Monday, January 14, 2013

Double Oh...7: Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever preamble: You know I always intend for these little write-ups to be briefer than they become... Back with Connery for another go-around.  In "researching" Bond rankings Diamond Are Forever was commonly ranked as the worst of the Connery 007 pictures (not counting Never Say Never Again, which most didn't count anyway) and it was frequently mentioned that Connery seemed bored in the role, at least, not like he was.  But we'll get to that.

Villains: Mr. Wind and Mr. Kid are a cartoon duo of convivial psychopaths apparently out to kill anyone who comes into contact with the stolen diamonds that are the story's Maguffin.  They take a great amount of pleasure (though in a very dry, droll way) of killing their victims in a creative manner.  Perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I wasn't ever sure if they were Blofeld's agents or agents of an independent party.  They came about as close to killing Bond as I've seen, stuffing him into a coffin and tossing him into a cremation chamber.
  Willard White, a Howard Hughes-ish titan of industry and notorious kook and recluse, appears to be a bad guy at first, but turns out he's been abducted by Blofield, who actually died in the opening credits but turns out he had more than a few body doubles surgically made for that very reason.  Blofeld in this picture isn't as creepy as Donald Pleasance, nor as active or slimy as Telly Sevalis.  Charles Gray doesn't have the same presence as either of his predecessors, and Blofeld comes off a little... average here. Oddly, Charles Gray played a contact of Bond's who was murdered in You Only Live Twice

Bond Girls: Bleh.  Jill St. John as Tiffany Case is exceptionally hammy with every line delivery sounding like a line delivery.  Ms. Case is a black market jewel smuggler and illicit businesswoman who, by the end of the film attempts to make good (mostly because she's found out and in over her head with the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. shenanigans).  She's not a dumb character but she's extraordinarily average and perhaps a bit too flighty for a world class smuggler.
  The only other Bond girl is Plenty O'Toole (played by Lana Wood, Natalie's sister), who has about 3 or 4 minutes of screen time but makes herself noticeable with her perky... voice.  And her impressive cleavage.  The hit pitched perk in her voice though gets very grating very quickly.  It's not long before she's topless and tossed out a window however.  Just one of many instances of near or actual nudity followed by violence perpetrated on a woman, in a disconcerting correlation.  A sunbather in the opening sequence prepares to seduce (or get seduced) by Bond, only to have her bikini top ripped of and be strangled with it.  Later at Tiffany's Vegas safe house they find a dead body in the pool wearing one of Tiffany's wigs.  There's a slow pan down her body to reveal that she's chained at the feet to the bottom of the pool, but also to reveal that her top becomes pretty sheer in water.  I'm not sure if all these were intentional, but when you put it all together like that, it's kind of gross.
  Then there's Bambi and Thumper, two Vegas carnies who beat up on Bond pretty good for a bit until he gets the upper hand on them in the pool and proceeds to drown them.  At least he didn't rip their tops off first this time.

Theme/Credits:  It's like a de Beers commercial, only with more pussy and implied nudity.  It's not very inspired though the silhouette of the girl dancing in the diamond broach, with the pan across the white diamonds within the silhouette is so endearingly cheesy.
  The song, as sung by Shirley Bassey, is total early 70's chanteuse overkill.  It sounds like the template for Kathey Lee Gifford's entire career.  Though I've got a long way to go before I've hear them all, this is a strong contender for worst Bond theme.

Bond:  Was Connery in this one solely for the paycheck?  Perhaps.  Is this why the Bond in this film doesn't really seem like the Bond of Connery's past?  Could be.  But I also posit that this script was written with a new Bond in mind.  It has more of the feel of Lazenby's Bond, more serious, more capable.  Connery's Bond previously couldn't hold a cover if his life depended on it (which it usually did,not that it mattered to him) while here, Bond stays in character for a long portion of the film and shows alarming astuteness at infiltration.    He equally shows smarts taking a moon rover over rocky terrain whilst being pursued... and proves to have excellent driving skills (since up until now, women did most of his driving for him).
  As described already, he's still a little too serious with the women.  He even firmly calls Case a bitch at one point, though I still haven't decided whether it was serious or "in character".  He also kicks a cat in perhaps the most shocking Bond moment ever.

Movie:  The opening sequence is terribly corny and confoundingly bad in its editing... as it tries to tease Connery's reveal then quite gives up.  It's supposed to be a montage of Bond's desperate and, prolonged search for Blofeld, who, if there was any continuity, he'd be terribly pissed at for killing his wife.  Alas.
  The rest of the movie is insanely corny, frequently delving in America's broadest stereotypes (as the series is so often want to do). The dialogue is so... unnatural, like how someone thinks Americans talk or as if scriptwriter only watched Sci-Fi B-movies from the 1950s.
  Bond's in Vegas, which isn't as seamy as it would become a couple decades later, nor as glamorous as it use to be.  It's kind of in it's awkward stage, gaudy but still clinging to it's former mob-infused glory.  Hey!  There's an elephant playing slots!
  For the first half, this one plays like 70's network cop drama, and rather looks like one too.  Director Guy Hamilton previously directed Goldfinger (and went on to direct the next two Bond pics after this), and seems to have a flair for goofiness which plays in this one's favor after a while.  At about the lhr mark, it kicks into another level, shedding all the pussyfooting around for secret compounds, arch nemesis and space lasers.  It does get quite entertaining in its silliness.  It's definitely not a great Bond movie, as there's not much of a plot overall, but as a ridiculous romp, getting particularly silly as they blow up an oil rig it earnestly goes for it.

Q-gadgets: Grappling gun, voice emulator, electromagnetic RPM controller

Classification (out of 01.0): 00.6