Diamonds Are Forever stars Sean Connery, Jill St. John, and Charles Gray and was directed by Guy Hamilton. Based on Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel of the same name, Diamonds Are Forever sees the brief return of Sean Connery as James Bond and finds him infiltrating a smuggling ring to stop the evil Blofeld. What an unexpected and wonderful surprise! The return of the master. The artist whose creative talents in this franchise were sorely missed for several years. The one who made the best of the franchise what it was. The iconic Bond… wait, what? Sean who? No, no, no, let me finish. The iconic Bond singer: Shirley Bassey! Yes, that’s right folks; she’s finally back.
The theme song for Diamonds Are Forever is certainly no Goldfinger, but it’s probably the second best of the franchise up to this point and is definitely more memorable than any of the non-Bassey tunes so far. Oh yeah, I guess it’s kind of cool that that Connery guy’s back too. Joking aside (well, sorta you know how much I love that Goldfinger theme), it is interesting to see Sean Connery return to the role of Bond after his one-movie hiatus. This is his last official stint as 007 (even though he does return in the non-Eon produced never Say Never Again 12 years later). And I’ve always felt like there was something a little off about him in this movie, though I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on it.
I wouldn’t say that he was phoning it in like he was with You Only Live Twice, but I can’t help but think that him knowing it was his last time as Bond affected his performance. He was only 41, but just felt much older on screen and didn’t have that same Bond swagger consistently throughout the movie. Another thing that I believe affects my viewing of this film (and Connery’s performance in it) is the fact that this comes right on the heels of George Lazenby’s solitary role and I would’ve loved to have seen a few more Lazenby-led Bond films. So having such a quick return back to Connery after the initially shocking Bond transition only two years before is actually a little jarring.
I’m sure audiences at the time loved having him back and it does feel comfortable and familiar, but it just felt unnecessary to bring him back for just one more movie. The other thing that’s always been a little strange to me is the fact that they followed up On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with this particular story. Given everything that happens in that film and especially the ending, it just seems like they should’ve provided a true follow-up to it. It would’ve been really interesting to see how the aftershocks of those emotional beats would’ve played out for the character of Bond.
They could’ve done some really impactful things with his arc, but inexplicably don’t. Even with Connery back at the helm as the less emotion-driven Bond, you’d at least expect to see a darker revenge-driven tale, but unfortunately it plays out like any other Bond movie without even a hint of a reference to anything that happened in the previous film. It’s kinda disappointing how episodic and largely unrelated these earlier Bond films are. Diamonds Are Forever quickly drops most of the character-driven emotional reality of its predecessor and delves back into the campy oddity of the mid to late 60s films. This one is weird, but it never reaches the over-the-top ridiculous heights of You Only Live Twice nor does it dive as deep as the murky dullness of Thunderball. Instead, this seventh Bond film situates itself nicely in the middle with some really silly components, but a mostly grounded central plot.
The emotional aspects aren’t the only thing that are unceremoniously dropped with this film; the improvements in cinematography, framing, and editing seen only two years earlier have all but disappeared too. Instead, we get a cheap and sorta seedy looking film which, incidentally, happens to fit the Vegas setting pretty well. I’m sure that was totally the filmmakers intentions all along. The plot isn’t the most original of the Bond films, but it’s still pretty decent. I actually truly enjoyed the whole Peter Franks plotline right up through the Slumber Inc. sequence, but after that, the story does lose some of its intrigue for me. What begins as a fairly straightforward plot, starts to get a little convoluted. And as has been the case with most of the preceding Bond movies, the third act drags on in a surprisingly unsatisfying way, especially given the sorta interesting set-up it had.
In general, the action is not done nearly as well as the previous film. After the spry action hero sequences that Lazenby had, the return to Connery’s theatrical fighting style is honestly a little laughable. The cold opening especially, is ridiculously bad. There is a decent car chase sequence in Vegas and Bond’s penthouse infiltration scene is a nice, tense throwback to some of his earlier espionage escapades, but then you’ve got ridiculous action sequences like the moon machine chase that’s just so campy you can’t help but laugh.
The characters here are really a mixed bag and your enjoyment of them will totally depend on how willing you are to get on board with the silliness. Blofeld’s story is unnecessarily complex and unfortunately this film’s Bond girl is a bit of a dud for me, but it’s the minor antagonists that really make this movie for me. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are possibly the oddest villains in the entire Bond franchise and they walk an incredibly thin line between goofy comic relief and genuinely unsettling henchmen. And they’ve got two of the most dramatic exits from the series. That line between comic relief and true villain is much broader when it comes to the other antagonistic pair: Bambi and Thumper.
They’re absolutely ridiculous. Their time on screen is incredibly brief, but in that short time, they deliver one of the most entertaining and absurd WTF moments in the franchise. Oh, how could I almost forget to mention Moneypenny? She has an incredibly small role this time around, but at least she’s out of the office and getting in on some of the field-action, once again. As with the rest of the emotional threads from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moneypenny’s back to her usual self which is a bit unfortunate cause I really would’ve liked to have seen some more of the character development that started to sprout in the last movie.
Seven films in and I think I can safely say that Moneypenny might be my favorite character, despite her typically limited role. In today’s age of spin-offs, reboots, and origin stories, I’d totally be interested in a Moneypenny movie. Anyone else? No? Just me? Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is the plot. Or at least the plot initially, before it gets too convoluted. This one actually has some interesting stuff with the whole diamond smuggling thing. The smuggling aspect’s definitely the most interesting part though and once the diamonds have successfully been smuggled, the story slowly starts to go downhill until it reaches a just below average point.
The second pro might sound a bit crazy, but it’s the secondary characters. They’re so weird and kinda cringe-worthy at points, but there’s just something enjoyable about Mr. Wint and Kidd to me. You can’t exactly say they’re good characters or that the performances are particularly good, but they’re weirdly compelling. And then of course we’ve got the highly entertaining and utterly absurd Bambi and Thumper. Again, not good and honestly, likely something many people would put down as a con, but there’s just something about them that’s oddly fun.
On the con side, the biggest issue is how campy this movie is. Like I’ve said in some of the other Bond reviews, campiness isn’t automatically a bad thing. In fact, in some cases I think it’s one of the more endearing aspects of these films but this isn’t one of those cases. You know it’s gonna be a rough one right from the cold opening but then the atrocious freeze frame cat screech segueing into the opening titles removes any hope you might’ve had about this film’s tone and approach. Much of the action is especially campy and even some of the better sequences suffer as a result.
The second con is the lack of continuation from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I can accept the swap back to Connery, but it’s just so disappointing not getting a follow-up to the huge should-have-been franchise altering events that happened in that movie. And this movie doesn’t just choose to focus on a new story ñ it completely ignores the events of the previous film, essentially retconning it out of existence. In fact, if I remember correctly, there’s only two Bond films later on in the franchise that super briefly and vaguely makes reference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s such a shame cause this franchise could’ve been something very different. I’m gonna give Diamonds Are Forever 3 out of 5 paws. Honestly, that’s probably a little higher than it deserves cause this is a movie that has a lot of problems.
I can’t really point to anything specific that I truly like about it, but even immediately after this rewatch, I come away kinda liking it. So, 3 paws I guess. I would recommend Diamonds Are Forever to fans of the Connery-era Bond films. It’s widely regarded to be the worst of his tenure as Bond, but I really think that’s a little unfair and if you like him, you should enjoy his time back after his brief hiatus. And if you like the more ridiculous campy Bonds, this one has got a lot of that and serves as a good transition to the king of campy Bond: Roger Moore. If you liked Diamonds Are Forever, I would recommend the 5th Bond film, You Only Live Twice. It feels a bit weird to say I recommend that one, but honestly if you like the craziness and WTF moments of this movie, that’s your best bet for another Connery Bond film along the same lines.
If you liked the smuggling plot, you might wanna check out the 13th Bond movie, Octopussy for another Bond movie with a touch of smuggling. And if you just can’t get enough of Sean Connery as Bond, you should check out the non-franchise Bond film: Never Say Never Again. It features Connery returning to the 007 role one last time and is essentially a remake of the 4th Bond movie, Thunderball. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Diamonds Are Forever? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite movie that features an actor returning to a role they previously left? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.