Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ten Statements About....DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

"The name is Bond, James...yaaaaawn...Bond."
“You killed my only other double, I'm afraid. After his death, volunteers were understandably... rather scarce."
“Such a pity. All that time and energy wasted, simply to provide you with one mock, heroic moment."

1) This is the first of three Bond films written by Robert Maibaum and Tom Mankeiwicz, a writing team perhaps best known for how...incredibly nonsensical the scripts are.  The plot to this film is totally incomprehensible, and the sooner we accept this, the better.

2) In this film, Sean Connery (who was lured back after George Lazenby abandoned the role and John Gavin had already been signed for a then-unprecedented million dollar fee--which he then promptly donated to a local school) looks thoroughly bored.  The only time he looks motivated is in the pre-credit sequence, where he goes through a cross section of criminal types looking for Blofeld (including strangling a girl with her own bikini top!).  He’s not having any fun, he’s not showing much in the ways of signs of life.  It’s almost as if he’s got one eye on the door and the other on the check in his breast pocket.

3) I think a large reason why this film seems me is because the bulk of it is set in Las Vegas.  Vegas just doesn’t have the same kind of glamour as some of the cities of previous Bond films, and its more blue collar sensibilities seem to leech into the film as a whole, making it feel a whole lot less special than it should be.

4) Yes, Tiffany Case’s character becomes extremely two note (“I want my money/the diamonds” and “I don’t want to go to jail”), and she ends up becoming part of the weirdly smarmy, condescending sexism (even for a Bond film!)  that runs through the Maibaum/Mankeiwicz scripts.  But--and maybe this is primarily Jill St. John’s doing--she is one of the sexier Bond Girls of the 70‘s and fills out that weird bikini with the long sleeves really, really well.

5) In my younger days, I preferred Charles Grey to the other two Blofelds.  While my opinion has changed--I don’t think there has been a definitive Blofeld yet--he does acquit himself well...until that last act, where he dresses up as Princess Margaret and becomes a leering goof.  Maibaum and Mankeiwicz’s tendency to play everything for broad laughs (something that will result in...shudder...Sherif Pepper in the next two films) ruins the menace by making him ludicrous.
Yep...Bond on the 'moon.'  It's gonna be a loooong

6) Is there any reason--any reason--for the Moon Buggy chase?  Admittedly, it’s typical of the lackluster action throughout this film (the best fight scene happens relatively early), but the sheer what-the-fuckedness of that moment is indicative of how this film is just a string of Stuff That Happens.

7) Don’t get me wrong--I like all of the henchmen in this film, even the campy homosexual hitmen Wint and Kidd.  But they’re a little...sketchy, and maybe calling them sketchy is charitable.  Plus, Wint and Kidd really have no direct confrontation with Bond until the final scene (a trademark of Maibaum and Mankeiwicz that grows old when they do it the third time in Man With The Golden Gun).  Their whole narrative arc really is so disjointed from the main story that they could be cut out with little or no rewriting; it’s as if they’re in the movie solely because they were in the book.

8) It’s funny, but Connery seems to have more chemistry with Jimmy Dean’s Wilfred Whyte than with Norman Burton’s fatherly, ineffectual Felix Leiter.  Hell, Leiter comes off as a mild annoyance that Bond can push aside easily, while Whyte becomes a general ally, even a friend along the lines of Draco from the previous film to the point where Bond consults with him rather than his supposed bestie.
mmmmm...okay, so maybe the 70's wasn't
all bad.

9)  Let’s be honest here....the main stunt in this film--the car driving through the narrow alley on one side--is not only boring, it doesn’t work.  Director Guy Hamilton has to resort to some editing and an obvious inset of Connery and St. John ‘shifting’ from side to side in their car to convince us that the car moved from one side to the other.  It’s just a poor payoff to a very poor car chase that’s all the more dull because of the obviously artificial glimpses of the big crowds calmly standing on the sidelines watching the filming.

10) There’s a very real sense of the movie not, you know, having an actual plot until the very last act. The whole ‘we’re built this giant-ass laser thingie in orbit around the Earth that melts tanks and vaporizes people and we’re going to sell it to the highest bidder’ endgame sees to come out of nowhere.  It’s not that Maibaum and Mankeiwicz don’t set up elements leading us to the giant-ass laser thing; it’s that those elements are either injected seemingly randomly or make no logical sense.  Thus the impact of the film’s pay off doesn’t work.

Overall...the first Bond film of the 70‘s (and one of the first Bond films I saw in the theaters with my natural father) is a mess and a half, with the few bright spots far outweighed by the broad comedy, the illogical plotting and the dullness of the setting and stuntwork.  Not recommended.

And be prepared; this is going to be a long decade.

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