- Directed by Guy Hamilton
- December 14, 1971 (West Germany) / December 17, 1971 (US) / December 30, 1971 (UK, premiere)
- Based on Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel Diamonds Are Forever
Bond impersonates a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring and soon uncovers a plot by Blofeld to use them to build a laser weapon to destroy Washington and extort the world.
Sean Connery returns for one last outing as James Bond after George Lazenby took over in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond is older and more mature in this one though he’s significantly angrier and much tougher than at any other point in Connery’s run. Diamonds Are Forever starts out with James Bond searching out Blofeld and it takes a little bit before they actually show Connery on screen. All you hear is his distinctive voice and it’s a great tease for the man you have come to see take on the role that made him a megastar.
Connery gives it his all here and turns in a great swansong for his time as 007. He is as tough as ever with a touch of humor this time around. His Bond understands just how unusual things are in his world and makes an occasional quip and reacts appropriately.
Interestingly in Diamonds Are Forever Blofeld is played by Charles Gray who in Sean Connery’s previous outing had played Bond’s contact in Japan named Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice. That particular casting doesn’t make much sense to me. Gray turned in a great performance. He was more like a gentleman villain. He was it he was cold and evil but much more formal and perhaps more stable than Pleasance’s portrayal of the character had ever been. But this makes him the third actor in as many consecutive films to play the character. I am willing to bet Savalas of Pleasence could have come back.
Though implied by the presence of Blofeld, SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) is not really mentioned. The story seems to connect to the last film with Bond in part seeking revenge for the death of his wife. There were some legal issues going on which lasted for decades which certainly impacted this film and future Bond iterations so them not being mentioned but implied makes sense.
What is a Bond film without a Bond girl? Enter Jill St. John as diamond smuggler Tiffany Case making her the first American Bond girl. Bond encounters Case while following a trail of dead smugglers in a chain all caused by hitmen and Blofeld henchmen Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith). It is just a weird dynamic between the two characters. They are very cold and casual about their work.
Miss Case for her part is much more argumentative and brash as a character in comparison to other Bond girls. As a diamond smuggler she is not particularly dangerous or threatening but rather business oriented and comes off a bit oblivious to the danger her profession could put her in.
I feel a strong need to mention Bruce Cabot as Whyte House casino manager Bert Saxby who is working with Blofeld. It is practically reflexive to see him in a movie with John Wayne. To see him in anything else is rather unusual. Truthfully though you get much more of his voice than you do anything else. That comes from a scene where Bond, using a device, impersonating Saxby over the phone.
The diamonds that are central to the plot are part of a laser to be used in a global blackmail plot. Nothing more complicated than that. With a focus on the mafia as part of the story, the film spends a great deal of time in Las Vegas. There is not too much globe hopping which is unfortunate. However what it lacks in globetrotting it makes up for in pure enjoyment.
Blofeld has somehow managed to replace an industrialist Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean) who is modeled after Howard Hughes. If you know anything about Howard Hughes you have a good idea of how easy that could be. The difference between the two here is that Whyte might actually mingle with people.
This movie could’ve easily been part of the Roger Moore run. While Bond is certainly much more violent in this and a lot less willing to take crap, there is a greater level of humor and occasional goofiness that seems more appropriate for the Roger Moore era than it does for the Sean Connery era. Heck, Bond at one point escapes in a moon buggy.
The action is great and this is a much more action oriented thriller. The relationship with Tiffany Case is appropriate enough to justify Bond having a connection with her but they don’t spend an excessive amount of time trying to build up a one-off lover like they did in You Only Live Twice. More importantly this is a much better film from start to finish for Connery to leave on.
Diamonds Are Forever is a great way for Sean Connery to actually say goodbye to James Bond. It’s fun and exciting. While it lacks anything too exotic it makes up for that with a fun story.