This is the latest in a series of monthly pieces on the James Bond franchise, as part of The Incredible Suit's Blogalongabond. For more info, check out here, and here. For my prior entries, click here.
It’s hard to get a bearing on Diamonds are Forever with regard to its place in the Bond canon without the taint of its utter shiteness getting all over everything. This film is bad. Seriously bad. I’m quickly establishing that a rough barometer for the overall quality of a given Bond film lies in its pre-credits sequence, and boy, does this film ensure you’ve got its measure right off the bat. Never exactly subtle in its action photography, the franchise here finds its awkward cutting reaching new, B-movie like heights as Bond throws about Blofeld’s subordinates before seemingly reaching the big man himself (now played by Charles Gray – something that caused me a lot of confusion when watching You Only Live Twice) and nonchalantly dusting him off. Mate, didn’t he just kill your wife or something? But of course, we’re quickly reminded that this is Connery-Bond again, the tentative footsteps and sense of transformation that was so self-conscious in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being firmly trampled over by the well-worn boot of the OG himself, now carrying a few too many pounds and generally looking like Lazenby’s more human Bond should have stuck around after all.
Call me precious toward OHMSS , but Diamonds are Forever really felt like a conscious attempt to shit all over its predecessor whilst also making clear that Bond could fit in a post-1968 world, so long as he was given a little re-jigging. The effect is a really bad case of whiplash, as we’re sort of jerked around between three incarnations of Bond without finding any real comfort zone – what follows firmly pre-empts Moore era Bond, and whilst I never thought I’d say this, in this feature he is sorely missed. Moore’s Bond speaks to this 70s inflected cinema in a way that Connery, established as he is in Bond films that so carefully mimicked Hitchcockian thriller early on, can’t, and so James Bond comes to feel displaced against a film that swaps Russian agents on a night train with two camp American hit men who look like they just got pulled from a late night game show. It’s just...off. Meanwhile, the franchise soars into new levels of daftness with a diamond trail that makes little to no sense (“oh shit you killed a man, no worries the next diamond drop was an undertake'rs conveniently placed near the airport anyway, and they're fully expecting a dead body to cremate that's also chock-full of diamonds”), along with a mid-point car chase that makes sure to offer its own opinion on the American moon landings as it plays out (it was at this point my brain caved in and I began to gnaw at the DVD).
In short, it’s all very boring and stupid, made even worse by the fact that OHMSS really did seem to be offering something of an evolution to a stagnating franchise. Diamonds are Forever does try to steer things into a different direction, but it does so jerkily, displacing its hero as it does so. Can Bond survive the 70s, or will Moore’s Bond be a new creature? Given that Live and Let Die starts the trend of cashing in on hot genre cinema, I’m not so sure on the former...