Director Guy Hamilton (“Goldfinger”) returns to helm Sean Connery’s final portrayal of 007 in the EON Productions series with “Diamonds Are Forever.” Unfortunately, this film doesn’t even come close to measuring up to Hamilton’s prior effort.
Little regard is offered to the shocking ending of the prior installment, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” A quick opening has Bond tossing Blofeld (head of SPECTRE, here played gleefully by Charles Grey) into a lava pit. Following Shirley Bassey’s pretty good theme song, 007 is assigned to acquire diamonds that are getting smuggled from the mines of South Africa and intercepted by a beautiful American red head named Tiffany Case (Jill St. John, who is pretty fun in the role). Only problem is that nearly every person the diamonds pass through ends up dead by the homosexual henchmen Mr. Kidd & Mr. Wendt. Considering the sexual tête-à-tête the Bond films became known for by the 7th film, Hamilton and company play up these guys like a weird joke in their inflection with one another, and even the fact that they hold hands at times. The music resorts to a mischievous note on the saxophone. In 1971, this might have held for a good laugh. In the PC era, it really doesn’t feel appropriate to imply these assassins are disturbing simply because they’re gay.
Eventually, the pursuit of said diamonds moves to Las Vegas where some silly “Smokey & The Bandit” (which was not even close to being released yet) humor occurs. Bond pilots a moon buggy through the Nevada desert while cars that are chasing him fall apart and flip over against the sandy terrain. More silly car chases happen in the heart of Vegas. The sheriff and his men are turned into Keystone Cops. It’s a little too much slapstick actually.
Still, why the need for the diamonds and what does a mysterious, unseen, wealthy man named Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean) have to do with it?
Bond films work best when the villains work. There’s not much given from a powerhouse villain here like there was in “Goldfinger.” The necessary shootout ending occurs on an oil tanker this time, and Bond is hardly threatened or under much duress. Thus, killing any kind of suspense.
Connery is fine but you can also tell his commitment is hardly in the role. He’s working just enough for a paycheck-reportedly collecting a record million dollars to return to the role one more time.
By the time the film ends, you feel ready for a drastic change in the franchise. The ‘60s camp is over with. Disco seventies is here. So you wish that 007 can make a smooth transition to the changing cultural times. We would have to wait and see what producers Harry Saltzman & Albert Broccoli could do next to reinvigorate the franchise.