22 July 2011

BlogalongaBond- DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER Review

No, I'm not kidding...
Following the bold change-up presented by On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Eon slipped back into old habits in a bid to recreate the most popular elements of Goldfinger. Sean Connery was enticed back into Bond's shoes after George Lazenby, perhaps unwisely, chose not to sign on for more outings as the lead. The producers also reacquired director Guy Hamilton, and came out with Diamonds Are Forever.

Sadly, the terrific ending of the previous film is all but forgotten. We might as well have jumped straight here from You Only Live Twice, because nobody mentions the late Mrs. Bond and we find 007 with just as much determination to hunt down Blofeld as he did before the baldy face-changer assassinated Tracy. Apparently achieving his mission before the opening titles, Bond gets a new assignment- to uncover a covert diamond smuggling ring, which is tied up with reclusive billionaire mogul Willard Whyte.

I'll give the film this- it opens strong. The Lazenby-shaped four year gap since Connery last played James Bond means that he looks quite a bit older than he did in You Only Live Twice. This is masked quite nicely by the quick but brilliant sequence of Bond travelling the world, hunting down Blofeld's associates and methodically squeezing information out of them. The next bit with Blofeld and the super-heated poop mud shit lets it down slightly, but it's a nicely delivered first minute or so.

But the series' shift into the 70s is tied together by a number of tropes that characterised the 60s films, and the emergent tropes that would come to characterise the new decade. It actually happens quite neatly, as well-judged and executed action sequences each seem to dovetail into slapstick. The brutal elevator fight between Bond and smuggler Peter Franks is an early highlight, but it winds up with Franks covered in fire extinguisher foam, falling over a stairwell.

We're also introduced to gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, played somewhere between sinister and comical. This is the start of the henchman becoming more of an interesting character than the real antagonist. You can almost see the era of Roger Moore crowning, throughout this film, but at least it's considerably less laboured than then-recent outings like Thunderball.

Considering it's Connery's (official) swansong in the role, it's a shame he doesn't go out with much of a bang. Similarly, even less thought than usual is given over to the film's female attractions. Jill St. John is a sassy redhead who compares unfavourably to Luciana Paluzzi from Thunderball, by being another of those women on Blofeld's team who are just dying to be swept off their feet by Bond. And then there's a "character" called Plenty O'Toole, who doesn't even make it to bed with Bond before she's accidentally killed by the baddies.

This marks the last (proper) appearance of Blofeld, and he's regenerated once again. Charles Gray, whose character was previously killed off in You Only Live Twice, is more a Cheshire Cat than his two predecessors, and by the end credits, it's easy to see why Donald Pleasence is the best remembered of the three. It's hard to rate an antagonist as one of Bond's greatest when he's played by three different actors in three films, the third of which conveniently forgets how he killed Bond's wife.

In the film's defence, it gives Blofeld his most plausible plan yet, very topical and of its time, and administered by the mastermind posing as the aforementioned Mr. Whyte. If you're taken in by the idea that Bond finishes his mission from the last two films in the first two minutes of the film, you might believe that Whyte's behind it all for exactly as long as the film wants you to.

Neither is it a failing of the film that the oil rig finale feels like a comedown from the previous film's helicopter-skiing-bobsledding-ice-base-sieging humdinger- production problems meant that the intended denouement between Bond and Blofeld was scrapped. It's just unfortunate that their final confrontation instead comes with Blofeld in a "bathosub" (whatever the fuck that is), being swung around on a crane operated by Bond. After the tragic and heartbreaking closer of the last film, it's particularly unforgivable. 

Diamonds Are Forever is the last gasp of 60s Bond, stretched between the old and the more comically tinged instalments to come. Sean Connery isn't exactly in peak condition in this one, having come back only for the money and the opportunity to support two completely separate projects through production at Eon. Although unfocused in the first half, it rallies around and starts to make sense after the 60 minute mark. As Connery departed, another change was still to come.

#7- Blofeld is so unconvinced by his own drag act that he has to keep his pussy firmly in hand the whole time.

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The Mad Prophet Will Return, With Live And Let Die... in August

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

Jill St. John is a sassy redhead who compares unfavourably to Luciana Paluzzi from Thunderball, by being another of those women on Blofeld's team who are just dying to be swept off their feet by Bond.

Are you kidding me? The only interests that Tiffany Case had in Bond was to use him as a means to either get hold of the diamonds, to keep her ass out of prison or save her from Blofeld.

Bond was nothing but a convenient boob or a bit of fun to her.