Monday, August 20, 2012

Diamonds Are Forever [1971]

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a box-office disappointment (it performed reasonably well worldwide, but in America brought in only about half of what the previous film in the series You Only Live Twice, had done, and about a third of the earnings of Thunderball before that).  As such, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman scrambled to make a recovery, lest the franchise as a whole go down the toilet.

Amazingly, this led them to hire an American actor for the role.  John Gavin was actually signed and ready to go, but then fate intervened and provided an opportunity for Sean Connery to return to the role he had made famous (and vice versa) for one final fling.

I may as well tell you now: this is perhaps my least favorite film in the entire series, so if you happen to be a big Diamonds Are Forever fan, this may prove to be bumpy going for you.

I suppose we'd best get it started; soonest begun is soonest finished, and all that.






(1)  Bond ... James Bond

I know what you're thinking: well, even if the movie is no good, at least it's got Sean Connery in it, right?



Wrong.

I mean, yeah, sure, he's in the movie; factually, that is undeniable.  But is that a good thing?  In my opinion, no.  The only upside is that his presence did seemingly cause the movie to be a box-office success, and therefore enabled the series to keep going to another film and another Bond, whereas if it had been a failure -- as it almost certainly would have been under John Gavin, and maybe under George Lazenby as well -- then it would almost certainly have spelled the demise of the series as we know it.

Otherwise, Connery added very little of note here.  He seems at times patently disinterested in what's going on, and because he takes absolutely nothing in the movie seriously (which he managed to do at least occasionally even in the ridiculous surroundings of You Only Live Twice), it feels very much as if we are watching a man literally do only the bare minimum that was required of him.  It is, of course, a well-publicized fact that Connery only returned to the role because the money was substantial enough that he was able to fully fund a pet charity for Scottish artists.  That's obviously a noble endeavor, and it's hard to get too worked up over Connery taking the opportunity, especially since it paid off for everyone in the end.  I only wish a better movie had been the result.

Really, though, can we blame Connery here, even for his own inadequacy as Bond?  I don't think we really can.  As we'll discuss later, the screenplay is not merely bad, but ludicrously bad, bordering on inept.  Even if Connery had wanted to take things seriously, he'd've looked like a fool doing so within the confines of this movie.  Instead, he seems to have correctly sussed out what the screenwriters were going for, and decided to play to that.  And frankly, he did a fine job of it, from that point of view.  He is, here, more or less foreshadowing what Bond was going to be like during the Roger Moore years, and as it turns out, he was good at it.  We'll be discussing the merits (or demerits) of Moore's films soon enough, but I think evidence indicates that if Connery had stayed in the role, he'd have proven to be just fine -- relatively speaking -- as a lighter, more cartoony Bond.

Here, though, he has virtually nothing to work with, and it shows.  Points awarded:  003/007, and those only because Connery does a good job with the tripe he was given.




(2)  SPECTRE

If you've paid careful attention to this blog, then you would know (via the review of Climax!: Casino Royale) that I am more than willing to assess a score of 000/007, if I feel it is earned.  Why do I mention that, you ask? Oh, no reason...

Main Villain:  Charles Gray becomes the fourth actor to portray Ernst Stavro Blofeld in as many movies, and he is far and away the worst.  I have no hesitation in saying his Blofeld is the worst major villain in the entire Bond series.  Gray seems to feel he is playing a camp role, and perhaps he was correct in that assessment, but he doesn't even do that well; to do so, he would have needed to go over the top (as he would four years later in The Rocky Horror Picture Show), but instead, he merely simpers about the stage, smirking and seemingly trying to raise his voice no more than is absolutely necessary.




I disliked Donald Pleasence as Blofeld; I loathe Charles Gray in the role.  Consequently, points awarded (Main Villain):  000/007.

Henchmen:  You might think Gray's Blofeld was as bad as it could get.  You'd be wrong.  "But wait," you cry, "you just said he was the worst major villain in the entire series!"  Correct; I did say that.  However, there are several minor villains in this movie, and amazingly, they ALL suck even worse than Gray's Blofeld does.




First of all, we have Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.  Honestly, I don't even know where to begin with these two fuckwads.  Uhhhhhh, well, okay, let's start with the fact that they are homosexuals.  Now, in 1971, you simply didn't see many gay men in movies, certainly not in America, so on the one hand, maybe the producers ought to be commended for including them in any way, even if it was to make them cartoonish villains.  Who do these cats even work for?  Blofeld?  We never find out.  All they do is make bad jokes and hold hands once in a while.  Awful.  And yet, they get the drop on Bond, not just once but twice!  I might forgive this if they were played by competent actors.  They are not: instead they are played by Crispin Glover's father and by a jazz bassist, the latter of whom seems to have never even seen a competent performance before.  Glover at least has a mild sense of camp.

Ugh.

Just as bad: the various mobsters who show up.  One of them -- he's the one who says "I got a brudda!" -- is Sid Haig, who decades later played Captain Spaulding in a couple of fine Rob Zombie flicks called House of 1000 Corpses and The Devils' Rejects.  These gangsters might have come from a Marx Brothers movie, or a Three Stooges short, except there, they'd probably have been funny.  Here, they are merely embarrassing.



I will, however, give the henchmen on the oil rig credit for consistently focusing on Bond rather than being distracted by Tiffany in her amazing bikini.






Gentlemen, your persistence will be remembered come evaluation time.  Still, you suck, what with your orange boots and orange gloves and orange-with-white-lightningbolts hardhats.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  000/007, but let me pause for a moment and tell you more about that.  I loathe Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd SO much that I briefly toyed with the notion of awarding a score of -001/007 for this category.  However, I also loathe math, and have always harbored a silent resentment of minus numbers.  So, we'll stick with a flat zero.  Total points awarded (SPECTRE):  000/007

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl :  Okay, here's where I run the risk of pissing some people off.  Jill St. John as Tiffany Case is simply awful in this movie.  She is, obviously, gorgeous, and for that, I give her a single point.  But the character herself is just pathetic: she's stupid (but only, of course, when the movie needs her to be to get a chuckle), she's duplicitous (but only, of course, when the movie needs her to be to move the "plot" forward), and she's shrill.  St. John is also simply not a good performer, and when she tries to sound tough, she sounds silly as hell.

Awful.  One of the worst of all the Bond girls.  Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  001/007.

I present you now a gallery of the undeniably beautiful Tiffany Case:









Secondary Bond Girls:  My goodness, that Lana Wood was a beautiful woman circa 1971.  She couldn't act for shit, though, and her character here, Plenty O'Toole, is perhaps the worst Bond girl of them all.  Bond never even gets to fuck her.  Instead, she gets flung out of a hotel room, and later -- implausibly (an understament, that) -- apparently ends up at Tiffany's house just in time to get murdered, presumably by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.  If Wood was not stunningly gorgeous, I'd probably be considering awarding another -001/007 here.  But she was, so instead, points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  000/007



Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  000.50/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/stunts:  You can't even count on this movie to have a good action scene barreling along every so often.  Most of the action scenes, in fact, are pathetic.  The only one that is even decent is the fight in the lift between Bond and the real Peter Franks; that one isn't very good, either, but it at least has a novel setting.




The action scene from this movie that is probably best-remembered is the Bambi/Thumper scene, which reminds me of something: should those two count as Bond girls?  I'm going to say they probably do, but despite that, let's leave 'em out of that talk, because they would undoubtedly lower the score for that category even further (which is to say, I would, out of spite, dock some other category an additional point).  Fact: this scene is terrible.  It is implausible that Bond would be taken down by them even briefly, but hey, whatever, I can go with the flow; I'll accept it.  However, all it then takes for him to get the upper hand on them is to duck them in the pool.  That's it.

That's abysmally stupid.




On the plus side, there is a nifty car chase set in Vegas.  It ends with a lame gag involving Bond turning his car onto its side and driving on two wheels, but is otherwise fairly smashing.  The climactic attack on the oil rig is busy and chaotic, though, and I don't mean that in the good sense; it doesn't work at all.  Also lame: the moon-buggy chase.  What moron came up with THAT idea?

(Side-note: a friend and reader of the blog suggested that when I was done, I review the three Austin Powers films using my rating system.  I've been toying with the idea of taking him up on the suggestion, and I'm leaning toward doing it, but I've just now had a idea: review them using the Double-0 Rating system, but pretend they are actual James Bond moviesIn other words, "forget" that those movies are satires, and just judge 'em in a straightforward manner.  The fun of this would be to see how many of the Bond movies they would somehow manage to beat out.  I feel almost certain that they would beat out Diamonds Are Forever, if nothing else.)

Points awarded (Action/Stunts): 001/007, and that only because of the car chase.

Editing:  The main thing I think about in terms of editing for this movie is the opening sequence, in which he see a brief montage of James Bond scouring the globe, beating clues about Blofeld's location out of people.  Until the very end of this sequence, we never see Connery, and it is obvious that he did not film any of the sequences.  The idea might have been to try and provide some tension as to who, exactly, was playing James Bond in this movie; however, since Connery's voice is heard via (incredibly badly) looped dialogue, it seems likely that even people who made it to the theatre unaware would have known immediately.

There is also a scene in which some dude explains stuff about diamonds to Bond, which is intercut with scenes showing Wint and Kidd killing a guy with a scorpion, and doing other villainous stuff, and also scenes of diamond mines and whatnot.  The pacing is very badly off in the editing of this scene; in fact, the first time it cuts back to the scene with Bond in the office, it is extremely jarring.

Elsewhere, the editing is also not much to write home about, but in these scenes, it is legitimately awful.  Points awarded (Editing): 001/007

Costumes/Makeup:  Tiffany wears a couple of smashing outfits, and Plenty's only one is pretty good, too.  Otherwise, it's mediocre, and occasionally outright bad: whose idea was it to put a pink tie around Bond's neck?  And why do all the thugs on the oil rig have orange boots?  Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup):  001/007, which might be a bit harsh, but I'm taking off at least two points just for the horror of seeing Blofeld in drag.



Locations:  The film makes some decent use of Las Vegas at night, and also of the Circus Circus casino (which I can only think of in terms of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas).  It's also kinda nifty to see a whoppin' big oil tanker.  Otherwise, this one has little to recommend.  Points awarded (Locations):  002/007.




Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  001.25/007

(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  Jimmy "The Sausage King" Dean?  Really?!?  Points awarded: 001/007, but allow me to explain a bit further, lest it seem as if I were being needlessly anti-redneck.

See, Dean isn't actually all that bad in the movie.  Unlike everyone else, he seems to have taken his role seriously, and he almost seems like a real person.




However, the movie features what might once have seemed impossible: a poor performance by Bernard Lee as M.  That's right, even Bernard Lee is crap in this movie.  Desmond Llewelyn fares somewhat better, but Lois Maxwell is weak as Moneypenny, partially because the screenplay gives her one genuinely awful moment.  More on that later.

Oh, yeah, we also our worst Felix Leiter yet, in the person of Norman Burton, whoever he was.



  
DirectionDiamonds Are Forever was directed by Guy Hamilton, who had previously directed Goldfinger, one of the high-water marks of the series.  So in 1971, there must have every reason on Earth to be happy to see him back behind the camera.  Oh, how reality somehow fails to equal expectation.

Perhaps the worst thing in the movie is the Blofeld henchman who is in charge of verbally delivering the countdown.  He does so in the stereotypical slow/menacing voice, and when we see him, he appears -- pardon me -- to perhaps be a retarded person who has somehow managed to land a job counting down for a living.




I feel fairly certain that at some point in the Austin Powers movies, the exact same joke is pulled; they perhaps forgot that Guy Hamilton -- who may or may not have been joking -- had beaten them to it by several decades.

Hamilton's work here is simply awful: visually, tonally, and otherwise, it is dreary, demeaning stuff.  And yet, people responded to it, and he was able to stick around for the next two movies in the series.  Ick.  Points awarded (Direction):  001/007

Cinematography:  I don't care for the look of this movie at all, which surprises me, given that the cinematographer was Ted Moore (who had filmed the first four movies in the series and had therefore been a vital component of making the series as vital as it was).  This is a dreary-looking piece of work, but I cannot quite put my finger on why that is, and therefore cannot explain it.  Because of that, whereas my impulse is to assess a much lower score, we will go with 003/007 points awarded (Cinematography).  Never let it be said I am totally unfair...

Art Direction:  Well, Ken Adam was onboard again, so there are a few interesting designs, including the suite which serves as Blofeld's office, and a cool-as-hell waterbed/aquarium.  All in all, from a design standpoint, this isn't bad, but ought to have been better.  Points awarded (Art Direction):  004/007




 


Special Effects:  I don't quite know how to explain this, so bear with me while I fumble through it.  Toward the end of the movie, in the attack on the oil rig, there are numerous explosions.  Many of them appear to have been animated, by which I mean that it looks like someone drew them on the film.  What this probably means is that they were optical process shots of some sort; if so, they were extremely poorly done.




Points awarded:  001/007, and the only reason it isn't a 000/007 is due to the shot in which the woman at Circus Circus turns into a gorilla.  That shot scared me when I was a kid, so I award this category a single point out of deference to my younger, stupider self.

Gadgets:  The most famous gadget in this movie, I suppose, is the voice-synthesizer thing Blofeld uses to make himself sound like Willard Whyte.  It's dumb.  It's even dumber when Q shows up later and is apparently able to construct one on the fly simply because Bond tells him there is such a thing.  Or, wait . . . did Q already have one?  I can't remember.  Points awarded:  001/007, and again, it would have been 000/007 if not for a childhood memory, this one involving whatever that robot thing is inside the pipeline with Bond.  The hell is that thing, anyways, a welder?

Opening-title sequence:  Here, Maurice Binder does some of his least-inspired work, which involves Blofeld's white cat coiling in and out from between the legs of various models.  It's a pussy; get it?  Get it?  Also: lots of diamonds.  There is at least a vague sense of ridiculousness that is otherwise not present in the movie.  Points awarded (Opening-title sequence): 003/007





Overall points awarded (Q Branch):  002/007

(6)  Mission Briefing

Here's the thing: I could probably write you a twenty-page essay about how incredibly bad this screenplay is, but that would involve me watching the movie again and taking extensive notes, because while I am a reasonably intelligent fellow, I have an appallingly poor memory when it comes to specifics.  I don't want to go through the effort, and you probably don't want to read it anyways, so let's settle for some highlights and call it a day, shall we?

Let's start off by stating something we haven't yet stated: that this movie almost entirely ignores the events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  As you might recall, Bond there went through some serious shit: he averted biological warfare from Blofeld, he got married, he became a widower in a rather unexpected fashion.  But since audiences didn't respond, the series just ignored all of that.  I think M might make an oblique reference toward the beginning of the film, but I can't remember for sure.  Let's assume that he does, since for anyone watching the series AS a series, Secret Service undeniably DID happen.  Given that, it makes the tone of this movie inexcusable.  A solution: have Bond track down Blofeld and kill him for real in the opening sequence, and then move along into a nice comedic and colorful adventure for the rest of the film.  There was no need for Blofeld to continue to be the villain, and the fact that he is makes the movie unacceptable within the confines of the overall series.  Bond, upon learning later in the film that Blofeld was still alive, ought to have gone into a state of near-rage.

Worse: in her one scene, Moneypenny -- when asked by James if he can bring her anything back from the mission he is about to go on -- asks him to bring her a diamond, in a ring, for her finger.  Uh, bitch, did you forget his wife just got fucking murdered recently?  Oddly, Connery plays a brief (and affecting, despite the brevity) moment in which he seemingly processes the various emotions Bond would undoubtedly feel in such a moment.  The scene does not work; the moment, divorced from the rest of the movie, does.




Worst: the scene in which Bond has to pull a switcheroo on the wallets with the guy he's just killed in order to keep Tiffany convinced he is Peter Franks.  "My God," she says, "do you know who you've just killed?  James Bond!"  Then Connery behaves as if he knows who James Bond is, which means that in the reality constructed by this movie, the identity of SECRET AGENT James Bond is basically a bit of household knowledge.  This is, I guess, supposed to be a meta moment.  It does not work, unless you are judging the screenplay by the same standards you would employ in juding an episode of Family Guy.

Worster: the scene in which Bond escapes the science-lab place by going through the restaging of a moon landing.  WHAT.  THE.  FUCK.  First of all, I don't understand the scene.  Is the idea that Bond has stumbled upon evidence of the moon landing(s) being fake?  If so, are we saying that Blofeld is behind that in some way?  Or is the idea that this is a government lab which just happens to have a Blofeld agent working there?  Probably the latter.  Either way, why, when Bond goes lurching through the moon set, do the "astronauts" continue to move as though they are operating under the moon's gravity?  Did the filmmakers think it would be funny?




Apart from that, though, the movie is just one ridiculous scene after another.  Almost nothing works.  Especially bad is the revelation that Plenty is murdered at Tiffany's house.  Here is the scenario, or what seems like the likely scenario: Plenty O'Toole, who is seemingly a semi-pro hanger-on groupie for big-stakes Vegas winners (is the phrase "chip-chase" a thing?), is SO enchanted by the idea of James Bond's magic dick -- which she never even sees, much less feels -- that she, after being dropped out of a hotel room by gangsters into a swimming pool, decides to do some investigative work and find out who was behind her getting defenestrated in such a manner.  There is no other way she could have known; had to involve investigations.  She is able to discover that Tiffany Case was responsible, and then to find her home.  She goes there, presumably to confront Tiffany and let her know that Bond's magical penis is now hers, and instead meets Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who just so happen to have a gigantic concrete block, which they attach to her before sinking her to the bottom of Tiffany's pool.

Alternatively, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd take her to Tiffany's house, but since Bond seems to feel it is a case of mistaken identity, we'll roll with his hypothesis.  Either way, this is stupidity on a storytelling level.

Let's not even discuss the climactic subplot involving the cassette tape.  Such things are better left ignored.

I could go on.  Instead, points awarded:  001/007.  And again, I feel I am being generous in not going lower.

(07)  The Music

Title Song:  Let's have no doubt about it: I love the song "Diamonds Are Forever."  It's a 007/007 for me.  However, I've gone lower here, and the reason for that is that the movie uses a patently inferior recording of the song over the opening credits.  I somehow forget this between viewings, and am angered by it over and over again.  The superb take you hear on all the Best-of-Bond albums?  That's not in this movie.  Instead, we get a version that features weaker vocals from Shirley Bassey, has weaker brass, and is an inferior production all the way around.  There's probably some sort of a story behind this; I'd love to hear it.  Either way, that's a point off for failing to present the song properly.




Points awarded (Title Song): 006/007.

The Score:  I'm a big John Barry fan, but there a couple of times in the series when it seems almost as if he fell asleep while writing the score, then woke up, realized he had to put something on paper for the orchestra to play, and did so real quick before heading out to record.  This is one of those times.  And yet, he still managed to do better work than anyone else involved with the movie, with the possible exception of Ken Adam.  I'm even more amazed to report that I quite like the dangerous, slinky music he wrote for Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.




Points awarded (The Score):  004/007

Total points awarded (The Music):  005/007



Double-0 Rating for Diamonds Are Forever: 001.82/007

That's awfully low, but it seems too high to me.  The only factor that prevented it from going even lower is the music, which I do generally like.  That excepted, this is a genuinely terrible movie.  I know it has its fans, and all I an say to any of you who are still reading is that I envy you your enjoyment in some ways, and scorn it in others.  Clearly, you watch 007 movies for different reasons than I do, and if that's okay by you, then it's okay by me, too.

Here's what we've got so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.76 -- Dr. No
003.09 -- You Only Live Twice 
001.82 -- Diamonds Are Forever
 


You Only Blog Twice will return in ... Live and Let Die.

16 comments:

  1. I never know what to make of this movie. I've seen it a hundred times. As a kid, I was always horribly confused by it.

    I do know that after a certain age, I suddenly noticed Jill St. John and Lana Wood and a lot of my confusion was put aside. Good points on the all-business acumen of the henchmen in this one.

    (That poster by the way, while great, doesn't represent the Bond Girls all that faithfully, does it?)

    I still don't know what to make of this one, except that it looks cheap/ doesn't quite work/ the whole Mister Wint and Mister Kidd thing is just... unfortunate.

    Holy crap, Sid Haig! I never put that together.

    One of the guys I used to play High Low Jack with would always sing the theme song for this each and every time diamonds were trump. Neither here nor there, but now, in addition to JSJ's bikini-ing, that comes to mind anytime this film crosses my radar.

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    1. I saw Sid Haig at Dragon*Con back in ... oh, maybe 2003 or 2004, and somebody asked him about having been in a James Bond movie. "Sid Haig is in a James Bond movie?!?" I says to myself. So when I got home I looked his scene up, and sure enough, there he was, lookin' all craggy and lean and goofy.

      In my mind, "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects" are sequels to "Diamonds Are Forever," showing what later happened to this particular gangster after the British government destroyed the company he worked for. It led him to a life of slaughter and fried chicken. Thanks a lot, England!

      Delete
    2. I would pay good money to Rob Zombie if he would give that reveal at his next press conference.

      Delete
  2. OMG, I just read your article about OHMSS and I totally agree with you on EVERYTHING. But my biggest surprise was to see that we also have the exact same opinion about Diamonds are forever, my least favorite JB too.
    So I loooove your reviews, nice job!!

    From France with Love (;
    - Jessica

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    1. Wow, thanks! I love it when people agree with me! ;)

      Really, though, I'm always just happy for anyone to read the garbage I write. It never fails to give me a thrill.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. Bryant,
    I respectfully suggest that you consider dialing this back. Yes, it is reprehensible that some feel empowered to post offensive and semi-literate comments about other people's opinion blogs. But it doesn't reinforce your position to reply in kind. That's what "delete" is for.
    And in fact, while your other reviews here are well-written, informative and enthusiastically if not always persuasively argued, this one could be scrawled in crayon as "I hate DAF!!!!" It (almost) invites scatological responses from fans.
    Some context is in order. DAF was produced as a breezy antidote to the disappointing box office of the overly long, badly cast, equally silly downer that is "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," and it worked. Since then, their reputations have reversed, but at the time, Broccoli and Saltzman were running from OHMSS.
    That's not to say that DAF is a good movie or OHMSS a bad one. But which movie expects us to believe that models with atomizers will destroy the world's food supply, presumably at their second jobs at meatpacking plants or driving combines? And which one has a subplot written specifically for Upper Class Twit of the Year contestants, with Blofeld seeking to become ennobled in his spare time? Just because OHMSS takes itself very, very seriously doesn't mean it's not the height of camp.
    Meanwhile, DAF gives us Jimmy Dean's amazingly benign take on Howard Hughes, a space-age plot reasonably anticipating technological advances, not to mention the dead sexy Bambi and Thumper. (And if it's implausible that they initially beat Bond, why is also implausible that he then easily escapes? I suggest picking one of these valid but contradictory objections.)
    Yes, Sean Connery strolls this movie in formal wear. It might help if you think of him as playing "Roger Moore James Bond." His job is to be smooth and upbeat.
    Yes, Jill Saint John's character starts out tough and smart and gets sillier as the movie goes along. That's because her job is to be the opposite of the astringent and heavily padded Diana Rigg.
    Yes, Rigg is generally the better actress, though her British through-and-through portrayal of poor Tracy offers not a hint that before she was cast a series of French actress turned down that half-Corsican character. More to the point here, Jill was better at filling a bikini.
    Yes, Mr. Kint and Mr. Witt may seem objectionably campy now, but at the time they were unusual for being obviously gay yet effectively menacing. Their courtliness toward each other retains its charm.
    Above all, I am prompted to write in defense of Charles Gray. Yes, the series had a variety of Blofelds. None are perfect; Von Sydow might have been the best, but did not get sufficient screen time. We all have our favorites, including the physically imposing Telly Savalas, whose version seems smart enough to dominate his Brooklyn corner so long as he's not called upon to walk to the other side of the street.
    After playing the useful Bond ally Henderson in YOLT, Gray makes an effectively creepy and convincingly smart Blofeld. Even his voice synthesizer is a reasonable anticipation of advancing technology. His portrayal may not be to your taste, but that does not make it an abomination.
    You awarded George Lazenby six out of seven points for his Bond although Charles Baker had to play Sir Hilary Bray because George couldn't even manage a Scottish accent. So even on your own terms, it seems... let's say eccentric, for you to award no points to a better actor.
    Don't take this the wrong way. I am enjoying most of your reviews, even when I disagree. But when the category turns "Which one of these is unlike the others?" this is it.

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    1. You make a few good points. You also make a few less-good ones, and on those we'll just have to agree to disagree.

      But I appreciate the comment nonetheless. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  4. Fair enough; I'm not expecting to persuade you, just to point out some different perspectives. I suppose I responded strongly because as a kid, these were the first two Bond movies I saw.
    Despite the pretentiousness and questionable casting of OHMSS, I remember thinking that it wasn't as bad as people said.
    But DAF came as a great relief, a fun matinee adventure with Jimmy Dean and Charles Gray and of course Sean Connery. (BTW, unless you meant to say that Sean gave a fair and unbiased performance, the word is "uninteresting.")
    Looking forward to more of your reviews. Keep writing!

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    1. Well, sir, history certainly sides with you: there is zero doubt about the fact that "Diamonds Are Forever" more or less saved the series. Another box-office disappointment -- which OHMSS certainly was -- might have killed it. So while I might not be a fan of the movie, I am 100% a fan of the movie's impact.

      The fact is, no two Bond fans I've ever met see eye-to-eye fully on the series. And that's as it should be! What fun would life be if we all agreed about everything? None at all.

      Delete
  5. I can understand your dislike for this film. The producers reacted to the lower grosses of OHMSS by going very far into comedic territory. They went back in the direction of You Only Live Twice, having a villain with a big outlandish scheme. But they couldn't make it look impressive because they got cautious with the budget.

    Your review prepared me for a very bad rewatch, so I went in with very low expectations. I think that's partly why I was able to enjoy it for what it is. Certainly one of the lesser films, but enjoyable if you can go with its comical tone, which admittedly can be pretty hard to take sometimes.

    The pre-titles sequence is already full of things that are weird & unsettling, making me unsure if I'm really watching a Connery Bond film. It's the same feeling from seeing the Goldfinger intro when he has the duck on his head as he swims to the dock. But this film is full of so much more of those moments.
    -- The Japanese man goes through a wall & slides across the floor to end abruptly in a frozen position as he "hits" the rail, the footage has been run backwards. Awkwardly funny.
    -- The guy that gets buried in mud looks like Scaramanga's brother. I know it's not on purpose but still weird.
    -- One of the guards has killer sideburns. Distracting.
    -- Under gunpoint, Bond raises his hands up in a strange way, like he's doing a magic trick. Or maybe he's saying, "What can I do? You take a look at this script."
    -- The mousetrap that bloodies Mr. Sideburns' hand. Weird.
    -- The James Bond Radio Podcast brings up a good point. In the beginning we only see Bond's arms & hear his voice as he's beating up guys. After all the buildup we finally see Bond approaching, looking quite unimpressive in a flannel shirt(?), & he looks like someone's dad. What happened?
    All of that pretty much tells us what the rest of the film will be like.

    Co-writer Tom Mankiewicz comments that the previous films were getting too serious, & he wanted to have more humor in it, like in Dr. No, when Bond tells Professor Dent, "That's a Smith & Wesson, & you've had your six." Then Bond shoots him coldly. That's a strange example since the "humor" is so subtle that some could argue it doesn't exist. I'm really glad Mankiewicz didn't write any other Bond scripts for Connery.

    Sean not taking anything here seriously. I think he did, some examples:
    -- Outside Tiffany's apartment, Bond waits for Peter Franks. He has his back turned & mimes like he's making out with someone. Okay this is wacky, almost sacrilegious for we who love our Bond as ultra-cool & suave. But then he turns, straightens up & becomes alert & serious as he waits for the right moment to go up the stairs.
    -- The fight in the elevator.
    -- He jumps off the 3 wheel ATV while it's still going & then sprints pretty fast to the car, not as easy as it looks to keep your balance with that momentum.
    -- The night car chase on Vegas streets, his expressions as he tries to elude police.

    And he shows comedic ability too. These are corny, but he pulls it off. They're funny, but he still plays it with a level of realism that is perhaps more than the script deserves.
    -- "You are English? I speak English. Who is... your floor?"
    -- Tiffany says, "You just killed James Bond." Bond surprised, "Is that who it was?"
    -- He fakes putting the key card into the slot. It's so stupid but it could work.
    -- "Hergesheimer from G section." "Oh how are things in G section?" "Still checking radiation shields."
    These sound so goofy they always make me smile. Am I kukoo?

    Sorry for being long winded. I'm surprised to have this much to say about this film. I've gone past the limit so I'll have to do a separate comment.

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    1. I don't think you've lost it at all in terms of talking about Connery's comedic skills. I think they are in strong form here, and I think they even make for a very good transition between the actual-Connery era and the Moore era.

      On the subject of Bond not being shown in the pre-titles sequence: I think they wanted to surprise people who might have still been expecting George Lazenby to show up. The marketing would have ruined the joke, of course; but I think that was the idea.

      James Bond Radio! I just discovered that podcast last week, and have been working my way through the episodes. I was literally in the process of listening to one just prior to seeing this comment, in fact. It's a great podcast, and I find myself agreeing with Tom and Chris more often than not. Good stuff.

      "Diamonds Are Forever" was one of my absolute favorite Bond movies when I was a kid, so believe me when I say that I wish I still enjoyed it. But I don't, mostly; some of it works, but a lot of it falls flat as flat can be. At least for me.

      I wonder to what degree this is a result of watching it immediately following OHMSS. The shift in tone from that movie certainly does it no favors.

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    2. Yes, very good point about the shift in tone.
      In case you come across it, I liked sound editor Norman Wanstall's interview on the JB Radio Podcast. Long but enjoyable.

      Another weird thing in the pre-titles. When Sean says, "I shan't ask you politely next time." there's a real disconnect between the voice & the action. The stand-in Bond's arms are lifting the guy & throwing him through a wall. But his voice shows only the equivalent strain of lifting a teacup. Sean's overtime was probably too expensive to revoice that.

      The Moneypenny diamond ring moment is curious. I think this film chose to completely ignore everything in OHMSS. So Bond was going after Blofeld in the intro simply because of all his past crimes in previous films. In the briefing, Sir Donald mentions that Bond was on holiday. Bond says it was hardly relaxing, but satisfying. IMDB trivia says this was an inside joke about Connery being gone for OHMSS. But within the film, Bond could've taken this holiday right after he thinks he's killed Blofeld in the intro. Or it could mean Bond was hunting Blofeld on his holiday, & it wasn't an official mission. Either way still works without Tracy's death, so Moneypenny's quip is easily explained as part of their normal banter.

      As you point out however, they show Connery's reaction long enough to make you think that he could be remembering Tracy. But I think this is a fault in the editing. The full length of his shot could be him just reacting to Moneypenny while she says, "A diamond… In a ring…" instead of him just reacting silently after she said her complete line. A shorter edit of his reaction would make things clearer.

      Now if I'm wrong, & they do acknowledge Tracy's death (even if they never mention it), how can Moneypenny's insensitive remark be explained? I can only guess that she & Bond already met at least a couple times before this moment. And Bond may have even done his usual flirting with her to hide & bury his pain. Either way it's unclear & already given me a headache. Let me kick myself for pondering a movie that shouldn't be taken this seriously.

      Other funny moments:
      -- Wint & Kidd in the plane, after seeing Bond & Tiffany board. Kidd says, "Ms. Case is pretty attractive. For a woman that is." Wint glares at Kidd, who gives a weird nervous laugh. Terrible, awkward.
      -- Under attack & amid explosions, Blofeld orders the professor, "One more word out of you Metz & I'll have you shot. Get back to your post!" Then Blofeld picks up a phone & in a very low voice, "Prepare my bathosub immediately." Oh Blo...
      -- Kidd menacingly sets his shishkabobs on fire. Tiffany leans back & goes, "eeeeiii…"
      -- Bond yanks Wint's hands up between his legs, crushing his nuts. Wint goes "Oooooo…" with a look of delight.
      All these are just head shakingly ludicrous.

      So the film does have many faults, taking Bond farther away from the relative realism of the previous ones. Those had a dangerous excitement at their core, & the humor existed to defuse the intensity of the violence & sex. Here the humor overpowers the realism, so aside from a few scenes it's hard to believe anything's at stake. Who knows? Maybe in the future I will dislike this as much as you. For now I can enjoy it as a surreal circus that often succeeds in making me smile. Instead of Bigger. Better. Bond, it's smaller, cheaper, funnier, stupider, but fun if you can go with it.

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    3. I enjoyed that interview with Wanstall.

      The way I take the scene with Moneypenny is that "Diamonds Are Forever" exists in a continuity in which OHMSS never happened at all. Bond's look of mild agony must be gas or something. Otherwise, I don't know.

      I've got no trouble imagining there are plenty of people who love "Diamonds Are Forever" for exactly the reasons you mention. And who knows, maybe I'll eventually come back around to that way of looking at it.

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  6. Ho boy..
    Picking my personal favourite Bond film is an insanely difficult task, if not impossible..
    But picking my least favourite.. Yeah that is easy, and that honour goes to Diamonds Are Forever.. Almost none of it works for me, the comedy falls flat, the characters are either forgettable or memorable for the wrong reasons, and those special effects towards the end are nothing short of horrible.. Even You Only Live Twice looked better..

    Sean Connery meanwhile, does what he can I guess.. I can't blame him for feeling a touch uninspired here, but again as I mentioned in comment for You Only Live Twice, even when Sean isn't giving 100%, he is still a good enough actor that the movie never suffers for it, and thank god for that.. If he wasn't here to be the anchor that holds the film together, lord only knows how the finished product might have turned up..
    Also, this movie contains one of my favourite ever Bond quips: "That's quite a nice little nothing you're almost wearing! I approve!" And Connery delivers it beautifully!

    Tiffany Case, what in the world happened there?
    She seems to be a victim of something that happens quite often in the Tom Mankiewicz written films.. Where a character gets established and then completely turns into a different person towards the end of the film, in this case, she starts out seeming very competent and ends up being a clueless ditz who actually hinders Bond's efforts..
    I don't know for a fact that this is Mankiewicz's fault per se, but something very similar does happen in "Live and Let Die" which he was also heavily involved in writing, so maybe..
    Tiffany isn't helped by the fact that (however lovely she may look, and she is a knockout for sure) Jill St. John is a poor actress.. Of all the Bond girls I can't recall a single one whose delivery was as stilted as St. John's.

    By far the movie's biggest sin, in my opinion, is that it asks us to believe this flamboyant Charles Gray character is Blofeld.. I just.. what? Gray's performance doesn't even echo any traces of the previous Blofelds', hell he even contradicts it at times! ("Science was never my strong suit!" he says. Really? Weren't you the one creating a deadly pathogenic virus like ONE FILM AGO??).
    There is just so much wrong with this character, had he had another name, I could've accepted it as a campy Bond villain in a subpar film, but no.. This "Blofeld" almost weakens the other films with how much this steps on Savalas and Pohlmann..
    His team of supporting villains are for the most part bland and unmemorable.. My cynical side tells me that this Charles Gray Blofeld would probably never hire somebody that could conceivably upstage him! ;)

    The allies don't fare much better, although I agree that Jimmy Dean should be commented for being one of the only people that seems to take this seriously.. And as a result, his character actually seems believable compared to all the cartoonish caricatures around him.. His character would probably stand out in all other Bond films, but here he actually becomes my favourite main character in the film aside from Bond, simply because Jimmy Dean never overacts..
    Norman Burton, though? Yeah, worst Felix Leiter ever.. His portrayal turns the character into comic relief, and he comes across as a bumbling fool.. This is not my Leiter.. give me Cec Linder over this any day...

    One sequence that does stand out effectively for me is the crematorium scene, where Bond, trapped in a casket is almost burned alive.. This scene actually has some real suspense to it, and once again Bond is utterly helpless and is only saved by sheer dumb luck.. Too bad this scene is wasted in this film..

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    1. I also agree with you that even John Barry's music doesn't seem as good as usual here.
      Diamonds Are Forever is top-notch though, it's not a song I really dig outside of Bond, but it definitely belongs near or at the top of all Bond songs.. Of the three Shirley Bassey tunes, I find this one to be the best!

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    2. Believe it or not, I was sort of worried that you might somehow be a big fan of this movie. Which would be fine, it's just that I remember this review being a bit overly vitriolic, and I didn't want to have offended you inadvertently! Or anyone else, really. but I see I need not have worried, at least in your case. ;)

      Connery really does have some great quips. I don't fault him at all for this movie; after all, he is just performing what the screenplay has given him to do, and frankly (pun intended), he's doing a great job of that. He could have carried on in that style straight through to "A View to a Kill" and it would have been fine with me, provided the movies got better (which they did).

      Good lord. I hadn't even noticed that inconsistency via the "Science was never my strong suit line." That's awful.

      If I recall correctly, the original conception was that the villain would be Goldfinger's twin brother. Take out the word "twin" and I could theoretically have accepted Gray in that capacity. But as Blofeld? No sir.

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