Bond fanatic, Diamonds Are Forever is still watchable and enjoyable, but it’s also my least favorite film in the franchise’s history.