Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton
Ian Fleming (novel), Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz
"Diamonds Are Forever" ... forever ... forever ... forever ...
After traveling the world in his quest to kill Blofeld, Bond returns triumphant, only to discover a case waiting for him: a large amount of diamonds has been stolen from the South African mines and two offbeat assassins are killing everyone in the smuggling ring one-by-one. Bond goes undercover as Peter Franks, diamond smuggler. What he discovers shocks him: the head of the smuggling ring is none other than Ernst Stavros Blofeld! Now, Bond must resist the wiles of a beautiful smuggler and survive the machinations of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, Blofeld's two best assassins so that he can uncover Blofeld's sinister plot.
Runtime: 119 min.
Release Date: 10/17/2000
• Audio Commentary with Director Guy Hamilton, Co-Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, Composer John Barry, Actors Jill St. John, Joe Robinson, Marc Lawrence, Lana Wood, Bruce Glover, Shane Rimmer, Trina Parks, Jimmy Dean and Putter Smith, Production Designer Ken Adam, Set Decorator Peter Lamont, Continuity Supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, Stuntman George Leech and Lyricist Don Black
• “Inside Diamonds Are Forever” Documentary
• “Cubby Broccoli” Documentary
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Collectible Making-Of Booklet
• Original Theatrical Trailers
• Television & Radio Spots
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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 1, 2006)
Never say never indeed. After one picture away - 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Sean Connery returned to the role of James Bond in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever. This film also brought back Guy Hamilton, the director of the classic 1964 offering Goldfinger. I'm not sure why Hamilton was away from the franchise for so long, but Connery's reasons for leaving and then coming back are better known.
Connery quit after 1967's You Only Live Twice essentially because he was fed up with all of the 007 hype and hubbub. Also, he'd apparently experienced strained relations with the producers. The chances of getting him to ever return seemed non-existent, and it appeared that the franchise would actually go for an American - John Gavin of Psycho - as the new Bond.
However, Connery's post-Bond career hadn't exactly set the world on fire, so his prospects weren't as promising as he might have liked. He also wanted to set up a charity, so he negotiated a then-astonishing salary of roughly $1.25 million plus a percentage, all of which went to his cause.
I'd love to report that the return of Connery - the definitive Bond - was a rousing success, but unfortunately the results indicate otherwise. Diamonds Are Forever constitutes maybe half of a good Bond movie, but the rest falls into the overly-comedic traps that would harm the franchise in later years.
I thought the first half of the film worked pretty well. It's not all cakes and cookies, and much of it seems odd. For instance, we find the return of Bond's arch-nemesis Blofeld, here played by Charles Gray; that made three Blofelds in three films. Unfortunately, Gray was easily the weakest of the Blofelds. He was good in a heroic role in You Only Live Twice, but he comes across as far too chummy and tweedy for nasty old Blofeld.
It doesn't help that Bond doesn't seem especially angry with Blofeld most of the time, even though the villain offed 007's wife in the prior film. The two appear positively buddy-buddy at times; maybe Connery and Gray fell back into the routine they established in their 1967 pairing.
Despite some weaknesses, I still thought the first hour proceeded fairly well. There are some nice action scenes - including a terrific close quarters fight in an elevator - and the plot is at least mildly intriguing.
Then we encounter the moon buggy. Bond uses this silly vehicle to escape from thugs, and that becomes the point at which the movie becomes goofy and excessively broad. For all these years, we've blamed Roger Moore for the lighter tone of his Bond outings, but I'm starting to think the real culprit was director Hamilton. After all, he created the first wacky 007 film with Goldfinger, which was a classic but easily could have been terrible. Hamilton also helmed the next two Bonds in addition to Diamonds. 1973's Live and Let Die and 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun solidified the slapstick and gadget-crazed atmosphere that would dominate Bond for years to come.
Once that moon buggy hits the screen, it's all downhill from there.
Diamonds stays moderately entertaining but I lost a lot of interest in it. It was still watchable, but I didn't take it seriously anymore.
Other problems concern the actors. I really didn't like Jill St. John's portrayal of main "Bond girl" Tiffany Case. St. John looked good in the role but her acting seems forced and phony. Granted, it's a weakly written role with little to do other than stumble about for the most part – despite a promising set-up for the character - so I don't know how much blame St. John deserves. In any case, Case is a poor heroine who harms the film.
For the first time ever, I think Connery doesn't benefit the movie either. For one, he looked terribly old as Bond. He seemed to have aged 20 years since 1967 and he appeared pretty paunchy as well. Connery also lacked the usual spark and pizzazz. He really seemed to go through the motions in the role, and while lackluster Connery beats good work from most others, it still comes as a disappointment.
Across the board, I think "disappointment" is the word that best describes Diamonds Are Forever. It's not a bad film, really, and it's certainly not the worst Bond would ever offer. However, it easily stands as the worst Connery entry, and it clearly doesn't live up to the expectations his return to the role engendered. Ultimately, I find some pleasure in Diamonds Are Forever, but not a lot.
One possibly interesting footnote: does anybody else see anything that looks familiar during the fight between Bond and Bambi and Thumper? A lot of that choreography bears a marked resemblance to some of Pris' movements in Blade Runner. Did Ridley Scott steal from Bond? I can't say for certain, but the similarity is strong.
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus B+
Diamonds Are Forever appears in an aspect ratio of approximately
2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Diamonds mixes ups and downs to create an erratic but generally satisfactory transfer.
Sharpness usually seemed pretty crisp and clear during most of the film, though I detected some mild softness at times. This fuzziness mainly affected a few interior scenes and also some wider shots. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no problems, and only a little edge enhancement was apparent.
Print flaws cause the majority of the film's problems. White speckles appeared periodically throughout the movie. They never seemed strong but they popped up too often for my liking. I also saw a little light grain at times, and for about ten minutes starting at roughly the 80-minute mark, I saw some dark streaks and dirt on the film. The defects seemed fairly minor otherwise, but they interfered with the image nonetheless.
Colors appeared bright and accurate for the most part. The Las Vegas shots took best advantage of this. Some others were slightly pale, but I usually felt the tones were lively. Black levels were deep and solid, and shadow detail usually seemed appropriately opaque but not excessively heavy. Some "day for night" shots came across as too dark, but these weren't as problematic as I'd expect. The combination of mild softness and print flaws left this transfer as a "B-".
As for the monaural soundtrack of Diamonds Are Forever, it seemed pretty average. Some of the dubbed dialogue appeared flat and artificial, but most of the film's speech was reasonably clear and natural, with no problems related to intelligibility. A few of the explosions were dull and lackluster, and most effects appeared fairly bland. They could be a little distorted as well. The score lacked great dimensionality. It showed decent bass at times but also could sound a bit shrill. This was a mediocre mix.
Diamonds Are Forever continues the tradition of fine Bond special edition DVDs. The features will seem familiar to anyone who has taken in the other discs, starting with an audio commentary from various members of the cast and crew. Hosted by David Naylor, this piece edits together interviews with director Guy Hamilton, co-screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, composer John Barry, actors Jill St. John, Joe Robinson, Marc Lawrence, Lana Wood, Bruce Glover, Shane Rimmer, Trina Parks, Jimmy Dean and Putter Smith, production designer Ken Adam, set decorator Peter Lamont, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, stuntman George Leech and lyricist Don Black.
The commentary provides a solid look at the movie. We hear about a variety of different topics. The discussion covers basic biographies of a few of the participants and we also get a nice combination of nuts and bolts details about the production. Other aspects cover fact about various plot points - both used and discarded - and some fun anecdotes. Some folks don't care for this type of edited commentary, but I enjoy them because they usually are much tighter and more coherent than "screen-specific" examples. The track for Diamonds works very well and provides a lot of interesting and compelling information about the movie and its creators.
Diamonds includes two separate video programs. First we get a general documentary about the movie. Called Inside Diamonds Are Forever, this 30-minute and 15-second feature is hosted by Patrick Macnee and it follows the usual format of these Bonds pieces. We find mid-Nineties interviews with most of the same participants we heard from in the commentary - plus 1971 snippets from Connery - combined with a variety of film clips, production photos and outtakes. The latter are somewhat unusual for these programs but they add a lot of information, especially in the way they help illustrate an interesting continuity problem.
Some of the subjects covered in the commentary are touched upon here as well, but the viewpoints and details are different enough to make the documentary stand on its own. For example, we learn new facts about Connery's involvement and the attitudes taken by the producers to get the series back on track after the relative failure of 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's a very solid and compelling program.
A second video segment pays tribute to one of the longtime Bond producers. Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond runs for 41 minutes and it provides a decent biography of the series' main supporter. Through the program, we find a nice mix of personal photos, publicity materials, and interviews with those who knew Broccoli. Unlike the companion piece about co-producer Harry Saltzman found on the From Russia With Love DVD, this one focuses mainly on comments from Broccoli's family, including wife Dana, son Michael Wilson, and daughter Barbara. Some others appear as well - including friend Robert Wagner – but the relatives dominate. This adds a nice personal component though I think it may have made the program less frank than it could have been. Still, it's an interesting documentary, and I really enjoyed the parts with Barbara - what a babe!
Unlike most Bond DVDs, we find four deleted scenes here. These last between 45 seconds and 75 seconds for a total of three minutes, 55 seconds. None of them are terribly compelling, though the first - called "Sammy Davis Jr." because he appears in it - is an interesting piece.
We find some promotional materials as well. There are two trailers: a "Christmas" teaser and the theatrical ad. The latter was interesting if just because it featured a line about Plenty's name that was cut from the final film. In addition, the DVD provides five TV spots, none of which is especially fascinating, and three radio ads. These are also nothing special, but I appreciate their inclusion.
Lastly, Diamonds features a nice booklet with photos and facts. One odd omission: Forever doesn't include the photo gallery I'd come to expect from the Bond DVDs. These were a minor addition but usually offered some interesting photos, and I must admit I missed them here.
Even with their absence, this remains another quality Bond DVD. Diamonds Are Forever isn't top-notch Bond, but it's a largely interesting and decent effort that merits a viewing. The DVD offers decent picture and audio plus the usual complement of solid extras. Diamonds Are Forever will fit in nicely with your other Bond titles.
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