GP. Or PG. I'm going to assume it is "PG", despite what IMDB tells me. I mean, it could stand for "General Patronage" or something. Regardless, it has lots of adorable James Bond style nudity.
DIRECTOR: Guy Hamilton
I'm so sorry, Sir Roger Moore. I decided to watch a Bond movie the day that Sir Roger Moore died, but then I realized that the last movie I watched was On Her Majesty's Secret Service and I was so close to Live and Let Die. So my obsession with doing things the right way in the right order won out once again and I decided to watch Diamonds are Forever. I'll try to watch Live and Let Die before I leave for a Disney cruise. (The problems in my life, I swear.)
Like in my review for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I have to stress that I've seen this movie too many times. But unlike the other film, this movie was never one of my favorites in the series. In fact, it has always been my least favorite of the Connery era. As a little bit of background, Sean Connery had grown tired with the role of James Bond by the time that the fifth film in the franchise, You Only Live Twice. Broccoli and Slatzman, probably, then decided to double down and pressure Connery into sticking with the series by marketing the film with the tagline "Sean Connery IS James Bond." Well, ain't no one going to be pressuring Sean Connery into something that he doesn't want to do. So George Lazenby was hired onto do the next film and there's a whole documentary on Hulu for that one. Because George Lazenby seriously alienated himself with both producers and audiences, Saltzman and Broccoli were desperate to recapture the magic and they brought back the missing ingredient and tied him to Guy Hamilton, who had done Goldfinger, I think. I could IMDB all this stuff, but I like sounding confident in my knowledge of stupid trivia. This was meant to be the movie to steady the course and boy, it does not.
Diamonds are Forever really nails the elements of Bond without having the content to make it a good movie necessarily. This is no real small task. Over the course of many movies, the series would forget what makes Bond special and the series becomes a spoof of itself. Similarly, many movies attempt to be the new Bond and fall by the wayside when Bond continues to be a viable license. (Although I have yet to hear confirmation for the next installment...) But this is the last of the series that really feels like an old school Bond movie. I get the vibe that Connery might be phoning in the character or doing all of this against his better judgement, but there's nothing really noticable about how he handles the character. It seems like he's settling into a comfortable pair of shoes. The stress level is probably non-existent because he has already proven himself. Imagine being in Connery's position. He bet against the system and won. The studio needed him as Bond and were probably willing to pay out the nose to have him fart around on screen. While this doesn't necessarily make for a good movie, he knows exactly what he needs to do to be Bond.
But the truth about this movie is that it doesn't make a lick of sense. I've seen this movie so many times. I've read the novel. I've watched featurettes and nerded out over Bond on the internet for years and I still have no idea what is going on in this movie. The plot is completely incoherent. I know the basic plot and SPOILERS, all I can tell you is that Blofeld is using diamonds to built a space laser. Why or how the rest of the movie fits into the plot is completely backwards to me. There are certain plots that are so complex that they actually become dumber. Some complex plots are awesome. The come from tight screenwriting and an attention to detail. Some scripts, however, just throw more stuff at the plot and beg the audience to treat it like the Emperor's new clothes. No one wants to feel dumb that they don't get the story and how it works, so they just nod their heads. Like with many of my reviews, I have to acknowledge that someone may have cracked this movie quite easily. I keep thinking that this plot got overly complicated because it is covering for an extremely simple storyline. Also, part of the problem with this movie depends on James Bond having the best luck in the world. Yes, the suspense is still present while he's being cremated, but like the famous "laser-to-the-genitals" sequence, it took little skill to escape from. A set of circumstances frees Bond and how is that exciting? The Bond trope of the complex death trap is also at an all time high (pun intended). The burial in the pipeline seemed so very complicated and overdone considering that everyone else that was murdered by Winn and Kidd died in a fairly quick and violent manner. These assassins went out of their way to give Bond a chance to escape the pipeline deathtrap without provocation, which only makes me roll my eyes the more.
That's right. I mentioned Winn and Kidd. When I first saw this movie, I was a kid and didn't know better. Man, the early seventies was a time of rampant homophobia and stereotypes were the only way to present these characters. They are so very bizarre because they might be some of the least developed villains in history. They have a backstory because they have a relationship, but as an audience we have very little insight into what that relationship might be. The bizarre part is that the archetype that they are presenting could be riveting. I think my favorite part of the new Marvel Star Wars comic book are the evil mirror characters to C-3PO and R2-D2. Those are Winn and Kidd, lifelong companions who really enjoy whimsical murder. As cringeworthy as these characters are, there could have been something there, but I think that Guy Hamilton, in his desperation at throwing everything at the screen, lost an opportunity to build something impressive here. Also, boo, the '70s. You could have done so much more.
I guess this keeps coming back to lost opportunities for development. On Her Majesty's Secret Service ends with the most important character development moment in the franchise, the death of Bond's wife. But it was a commercial failure, so like studios today, they tried to do everything opposite of what could have been unsuccessful. This means no emotional repercussions for Bond. Also, since Tracy was a deep and psychologically complex character, Diamonds are Forever had Tiffany Case, the most mind-boggling inconsistent character in Bond history. I can't give her the award for most inconsistent, because that coveted spot belongs to Dr. Christmas Jones, portrayed by Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough. This character starts off really well. She is in charge of smuggling diamonds and knows how to spot a spy with the use of technological marvels. Sure, she's mostly naked for a majority of the movie, but we can at least admire her control over her empire. Then she is double-crossed and double-crossed again, eventually leading her to be extremely ditsy. I dare you to compare the machine gun sequence at the end of the movie with the introduction she provides and tell me that this is the same character. I don't know if she wasn't testing well as a competent character, so the male execs all dumped the brains out this character or what? It's just that Tiffany Case is a hot mess of a character. She's probably one of the few characters who has an arc that de-evolves her.
This is also the movie that really confirms the lack of continuity in the franchise. From You Only Live Twice, there is a little bit of a Blofeld trilogy going on. However, the rules of Blofeld are never consistent. Donald Pleasance plays Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, Telly Savalas plays him in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Charles Gray plays him in Diamonds are Forever. But their portrayals of the same character are completely all over the board. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but the characters really seem to lack the knowledge of what they had done in the previous films. The relationships between Bond and Blofeld also waver. You Only Live Twice has the most menacing and frightening Blofeld, willing to murder without compunction. He seems to hate Bond for ruining his plans time and again. Savalas Blofeld is casual and cocky, unable to identify Bond immediately from his previous film. There is no hatred, only ego. Charles Gray Blofeld puts on a dress and has dopplegangers willing to die at a moment's notice. He seems to have affection for Bond as his equal and seems to enjoy the cat and mouse that their relationship provides. It makes it really hard to know what the stakes are for these movies if the origins of this character are not spelled out.
There's so much more that I could say about this movie, but I think it would all be gripey. There's a lot to enjoy about this movie, but it really requires the viewer to shut off his brain. I'll probably watch it a half dozen more times before I die and part of me will always enjoy it. But this is where Bond becomes more of a commentary on his era than about the film itself. The movie might not be good, but the essence is still there.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.