Sunday, 17 July 2011

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

He’s back! Not just James Bond, but Connery as well. Initially we are teased by mysterious hands punching/strangling as we see that someone is tracking down Blofeld. What’s this? It’s Sean Connery; but he looks old! The super-fast, exposition-heavy intro then continues (is this the quickest he has ever said Bond, James Bond?); a random gets gooped, and then Blofeld himself is gooped (a lot of goop in this evil lair). What? Blofeld dead? The film is only 3 minutes old!

Following the frenetic pace of this intro, the film slows right down, and doesn’t get going again until... erm... the next film, possibly? M seems completely bored with 007 as he and “Sir Donald” brief him in diamond smuggling, whereas Bond just seems more interested in his sherry. Cut into this exposition are scenes showing the various stages of smuggling, including the many loose ends tidied up by Mr Wint and Mr Kidd! If ever there was an indication that we are now in the 70s, the style and Bromance between these two is it.

Just in case we were getting excited, we are treated to 15 min of following Diamonds around Circus Circus, then to the airport, and finally out to a secret research area. This culminates in Bond escaping in a Robbie-the-Robot look-a-like space buggy. I do love the way that the astronauts try to stop James from escaping, but they can’t because they move awkwardly as if they’re in space, except they’re in the Nevada desert! Following this ludicrousness there’s an exciting car chase! Which is about as good as this:

Of course, it’s the performances of the main cast that hold a movie together. Having enjoyed Charles Gray’s memorable, though brief, appearance in YOLT, I was really looking forward to his take on Blofeld. Unfortunately the fine performance from YOLT is not particularly in evidence here. Whereas Telly’s Blofeld had an underlying menace, and a quiet confidence; Charles’ Blofeld is a bit too contrived; confident yes, but to the point of being too familiar: “Miss Case, showing a bit more cheek than usual?” He is however very scary, especially when dressed in drag! Was there really no better way for him to escape from his casino? He also comes across as being scared himself; when he realises that perhaps his oil-platform is in danger, he runs towards his submarine escape-pod like a frightened schoolboy - not very SPECTRE. Sean himself, as I’ve already mentioned comes across as being quite bored. By now he has lost all of the suave magnetic charm that was so evident in the first three films. Far from being the man that women swoon over, he seems bored with sexual shenanigans now; as he gets naked, he first hangs up his suit, displays his developing beer gut, and then gets into bed. He even considerately nestles the ashtray in his significant chest-rug so that Tiffany can smoke her post-coital cigarette!

In terms of the women, Plenty O’Toole is just a comedy name and doesn’t last very long; Bambi and Thumper the same; whereas Tiffany Case is probably the best character in the film. She is the one who keeps turning up, driving the plot forward, and providing a more interesting thread through the film than following some diamonds around; which is essentially all 007 does. Jill St John ensures that Tiffany generates far more intrigue than Blofeld, and seems far more involved in the plot than Bond the spectator. She even changes her hair colour, which leads to the only good one-liner from James as he admits that he doesn’t mind blondes or brunettes “providing the collars and cuffs match”!

Sadly, for the second film in a row there is no furniture fighting, but the vicious scrap in the lift with the real Peter Franks makes up for it. Very nicely shot and cut, it is very reminiscent of the fight with Red Grant in FRWL. It seems that Sean excels at fighting in confined spaces. Once again another highlight are some of the amazing sets designed by Ken Adam; none as huge as a secret volcano base, but very sleek.

There were also some excellent over-dramatic deaths; whether it is due to a plastic scorpion down the neck; or being shot in the head having been distracted by a kicked cat!

However, at the end of the day DAF is a very lacklustre James Bond escapade, not as stodgy or waterlogged as Thunderball, but still quite tedious. It feels like the whole film is a death rattle to Sean’s time as 007. Time for another change?

Order of Preference so far: