Tag Archives: Guy Hamilton

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Review

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Diamonds Are Forever

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Goldfinger (1964) Review

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Goldfinger

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]Medium level violence
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore
Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger
Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson
Director: Guy Hamilton

MI6 agent James Bond investigates a gold-smuggling ring run by businessman Auric Goldfinger. As he delves deeper into his activities, he uncovers a sinister plan to attack Fort Knox’s gold reserve

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Goldfinger is one of the most iconic James Bond movies, some people have even declared it as the best Bond movie of all time. While I wouldn’t quite say that it’s one of my all-time favourites in the franchise, I do think that it’s a good movie, along with being an incredibly important Bond movie.

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The James Bond series started with Dr No, which was an espionage spy thriller. From Russia with Love was similar to that, but succeeded more and had a slight step towards becoming like the James Bond movies we all know today. Goldfinger however was the first movie that was fully in the James Bond formula, and in fact established it. It has a sequence in which James Bond gets gadgets from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) while plenty of other spy gadgets are in the background, along with the familiar Bond and Q banter. Q in From Russia with Love makes an appearance just to give Bond a suitcase, but here they have the classic back and forth. This even has the introduction of the Aston Martin. In terms of tone, it definitely is lighter and more humorous than the first two movies, leaning more towards camp, killer laser beams and all. It is definitely self-aware of its absurdity, the introduction scene of Pussy Galore being an example of this. At the same time, it takes itself seriously when it needs to and doesn’t come anywhere close to reaching the absurdity of the Roger Moore movies. Bond gets thrown into plenty of thrilling situations, and it starts off with a bang in the energetic opening scene. While I generally like the movie, it has its fair number of issues. It is definitely outdated, especially with the treatment of women (a particular scene with Bond in a barn with Pussy Galore sticks out). However, it still has its issues that are unrelated to when it was made. The script can be a bit expository at times, and the pacing can drag a bit, especially in the second half.

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Sean Connery is once again enjoyable to watch as James Bond, especially with the charisma, the physicality, and the one liners. With all that said, I think his performances in the previous two movies were better. Bond is just not that interesting to watch here, the vulnerability he had in From Russia with Love just isn’t here. It doesn’t help that around the middle point Bond just doesn’t do much within the plot. Nonetheless, he is good in his part. Name aside, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore was certainly a step forward in terms of what a Bond Girl was for the series. There’s definitely some writing issues, her motivations are a little all over the place especially in the third act, but she plays the role well. Gert Fröbe makes for a memorable villain as Auric Goldfinger, despite some noticeable ADR and dubbing. Unlike Dr No., where the titular villain appears in the third act and From Russia with Love where its major villains are mostly in the background, Goldfinger is the villain from beginning to end. In a way, he is very over the top especially with his plans but both the writing and performance gives him enough qualities and moments to make him feel relatively human, preventing him from becoming a full on cartoon character. Even his henchman Oddjob, who doesn’t speak and kills people with his hat, is entertaining.

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Instead of Terence Young who directed the first two James Bond movies, Goldfinger has Guy Hamilton directing, and he did a good job. Goldfinger gets even larger in terms of spectacle compared to the last couple of movies. The action scenes are very effective and well filmed, and the set design is particularly strong. There is an increase in Bond gadgets over the last two films, and the film utilises them well. The musical score from John Barry is strong as to be expected. There’s also the Goldfinger song as sung by Shirley Bassey, which remains one of the most iconic opening Bond songs.

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Goldfinger does have some issues and I don’t quite love it as much as everyone else. Despite its problems though, it has a charm to it. The cast are pretty good, it’s quite entertaining, and it established the Bond formula, for better and for worse. There are better movies in the series, and in terms of the Connery era, I still think From Russia with Love is better, but it is still a good film.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Review

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The Man with the Golden Gun

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Roger Moore as James Bond
Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga
Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight
Maud Adams as Andrea Anders
Director: Guy Hamilton

James Bond (Roger Moore) is tasked with recovering a device that can harness solar energy. At the same time, he finds himself targeted by Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), the world’s most costly contract killer.

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I started the Roger Moore era of James Bond with Live and Let Die and was rather let down. So as I was going into the follow up The Man with the Golden Gun, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to find it. I’ve seen some people regard it as one of the worst Bond films but I went in open minded, I just wanted a more entertaining and fun movie. Having seen it, The Man with the Golden Gun absolutely has a lot of issues but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

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The plot is easier to follow compared to the last movie, its relatively entertaining but at the same time not that memorable. It definitely ups the silliness and camp over the last movie, for better and for worse. The plot is definitely silly, there’s a car that turns into a plane, and there’s even a plot point about Christopher Lee having a third nipple, which is rather amusing. However it does have an issues with the plot and story, in that it doesn’t have much of them. It drags in the middle especially, with a lot of padding. There’s even a random martial arts sequence in the middle that doesn’t do anything but pad the runtime. One of the most interesting parts of the film for me was the cat and mouse plot between Bond and Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), spy vs assassin. Unfortunately there should’ve been a lot more of this, this premise has a lot of potential but the film didn’t really take advantage of this. Later on the plot introduces some higher stakes, with a conflict being about solar cells technologies turning the power of the sun into a weapon, which feels very out of place in the plot. However you could make the argument that just about everything in this movie is out of place.  As for the third act, while the showdown between Bond and Scaramanga might seem a bit anti climatic at first, I appreciate it being different from some other Bond overblown climaxes.

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Roger Moore returns as James Bond and for what its worth, I like him more here compared to his appearance in Live and Let Die. He’s definitely more comfortable in the role, however he’s still a little bland and settling into the part. It’s also pretty clear that the filmmakers weren’t really sure what to do regarding the portrayal of Moore’s Bond. He has some harder edged moments, some of it works like when Bond is pointing a custom gun at someone as he’s interrogating him about specific golden bullets. Most of the time its more on the side of uncomfortable, the prime example is a scene in a hotel room with Maud Adams where he slaps her and threatens to break her arm. It certainly doesn’t help that Roger Moore himself didn’t look comfortable doing this, especially as it doesn’t fit this mostly lighter portrayal of Bond. There’s even a scene where he pushes a child off his speeding boat during a boat chase, it’s almost funny how needlessly mean they made this version of Bond. Britt Ekland is the main Bond girl named Mary Goodnight, and was one of the worst characters in the movie. I can’t really say that it’s Ekland’s fault for this, the writing for the character is just terrible. She’s supposed to be a Secret Service agent but the character is unbelievably ditzy and makes a lot of outright dumb decisions. She’s definitely intended to be comic relief but she’s rather unfunny. Maud Adams is also here as a Bond girl, she’s better than Ekland here and it is a good performance but like with Moore’s Bond I don’t think the filmmakers knew what to do with her character. Her being sort of a tragic figure being trapped as the mistress of the main villain was out of place with the absurdity of the rest of the movie, making some of her moments feel unintentionally uncomfortable.

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This movie is mainly known for having the villain (Francisco Scaramanga) played by Christopher Lee, and he really is the best part of the movie, making the character quite a presence throughout. Unfortunately, the writing for the character wasn’t the strongest, even inconsistent especially when it came to his motivations. Lee is doing the heavy lifting here and thankfully Scaramanga is present throughout the whole movie. It’s particularly compelling when he and Bond share screentime. Hervé Villachaize is also a memorable henchman as Nick Nack. One unwelcome return from Live and Let Die was Sheriff J.W. Pepper played by Clifton James. For what its worth I thought he was a little more bearable in this movie but that’s not saying much. It made sense for him to be in the last movie since he was a Louisiana sheriff, it did not make sense for him to vacation to Thailand to coincidentally come across Bond yet again.

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Guy Hamilton is the director and most of his work is solid on a technical end, though some of the decisions weren’t the best. There are some solid action, camera work, stunning locations and sets. The third act climax with the duel was particularly quite enjoyable. It also features one of the most iconic stunts in James Bond history where a car jumps off one end of a broken bridge, performing a corkscrew turn, and landing on the other side, all of this practical. The only thing bringing it down was a random slide whistle sound added in which completely takes you out of it.

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I found The Man with the Golden Gun enjoyably silly, but I am fully aware that part of my enjoyment was after being let down with the last movie. If I revisited it, I think I’d have harsher thoughts with it. Looking back at it, it had just as many cons as it did pros and while I enjoyed it more than Live and Let Die, it is a much messier movie. It also had a lot of missed opportunities, especially with the idea of Bond being up against a deadly assassin, and they really didn’t take advantage of that. While it’s definitely on the weaker side of Bond, there’s some enjoyment to be had from the action, some of the camp elements, and Christopher Lee.

Live and Let Die (1973) Review

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Live and Let Die

Time: 121 minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Roger Moore as James Bond
Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big
Jane Seymour as Solitaire
Director: Guy Hamilton

James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to New York to investigate the mysterious deaths of British agents. On his journey he meets a voodoo master and a tarot card reader.

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After my rewatches of Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies, I’m now getting to the Roger Moore era of Bond. I remember very little about the Moore era movies outside of some distinct aspects in each, but I knew that the films definitely leaned more into camp. So I went into Live and Let Die not really sure what to expect, and I found myself rather disappointed in it.

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First of all, something you immediately notice is that Live and Let Die definitely takes advantage of the blaxploitation films of the 70s. However, it just really uses this aspect as a framework for the film, worst of all it doesn’t possess really any racial sensitivity. Pretty much every black character is done a disservice as the film struggles to not venture into racist caricatures. Definitely very outdated and questionable in its race (and gender) politics, however that’s not the main reason I’m down on Live and Let Die (though it makes it worse). Despite an initially interesting premise, the movie on the whole is rather boring and dull, with some bad pacing. I found the plot both confused and confusing, not much happens and the film feels way too long. This was surprising to me because I expected it to be consistently entertaining in its absurdity. It is certainly leaning towards camp, though there’s not as much as I thought there would be. It does have some enjoyably silly moments like Bond escaping from crocodiles and making use of gas pellets and his magnetic watch. However, there’s not enough of that to sustain my interest throughout, and not all the humour worked either. The point where I realised that I wasn’t enjoying this movie was a very long boat chase between Bond and some henchmen which was already disappointingly dull to watch. However most of that scene was following a random sheriff named J.W. Pepper who chases after them, which has to be one of the worst side characters I’ve seen in a while. It’s at that point where I realised that the film was really trying my patience.

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Live and Let Die is Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond and unfortunately he doesn’t leave much of an impression here. He is charismatic, quippy and can deliver the one liners but that’s all. He’s not believable in the part and was overall quite bland. Jane Seymour plays the main Bond girl named Solitaire, who does Tarot cards and apparently has fortune teller gifts. She works well enough in the movie and is initially intriguing. Yaphet Kotto plays the Bond villain Dr. Kananga, and he plays him very well. Unfortunately the film doesn’t do much with him despite his potential, he’s just given very little to do. With that being said, he is one of the more realistic Bond villains, given that he’s a drug lord trying to increase his business by putting more opium into the US, he’s not using his drug money to fund a death ray or anything similar. The movie makes better use of Kananga’s hook-armed henchman Tee Hee played by Julius Harris, who is quite memorable in his screentime.

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Guy Hamilton is the director and even though there are problems with the film, I think his work here is solid. There are some good action set pieces, a lot of the stunt chorography was entertaining, and the film makes great use of the locations. Also, arguably the most iconic part of the film is the main song Live and Let Die from Wings, really great song.

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Live and Let Die is unfortunately one of my least favourite Bond films. Even if you ignore the dated aspects (especially with the racial politics), the movie is just disappointingly dull despite the silliness of it. Worst of all, Roger Moore’s James Bond feels rather flat, and doesn’t leave an impression at all. There are some memorable side characters and entertaining moments, but I don’t really enjoy watching the movie altogether on the whole.