For more thoughts on Diamonds are Forever, check out this week’s That Bond Show.
James Bond entered the 1970’s in glorious and unrepentant camp. Utterly silly, absurd, and truthfully quite bad of a movie, Diamonds are Forever is a hell of a watch. To be fair, watching it with Trevor as I did for this rewatch gave the film an almost Rocky Horror-esque energy to it as we were riffing off the movie’s many pratfalls and campiness. It’s thus hard to judge how much fun it is by yourself. While, spoilers, Diamonds are Forever is gonna be the lowest reviewed movie of the seven films thus far, there is a somewhat convincing case to be made that it’s more fun than a couple of the films above it.
In many ways Diamonds are Forever has a greatest hits energy to it. Sean Connery was coaxed back for one final run. Guy Hamilton, director of Goldfinger is back to direct again. The film has a zany fun energy we’ve arguably been missing since at least Thunderball, if not earlier. Finally, we get Blofeld making yet another turn with a great couple of henchmen at his side in Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
Just like a band coming back for one more run, things are a bit off all across the board. This movie is very campy. Closer to Adam West’s Batman than any of the prior Bond films. It is absurd in a way only a small handful of movies in the series are. Indeed there is a fairly convincing case to be made that here, with Diamonds are Forever and Sean Connery, is where the series hits peak camp and absurdity. No Roger Moore involved at all.
The camp of the movie can be seen particularly clearly in Diamonds’ cast of villains. Indeed they are often the people who seem to know the kind of movie they are in. Charles Gray is an utter delight as Blofeld here. Chewing up dialogue and stealing virtually every scene he’s in with his comical and over the top portrayal of Bond’s most famous villain. The idea that he would go on to play a role in Rocky Horror makes immediate sense. It is Putter Smith and Bruce Glover as Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint though who shine brightest of all as the wonderful henchmen slowly tying up the various loose ends of the diamond smuggling operation.
Wint and Kidd feed off of each other fantastically and have this unhinged, slightly unnerving style. Wint in particular has such an odd delivery style and it was the least surprising news to discover that he is the father of Crispin Glover: another actor who relishes the creepy and odd performances. Both Wint and Kidd are characters totally aware of the kind of film they are in and enjoy it. Every time they show up on screen you should get ready to have a blast.
The issue is that Blofeld, Wint, and Kidd are the only characters who do seem to really know the kind of movie they are in. Everyone else doesn’t seem to entirely know what to do with this script and story.
In coming back for one final run, Connery has the chance to end on a high, yet his performance is sort of all over the place. It is clear he can’t quite decide whether to go full camp or not and thus, he both leans into the sillier elements of the script and also tries to be more serious and straight-laced at other times. It’s interesting too because while Diamonds are Forever is easily the worst movie of his run, I think it’s far closer as to whether this is his worst performance or not. I do think Connery is having a bit more fun here then he was in say You Only Live Twice, for example. Probably didn’t hurt that he basically just golfed and gambled between filming all night long.
The other key element of Connery’s final Bond appearance is his age. Connery is just 41 as Bond here – the youngest of any actor in multiple movies in the series in his final appearance – and yet, he looks like he’s aged about a decade in the four years between You Only Live Twice and this. Part of this is simply he was so young in his earlier movies, but also he was so full of raw energy and this sense of power to him that, while still there, is somewhat more shaded and fuzzy now. Connery hasn’t really settled into his older handsome gentleman persona yet like in future films in his career. Ultimately Diamonds is just sort of an odd funky transition movie for him.
The story of the film is also strange and odd and very scattershot. It’s weird that Bond is being tasked with this diamond smuggling job to begin with and for the first act of the film or so before Blofeld appears the film is clearly lacking energy and motivation. Even when Charles Gray’s Blofeld does finally show up and provide a wonderful spark to things, his plan itself is hardly straightforward, involving dopplegangers, satellites, nuclear weapons, and at the heart of it all…a cassette tape.
Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.
Everywhere you look this sort of funkiness carries over in the movie. While there are some who like Jill St. John as Tiffany Case, I have always found her to be one of the weakest and one note of all of the Bond girls. While in the first act of the movie there are some fun moments between her and Bond and this sort of cat and mouse game they are playing while he’s undercover, by the time she is captured by Blofeld in the last act she is basically tasked with simply standing around in a bikini. Even by the series standards, hers is one of the more shallow character arcs.
Felix is a dud and a bit of a bore, M seems to be extra cranky with Bond here, and while Q and Moneypenny still have nice moments with Bond, the cast as a whole can just never seem to gel together in a fun and interesting way.
If there is a lightness and magic to Guy Hamilton’s best films in the series, his worst, Diamonds among them turn that lightness into a shallowness where none of it really matters and the stakes are non-existent. I mean Blofeld blows up multiple nuclear weapons across the globe and no one seems really all that bothered.
Diamonds are Forever just has a cheesy B-movie energy to it. It’s shallow, looks cheap (probably a bi-product of paying Sean Connery a king’s fee to come back), and becomes camp and over the top instead of a fun exciting adventure. The actors are a miss more often than not and the story is nonsense.
All that said though, this movie maybe more than any other in the series lends itself to a Rocky Horror-esque viewing with friends. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and while that rubs me the wrong way at times it also allows for fun to be had poking out the many mistakes and goofs of the movie.
It is the first out and out bad movie of the series and one that will fight for being one of the worst in the series, yet I will say…I’d rather watch this than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I think. It’s a goof and a good Sunday afternoon movie to have on.
Oh man, I honestly have no idea for the best moments. It sort of has no sustained great scenes. Really anything involving Wint and Kidd is excellent. The scene of Bond scaling the Whyte House and confronting Blofeld is pretty good stuff too.
Charles Gray’s Blofeld has grown on me so much. I couldn’t stand him for so long, the way he’s playing for laughs and is so over the top and campy compared to the two Blofelds before him.
Now though, he’s a blast. While I still think he’s the weakest of the 3 on-screen Blofelds from this era I enjoy him far more and think he’s easily one of the best parts of the movie. He is helped further by Wint and Kidd who, along with Charles Gray, totally understand the movie and its vibe and roll around and have fun with it all.
While not a top-tier combo they are fun and constantly some of the best stuff of this bonkers movie. 7/10
Norman Burton did not get the memo on the kind of movie this is. It doesn’t help that this was always going to be a weird movie for Felix, but Burton just doesn’t deliver here. Taking an older Felix approach to Connery’s Bond could have succeeded in mimicking the style of Felix that Goldfinger went for. But in Burton and director Guy Hamilton’s hands, it ends up becoming one of the most forgettable and bland of all of the Leiters. It may just avoid being the weakest Felix in the series. 4/10
Sort of a funky one for gadgets here for 007. He’s got the grappling gun that he uses to scale the Whyte House and even kill one of the knock-off Blofelds with, but really the only thing he gets from Q is the voice changing device and we had already seen Blofeld use the same thing earlier in the film. Gotta be a 5/10
The Music –
I mean it’s Shirely Bassey. That’s good. The thing itself is sort of mid-tier Bond theme with largely forgettable verses but a pretty banger of a chorus. 7/10
Final Ranking –
Diamonds are Forever is unlike almost anything else in the entire James Bond series. Camp, absurdist, cheesy, and with this cheaply made B-movie energy to it at times, Diamonds are Forever is not a good movie. What it is though is more than a little fun. It’s both one of the weaker films in the series and also one of the ones that most lends itself to a Rocky Horror watch party. Heck that’s how I watched it most recently with Trevor for That Bond Show.
Charles Gray gives a wild new twist on Blofeld delivering a performance that, while not great, is utterly in the spirit of the film. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are delights throughout. And finally Sean Connery, while not at his peak or best, still delivers an odd, occasionally camp performance that at least feels like he had more fun with it than in You Only Live Twice. What a strange, fun, movie this is. 6/10