‘Diamonds Are Forever’ Review: A Ridiculous Luster

Posted in The Screening Room by - January 08, 2016

Starting off the January, Bond January with an early classic like From Russia with Love was a great way to kick things off for a newbie like me. It introduces the style, the world, and the kind of vibrant characters that the 007 franchise has to offer. Still, the whole time I was watching it, I had to ask myself, where did all that craziness come from? Between the James Bond video games and parodies like Austin Powers, I had this image of a man fighting over-the-top villains with wild gadgets, spouting witty repartees and seducing droves of women. From Russia had virtually none of that, so I began to question how I had come to form this outlandish view of the series.

Apparently I just needed to sit my ass down for a few more movies. Because Diamonds Are Forever is nothing if not bold and eccentric.

After a brief hiatus and replacement by George Lazenby, Sean Connery returned for one last outing as the famed British intelligence operative. Facing off against the now-revealed “Number One” of SPECTRE, Blofeld (played by Charles Gray), 007 rounds the globe to foil a jewel heist that lands him in the heart of Las Vegas. With more enemy agents, more tricks, and of course more women, Bond’s adventures reach all-new levels – some better than others.

If you have any question on just how over-the-top this movie can be, it gives you no room for debate. In the very first scene, we see Bond sneak into a SPECTRE compound where they plan to make body doubles for Blofeld with wacky super-science. As 007 is nearly apprehended by the villain and his henchmen after smothering the would-be doppelgänger, there’s a stilted action fight that ends with Connery tying Blofeld to a table and sliding him into a pool of molten mud. Yes, folks, we are in for an extremely wacky treat, here.

As ever, the core cast is completely on-point: Connery is one of the best actors to ever take up the 007 mantle; Gray makes for a fantastically scene-chewing villain; and Jill St. John takes a turn as the latest Bond Girl, Tiffany Case, a diamond smuggler won over to the “good guys” by the seductive wiles of the leading man. But the real surprise turn comes from two SPECTRE hitmen, Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (played by Putter Smith and Bruce Glover, respectively). This strange duo easily overtakes virtually any scene they are dropped in, as their antics are impossible to forget. Wint is always upping the haminess-meter to 11, while Kidd delivers lines so blasé that it creates the perfect contrast to their increasingly strange tactics of murder. As soon as I saw them complete each other’s thoughts, kill a man with a scorpion down his shirt, then walk off hand-in-hand, I knew I was in for a treat. All those strangely melodramatic killer duos of my childhood came rushing back, as I saw the storied lineage these two oddballs had created.

But the craziness doesn’t stop there. Once Bond makes it to Vegas, we get not only a chase against the cops and a tower scaling scene, as Connery rides on top of an elevator, but a shoot-out AND a chase through a SPECTRE-funded fake moon landing set. And, yes, it includes actors pretending to be in low gravity while chasing the spy, and his eventual getaway in a ridiculous moon buggy, like something out of Lost in Space. Of course, that’s not before the SPECTRE troops decide to chase the little robot on three-wheelers, jumping around him like the lowest-budget Mad Max you’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, just watch for yourself and try to tell me it doesn’t sell you on the other two hours of madness.

 

Still, Diamonds Are Forever also ups the ante in ways it probably shouldn’t. These ridiculous, if amazing, scenes are so clearly shoe-stringed together that what little plot this movie has just gets drug around with no true purpose at times. Yet more glaring than that is the further fall towards misogyny in this later entry. I won’t out and out call it a hateful film towards women, but I’ll point out a few truly questionable inclusions: the lead woman is introduced in her bra and panties while Bond makes quips about her looks and offers to dress her down; a casino drifter called Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) who shows up literally to flirt with 007, get undressed, then be thrown topless out of an indeterminately-high window into a pool, just to try and threaten the spy; Bond smacking around Case because he thinks she’s crossed him, while she tries to profess some intimate feelings to him; a fight against two scantily-clad “assasins” from Blofeld that end up being gleefully drowned by 007 until they give him the information he needs to foil the big bad’s plan. All of these moments made me highly uncomfortable for their duration on the screen, but I’ll let someone with more social knowledge than me lay claim to the extent of their sexism.

If From Russia with Love was the foundation of classic Bond, then 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever may well be where the super-spy hit his legendarily wacky stride. The lines are cheesier, the action more bombastic, and the plot is so loosely contrived and it’s so crystal-clear, (if you’ll pardon the pun) that it only exists to get Connery from one exciting locale to the next, leaving a path of arm-candy women in his wake. While it marked the beginning of the fall towards self-parody, Diamonds never goes too far past its own limits to outstay its welcome. It’s probably not the Bond movie for everyone, but I definitely had my share of laughs along the way.

Final Verdict: Watch It

This post was written by
He is a Nebraska native and UNL Honors alum with an ever-relevant degree in English. When he isn’t working his day job or writing for Kulture Shocked, Ben spends his time as an independent game designer, seeking to publish his first board game. You can also find him modeling for art classes around Lincoln or online as Dlark17 on most major gaming platforms.
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