The James Bond Film Festival. Part 7: Diamonds are Forever

The James Bond Film Festival. Part 1: Dr. No
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 2: From Russia with Love
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 3: Goldfinger
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 4: Thunderball
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 5: You Only Live Twice
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 6: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

“Homosexuals make the worst killers.” Thus wrote Ian Flemin in his novel. In Diamonds are Forever these homosexuals are Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith). They take special glee in their assasinations, and are a thoroughly nasty duo. But first…

James Bond (Sean Connery, in his final outing in the role – at least for the films in the canon) is pissed. Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas in *On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Charles Gray in this film – incidentally, Gray portrayed “Henderson” in You Only Live Twice) killed Bond’s new wife in OHMSS. Bond is out for revenge. Bond kills Blofeld, only to find that the man he killed was a double. He kills the other Blofeld who gloats over Bond’s mistake, too. Having disposed of Blofeld, Bond is put onto a routine diamond smuggling case.

The diamonds are being smuggled out of South Africa, but Wint and Kidd intercept the courier and give them to a sweet little old missionary lady (Margaret Lacey) who takes them to Amsterdam – where Wint and Kidd kill her. The diamonds pass to Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) who needs to move them to the United States. Bond impersonates her courier and the diamonds arrive in Las Vegas.

Cutting to the chase… The diamonds are wanted by operatives of Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), a wealthy industrialist based upon Howard Hughes, who has been a recluse for about five years. Bond eventually makes his way to Whyte’s penthouse and is captured by (you guessed it) Blofeld, who uses a voice changing device to impersonate Whyte. Whyte, you see, has a space division and the satellite operation suits Blofeld’s latest scheme. The diamonds are being put into a satellite and will be used to focus an unbelievably (really) powerful laser. Although Whyte is rescued, the good guys are too late to stop the launch of the satellite. Blofeld is offering to destroy the weapons of one country or another (the U.S., the Soviet Union, China) and selling the right not to be destroyed to the highest bidder.

Bond must thwart Blofeld’s evil plan before he ca carry it out!

As usual, I have some nitpicks. Wint and Kidd kill the first diamond smuggler by putting a scorpion down his back. Bond films have very quick deaths, and this was no exception. First of all most scorpions are not deadly, and certainly their stings do not result in instant death! When Bond goes to Amsterdam, he meets up with the reall smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson) whom he fights on the lift. Bond is a secret agent. Why doesn’t he just shoot Franks with a silenced pistol? (Because that would not look as good on-screen, but still…) And I thought the secret entrance to Whyte’s underground installation to be a little too cute. (I’d rather have seen joshua trees in the landscape instead of cacti, but I’m not sure if even joshua trees are native to the Las Vegas area.) Those are all of the nitpicks that really stood out for me.

Wint and Kidd are played with a smirk. There’s a scene on the airplane where Kidd mentiones that Tiffany Case is attractive. When Wint looks jealous, Kidd says, “… For a lady! Ha ha ha!” I thought that was amusing, though I’m sure it’s not PC.

Another funny scene was when Bond is being chased in the “moon buggy”. In one shot, the mon buggy comes over a rise and exits screen-left. A persuing saloon rolls down the hill. As it rolls, we see one of the moon buggy’s wheels roll into the shot. Obviously, there had been a mishap but they kept the shot anyway.

I’ve heard people talk about the “gaffe” that occurs in the Las Vegal chase scene. They point out that the red Mustang Mach I rolls up on its right-side tires in an alley, but when it exits it is rolling on the left ones. However, there is a shot of Case and Bond in the car that shows that the car is being rolled onto its opposite side. So no gaffe there (although they didn’t specifically show how it was done – one assumes it was done in a similar manner to the way they got up on the rights).

Whyte’s research facility is ultra-modern, but it’s not an “Evil Overlord’s Lair”. While it was a bit overdone, at least it wasn’t located under a Caribbean island or inside of a volcano!

Is this a good film? It’s not bad. I liked the Wint and Kidd characters (or caricatures). I liked that Bond had more of a support team through the film than he had in earlier ones. I thought the moon buggy was silly, but when I first saw the film I thought it was pretty cool. But there’s just something about it that makes me think it’s lacking… something. It’s fun, it’s not a bad outing, but it needed… something. Maybe someone will point out what that “something” is?

This is the first Bond film I saw on its first elease, and the Bond films were still a new thing to me, so my standards were lower. I thought it was generally ntertaining, but I didn’t get a lot of th jokes. Were I watching it today, I’d be disappointed, I think. After the wat OHMSS followed the book so closel, it was annoying to see this on depart so far from Fleming. (They still released Fleming’s book coincident with the film’s release, with the movie poster for a cover. As far as I know, it’s the last time they ever did that – Live and Let Die didn’t have a rerelease of the book, nor did The Man with the Golden Gun, and for the next two Bond movies Christopher Wood wrote completely new “novelizations”.) They actually did keep some of the elements from the book, including Kidd and Wint, an a fatal mud bath. But no Bond movie would follow the plot given by the book again until 1981’s For Your Eyes Only based on “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico”, and a touch of “Live and Let Die”.)

The plot was pretty cever, though. I have to dmit to being disappointed at the end – Blofeld has to rely on a crare operator to get his sub in the water? No ay is this the guy who designed that escape system and self-destruct in Japan. And I was annoyed that they left us hanging with the fate of Blofeld for so many years.
And where did Blofeld get all that silver-gray hair, anyway?

You forgot to mention the coffin scene. When I was a kid, I used to have nightmares about that scene! And I loved the Vegas chase scene. So I have fond memories of it, even though it’s arguably the weakest of the Connery Bonds.

Diamonds Are Forever is one of the most underrated Bond films out there. Some points that I love about it:

Wint and Kidd, already mentioned. Their blase sadism and polite banter is so amusing, making them much more fun to watch than any other henchmen.

Tiffany Case is pretty much unique amongst Bond girls, neither a villain’s stooge/girlfriend, fellow secret agent or useful scientist. She’s a savvy independent operator with quite a bit of “bad girl” in her. Cool.

The title song is one of my favorites. Both lyrics and melody are haunting, and Shirley Bassey’s voice is always great.

The one thing I really disliked about this one is Bloefeld’s appearance. I can understand needing a new actor to play Bloefeld…heck, if they can replace Bonds, they can replace Bloefelds…but did they have to give him hair? At least when they cast a new Bond, they kept the same basic appearance. How was any Bond fan supposed to recognize this new guy as Bloefeld?

Diamonds are Forever is the only Sean Connery Bond film I enjoy.

It was my first Bond too, as a very young child. For me it bears repeated viewings more than most Bond films. Scenes I like:

  • Bond standing on the roof of the external elevator in the Vegas hotel, coolly shooting the cuffs of his tux like he’s just another guy taking the lift.

  • The moon buggy scene (which is all a knowing joke about the moon landing conspiracy - not just the fake astronauts/moon surface bit, but also Bond with his clipboard, saying something like “I’m here to check your radiation shields” - one of the conspiracy buffs’ claims is that the radiation in space would have killed the Apollo astronauts, and DAFE was, IIRC, filmed just after the Apollo 11 landing)

  • The car chase in Vegas (every other Bond car chase I know has some oddity about it, but this one is played straight)

  • Tiffany Case’s quick thinking when Bond asks her to cut the van off at the gas pump “Keep leanin’ on that horn, buster”

  • Tiffany Case in a bikini (rowf!!!) on Blofeld’s oil rig

One of the more fun Bonds- the first 3/4 of the movie were a little tighter then the end which was a bit disappointing.

Watching the trail of the diamonds, and the killings which followed them were nice plot movements. Also (except for the end) the villans seemed to have a decent plan.

“You killed James Bond” heh heh heh, nice.

My one question with the movie, is why didn’t they check to see he was dead before stuffing him in the pipe? And why the pipe-- his body would just clog it- the scene is neat visually but really makes no sense if you think about it. The pipe and machine set-up is ripped off in the later Bronson Bond flick with the least likely Nuclear Scientist ever.

Almost all the Vegas scenes were classics and almost all of the ocean scenes were not. Oh well.

It’s up there for me but I’m not sure Jill St John was ever really a Bond bird. Cute, bouncy arse, though.

The Wint and Kidd characters were so un-Bond and well done that they seemed to offer a genuine surreal quality at times – not Bond at all. And I thought their style broke up the relentless pace and rhythm of a Bond flick. I can see that it might have been uncomfortable if you were grooved into expecting the usual pace and plot-by-numbers deal.

Wint and Kidd are truly great Bond baddies, imho.

Who was the Director of this one because I imagine it had a lot to do with him – did he direct any others ?

The first time I watched Diamonds are Forever was immediately after watching On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That just made Diamonds seem, well, out of place and not really very good.

Watched on its own, it comes off much better.

I really like the opening theme (Shirley Bassey strikes again.)

Maybe that’s the “something” I was looking for. It played well, but I just didn’t feel satisfied at the end.

Guy Hamilton. He also directed Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun. In addition, he directed Battle of Britain (an excellent film – Ooh! Spitfires!) and Force 10 from Navaronne.

“Bert Saxby? You tell him he’s fired!”

I have to disagree with this. I was around at the time of the Apollo 11 moon landings, and no one was claiming at the time that it was a hoax. The “moon set” scenes were pretty clearly in there because Gughes (which Whyte Industries was clearly based on) was a major aerospace company, and was a big NASA contractor. It just gave them an excuse for an interesting scene (What the hell is Bond doing on the moon?) and the escape-by-buggy scene.

The Moon hoax stuff got started much later, with a big boost from 1978’s Capricorn One .

In fact, I suspect the moon scenes in Diamonds are Forever helped promote the concept of a “Moon Hoax”

Interesting Bit of Trivia: Burt Saxby was played by Bruce Cabot, who was most famous for playing First Mate Jack Driscoll, the guy who rescued Fay Wray from King Kong.

I too consider it among my favorites, for having just the right sense of humor, and the best mix of offbeat supporting characters (I can’t believe no one has mentioned Bambi and Thumper yet… fond adolescent memories of those gals…). Charles Gray’s Blofeld is easily my favorite Bond villain for his blase wit. While Dr. Evil’s appearance is largely based on Donald Pleasance’s Blofeld, I think his “I’m surrounded by frickin’ idiots” attitude owes a lot to Gray.

I believe Blofeld’s “makeover” was alluded to in the opening. Before it’s clear that Blofeld is mass producing doubles, Bond seems to figure he’s merely having his own appearance modified, presumably to become less conspicuous (though losing the Nehru jackets would have been a more cost-effective measure in that regard).

Factoids –
Bruce (Mr. Wint) Glover’s son is Crispin Glover.
IMDB lists Valerie Perrine as one of Shady (Leonard Barr in another fine cameo) Tree’s Acorns

One of the most ‘in joke’ types of Bonds…this was Connery’s well received return and probably the most hilarious of the Bonds till Roger Moore started mucking up the screen with really bad puns.

Sean is on top with a more seasoned Bond but still the rakish wit and lookin damn good strutting around in Vegas.

So…Blofield is back. And apparently doing the first cloning as many times as he can (must have learned it from the Thunderball guy). Bond proceeds to kill off Blofield clones over and over in original ways (clayed to death, boiled in clay, and the weird shot to the head). Charles Grey brings about a more oilier Blofield with a surprising wit to him vs Savalas in the commanding performance of Blofield in OHMSS. Some Bondophiles dismiss his performance but personally I like him. He gives us evilness, cross dresses to get out of a hotel, and drops a few compliments to Jill St John’s ass in the midst of worldwide hostage taking. Hell you got to respect a guy who notices that under pressure.

The bond chicks…First off, lets go for the smaller part. Plenty O’Toole. Not since Pussy Galore have we had a name that caused a double take from Bond (and with damn good reason too). Lana Wood (sister of Natalie) ‘busts out’ as a Las Vegas dicer who Bond nearly beds (dammit) only to be tossed into a pool by the oh so prevalent Henchmen. One henchmen breaks the ‘silent killer’ bit with a nice “I didn’t know there was a pool down there”.

Funny thing was I caught a piece about how ABC showed DAF about a year ago and decided to black out the sheer panties Lana was wearing while getting carried out. A shame really, kids all over the world missed a great ass shot.

So who did Plenty get the heave ho for? Why Tiffany Case, played with suprising skill by Ms Jill St John. Now Jill (36-22-35) is a DAMN fine woman and plays a good independent thief, playing both sides and uses that gorgeous bod to get her own way. She practically goes through the entire movie showing skin somewhere and of course, we ate it up. She is never really a hapless female in the movie and very nearly frys Washington with a slip up tape replacement. Still, I know a few people out there would rather end life at the hands of a nearly naked Jill St John than Dubya anyday.

Ah yes, and who can forget Bond getting his ass kicked by “Bambi” and “Thumper”. There are a few guys out there that would pay good money to get their asses handed to them by a yummy pair like that. But were they working for Willard Whyte or Blofield?

The evil plan, Blofield goes for another ransom hold (does he ever just assassinate people for money anymore?) on the entire world by using the most expensive sattellite made that has a heat ray on it. Hell, he had to steal the diamonds else the ransom would have just gone to pay the creditors for the damn sattellite. He also holds Willard Whyte hostage, masks himself as the unseen billionaire and stays in ‘the Whyte House’ in Las Vegas AKA the Las Vegas Hilton. The plan is cohesive, though the scientific implication are laughable. The plan to kidnap an elusive billionaire and play him was genius though and I applaud Blofield for it (I mean its the equivalent to Hussein taking over Bill Gates and being able to run shady operations under the radar).

Watch the film enough and you will start calling the hotel the “Whyte House” as well.

Henchmen: Ah Mr Wint and Mr. Kidd. Signature henchmen back with a vengence and apparently a rather pronounced “swish”! Played to perfection, the dynamic killing duo tye up more loose ends than a few past henchmen. Though they seem to have a thing for knocking off the elderly (They got Shady Tree! NOOO!) and with a pronounced soft spoken manner. One thing confused me though. What the heck attracted Wint to Kidd? The guy looked like a deranged Captain Kangaroo! Still, a memorable pair.

My take…lots of Bondophiles dislike this one. It tends to goof on itself, and is a bit campy but personally, its one of my favorites. It’s everything Bond except a little less on the gadgets (1 pocket mousetrap) and its the return of Connery unfortunately its the departure of Connery too. The girls are gorgeous, the setting is great, and its one of the few ones where the villians seem to get the laughs.

Next up…the intro of a new Bond! Live and Let Die! Jane Seymour lookin HOT! Bad use of prosthetics, Baron Samedi, and good lord…007 is in Harlem in the Early 70’s! There ain’t enough gadgets in the world to save his English ass this time!

This film was inspired by a dream one of the producers had regarding Bond being kidnapped by a Howard Hughes impersonator. Hughes was willing to let them film at one of his casinos (used for the Whyte House) in exchange for a print of the film. The Hughes-esque character of Willard Whyte is played by country singer/pork sausage maven Jimmy Dean, in what has to be one of the strangest casting choices in a Bond film (along with Wayne Newton as a corrupt televangelist in Licence to Kill).

The scene in the funeral home is confusingly strange. Bond is about to be cremated, goes through flames, and all of a sudden, Shady Tree shows up complaining the diamonds are fake! Huh?

Definitely working for Willard Whyte. When Bond first meets him, he says “I see you’ve met Bambi and Thumper.” (Played by Jimmy Dean, sausage magnate. He did a pretty good job, IMO).

This is the one for some reason that I’ve seen the least, but the line “Named after your father, perhaps?” was one of those watershed moments for me, as I’d heard it about a dozen times before I realized the implications. (Another was from Moonraker - “Can we go around the World one more time?” :o)

Muff: Bert Saxby tries to shoot Whyte because Blofeld told him to, right? No, Blofeld actually told Bond to kill Whyte when he was speaking to him through the voice imitator that made him sound like Saxby.

It was my impression that they worked for Blofeld and were the ones in charge of WW while he was captivity. Knowing the girls in this manner would show why he knew who had taken Bond for a swim.

MMMMM, Live and Let Die. I love that movie. :smiley:

Definitely working for Blofeld. Otherwise, why wouldn’t Bambi and Thumper just let Whyte out of his cell?

I take this to mean that Willard Whyte had tried to escape before, and the grrls handed him his ass on a platter.

That makes sense. I always assumed they were his bodyguards. Which in retrospect makes no sense at all. :slight_smile: