Connery Returns: “Diamonds are Forever” (1971)

James Bond (Sean Connery- at 40 y.o. w/ bushier eyebrows) has a new mission- find out who has been smuggling diamonds. He takes on the identity of “transport consultant” Peter Franks and joins up w/ Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), an American diamond smuggler. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover- father of Crispin) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) are the dangerous/eccentric duo tailing Bond. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray- who played a British ally in You Only Live Twice) also has his hand in this game; he has changed his looks (again). Can Bond finally defeat his ultimate enemy?

M: We do function in your absence, Commander.

George Lazenby was asked to make a second Bond movie, but declined. Burt Reynolds was the first choice to replace him, but was unavailable. Roger Moore was offered the role of Bond, but he was unavailable due to his commitment to a TV series. Tall/handsome Mexican-American actor John Gavin (best known for his supporting role in Psycho) was signed to play Bond in this movie. Adam West turned down the role b/c felt that Bond should be a British actor. Michael Gambon turned down the role because he was “in terrible shape.” At the last minute, Connery agreed to return as Bond; Connery was paid $1.25M (a figure unheard of in those days); he donated it to the Scottish Education Fund (which is awesome)! Albert R. Broccoli insisted that Gavin be paid the full salary, for which his contract called.

[Tiffany Case opens the door almost nude]

Bond: That’s quite a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing. I approve.

Tiffany: I don’t dress for the hired help. Let’s see your passport, Franks.

[Bond gives her his passport. She looks it over]

Tiffany: Occupation: Transport Consultant? It’s a little cute isn’t it? I’ll finish dressing.

Bond: Oh, please don’t, not on my account.

Tiffany (the first American Bond Girl) is argumentative, loud, and brash when compared to previous Bond girls; she was meant to be a commentary on American women. Actresses considered for the role of Tiffany included Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway. Jill St. John had originally been offered the part of Plenty O’Toole, but landed the lead after impressing director Guy Hamilton during screentests. Tiffany’s home was actually owned by Kirk Douglas- how cool!

[Mr. Kidd spots Bond and Tiffany at the airplane. He returns to his seat]

Mr. Kidd: [to Mr. Wint] They’re both aboard. I must say Miss Case seems quite attractive…

[pause]

Mr. Kidd: …for a lady.

[Mr. Wint glares at Mr. Kidd]

Mr. Kidd: Heh heh heh heh!

[Mr. Wint, unamused, still glares at Mr. Kidd]

Producers cast Lana Wood (sister of Natalie) as Plenty O’Toole after seeing her in Playboy. Her voice was dubbed and she is standing on a box for some of her scenes w/ Connery (b/c even in high heels, she was too small to fit into the frame w/ him). Unlike her sister, Lana is a very wooden (pardon the pun). Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean- best known for his sausage commercials) was based on Howard Hughes. Whyte owned the Whyte House in this movie; Hughes owned a real Las Vegas hotel (the Desert Inn). Dean was an employee of Hughes at the Desert Inn; he later confessed that he was uneasy portraying a fictional version of his boss. Shady Tree (Leonard Barr) is based on veteran Vegas comedian Shecky Greene.

[while fumbling inside the pipeline, Bond sees a rat]

Bond: Well, one of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief. [sniffs] I’m afraid it’s me. Sorry, old boy.

One of the first things I noticed re: this movie- it looks a BIT cheap (and NOT only b/c it’s set mainly in Vegas). Because of Connery’s high fee, the special effects budget was scaled back. Bond’s escape through a moon landing “movie set” refers to the popular conspiracy theory of the time that the real moon landings were faked. This may be confusing to some (younger) viewers- LOL! The Moon Buggy was inspired by an actual N.A.S.A. vehicle, but w/ additions like flailing arms (as the producers thought it didn’t look “outrageous” enough). It was capable of road speeds; the fiberglass tires had to be replaced during the chase sequence b/c the heat and desert soil ruined them.

Some scenes here have NOT aged well! Plenty is caught by some thugs, wearing nothing but her underwear and high heels, and tossed into the pool. Some fans/critics noted that this has misogynistic undertones. The same can be said of the opening teaser scene where Bond interrogates a woman by pulling up her bikini top and nearly strangling her w/ it. Wint and Kidd hold hands in one scene and banter like a romantic couple; some viewers felt this portrayal wasn’t so bad, but others called it homophobic.

[1] …Sean Connery is back–too bad the film, in many ways, sucked. That’s because by now, the plots seemed more like comic books and the character of Bond seemed more like self-parody than anything else. While in the past Connery played his character rather straight, here he was playing a smirking and smug guy–as if he was looking at the camera and saying “ain’t I cute?”

[2] …we have a tacky script that relies too much on slapstick and unfocused direction. And the acting is not great, Sean Connery is my favourite Bond mainly due to his suavity and charisma but he seems bored and uninterested here and gives an unusually flat performance in the role…

[3] The globe-trotting action takes in Amsterdam and Las Vegas this time around, culminating with an explosive action set-piece on an oil rig in the Atlantic. There are many varied locations used, from action in hotel rooms, circuses, gambling halls and even the desert. There are only two chase scenes in the movie but both are goodies… […] Finally, the action set-pieces are also rather good. The standout is a fight to the death in an old-fashioned lift, of all places, featuring Connery going fist-to-fist with boxer Joe Robinson.

[4] When he first showed up on screen I was taken aback by his aged appearance, looking quite much older than his forty years at the time. […] Story wise, the diamond smuggling concept started out strong but seemed to get frittered away as the film progressed.

-Excerpts from IMBD reviews

3 thoughts on “Connery Returns: “Diamonds are Forever” (1971)

  1. Bond, misogynistic? Who’d have suspected!

    It’s really hard for me to imagine Burt Reynolds as Bond. How fascinating.

    And I think there are still plenty of people who believe the conspiracy theory about the staging of the moon landing, although maybe not as many as back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha- I’m SO late to see these (older) Bond movies- so I didn’t know earlier how cringey they could be! I barely recall the ones w/ Pierce Brosnan; they seemed to be popular at the time (lotta ppl went to see at my local/affordable theater back in Tucson). I’m gonna take a break from Bond for a while, BUT I’m kinda interested to see the next one- it has 20s Jane Seymour & Yaphet Kotto (who I watched on “Homicide”)!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The first one I saw in the theater was “For Your Eyes Only,” when I was a preteen. (Saw with my parents and most of it went over my head.) The early ones were not perceived as cringey by their audiences but by the time you get to the 70s, I suspect that it was already clear that Bond was kind of a dinosaur (although arguably he got a reprieve / stay of execution during the Reagan / Thatcher years).

        Yaphet Kotto is always impressive (although regularly stuck in these wildly stereotypical roles). I never know what to think of Jane Seymour.

        Like

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