29 September 2017

"Touch it, stroke it, and undress it": Diamonds Are Forever

"Gotta get that lunar rover on the poster.
That scene was pivotal."
My continued subjection of my wife to James Bond films has brought us as far back as we've ever gone, to Sean Connery's final film, but our first one with him: Diamonds Are Forever. When reading the novel, I felt that everything felt very grimy and low-key: diamond-smuggling doesn't seem to quite have the stakes that a James Bond plot ought to, and it didn't feel like anything really mattered for the first two-thirds of the book. Like, who cares about horse racing? (Seriously, why is there horse racing?)

Diamonds Are Forever solves this in a couple ways. Well, sort of. Attempts to solve, at least. The first is what is apparently a key ingredient of the 1970s Bond films: terrible car chases. One has Bond in a lunar rover driving around the Nevada desert, which is pretty goofy. The second is him fleeing from cops in Las Vegas; the cop cars increasingly pile up. This thing will be echoed in Live and Let Die, but really it just reminded me of The Blues Brothers. Except there it was supposed to be funny.

Do they really cremate corpses when they're still in the coffin? It seems inefficient.

The second big alteration is making the entire thing a plot by Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Near the end of the film, you learn the diamonds are a key component in (of course) an orbital super-laser that he's going to use to hold the world to ransom. I should note that Blofeld is an old foe of Bond by this point, but this is in the fact the first time we've seen him watching in book order, so even though Blofeld appears in the traditional pre-titles sequence, making him the surprise mastermind doesn't quite have the impact it ought. Though I suspect it wouldn't be a big deal regardless: it just feels tacked on and arbitrary, the most generic of Bond villain plots. I did quite like the one long scene Bond shares with Blofeld, where Bond figures out which of two Blofelds is the real one by hurting his cat, and then a third one turns up anyway, who then mocks the spy genre's convention of the very conversation they're having.

Not many supervillains are comfortable enough in their sexuality to disguise themselves as old ladies to sneak out of casinos.

There is one really good action sequence: early in the film, Bond has a fight with the diamond smuggler he's impersonating, most of which is confined to the space of a slow-moving elevator. It's neat to see a fight play out in such a small space, given the extravagant sizes of many Bond action sequences, and at times it gets a bit brutal. It reminded me of some of the more grounded action set-pieces of the early Daniel Craig films.

Like I said, this is our first Sean Connery film. Not many thoughts so far-- this film doesn't give him many opportunities to strut his stuff. I did notice that his Scottish accent flares up more whenever he flirts. Tiffany Case, played by Jill St. John, might be among the better Bond girls so far: she comes across as genuinely interested in Bond and vice versa. On the other hand, Plenty O'Toole has a terrible name and the actress was obviously not hired for anything to do with her acting abilities at all.

Yes, this scene is somehow pivotal to the film's climax.

Other Notes:
  • Q's appearance is one again pretty minor, and it doesn't come until most of the way through, when he turns up at the casino secretly run by Blofeld.
  • For some reason, the guy who plays Felix Leiter comes across more as Bond's dad than Bond's counterpart. He's very much a fuddy-duddy, which seems really bad casting. My initial excitement at seeing Felix (I really like Felix) quickly gave way to disappointment every time he turned up.
  • Wint and Kidd (the gay assassins) aren't as creepy as I imagined they would be on screen.
Film Rankings (So Far):
  1. Casino Royale
  2. Moonraker
  3. Live and Let Die 
  4. Diamonds Are Forever

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