After sitting out an installment, Sean Connery once again reprises his career-defining role for his sixth turn as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever.
Following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — one of the best in the entire series — Diamonds doesn’t shine quite as bright, but it’s still plenty entertaining. Besides, it’s hard to complain anytime you have Connery suiting up as Bond.
The film starts off in atypical Bond fashion as 007 doesn’t have time to play cute and make with witty puns as he’s searching for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Grey). Longtime series screenwriter Richard Maibaum oddly doesn’t explicitly reference the events from the previous film to help explain why Bond is so hellbent on killing Blofeld.
After a few close calls, Bond finally gets payback on his hated rival and is ready for his latest assignment. M (Bernard Lee) sends Bond undercover to investigate a diamond smuggling operation via small-time smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John).
St. John is sizzling and easily one of the most attractive of all the Bond Babes. Disappointingly after a promising introduction scene where she nearly determines Bond’s identity, Tiffany is reduced to just another bikini clad damsel in distress. It’s a shame as Tiffany initially seems like she could be as complex as OHMSS’s Tracy Draco or as independent as Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore.
Unbeknownst to Bond, a pair of assassins Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) are killing off diamond smugglers and their contacts, putting them on a collision course with Bond. Wint and Kidd make for two of the more eccentric and unpredictable Bond villains with their emotionless demeanor, insistence on referring to each other by their surnames and use of cliches.
Bond doesn’t get to use his passport too often in this outing as his adventure mainly keeps him in Las Vegas as opposed to previous films where he traveled to exotic locales like the Swiss Alps, Russia, Jamaica and Japan.
Director Guy Hamilton proves while the jet-setting is fun, Bond can be just as entertaining in a normal local like Vegas as an exotic destination spot.
Hamilton previously directed Goldfinger, considered by most 007 aficionados as the definitive Bond epic. Hamilton instinctively gets what makes a 007 film fun with the right mix of high stakes drama, riveting action sequences and character interplay.
Connery, of course, is effortlessly smooth in the lead role and he carries the film through some rough patches such as an encounter with wealthy tycoon Willard Whyte (played by Jimmy Dean…yes, the sausage guy Jimmy Dean) and a battle with inefficient acrobatic henchwomen Bambi and Thumper.
Gray was a definite step down as he lacked the presence of previous Blofelds Donald Pleasence (You Only Live Twice) or Telly Savalas (OHMSS) to truly embody 007’s chief foe. And that’s before Blofeld goes drag to evade Bond, easily one of the low points of the series especially for 007’s archenemy.
Tom Mankiewicz was called in to help ‘Americanize’ the script for Bond’s foray to Vegas. That leads to 007 encountering gangsters, a crooked stand-up comedian and a busty gambler Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) who in addition to a plunging neckline sets up a brilliant line involving a hotel pool.
The plot may feature some out-there premises, but the script itself is sharp with some legitimately killer funny lines as Bond doubles up on the quips without becoming a parody of the property.
As a whole the film would resonate stronger if it had a better final act. On Her Majesty featured the best climactic battle in the early Bond series set atop a Swiss mountaintop. Diamonds’ final act feels a bit too familiar with the biggest change being Bond attacking an oil rig.