Diamonds Are Forever
U.K. / 1971
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery
Jill St. John
Charles Gray
Color / 120 Minutes / PG
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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New 2006 Utimate Edition
    10   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Troy Howarth
James Bond, secret agent extraordinaire, is called in to investigate a diamond smuggling operation and uncovers a far more sinister plot involving his arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bent, again, on world domination, Blofeld has developed a laser satellite with devastating potential...
    By 1967, with the release of You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery had grown thoroughly disenchanted with his star-making role of James Bond, secret agent 007. Vowing to abandon the series, frantic producers considered a number of replacements (including notorious British hellraiser Oliver Reed) before settling on an Australian model with no acting experience, George Lazenby. The resulting film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), is controversial to this day. Some (like myself) regard it as a work of art in the Bond franchise, while others refuse to accept it or its star. Contrary to popular belief, the film did not bomb at the box-office and Lazenby was offered a chance to continue with the series. On the advice of his agent, who felt the series was doomed to crash and burn without Connery, Lazenby stepped away from the role and into relative obscurity. A shame, really, as he was superb as Bond and actually did a better job in his debut performance in the role than Connery did in his first crack, Dr. No (1962).
    With Lazenby AWOL, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli courted Hollywood vet John Gavin (the bland "hero" of 1960's Psycho) but ended up going back to Connery with an offer too good to refuse
translation: lots of cash.
    Connery's return to the series is a peculiar film closer in spirit to the nauseating Austin Powers parodies than any other Bond film. Perhaps because of the initial desire to sign Gavin, it's also a somewhat 'Americanized' film with U.S. locales and a goofier flavor than the comparatively reserved British-lensed entries. Diamonds Are Forever continues to split the 007 fanbase, but it's a lot of fun if approached in the right frame of mind.
    The comic tone is neatly established in the opening montage of an enraged 007 smacking around a number of contacts (including the obligatory leggy brunette in a skimpy bathing suit... do you hear ME complaining?) as he attempts to find Blofeld's hiding place. The camp tone also extends to Blofeld himself, previously incarnated by Donald Pleasence and Telly Savalas. While Pleasence's take is best remembered because of his distinctive chrome-dome, scar-faced look, the gifted thespian didn't get much to do in the role and was in fact a last minute replacement for a German actor who fell ill during the shooting. Savalas, in OHMSS, is more formidable and up to the physical challenges the screenwriters invented for him; all told, he's perhaps the best of the big screen Blofelds. Here we have effete Charles Gray, marvelously bitchy as always but seldom posing a real threat.
    The height of camp comes when Blofeld disguises himself in drag
it's am amusing scene that Gray clearly relishes, but tips his character so far into caricature that it's impossible to take him seriously. Speaking of impossible to take seriously, we have Blofeld's homosexual henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Wint, played to prancing perfection by Bruce Glover (father of Crispin), and Kidd, a lesser performance from musician Putter Smith, are introduced disposing of a contact in the desert... only to skip off together hand-in-hand into the sunset! None too politically correct, perhaps, but I must confess to finding them a funny pair impossible to take seriously, again, and thus impossible to find offensive.
    No Bond film is complete without sexy girls, and Diamonds certainly has its share of eye candy in the form of Jill St. John and Lana Wood. St. John is one of the first Bond women to really qualify as an active protagonist
sassy, tough and determined, but still in need to being rescued from time to time, she hardly qualifies as mere window dressing. Wood is sexier still in her small role as the unforgettably titled Plenty O'Toole. ("But of course you are.") As for 007, Connery plays the role with wit and vigor, making a better impression than in his somewhat ill-tempered turn in You Only Live Twice. He returned to the part only one more time, in the shootoff entry Never Say Never Again, by which time the magic was gone he should have heeded the title and passed on the script, an anemic reworking of the terrific Thunderball (1965).
    One wonders what the film would have been like had Lazenby taken the role... I would assume it would have dealt with the climactic loss 007 suffered at the end of OHMSS and, as such, would have been a leaner, meaner revenge story. Like it or not, we get camp instead
and it's a lot of fun on that level. Director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, The Man with the Golden Gun) keeps things moving at a nice clip, and the film looks and sounds terrific thanks to ace work from cinematographer Ted Moore, production designer Ken Adam (Blofeld's penthouse lair is a particular marvel) and composer John Barry. The title song, performed by Shirley Bassey, is a series highlight.
    Where the film fails, and really shows its age, is in the pathetic special effects work of the finale. In short, the entire climax aboard Blofeld's oil drilling platform is botched in execution, a mishmash of footage and laughable effects (poor optical work depicting the results of Blofeld's laser satellite would not be out of place in one of Christopher Lee's Fu Manchu adventures!) that detracts considerably from the final result.
    Not one of the key entries in the series, perhaps, but good for a few laughs and preferable to Roger Moore's first two Bond adventures.

MGM's collection of James Bond films on DVD is a marvel of the medium. In addition to properly formatted widescreen prints, the entire collection is graced with copious extras that should keep 007-philes happy. Diamonds Are Forever, which always looked rather tatty in fullscreen TV prints, is restored to its 2.35:1 splendor print damage is virtually non-existent (various scenes exhibit some dirt, though). Colors are vivid and consistent throughout. The original mono mix has been maintained and no 5.1 remix has been attempted, appropriate for a film that's very much of its time. Extras include an informative making-of booklet, audio commentary with director Guy Hamilton, a featurette (Inside Diamonds Are Forever) that includes some alternate footage from the film, cut scenes, trailers, TV and radio spots and a documentary on co-producer Broccoli, Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond.
    The featurettes, hosted by Patrick Macnee, contain a wealth of information that ranges from technical aspects (neat trivia on how a key stunt had to be rescued in the editing, for example) to the casting and genesis of the film along with various recollections from cast and crew; Connery, who appears content to distance himself from the franchise, appears via only some on-set interview clips. Hamilton's commentary is a trifle dry but contains some valuable nuggets, and comments from collaborators like screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, for example, tend to be repeated from the documentary.
    Simply put: if you like your martinis shaken not stirred, this is a good disc for you. 12/14/03
UPDATE OOP for a couple of years, Diamonds Are Forever was reissued in November 2006 by MGM. This completely remastered 2-disc edition with new, additional extras is a part of The James Bond Ultimate Collection Vol. 1, which also contains four other 007 films.