Time: 97 Minutes
Sean Connery as James Bond
Jill St. John as Tiffany Case
Charles Gray as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole
Jimmy Dean as Willard Whyte
Bruce Cabot as Albert R. ‘Bert’ Saxby
Director: Guy Hamilton
James Bond masquerades as Peter Franks to uncover a diamond smuggling conspiracy. He must also deal with his old rival, who wants to use the diamonds to build a giant laser.
Diamonds Are Forever follows on from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which quickly became one of my favourite Bond movies. Going into my rewatch of Diamonds of Forever I did hear some things about it, first of all that Sean Connery returned to play Bond, and second of all that it was one of the worst films in the series. Before my rewatches of Bond, I didn’t remember much of the movies, so I was curious to see what made this film particularly terrible. So I watched it again and I quickly found out.
Notably, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ended with James Bond’s wife Tracy being killed by SPECTRE on their wedding day, so you’d think that the movie would immediately follow on from that. Diamonds Are Forever opens with an over-the-top scene where Bond roughly interrogating people, demanding to know where Blofeld is. This silly cold open seems to serve the purpose of just getting that whole business dealt with immediately, concluding with Bond supposedly killing Blofeld (even though it is so obvious that he’s not dead). However, Tracy is not mentioned once throughout DAF, nor the events of OHMSS, so you really could’ve jumped into the movie after watching You Only Live Twice and not realise there was a movie in between. I get that this is par for the course for Bond in terms of feeling loosely connected. However, it feels like wasted potential that they didn’t capitalise on the events on the last movie. The plot itself was boring, drawn out and nonsensical. This incredibly convoluted story has Bond trying to uncover a diamond smuggling ring. After the opening, scene the first thirty minutes seemed promising, but any hope for it being good gradually fades away. At times it is pretty clear that the plot is not the main focus, as it jumps from one goofy setpiece to another silly setpiece in which hijinks ensue. James Bond is no stranger to camp elements but Diamonds Are Forever dials it all the way up, it particularly stands out when you compare it to OHMSS. Diamonds Are Forever is definitely one of the most over the top and silly Bond movies, continuing in the direction that You Only Live Twice was moving. However here, its at the point where it feels like it is parodying itself. It feels like they tried to put some form gag into almost every scene, even the puns and one liners were bad. In some of the worst Bond movies, I wished that they leant more into its silliness so it could at least be fun to watch. DAF definitely did this but to the point where it made the movie worse, even occasionally painful to watch. Despite all that, those moments aren’t enough to prevent the plot from being dreadfully dull. There are some fun moments, including when Connery is driving around a moon buggy. I also think that the setting of Vegas is at least different for James Bond, if not as interesting. However on the whole, the writing is just really bad, surprising considering that it’s the same people who worked on the previous movies.
Following George Lazenby’s departure from the role of James Bond, Sean Connery played his iconic character once more. Reportedly he was paid a large sum of money ($1.25 million) to return, and you can definitely see that, in the sense that this was really clearly a paycheck role. In all the other Bond movies, you can at least see the Bond actors putting a lot of effort into their performances, even Roger Moore in the later movies was at least trying. But Connery does not feel like his Bond from years ago. He really phones it in despite having some charm to him. It really is a shame because this is his last official outing as James Bond. I will say this though, had they not cast Connery, it really could’ve been the end of James Bond as a franchise considering the overall film. Diamonds of Forever has some of the worst Bond girls in the franchise, the main one being Jill St. John as Tiffany Case who feels really out of place here. Really though, the female characters are all terrible here, and in fact just about all the characters are bad. The role of Ernst Stravo Blofeld as previously played by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice and Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was recast yet again. The next person to play the head of SPECTRE is Charles Gray, who interestingly already played a Bond ally in You Only Live Twice. This is very much a campy version of Blofeld and quite possibly the worst version of the character, really not adding anything at all. However he is occasionally funny in a over the top way. I guess he does briefly disguise himself in drag at once point, you can’t say that the other Blofelds ever did that. There’s a duo of random hitmen that the film keeps cutting to named Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint as played by Putter Smith and Bruce Glover, who are heavily implied to be gay. I feel like they might’ve worked better in a Roger Moore movie. While they are at least unique and memorable, they aren’t good here. All their scenes feel like an unwanted detour and distraction, just another unfunny gag.
Diamonds Are Forever is directed by Guy Hamilton, who made Goldfinger. This should inspire confidence, it’s just a shame that his work here is disappointing. Much of the production design and similar technical elements are solid. However, there’s just a lack of energy throughout. The action scenes aren’t necessarily bad but are boring, lazy and on autopilot, as if it was just going through the similar motions of the previous movies. Even the car chase scene in Vegas and another chase scene involving a moon buggy somehow manage to feel devoid of energy. I will give props to one legitimately good scene in which Bond fights someone in an elevator, that was actually well done. As far as other technical praises go, the John Barry score is decent and the title track Diamonds Are Forever as sung by Shirley Bassey is really good, among the best songs in the franchise.
Diamonds Are Forever is easily the worst film of the Bond series. There are moments of enjoyment, some of the over-the-top scenes can be fun to watch, and there are some genuinely good aspects like the elevator fight or the title song. However, its just all around bad on the whole. The writing is terrible with a dumb yet dull plot, incredibly goofy moments that rank amongst the franchise’s lowest points, and disappointing direction. While there have been other bad movies in the series’ Sean Connery’s phoned in performance as Bond is ultimately what cemented it for me as the absolute worst. It is honestly a miracle that the series just didn’t end here.