Monday, 19 December 2011

Diamonds Are Forever

Is this the worst James Bond film ever? It's hard to say. Especially as there’s been considerable competition for that title down the years. But one thing’s for certain, this is a very shoddy effort.

Even if the quality of the action may vary, you can normally rely on Britain's most famous spy to perform it against a backdrop of glamorous, globe-spanning locations. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) though is studiously drab. 

Set almost entirely in the sterile environs of Las Vegas, the viewer is left unshaken and unstirred by scenes set in a funeral parlour and at a petrol station forecourt. As for the 'big' finale, this is staged on a visibly rusting oil rig. So much for 007's license to thrill. It's almost as the producers didn't have much money to work with. Which in fact they didn't.

With George Lazenby hanging up his Walther PPK, Sean Connery was eventually lured to return to the 007 series with a whopping $1.2m pay check. An unheard of sum for a film in 1971, Big Tam's inflated fee, which was about 20 per cent of the films budget, meant that locations and special effects work (more on that later) had to be radically scaled back. .

Equally little effort seems to have been expended on the a decidedly pedestrian story. Until the end there’s little urgency to how events unfold. And for the most part the plot has all the scope of a private eye novel.

Still, the film is not without enjoyment. Charles Gray puts a great turn in as Blofeld, effortlessly oozing urbane charm with his wonderfully expressive voice. 

Also fun are the deliciously camp henchmen, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd. Their wonderfully droll double act, filled with sly menace and sarcastic eye-browed arched one-liners, provides an interesting counterpoint to Bond's typically macho posturing. 

And it's to them that we owe the film’s first helicopter explosion. They double-cross a diamond smuggler by placing an explosive inside the suitcase of cash he's come to collect. As he flies off in a helicopter the hidden explosive detonates blowing the whirlybird up. 

But that's not the end of the chopper fireball action. During the oil rig finale a squadron of helicopters are flown in to attack the villain's lair. The oil rig’s defences try to hold off the attack and machine guns manage to shoot down two of the attacking copters.



Artistic merit

Diabolical. The film's budget issues are all too apparent in these scenes. Previous Bond entries (You Only Live Twice, From Russia With Love) had successfully and authentically blown up helicopters using clever model work. Here the helicopters just disappear behind orange special effects blobs. 

Exploding helicopter innovation

There’s no innovation on offer in this film. If anything Diamonds Are Forever seems to be trying to take the art of exploding helicopters backwards.

Number of exploding helicopters

Three.

Positives

I love the guy who sits passively in the control room on Blofeld’s oil rig intoning the audible countdown in a thick, deadpan, German accent: “Zyx min-eeets und koun-ting!”

Negatives

Connery’s bloated pay check estimated to be around 20% of the film‘s budget. Would the helicopter explosions have looked to shoddy if they handed over so much cash?

Interesting fact

The James Bond franchise could have looked very different as the potential casting for Diamonds Are Forever shows.

George Lazenby was offered the film, but declined as he was didn’t want to sign a lengthy contract to appear in further sequels.

The producers then tried to get Michael Gambon who declined on the basis of ill health. Batman Adam West also turned down the role because he felt Bond should be played by an Englishman. American TV actor John Gavin was then signed to the role. But Gavin subsequently had his contract paid in full after the record breaking deal with Connery was struck.

Review by: Jafo

4 comments:

  1. Please let this be the last Bond film involving exploding helicopters so we can all move on with our lives.

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  2. I'm afraid there's still some more out there that we need to do. GoldenEye for one.

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  3. I can't believe Adam West was almost Batman AND James Bond. That movie would've been almost too campy for its own good.

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  4. Could've been embarrassing if got confused about his wardrobe and strolled into M's office with his underpants over his trousers.

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