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

Meet the New Bond: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, & Telly Savalas

George Lazenby (an Aussie car salesman/part-time model) steps into the role of James Bond (after Sean Connery refused). Bond meets the 2nd most powerful leader of a criminal org, Marc-Ange Draco (Italian actor Gabriele Ferzetti), and becomes close w/ Draco’s daughter, Tracy (British TV star Diana Rigg). She was 38 y.o. at that time; she looked classy and confident. Bond then heads off to hunt down Ernst Stavro Blofeld (now played by a American TV star- Telly Savalas) in Switzerland, posing as ancestry expert/professor, Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker). The remote facility (supposedly for allergy research) is heavily guarded and managed by a German woman, Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat). Anglophiles will get a kick out of seeing a V young Joanna Lumley as one of Blofeld’s international ladies; she went on to comedic fame in Absolutely Fabulous.

Actors considered for Bond included Americans and Brits: Adam West (Batman), Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes), John Richardson (a conventionally handsome up-and-coming actor), Oliver Reed (who went on to have a great career- his last role was on Gladiator) and Roy Thinnes (who I know from One Life to Live). Having secured a suit ordered, but uncollected by Connery, and getting a Rolex and haircut like him, Lazenby talked his way into meeting producer Albert R. Broccoli, producer Harry Saltzman, and director Peter R. Hunt. After falsely claiming he had acting credits, he got a screentest. Lazenby then confessed to Hunt that he wasn’t an actor. Hunt laughed and said, “You just strolled in here and managed to fool two of the most ruthless bastards in the business. You’re an actor.”

As of 2021, Lazenby is the youngest actor to portray 007, as he was only aged 29 during filming. We see the only signature gun barrel sequence where Bond drops down on one knee while shooting at the audience. The theme song We Have All the Time in the World was the last song that Louis Armstrong recorded; he died 2 yrs later. Lazenby wanted to do most of his own stunts, but the studio wouldn’t allow him. During one of the stunt scenes, Lazenby broke his arm, delaying the filming of many of his later scenes.

Though Lazenby doesn’t have as much charisma as Connery, he looks good in the outfits and carries himself w/confidence (no doubt b/c of his experience as a model). You can tell that he hasn’t acted before- for sure! Many viewers noted that Lazenby has good chemistry w/ Rigg in their romantic scenes. Savalas (best known as Kojak) does a fine job in his villain role. As for Draco- ugh- he’s a misogynist who thinks his daughter needs to follow his ideas. He tries to arrange a marriage (no joke) between Bond and Tracy- yikes!

What I liked about it, that we’ve tried to emulate in this film [Inception], is there’s a tremendous balance in that movie of action and scale and romanticism and tragedy and emotion. -Christopher Nolan (filmmaker)

There is a freshness and energy here, unlike most of the previous franchise films. It also looks a lot better; it had a $7M budget, a shooting schedule of 9 mos. (half on location), and a crew of 120. These filming techniques appeared for the 1st time: slow-motion (Bond is knocked out in his bedroom), flashback (Bond remembering Tracy being captured), and “breaking the fourth wall” (Lazenby looking into the camera after saying “This never happened to the other fella”).

[1] …this is my vote for the best James Bond film. No, it’s not because I am a George Lazenby fan. Despite this Aussie not being right for the role, this movie deserves kudos for being so intelligently written–possessing a depth that was never equaled in any other Bond film. Bond, for the first time, was human. Another reason I loved this film is because it was a very long and complex film–making it seem leisurely yet exciting throughout.

There are two plots in the film that run concurrently. First, Bond happens upon a very spoiled and confused lady (Diana Rigg). She is an emotional mess and she needs stability in her life. In a very odd choice, she drifts towards the usually irresponsible and shallow Bond–who in his own way needs her as well. Second, Blofeld is back again and he’s up to something–but what this diabolical scheme is, no one knows.

In addition to the exceptional plots and writing, this film also had amazing but appropriate stunt-work. The skiing scenes were amazing…

[2] It is not the best Bond but it is light years away from the worst. George Lazenby may be a tad inexperienced and the least charismatic of the Bonds, but he is still likable and does try hard, that I can see. (…) Terry Savalas is great as Blofeld, and Diana Rigg is splendid as Tracy. The cinematography and scenery are beautiful, and John Barry’s score and Louis Armstrong’s theme song are simply terrific. In conclusion, better than I thought and dare I say underrated.

[3] I’m not going to put 100% of the blame on Lazenby but I really wonder what the hell the producer’s were thinking. I’m sure they did screen tests or something and at some point they must have known that the actor simply couldn’t pull off anything in the role. He didn’t have the look to believed as a sex symbol and he didn’t have the acting talent to pull off some of the darker, more serious moments that the film goes for. I also thought his comic timing was downright horrendous and made for some really embarrassing moments…

[4]Rigg is every spy’s dream: a madly attractive woman with plenty of intelligence and also spirit, as she reveals in the climax when she tackles a thug.

The movie also benefits from some decent, fast-paced action scenes and genuinely funny humour. This was the first time Bond went skiing and his antics on the slopes easily beat those of Moore. The snowbound locales make for plenty of inventively staged set pieces, like the car chase taking place in a stock car race or the high-rise antics around a cable car.

-Excerpts from IMDB movies

Bond Meets Blofeld: “You Only Live Twice” (1967)

During the height of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union lose one spacecraft each, after they are both seemingly swallowed whole by a large UFO. The two superpowers are quick to blame one another, causing tensions to skyrocket. The UK has an alternate theory re: the disappearances; they send top spy- James Bond (Sean Connery)- to investigate in Japan. With the help of the Japanese Secret Service, Bond uncovers a plot more sinister than anyone could’ve imagined.

[James is in bed with a Ling, a Chinese woman]

Bond: Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?

In the pre-credits scene, we hear one of the MOST cringe-worthy lines ever spoken in a movie! FYI: Ling is played by Tsai Chin, who had a long career in both Chinese/English language films (thus avoiding the Bond girl curse). I liked the stuff about Bond pretending to die. Henderson (Charles Gary), the British agent in Japan, has a small role (but was interesting). I learned that Blofeld’s impressive volcano lair cost $1M to create- wow! We (finally) see the super-villain Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) who has a prominent scar on his face. As even some long-time fans have said, this movie hasn’t aged well. Connery looks and sounds bored/tired; he even walks in a different way (sometimes slouching). His hairpiece doesn’t even look good! As one critic commented: “Connery is phoning it in.”

Tiger Tanaka: I must say I am disappointed with the ease with which I could pull you in. The one thing my honourable mother taught me long ago was never to get into a car with a strange girl. But you, I’m afraid, will get into anything. With any girl.

I liked the setting and scenery; also, the mini-helicopter (Little Nellie) was pretty cool. the Japanese Secret Service members are portrayed in a (mostly) positive manner. Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) is in charge; he’s affable and professional. Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) is the agent who falls for Bond; she has a (very cool) death scene. Too bad that Bond doesn’t even have a minute to mourn her though-ugh! Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) is the assassin who captured Bond for a time, but he (of course) managed to disarm her. Kissy Suzuki (Mia Hama) is the agent posing as a village woman who Bond pretends to be married to. In the last act, Kissy is ONLY wearing a small white bikini. He also pretends to be Japanese for a time and trains to be a ninja- part of Tanaka’s plan.

Blofeld: James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong.

Bond: Yes, this is my second life.

Blofeld: You only live twice, Mr. Bond.

[1] While I grudgingly will admit that the Roald Dahl (yes, THAT Dahl–the “Willie Wonka” guy) script is very exciting and high on the “cool factor”, it is also silly and ridiculous throughout.

[2] This time out, perennial Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is portrayed by Donald Pleasence in a spirited performance that would provide the inspiration for Dr. Evil in “The Spy Who Shagged Me”, courtesy of Mike Myers. Some of the antics in this picture are pretty ridiculous, like Little Nellie with Bond at the controls taking out four attack helicopters, and James Bond (Sean Connery) himself becoming a Ninja master after three days of training!

[3] Ever since Mike Myers mercilessly mocked You Only Live Twice in Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, it’s been impossible to take this particular Bond adventure seriously; but to be honest, the film was always pretty ridiculous in the first place, stretching plausibility further than ever before in an effort to up the ante in terms of crowd-pleasing spectacle.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Bond Goes Under the Sea: “Thunderball” (1965)

James Bond (Sean Connery) continues on his 4th mission; his aim is to recover 2 warheads stolen by the criminal org SPECTRE. The world is held hostage as Bond heads to Nassau in the Bahamas. He is aided by assistant Paula Caplan (Martine Beswick) and faces off against redheaded femme fatale Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). Bond makes a connection w/ Domino Derval (Claudine Auger), the girlfriend of a top SPECTRE agent, Emil Largo (Adolfo Celi). “Thunderball” is a military term used by U.S. soldiers to describe the mushroom cloud seen during the testing of atomic bombs. In North America, this was the 2nd highest-grossing movie of 1966, after Doctor Zhivago.

Connery performed the gun-barrel sequence for the 1st time b/c of the new Panavision process used in the movie. Tom Jones sung the title song. Bond’s jetpack was flown by engineer Bill Suiter, as he was one of only two people qualified to fly it. It was originally invented for military use in the 1950s. This is the only Bond movie where we get a glimpse of all 00 Agents in one shot when they’re summoned to M’s briefing. Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, was adapted from a hydrofoil vessel which cost $500,000 to acquire in Puerto Rico, then transfer for refitting/refurbishment to Miami. It was given a cocoon shell 50 ft. feet long which could be separated from the main boat (as seen in the finale).

One time, we’d finished filming for the day, and there were hundreds of people milling around on the beach, all roped off watching. Sean called to the set hairdresser, ‘Here, you’, and then he simply pulled off his toupée and threw it at the hairdresser. The hairpiece sailed over like a Frisbee and as the hairdresser caught it, Sean said something like, ‘That’s it, I’m off.’ Everyone just collapsed. It was the funniest thing. -Martine Beswick, recalling a memorable moment from the filming

Julie Christie, Raquel Welch, and Faye Dunaway tried out for the role of Domino; Dunaway was a candidate to be a Bond girl in later films also. Molly Peters (Pat- the nurse in the health club) was the 1st Bond girl to be seen taking her clothes off onscreen; she is (briefly) seen from behind in the steam room. Beswick (who played one of the Gypsy girls in From Russia with Love) is tanned in this movie; before shooting, she was pale (due to years of theater work in England). Before filming, she was required to spend 2 weeks sunning herself to get a tan like that of a native. Fiona derides Bond’s ability to turn women to his side (unlike previous Bond girls). Paluzzi (who does a fine job) first auditioned for the role of Domino. To suit her name, Domino’s clothes are always in black and white. Auger (whose voice was dubbed and acted rather stiff) did her own underwater scenes, being a strong swimmer.

What was memorable re: this Bond movie (now that I’ve seen several in this franchise)? There is a good/realistic fight scene between Bob Simmons (the franchise regular stuntman) and Connery. Simmons (uncredited) plays Col. Bouvard, the man in drag, in the pre-title sequence. I liked the chemistry between Bond and Fiona; I wish she had a bit more to do. Domino and Bond lacked sparks, but she had some fab bathing suits. The various fights in the last 20 mins. (shot underwater) were unique and interesting. Bond’s underwater camera is a Nikonos Calypso I, an evolution of the Calypso-Phot, originally built for Jacques Cousteau- wow!

[1] I’m afraid I don’t consider this among the best of the Bonds, but I certainly don’t it one of the worst. If anything it is a solid if rather middling instalment. My main problems come with the bloated plot which tries to squeeze too many plot twists and high-tech software, pedestrian pacing and… Domino is one of the least memorable Bond girls.

[2] Thunderball has some great underwater cinematography as the forces of SPECTRE battle the US Coast Guard and James Bond on the ocean floor as SPECTRE tries to take the bomb into Miami Beach harbor.

[3] This film could have been called “By Land or By Water” as it would be a fitting title but it would also explain the good and bad here. The bad stuff is pretty much everything on land. When the movie started it just had a “been there, done that” feeling to it that really seemed to sink things and in many ways it just felt like we’ve seen this type of film countless times before and much better.

[4] There is something missing here, a kind of spark that even the great Sean Connery can’t provide.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Bond Hits Box Office Gold: “Goldfinger” (1964)

James Bond (Sean Connery- aged 34 and very confident in his role) is on a new mission takes him to Kentucky, where Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his henchmen are planning to raid Fort Knox and wreak havoc on the world’s economy. To save the world, Bond will need to get close to Goldfinger. Also, he has to keep his mind off pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman- already an experienced TV actress), who says she is “immune” to his charm.

Goldfinger: Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!

Ian Fleming visited the set while filming was going on, as w/ the previous 2 films; he died less than a month before the movie’s release (August 12, 1964). This was the fastest grossing movie in history; some theaters had to operate for 24 hrs. a day to meet demand! It even won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects. The opening credits show us a woman (Margaret Nolan, who played Dink) in gold paint and we hear the the title song (sung by Shirley Bassey). For the orchestral opening to the title song, composer John Barry (who had total control over the score/song) used trombones, trumpets, French horns, and a tuba. The re-creation of the Fort Knox repository at Pinewood Studios (by production designer Ken Adam and his team) was very accurate, considering that they weren’t been allowed inside the real location (b/c of security reasons). Goldfinger’s 3-D model map (for his “Operation Grand Slam” plan) is located at the real Fort Knox.

Q: Now this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here? Now, if you take the top off, you will find a little red button. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.

Bond: Yeah, why not?

Q: Because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat. Whish!

Bond: Ejector seat? You’re joking!

Q: I never joke about my work, 007.

Aston Martin was reluctant to part with two of their cars, so the producers had to pay; after the success of the movie, they never had to spend money on a car again. Spielberg liked this Bond film above all the others (esp. the old lady firing the machine gun); he owns an Aston Martin DB5. Long-time fans noted that Q came into his own here; director Guy Hamilton advised Desmond Llewelyn to add humor into the character. So, we see the start of the friendly antagonism between Q and Bond. We see Q’s workshop for the first time w/ men testing out various gadgets. Tilly Masterson’s (Tania Mallet’s) Ford Mustang was the first appearance by a Mustang (released in April of 1964) in a movie.

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

Goldfinger and his henchman Oddjob (played by a wrestler from Hawaii- Harold Sakata) are considered two of the great movie villains; the actors portraying them are opposite of their characters. Fellow cast members have remarked how charming and friendly Fröbe (who came from Germany) and Sakata were off-camera. Fröbe can be seen singing and dancing in the popular children’s movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). It is speculated that Goldfinger was based on a German spy who once tried to rob the Bank of England during WWI; Fleming was a high-ranking officer in Naval Intelligence, so would’ve had access to such info.

Bond: My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

Shirley Eaton (who played Jill Masterson) underwent 2 hrs. of make-up for the gold-painted death scene. “Skin suffocation” by being coated in gold has no basis in fact. A doctor was on set at all times and Eaton’s shots lasted less than 5 mins. in the final movie. Blackman (who also knew judo) was the oldest Bond girl (39 y.o.) until Monica Belucci (51 y.o.) appeared in Spectre (2015); however, Belucci didn’t play Bond’s love interest.

To reflect the main setting, we see horses, the precursor to KFC restaurants, a military base, and (of course) drinks w/ whiskey on a wrap-around porch. I could’ve done w/o the segment on golfing; aside from that, the movie moved along at a good pace. I didn’t watch it 2x (as I’d done with To Russia with Love), but I did re-watch segments I liked. The flying scenes were cool, as were the soldiers (simultaneously) falling like they’d gone to sleep. So far, Blackman is the most interesting Bond girl; she has a strong personality and (surprise) a brain! Some of you may’ve seen the Mike Myers’ parody- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

[1] Thanks to a long film with lots of twists and turns, it felt like a real adventure–very escapist and satisfying.

[2] For me Goldfinger is the slickest of the Bond films in terms of how the stunts are performed and how the story is told. The story mayn’t be the most exciting of all the Bonds, but it is still very gripping. The direction is sly, the cinematography is stylish, the locations are stunning and I can never get enough of the theme song sung by Shirley Bassey.

[3] I believe he was the most dangerous opponent James Bond ever fought with in all of his films. Watch that fight scene that Harold Sakata had with Sean Connery, he’s got Connery almost down for the count. Fighting skills can only carry you so far when your opponent outweighs you and is built like a brick outhouse. In fact it’s only sheer trickery in which Connery overcomes Sakata in a shocking conclusion.

[4] The various scenes of action are slick and exciting, especially the explosive, spectacular last fifteen minutes which sees a brilliant fight scene between Bond and Oddjob, one of the best ever. The sight of Frobe being sucked out of a plane window is also something to remember.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews