Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #7: Diamonds Are Forever

Much like Thunderball to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever had a lot to live up to after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby’s only cinematic appearance as James Bond. After Lazenby left the series, Saltzman and Broccoli had no choice but to return to Sean Connery. This would be his last appearance as James Bond in the official EON canon (I am NOT reviewing Never Say Never Again), and thankfully so.

One thing that had been made apparent after seeing Lazenby take on the role of 007 was how far Connery had gone. He started out in high fashion, coming off strongly in the first three Bond films… but boy, did he get old fast. Connery had long overstayed his welcome (Just like someone else we’ll get to), and his send off was horribly weak.

Bond is on the hunt for his arch-nemesis Blofeld, played by an actor who isn’t Donald Pleasance or Telly Savalas (Consistency? What’s that?!). After presumably having done him in, Bond finds out a plot, from what I can gather is surprisingly complicated. He impersonates a diamond smuggler to get into a smuggling ring, with the aid of a woman who’s about as phoned in and dull as Connery himself. He finds out about a laser made of expensive diamonds that is being used for destruction by… Blofeld. What? It turns out that Blofeld has… look-alike henchmen. What is this continuity you speak of?

Okay, so if you haven’t guessed already, this movie is WAY too campy, even for Bond standards. The funny thing is, the talent they have behind it who also worked on Goldfinger should be making it good. The film is directed with no discipline by Guy Hamilton, and the pacing, action, and plotting feel horribly misguided. Even the title theme by Shirley Bassey, who killed her rendition of Goldfinger in that movie, is given awful material to work with. Not to mention that there are two characters in this movie with names that changed the way I look at one of Walt Disney’s most classic movies. But at least this marks the end of the SPECTRE saga, a weak and disappointing end, but I’ll take ANYTHING that lets me move on from that story.

A large part of why this movie fails is, shockingly, Sean Connery. I know that after what Lazenby had done in the previous film, this shouldn’t be a surprise that he wasn’t as good as that, but he should at least put a little effort in. This Bond feels completely phoned in, partly because there’s just no continuation between this movie and the last film. You could have just watched this right after You Only Live Twice, and skipped over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and you’d have the same effect. I know Bond was never meant to be a complex character, but he should at least have some depth. After what Secret Service did with the character, they can’t even touch on how the events at the end of the last film affected him? I guess that’s simply too much to ask, but this is not the follow up that we deserve. Did they learn nothing from Thunderball?

It was a sad, sad end to a once promising era of James Bond, and a disappointing window to what could have been. The original idea was to have Gert Frobe return to play the brother of Auric Goldfinger (the role he played in that film), and I know that it sounds silly, but why didn’t they make that into a movie? There’s so much they could have done with that, specifically in his ill will and revenge against Bond. Really?! This is the story that demanded to be told? Whatever the case, another incarnation of Bond was finally put to rest. Connery had played Bond a total of six times in the official EON canon, and the producers wanted to look to a new star to headline their next film. Someone a little… Moore.

*1/2 / *****

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