License to Review #7: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

James Bond will return to cinemas this November with his twenty-fifth adventure, No Time to Die. In preparation, David Alkhed will take a look at all the previous entries in the franchise and see which ones are deserving of praise (shaken) and which ones aren’t (stirred).

With On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it looked like the James Bond franchise had finally found its proper footing. George Lazenby was a great Bond and more to my liking than Connery (as great as he was), the action scenes were exciting and there were signs of genuine emotional deft. That’s where the franchise should’ve continued. But sadly, due to Lazenby being talked out of doing another Bond by his agent and audiences perhaps favoring camp over clever writing, Lazenby jumped ship before committing to a sequel. Many successors were considered (including Americans Adam West and Burt Reynolds) but after granting him a fee of £1.25 million, they managed to bring back Sean Connery for his final (official) outing as Bond. I hope Never Say Never Again is at least decent, because boy oh boy, Diamonds Are Forever sure wasn’t.

Where do I even begin? I’m being perfectly serious, I have no idea where to start this review. I’d normally begin by explaining the plot, but I honestly have very little idea of what the plot was because the script is a complete clusterfuck in serious need of a rewrite. But from what I could gather, James Bond is on a vengeful quest for Blofeld (presumably because of the events in OHMSS, but they’re never referenced so I presume they never happened), which leads him into some sort of diamond smuggling operation alongside smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), which leads him to Las Vegas, which in turn leads him to an oil rig in the end that reveals an evil plot involving a space satellite. This is literally all I can remember as of this writing.

So yeah, the writing is absolutely atrocious, but let’s start with the few positives because don’t worry, it won’t take too long. The film starts off well enough, albeit with some terrible ADR and some silly action sequences. And the title song is very good too, one of the better ones, and of all the Bond songs performed by Shirley Bassey this one is my favorite. With all of this, I can picture this as a direct continuation to OHMSS and I imagine just how much better it would’ve been, but I’ll try not to bring it up too much. Those are, I’m sad to say, probably the only genuine positives I have to give this film. I was never bored however, but that had mostly to do with how campy and silly everything got. There were whole sections, primarily the chase in the desert and the police chase in Las Vegas, that felt like something straight out of a comedy film (there was even a cop wearing sunglasses at night, which gave me Blues Brothers vibes). This section was, whether intentionally or not, genuinely hilarious and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at any film, so I’ll give the filmmakers credit where it’s due.

It’s honestly quite shocking to see that this was directed by Guy Hamilton, who did such a good job on Goldfinger. Like, how the hell did he end up directing a film this laughable and stupid? Did he lose a bet? Blofeld, here played by Charles Gray (who had a small role in You Only Live Twice) is rather dull and less fun to watch than the previous actors Pleasance and Savalas, but that’s probably got less to do with Gray’s acting abilities and more to do with the writing. Tiffany Case starts out as a semi-intriguing femme fatale, who could’ve been a new Pussy Galore, but in the end she turns out to simply be a dumb woman who can’t handle guns, which just makes me want to yell to the screen “ever heard of women’s lib?” Also, what the hell is up with Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint? There were still moments that made me laugh throughout the film, but they were either out of the films pure incompetence and stupidity or my own sanity being vaporised by the lousy screenwriting. Either way, this film is really bad.

Diamonds are perhaps forever, but this movie is definitely stirred, and that’s no good. Not good at all.

James Bond will return in Live and Let Die. So let’s hope this sort of thing never happens to the other fellow (I presume this wish will just bite me in the ass knowing the reputation of the later films, but one can always hope, right?)

Published by davidalkhed

Co-creator, critic and columnist for A Fistful of Film.

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