An odd film this one. Guy Hamilton of Goldfinger fame came back to direct this feature along with the two that followed it. Connery also bizarrely returned after Lazenby pulled out after taking on some very bad advice.
Two things bother me most about this film. Firstly, the opening scene with Bond where he is tracking down Blofeld to kill him for the murder of his wife. Connery’s Bond doesn’t look quite as pissed off as you would expect, or hope he’d be. True he passed the “chase Blofeld” baton to Lazenby, and then it got passed back after that beautiful death scene of Bond’s wife in the previous film. But Connery clearly didn’t do his emotional homework here. Sure he roughs a few people up, but it is dealt with all too soon. To be fair he does have a very satisfied look on his face once he thinks he has killed the man (I’d like to know if he bothered to hunt down Irma Bunt, the person who actually pulled the trigger on his wife!!!).
Secondly is the ending when he takes care of Blofeld for the second time. Despite the fact that we have yet another actor playing Blofeld in this film (ok it was excused by the use of surgery) but again, Bond decides to have a little fun and bashes him about with the use of a crane, and then departs the destroyed oil rig, leaving us questioning whether the bad guy actually died or not (sadly this is answered several movies later in the opening credits of For Your Eyes Only when a YET AGAIN Bald Blofeld shows up in a wheel chair to have a little fun with bond. Even more of an insult that this once “top of the bill” bad guy should go out in such a piss-take of a scene, and taken out by a Bond who is himself a bit of a piss-taker). But Diamonds Are Forever does not climax here in a satisfactory way.
Moving backwards, the plot is pretty thickly placed in a beginning that is full of mini montages of villains going about their business killing off people who are delivering them diamonds (all of which is to be used on a satellite laser). This takes Bond to the likes of Amsterdam and then more prominently, Las Vegas.
Diamonds Are forever is a strange beast. It is watchable and has some very interesting supporting characters: from the leading lady Jill St John (not bad, if cocky); to Lana Wood’s extended Cameo as Plenty O’Toole (very under-used); to the Howard Hughes based character of Willard Whyte (Stealing most of the best gags). There is also the added bonus of two actually quite threatening henchmen, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, who ingeniously were portrayed as gay. Then of course there is Bambi and Thumber who make their brief impression.
John Barry thankfully is still on board as composer and delivers a strong score, if sometimes a little on the nose. Bassey returned from her Goldfinger stint as well to provide her second (if you don’t count the unused “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” song from Thunderball she recorded) track. Barry keeps the music interesting in all places – he even manages to make music at a Vegas circus show very graceful – beautifully matching the suspended artists floating past James Bond (and briefly distracting him) as he and Felix Leiter watch Jill St John’s character mosey about the fair. But even so, this is still not his best and or most remembered score in this canon.
This is therefore a troubled film with a real identity crisis (the roles of Bond and Blofeld aren’t the only ones in need of continuity – we have yet another Felix Leiter as well). The action is riddled with a serious lack of judgement. A non-thrilling chase in Las Vegas; a preposterous chase out in the desert with the use of a Lunar Buggy; and that awful oil Rig ending rank among some of Bond’s worst. The best action scene is probably one that takes place in an elevator and recalls the fisticuffs Connery got up to in From Russia With Love in a confined space. Beyond that, there is perhaps one of the funniest confrontations at the climax of the film which begins as very threatening, but turns nothing short of hilarious when Bond sends Mr Wint off with his tail between his legs.
Is it Connery’s worst? It is most certainly a contender (remembering of course that we are not including non-canon films in this retrospective. Otherwise Never Say never Again would be right up there). It is still watchable, but far from the swan song that could have been Connery’s exit from the official franchise. It’s more one that he simply does not seem all that invested in as an actor. But then after all he did do it for the money.