‘Diamonds Are Forever’ Most Objectionable James Bond Film


By now most of you have seen No time to die, the latest film in the Bond franchise starring Daniel Craig as a British secret agent with a license to kill. And, after seeing the movie, you know its creators took every bit of the story imaginable to make sure you knew this was Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007. Damn, for one. great part of the movie, it’s not even 007.

At the end of No time to die, a headline appeared saying “James Bond Will Return”. Well, yes, of course he will, as long as there is money to be made with the character. But how? And in what form? Social media, the hydra-headed entity that allows an almost infinite amplification of all opinions, no matter how far-fetched they are, has ideas; in turn, the people who make the films have their own ideas. The idea of ​​a female James Bond was launched. Daniel Craig, in an interview, expressed his idea rather moderately that a female character like Bond, rather than Bond himself, might be better suited. (And in fact No time to die features a female agent who has the 007 designation, as Bond ostensibly retired in that scenario.) This did not suit some, who said that the most essential point of the Make-Bond-Female program is that a character “Equivalent” would not have the marketing appeal of a 100% female James Bond. And, in fact, Eon tried to create something of a Bond “equivalent” with Blake Lively, in the 2020 movie. The rhythm section, based on the first novel in a series about a female spy. Not a bad movie. And a complete box office disaster. So I guess they’re right. I’m not sure doing what they suggest will have the results they envision, however.

As Goodfellas demonstrated that much of the attraction of gangster movies is related to the vicarious thrill of transgression, just as Bond films have responded, or some would say bowed, to lesser wish-fulfillment fantasies. socially constructive. Men. Let’s go back to the first film in what became the Eon franchise, 1962 Dr No. Sean Connery’s Bond is fit, immaculately dressed, a successful player, can get attractive women to sleep with him without even raising an eyebrow (okay, he raises an eyebrow) and has a license to kill. We don’t think too much about it in movies where chaos and murder are rife, but a license to kill is a big deal. As Clint Eastwood’s William Munny says in unforgiven, “It’s a hell of a thing to kill a man.”

In real life in America these days, the question may be open whether one even needs a license to kill to get away with at least, uh, a homicide. But whatever. The point is, regardless of whether Bond’s efforts are in the service of the King (or Queen) and the country, he embodies a corrupt fantasy. It is inherently a Problem.

Which leads to the question: Which of the Bond films is the most problematic?

Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery, 1971
Photo: Everett Collection

In my book it’s been a long time Diamonds are forever. A little story: Connery left the Bond series after the 1967s You only live twice. Which, speaking of trouble, featured Bond “undercover” as a Japanese man, with makeup and hairpiece. 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starred Australian George Lazenby as Bond, and while for many years Lazenby was a late-night punchline, meaning The Bond Who Failed, Service is now recognized as a good installment in the series. And there is an important and almost persistent tribute paid in No time to die, until the music of the end credits. In any case, the film was initially a box office disappointment, but the producers wanted to stick with Lazenby, but he himself did not re-engage. On the advice of his agent, apparently. Who gave bad advice.

Producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman therefore attracted Connery. In adapting Bond’s fourth novel, since 1956, they added beginning screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz to reinforce regular screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s sense of reliable structure. And yes, Tom was from this family, Joseph’s son. Tom himself once observed, “There was something terribly scary about writing a screenplay when you have the last name of Mankiewicz. You say to yourself ‘Oh shit, no matter what I write for sure it’s not nonsense All about Eve, is not it. Action comedies have become the niche of this Markiewicz.

Made with a not quite furious dispatch from Guy Hamilton, Diamonds – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month – is performing a major reset of Service. This James Bond doesn’t cry and doesn’t cry. He is first depicted in a ruthless pursuit of the evil master Blofeld. Who here is played by Charles Gray, who, to complicate matters for connoisseurs of the cinematic universe, played a friendly (and doomed) touch for Bond in You only live twice.

Bond is so relentless in his stalking that he almost strangles a woman with his bikini top, which he ripped off roughly. This is just a small revelation. One of the main characteristics of Connery’s Bond is its sadism. Come back to Dr No, when he says to Anthony Dawson’s character “You had your sixes” – like in the plans – before hooking up the guy. But the bikini top choke takes sadism to a somewhat cheesy level, to say the least.

And it is the stickiness, in the final analysis, that makes Diamonds the Bond movie with the less pleasant aftertaste. James Bond in Vegas might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but this supposed avatar of sweetness in the vulgarity capital of the world is an awkward fit. (In the book, the Vegas interlude is just that, an interlude; in the film, Bond spends most of his time there.) Where the most understated aspect of a film is its musical theme sung by Shirley-Bassey, you know you’ve got a different kind of brash going.

The cast is really interesting. Bruce Cabot from King Kong is one of the bad guys. Natalie Wood’s younger sister, who buffs may remember as young Natalie Wood in Researchers, comes in as party girl Plenty O’Toole (in case you thought Pussy Galore’s name was squeaky), and my, did she grow up. Gangster movie mainstay Mark Lawrence plays a Nobel Prize winning poet. No, he’s playing the fishiest hearse driver in the world. Valérie Perrine and the future Elvira Cassandra Peterson plays the showgirls. And Bruce Glover, Crispin’s father, plays half of a duo of gay assassins, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.

These characters, which come from Fleming’s book, are arguably the most objectionable in Bond canon. Gay killers, even gay killer duos, aren’t uncommon in genre movies, and they’re not even always reprehensibly / stereotypically portrayed – watch Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman in the great 1955 film noir The big combo for an unusually layered (though not overly likeable) design. And frankly, Wint and Kidd are more clumsy here than offensive. Glover’s Wint is constantly sprinkled with cologne, while Kidd likes to make dry comments, such as “I have to say Miss Case looks pretty attractive.” For a lady.

Kidd was played by Putter Smith. Not an actor, but a jazz bassist Guy Hamilton saw at a jazz club in LA when Smith was in the rhythm section of none other than Thelonious Monk. After making his film debut, he went back to being a jazz bassist, only appearing in two other films.

Prior to Diamonds, homosexuality only existed in the Bond world among busty, discipline-conscious women, as in the aforementioned Pussy Galore. And that’s how the male fantasy loved him. Although who knows. In this film, when the character of Lana Wood introduces himself, it is first by his first name. “I’m Plenty,” she says, and Connery looks at her cleavage and says, “Of course you are. She elaborates with “Plenty O’Toole” and Connery responds “Maybe your father’s name.” Hmm. The fluidity of genres in Bond, that will be my next thesis. Anyway, when poor Miss O’Toole finds herself dead at the bottom of Jill St. John’s pool (St. John is the aforementioned Miss Case, Tiffany Case, that is, oy) , the camera lingers on its many strengths, revealed by seeing it through the clothes. Essentially inviting the viewer to ogle a corpse. An imaginary corpse, yes. But go now.

It is aspects such as these that led Michael Weldon, in his Psychotronic Encyclopedia of the Film, to say of Diamonds, “It’s the worst.” He goes on to note that “Everything leads to Sausage King Jimmy Dean”. And yes, that is absolutely correct. For all its bad qualities, Diamonds has some weird undercurrents that make it Never Boring, at least. In one scene, Charles Gray’s Blofeld runs in a pretty bad trail. If the Rocky Horror Picture Show generation had seen Gray in this state, maybe they wouldn’t have yelled “asshole” at him when he appeared in Rocky Horror as “The Criminologist”.

Veteran critic Glenn Kenny reviews new appearances on RogerEbert.com, The New York Times and, as befits someone his advanced age, AARP magazine. He blogs, very occasionally, on Some Came Running and tweets, mostly jokingly, on @glenn__kenny. He is the author of the acclaimed book of 2020 Made Men: The History of the Goodfellas, published by Hanover Square Press.

Where to stream Diamonds are forever


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