Monday, 19 December 2011

Diamonds Are Forever

Is this the worst James Bond film ever? I’m not certain. There’s been a bit of competition for that title down the years. But one thing’s for sure this is a really shoddy effort.

The film is almost studiously unglamorous. It’s set almost entirely in the sterile environs of Nevada. There are scenes in a funeral parlour and a petrol station forecourt. And the grand finale takes place on an oil rig. Compare that with Blofeld’s volcano hideout and mountain retreat in the preceding films You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Sean Connery returned to the 007 series with this film after agreeing a whopping $1.2m pay check. That was an unheard of sum for a film in 1971, apparently about $15m in today‘s money. It’s said his inflated fee meant other aspects of the film’s budget had to be trimmed, most visibly in the special effects.

There’s also evidence of short cuts in the terrible opening sequence. In a series of short scenes Connery travels the globe violently interrogating people in the hunt for Blofeld. We don’t see Connery and can only hear his clearly overdubbed voice.

Perhaps the producers wanted to delay Connery’s entrance for dramatic effect. But I can’t help being suspicious. The sequence reeks of footage hastily slung together at the last minute to cover a problem found in testing or the edit suite. The absence of Connery from the shots is more suggestive of the fact he wasn’t available to film them, than a desire to tease the audience.

Little effort seems to have been expended on the story which has a pedestrian quality about it. 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.

Charles Gray puts a nice turn in as Blofeld. He’s got a deliciously expressive voice and effortlessly oozes urbane, regal, charm. However, he’s barely in the film.

The same can be said for Mr Wint and Mr Kidd who are equally wasted. I enjoyed what there was of their campy double act. But their lines aren’t sharp enough and don’t really convey enough menace to make them worthy sparring partners for Bond. They really could have been made much better villains.

Mr Wint and Mr Kidd though do at least get to be involved in the film’s first helicopter explosion. They hatch a nice little double cross to intercept some diamonds, planting an explosive inside the jewels which a helicopter has come to collect. Having flown off to a safe distance, and a distance which requires minimal special effects work, the chopper explodes in the time honoured fashion of a double cross.

Whatever my disappointment at the lack of grandeur of a finale set on an oil rig, it does though involve an attack by a squadron of helicopter. The oil rig’s defences try to hold off the attack and machine guns manage to shoot down two of the attacking helicopters.



Artistic merit

Diabolical.

Helicopter explosions had successfully and authentically been blown up in previous Bond efforts. They’d used clever model work to achieve the helicopter explosion. Here the helicopters just disappear behind orange blobs which suddenly appear on top of them. An effect obviously achieved by overlaying another piece of a film with the image on. In a word, risible.

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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