Diamonds are Forever (1971) – Film Review

Directed by: Guy Hamilton

Screenplay by: Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz

Starring: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray.

Running time: 120 mins

J’s Verdict: ☆☆

After George Lazenby left the series after one film, thanks to his silly agent proclaiming Bond would be an archaic dinosaur soon, the producers brought back Sean Connery as Bond, Guy Hamilton to direct (He had done Goldfinger) and Shirley Bassey to sing the title tune – all to recreate the success of Goldfinger. That all sounds like a winning formula – but they went with Diamonds are Forever, a Bond adventure that doesn’t quite gel.

It starts off at full speed, as Bond moves from henchman to henchman around the world, looking for Blofeld. It’s an exciting whirlwind fuelled by the intensity of the last scene from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and an idea about a gritty revenge film takes place, one that will pit a broken hero against his adversary once and for all.

But then, after a forgettable tune carried by the ferocious Shirley Bassey, the plot instead follows Bond as he tracks down the origin of a diamond smuggling ring. Along the way, he’ll cross paths with two gay henchman, who seemed to have wandered in from a Coen’s movie, an elephant winning at the slots and the most wasted Bond Girl I’ve seen yet – Plenty O’ Tool.

Sean Connery is back as Bond and I don’t know what to tell you – he puts on a good show even as, in some frames, he looks tired as all heck. Despite having looked like he had aged more than 4 years since we last saw him, he’s still dashing and brings with him that certain coolness. Even when he’s kicking a cat across the room.

It’s weird seeing Charles Grey as Blofeld after his short role in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. He doesn’t quite have the menace or air of authority of the actor from From Russia with Love or OHMSS but Grey is serviceable in the role, even if said role is undermined by the fact that Blofeld is in drag at one point. What in the heck?

Blofeld in drag, Tiffany Case alternating between fiendish smuggler to bumbling sidekick, the car chase through Vegas – Diamonds, more often than not, caused me to either laugh with the camp or cringe at it.

More than this, I think what doesn’t work for me is just that Diamonds are Forever isn’t a particularly focused or strong effort. The plot isn’t particularly interesting this time around, especially following the more stripped back OHMSS. It doesn’t feel particularly slow but there’s not much charm or intrigue happening, just an absurd series of encounters that feel more at home in a darkly comical thriller. Or a spy parody.

There are a few inspired set pieces – a fight scene in an elevator, a tense encounter in a funeral home – but its missing a strong story that can run along its sense of fun, which it’s clearly having – especially in the last half of the movie.

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