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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an evil plot involving a rich business tycoon.
Diamonds Are Forever is a 1971 spy film, the seventh in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions. It is the sixth and final Eon film to star Sean Connery, who returned to the role as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond, having declined to reprise the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
The film is based on Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel of the same name and is the second of four James Bond films directed by Guy Hamilton. The story has Bond impersonating a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring and soon uncovering a plot by his old enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld to use the diamonds to build a space-based laser weapon. Bond has to battle his enemy for one last time to stop the smuggling and stall Blofeld’s plan of destroying Washington, D.C. and extorting the world with nuclear supremacy.
After George Lazenby left the series, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli tested other actors, but studio United Artists wanted Sean Connery back, paying a then-record $1.25 million salary for him to return. The producers were inspired by Goldfinger; as with that film, Guy Hamilton was hired to direct, and Shirley Bassey performed vocals on the title theme song.
Locations included Las Vegas, California, and Amsterdam. Diamonds Are Forever was a commercial success and received generally positive reviews initially, though retrospective reviews were more negative. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound.
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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Plot
James Bond—agent 007—pursues Ernst Stavro Blofeld and eventually finds him at a facility where Blofeld look-alikes are being created through surgery. Bond kills a test subject, and later the “real” Blofeld, by drowning him in a pool of superheated mud. While assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd systematically kill several diamond smugglers, M suspects that South African diamonds are being stockpiled to depress prices by dumping, and assigns Bond to uncover the smuggling ring.
Disguised as professional smuggler and assassin Peter Franks, Bond travels to Amsterdam to meet contact Tiffany Case. The real Franks shows up on the way, but Bond intercepts and kills him, then switches IDs to make it seem like Franks is Bond. Tiffany and Bond then go to Los Angeles, smuggling the diamonds inside Franks’ corpse.
At the airport Bond meets his CIA ally Felix Leiter, then travels to Las Vegas. At a funeral home, Franks’ body is cremated and the diamonds are passed on to another smuggler, Shady Tree. Bond is nearly killed by Wint and Kidd when they put him in a cremation oven, but Tree stops the process when he discovers that the diamonds in Franks’ body were fakes, planted by Bond and the CIA. Bond tells Leiter to ship the real diamonds.
Bond then goes to the Whyte House, a casino-hotel owned by the reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte, where Tree works as a stand-up comedian. Bond discovers there that Tree has been killed by Wint and Kidd, who did not know that the diamonds were fake.
At the craps table Bond meets the opportunistic Plenty O’Toole, and after gambling, brings her to his room. Gang members ambush them, throwing O’Toole out the window and into the pool. Bond spends the rest of the night with Tiffany, instructing her to retrieve the diamonds at the Circus Circus casino. Tiffany reneges on her deal and flees, passing off the diamonds to the next smuggler.
However, seeing that O’Toole was killed after being mistaken for her, Tiffany changes her mind. She drives Bond to the airport, where the diamonds are given to Whyte’s casino manager, Bert Saxby, who is followed to a remote facility. Bond enters the apparent destination of the diamonds — a research laboratory owned by Whyte, where a satellite is being built by Professor Metz, a laser refraction specialist. When Bond’s cover is blown, he escapes by stealing a moon buggy and reunites with Tiffany.
Bond scales the walls to the Whyte House’s top floor to confront Whyte. He is instead met by two identical Blofelds, who use an electronic device to sound like Whyte. Bond kills one of the Blofelds, which turns out to be a look-alike. He is then knocked out by gas, picked up by Wint and Kidd and taken out to Las Vegas Valley, where he is placed in a pipeline and left to die. Bond escapes, then calls Blofeld, using a similar electronic device to pose as Saxby.
He finds out Whyte’s location and rescues him, Saxby being killed in the gunfight. In the meantime, Blofeld abducts Case. With the help of Whyte, Bond raids the lab and uncovers Blofeld’s plot to create a laser satellite using the diamonds, which by now has already been sent into orbit. With the satellite, Blofeld destroys nuclear weapons in China, the Soviet Union and the United States, then proposes an international auction for global nuclear supremacy.
Whyte identifies an oil platform off the coast of Baja California as Blofeld’s base of operations. After Bond’s attempt to change the cassette containing the satellite control codes fails due to a mistake by Tiffany, a helicopter attack on the oil rig is launched by Leiter and the CIA. Blofeld tries to escape in a midget submarine.
Bond gains control of the submarine’s launch crane and crashes the sub into the control room, causing both the satellite control and the base to be destroyed. Bond and Tiffany then head for Britain on a cruise ship, where Wint and Kidd pose as room-service stewards and attempt to kill them with a hidden bomb. Bond kills them instead.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Box office
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Critical Response
Diamonds are Forever was released on 14 December 1971 in Munich, West Germany and on 16 December in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, before opening in 44 other cities in the United States, Canada and Europe on 17 December and 11 more cities in Japan, New Zealand and Europe on 18 December 1971.
It grossed $2,242,557 in its opening six days worldwide, including $1,569,249 in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, where it finished number one at the box office for the week. The film had its UK premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on 30 December 1971. In its first 17 days in the United States and Canada to 2 January 1972 it grossed $16,238,915 and had grossed $8,330,000 overseas to the same date, for a worldwide total of $24,568,915, which United Artists claimed was a record in such a short period.
Diamonds are Forever was number one in the United States for seven consecutive weeks and went on to gross $116 million worldwide, of which $43 million was from the United States and Canada. In the United Kingdom Diamonds are Forever was the second highest grossing film of 1971, being beaten by On the Buses.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, in a positive review, the irrelevance of the plot and “moments of silliness”, such as Bond finding himself driving a moon buggy with antennae revolving and robot arms flapping. He praised the Las Vegas car chase scene, particularly the segment when Bond drives the Ford Mustang on two wheels. Vincent Canby of The New York Times enthusiastically praised the film as:
a nostalgic journey down memory lane—by jet, by helicopter, by hearse, by moon machine, and by bare foot across deep-pile rugs to king-sized beds in hotel rooms as big as Nevada. A lot of things have changed since You Only Live Twice (1967), the last real Bond adventure, but 007 has remained a steadfast agent for the military-industrial complex, a friend to the C.I.A. and a triumphant sexist.
It’s enough to make one weepy with gratitude. I mean, not everything must be mutable. Diamonds Are Forever is also great, absurd fun, not only because it recalls the moods and manners of the sixties (which, being over, now seem safely comprehensible), but also because all of the people connected with the movie obviously know what they are up to.
Jay Cocks, reviewing for Time magazine, felt Diamonds Are Forever was “in some ways the best of the lot. It is by all odds the broadest—which is to say wackiest, not sexiest.” He praised Connery as “a fine, forceful actor with an undeniable presence [who] turns his well-publicized contempt for the Bond character into some wry moments of self-parody.
He is capable of doing better things, but whether he likes it or not, he is the perfect, the only James Bond.” Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune wrote the film is “not merely bad Bond, it is a bad movie. A disjointed script competes with, of all things, a lack of action for responsibility for this failure. The women are unappealing even to Bond, judging from his lack of ardor and the villains are hardly threatening.”
Peter Schjeldahl of The New York Times described Diamonds Are Forever as “a pretty good movie—not great art, but fantastic packaging. The best (or, anyway, the best worst) of the classic formulae—notably, gimmickry and exoticism a go go—have been retained, some up‐dating elements have been added and other elements have been fudged.”
Variety wrote that James Bond “still packs a lethal wallop in all his cavortings, still manages to surround himself with scantily-clad sexpots. Yet Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t carry the same quality or flair as its many predecessors. Apparently Messrs. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who have made a fortune producing these Ian Fleming-inspired mellers, have reached that point where a sustained story means little in prepping an 007 picture. That is what this latest in the series lacks, and for this reason there can be no suspense.
But action there is, plenty of it in the familiar Bond manner.”
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound for Gordon McCallum, John W. Mitchell and Al Overton.
Twenty-five years after its release, James Berardinelli criticised the concept of a laser-shooting satellite, and the performances of Jill St. John, Norman Burton and Jimmy Dean. Christopher Null called St. John “one of the least effective Bond girls – beautiful, but shrill and helpless”
According to Danny Peary, Diamonds are Forever is “one of the most forgettable movies of the entire Bond series” and that “until Blofeld’s reappearance we must watch what is no better than a mundane diamond-smuggling melodrama, without the spectacle we associate with James Bond: the Las Vegas setting isn’t exotic enough, there’s little humour, assassins Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are similar to characters you’d find on The Avengers, but not nearly as amusing – and the trouble Bond gets into, even Maxwell Smart could escape.”
IGN chose it as the third worst James Bond film, behind only The Man with the Golden Gun and Die Another Day. Total Film listed Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and Bambi and Thumper, as the first and second worst villains in the Bond series (respectively).
Far Out Magazine were more critical, stating that Connery’s finished performance made it hard to justify his portrayal, particularly in the light of some of his more accomplished successors:”Seemingly happy with his lot by Goldfinger, Connery was making it harder to justify his existence, especially evident in Diamonds Are Forever, the film that was responsible for the comical and misjudged decisions the series would take in the 1970s.”
The film was more positively received by Xan Brooks of The Guardian, who said it was “oddly brilliant, the best of the bunch: the perfect bleary Bond film for an imperfect bleary western world.”
On the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 66% based on 47 reviews with an average rating of 6.3/10. The website’s consensus states “Diamonds are Forever is a largely derivative affair, but it’s still pretty entertaining nonetheless, thanks to great stunts, witty dialogue, and the presence of Sean Connery.”
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