Is Diamonds Are Forever Really That Bad?
As we emerge into a post-Daniel Craig Bond era, fans and critics alike are wondering – is James Bond really dead? The answer is, of course, yes but no. But rewind to 1971, when the seventh installment in the Bond series, Diamonds Are Forever, was greeted with an avalanche of criticism. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this outcry could have been the coup de grace for the legendary spy.
Six decades after his silver screen premiere James Bond is not only still alive, but kicking with remarkable vitality. The memory of the original Bond, the late Sean Connery, still lingers in the hearts of many aficionado, but Diamonds Are Forever is regularly criticised as not one of his best Bond movies.
But is Diamonds Are Forever really that bad? Sean Connery’s portrayal in his six movies from 1962 to 1971 introduced an era of secret volcano hideouts, gyrocopters, and killer-bowler-hat-wearing henchmen, marking a golden era of Bond movies.
Yet these same movies have undergone a over-the-top scrutiny due to instances of casual racism, misogyny, and classism. None more so than Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s comeback movie.
Story Continues Below…
Diamonds Are Forever – A Gem of a Movie!
When Bond 7 was released in 1971, it was met with a storm of criticism, lambasted for its unhurried plot and lack of exotic locales, even though Amsterdam and Las Vegas are two of the best cities on the planet.
Loosely based on the novel, you might have to jog your memory to recall the film. Following the awkwardly racist You Only Live Twice in 1967, Connery handed in the keys to his DB5, and said goodbye to the character that made him a household name.
An obscure Australian model, George Lazenby, took over to add a fresh twist to the series. The divisive On Her Majesty’s Secret Service saw a fresh take on Bond – he got married and tragically lost his wife, Tracy, at the hands of arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Despite the divided public opinion, the producers were eager to have Lazenby back on board. However, due to questionable advice, the Australian decided not to return for the next movie.
Connery returned for one last stint
Amid the ensuing turmoil, Sean Connery was lured back, receiving a record-breaking fee of $1.25 million, which he nobly used to establish the Scottish International Education Trust.
What unfolded was arguably the most unostentatious Bond performance ever captured on film. The movie traces Bond’s journey from Amsterdam to Las Vegas in pursuit of diamond smugglers, culminating in the unveiling of Blofeld using the diamonds to construct an earth-destroying satellite laser beam.
Undeniably, the plot’s “gigantic laser beam” and Blofeld surgically altering stand-ins to mimic him inspired the infamous Dr Evil and his clone Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies.
Despite this, Diamonds Are Forever is definitely Connery’s most understated Bond performance. It shuns the extravagance of volcano lairs, gold painted victims, and shoes with daggers, and Connery has done away with painting an ‘Asian-face,’ avoiding one of the most ill-thought-out plot devices in cinematic history.
What emerges instead is a low-profile thriller, an early precursor to the existential thrillers that would dominate the 1970s. It lightly satirizes the moon landings, with Bond rampaging through a clandestine lunar film set, and the climax occurs not in Fort Knox or a remote island base, but on an oil rig.
Let’s not forget some of the best characters in the franchise history
The movie has two of the most terrifying henchmen and the deadliest duo in Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, a questionably gay duo who terrorised Bond and all young watchers of the movie. Then there’s one of the most divine yet underrated Bond girls in the bold and candid Tiffany Case.
Let’s not forget one of the finest car chases in the Bond franchise as Bond muscles his way through downtown Las Vegas in the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1, culminating in one of the finest getaways of his career.
The early 1970s aesthetic is a treat, with Connery’s attire being relaxed but not straying into Roger Moore’s safari suits. His bow tie and lapels are broader, his hair shaggier, and his bone-white suit and pink tie combination could inspire your next summer wedding look for a Vegas wedding.
Part of the movie’s success is undeniably due to the return of Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton. However, it’s the unparalleled Dame Shirley Bassey who truly lifts the movie with one of the best Bond theme songs of all time – surely a factor in the film’s Academy Award nomination for Best Sound.
Diamonds Are Forever Is A Good Bond Movie
All things considered, Diamonds are Forever may be the most misjudged Bond movie – it’s certainly not as bad as critics made it out to be.
Despite its imperfections, it ushered in one of the most thrilling decades in cinema, moving away from the ridiculousness of earlier 007 movies, and demonstrating that even an older, reluctant Bond can thrill without the gimmicks and far-fetched schemes of the earlier (and later) offerings.
Far from being Connery’s worst film, Diamonds Are Forever is indeed one of the most grounded, stylish, and enjoyable. And as the Bond franchise looks to the future, its producers would be wise to recall this undervalued gem.