If you needed only three words to describe Sean Connery’s return to the character that made him famous (after only one film away) then you could do far worse than “Complete Damage Control”.
After the attempt to introduce a new actor, tone and style into the franchise with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was unfairly regarded as a misfire, the producers scrambled to make sure the next installment was back to being a far more familiar Bond adventure. “Current” Bond actor George Lazenby (under advice from his agent) made part of their job easier by declining to return and Connery was ensnared back into the fold by a (then) jaw dropping payday of over a million dollars. Also back was Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton and Shirley Bassey was recruited to utilize her iron vocal chords to perform her second Bond theme.
So everything new was now old again and with original Bond back on screen Eon Productions strived to give audiences the type of Bond experience they craved; but sometimes the customer isn’t always right.
After Bond stalks and seemingly murders his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, 007 is sent to Amsterdam to investigate the murders of several smugglers that seems to be tied into the theft and stock piling of large amounts of diamonds. Posing as a smuggler himself, Bond meets with the materialistic contact Tiffany Case and they oversee the transport of a clutch of diamonds into Las Vegas where the secret agent must contend with the lethal employees of reclusive, unseen billionaire, Willard Whyte. Narrowly dodging the melodramatic murder attempts of homosexual couple Mr Kidd and Mr Wint (Whyte’s henchmen) while cozying up to busty casino rat Plenty O’ Toole (“Named for your father perhaps.”), Bond eventually breaks into the penthouse of the billionaire’s hotel only to find that nothing is what it seems and that his earlier attempt to eradicate Blofeld may not have been successful as first thought. Can James stop a wildly out of control conspiracy that involves the building of an orbiting laser that essentially holds the world to ransom at gun point?
Earlier, I suggested three words to adequately describe this seventh entry into the Bond cannon but “Camp As Fuck” would have been just as accurate. James Bond in Vegas proves to be as unbearably quitch and garish as you’d expect it to be with all the lights and neon in danger of giving the viewer an epileptic fit even if they don’t even suffer epilepsy in the first place. As the mounting horror rises as you realise that Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas isn’t as exaggerated as you hoped but luckily the whole enterprise has John Barry’s immensely amusing loungecore score draped all over it which sits as snug to the ear as a valour jumpsuit and guides you gently through the crassness.
The crassness spreads to the performances too with Connery’s tongue (when it isn’t constantly being thrust so far down a woman’s throat he can lick her breakfast) lodged so far in his cheek it’s in danger of tearing straight through the skin and hanging out of his face. The villainous Blofeld (boasting yet another actor change) as portrayed by Charles Gray – a man with a voice as soft as a roll of luxury toilet paper made out of kittens – portrays the evil mastermind like he’s the bad guy in some kind of ungodly fusion of a Christmas Panto and a Carry On movie.
Overall, there’s a very real sense that the filmmakers have somewhat overreacted when giving audiences back a Bond they were more comfortable with as the threat level in the film is a big fat zero with our hero breezily waltzing through every trap with minimum effort. Plus the complete dropping of any mention of James’ murdered wife Tracy, or any events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for that matter is frustrating and somewhat of a missed opportunity and the action is oddly minimal and somewhat sub par for a Bond film with only the occasional spirited bout of fisticuffs sealed within the cramped confines of an elevator sparking the interest.
It’s down to the sheer eccentricity of the film that it holds any interest at all and it’s in it’s freak show of weird details and characters that Diamonds Are Forever finally finds it’s footing – take Mr Kidd and Mr Wint, hardly glowing examples of LGBTQ acceptance in cinema, true, but they’re great fucking characters who even get their own majestically sinister John Barry theme. And through all the weapons grade levels of strange wades a phenomenally unaffected Sean Connery, happily phoning in his final “official” appearance through a cloud of sarcasm so thick I truly believe a bullet couldn’t penetrate it. Somehow, even this adds to the oddness even further, especially that it’s now painfully obvious that the actor is way too old for this shit as the remaining follicles on his head strains 70’s toupee technology to it’s limits and a casual disrobing shows off a midsection more bloated that the super spy’s alcohol soaked liver. The result of all this age and boredom results in the most callous Bond so far, from threatening to garrote a half naked woman with her own bikini top to casually thumbing through a magazine as Tiffany finds a murdered woman in her swimming pool that Bond discovered earlier and just fucking left there; he’s a merely a skin suit and taste for human flesh away from being an out and out psychopath. His entertainingly deranged dialogue enforces this theory even further: “That’s a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing, I approve.” is his response to Tiffany’s admittedly barely visible negligee while a bungled attempt to kill the real Blofeld by utilising his cat results in Bond lamenting “Wrong pussy…” after terminating the wrong man.
More of a curious, ugly oddity than a so-called “return to form”, Diamonds Are Forever thankfully doesn’t last… forever, but sparkles just enough to hold the attention – you can always tell the value of a diamond by embracing it’s flaws.