Saturday, January 12, 2013

Film Review: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971, Guy Hamilton)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Sean Connery, Bruce Glover (CHAINDANCE, CHINATOWN), Jill St. John (THE LOST WORLD '60, TONY ROME), Lana Wood (sister of Natalie, THE SEARCHERS, PEYTON PLACE), Charles Gray (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, SCARLETT), Jimmy Dean (country singer, creator of Jimmy Dean sausages, distant cousin of James Dean), Bruce Cabot (KING KONG, FURY), Putter Smith (IN THE MOOD, LOVE THY NEIGHBOR), Desmond Llewelyn (Q in GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, etc.), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny from DR. NO to A VIEW TO A KILL), Valerie Perrine (CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC, LENNY), Sid Haig (SPIDER BABY, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS).
Tag-line: "The man who made 007 a household number!"
Best one-liner:  [James Bond delivers the following to a sewer rat] "Well, one of us smells like a tart's hankerchief."  (sniffs self)  "I'm afraid it's me.  Sorry, old boy."

Alrighty folks, I'm here to tell you about my nine favorite facets of the gem that is DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER:

#9.  Bruce Glover

#8.  Bruce Glover

#7.  Bruce Glover

#6.  Bruce Glover

#5.  Bruce Glover

#4.  Bruce Glover

#3.  Bruce Glover

#2.  Bruce Glover

#1.  Bruce Glover

Well, while in all seriousness, that's all true, I suppose I'll give you a little more to go on:  DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is one of my favorite films in the Bond franchise and is, in my mind, superior to all save for GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.  So let's get down to brass tacks:  my nine favorite facets from the gem of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, culminating in a salute to Bruce Glover:

#9.  The prevalance of a cat's eye in the opening credits, which naturally transforms into a diamond.

As you may already know, I'm something of an aficionado of cat's eyes in credit sequences.

#8.  Sean Connery's disaffection, which nearly reaches Mitchum-esque levels of aloofness.

Sean Connery:  in it for the money.

They brought him back after the short-lived (one film) Lazenby era, and he was in it for the $1.25 million, and little else, it would seem.  Conversely, he was willing to really throw himself into ZARDOZ for only $200,000, so take that for what you will.

Sean Connery:  in it for the art.

#7.  Hey, look, it's Sid Haig!

Right there, in the middle.  You may remember his stern visage from SPIDER BABY, FOXY BROWN, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, THX 1138, or from his latter-day career resurgence in films like THE DEVIL'S REJECTS or JACKIE BROWN.  He's given nearly nothing to do here as a mob henchman/funeral home attendant, but it's still nice to see him.

#6.  Misogyny, through the rabbit hole.

There are brief moments of misogyny in James Bond films that emerge, I suppose, as fleetingly offensive products of their time.  Then there are the moments of misogyny that are so ludicrous, so abusive, so absurdly pathological, that you have no choice but to laugh.  To do so is nearly a defense mechanism.  Here, we have Connery strangling a woman (who has some association with Blofeld, possibly with two or more degrees of separation) with her own bikini top, which could probably be employed as a visual metaphor for the entire series' gender politics as a whole.

Then he drops a one-liner about not being able to hear her... because she's being choked.  Perhaps the most insane element of this entire tableau is the intense look of satisfaction on Connery's face.  Which, naturally, ties in to his beliefs about domestic violence.  The incident is so deranged that it can only inspire a deranged response from its audience.  In other words:  classic Bond.

#5.  The candy-colored production design on this circus themed casino from the film's second act.

It has all the class and subtlety of a sheet of Necco's Candy Buttons, which obviously means that I like it a lot.  And with those black backgrounds amid cheap, bright 70s colors, I can't help but feel like they could have filmed THE LETTER PEOPLE there, if they'd wanted to.

#4.  Lana Wood.  Natalie Wood's kid sister gets a chance to appear as a bodacious, short-lived Bond girl and casino hanger-on named "Plenty O'Toole."
Apparently her line readings were so, um, creative that she had to be dubbed by an actress in post-production.  That kind of makes me sad, actually.

#3.  The amazingly stupid moon buggy chase which feels like something straight out of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

It's made all the more fantastic by reports that Connery secretly bought the buggy at auction in 2004 for $54,000.  Though others have refuted this claim, I have no choice but to believe that it's a cover-up designed to hide the fact that as we speak, Connery is driving it around the Scottish highlands, bouncing about and giggling like a schoolchild.

#2.  Bambi and Thumper.  Oh, Bambi and Thumper: the Blofeld henchwomen that nearly hand Bond's ass to him after a prolonged beatdown involving Van-Damme-style splits

and parallel bars fight manuevers that would later be recycled in GYMKATA and JURASSIC PARK II.

The ladies in question are Trina Parks, cult blaxploitation legend (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS, THE MUTHERS)

and Lola Larson, who never appeared in another film.
 Look at all that scantily clad female empowerment.  I take it back– this film's not misogynistic!
Of course the whole 'Estrogen party' comes to an end with Bond nearly drowning them, hatefully, in a pool.  ...Annnnd the actresses went uncredited.  Hoo boy.

 #1.  Bruce Glover.  Finally!  As "Mr. Wint," one half of the villainous gay assassination squad "Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd," Glover does what he does best:  acts like a jubilant psychopath.
Observe the look of sheer, childlike exuberance that plays upon his face as he prepares to drop a scorpion down the shirt-back of a helpful, diamond-smuggling dentist.

Though "Mr. Kidd" (Putter Smith) is also excellent, this entry belongs to Glover, who prefigures his son Crispin as a man committed to making the most unexpected, completely bonkers acting choices.

 Throughout the film's entirety he obsessively sprays himself with aftershave

 in a move designed to lead to "whodunit" conclusion whereupon Bond recognizes the smell and reacts likewise.  But as with any 'Great Thing,' we're in it for the journey, not the destination.

Also, the gay partnership element must be addressed.

Smith and Glover never descend into limp-wristed, offensive territory (what I might call "the minstrelization of gay performance"), and that's good.  There's even subtle jealousies that play out between the two, and it's very well-acted for a movie as cartoonish as this one.  (Supposedly, Glover stayed in character throughout filming convincing Sean Connery that he was really gay, a charade that lasted until years later.)

You might even think that simply having gay characters in a mainstream 1971 film is in and of itself a progressive thing, though having the first (and possibly only?  I haven't seen any recent Bond films, nor read many of the novels) gay characters be sociopathic killers isn't necessarily the greatest choice.  And we must keep in mind that 1971 was the year of, for example, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY, a complex relationship drama that maturely analyzes all ends of the sexual spectrum.

And then there's the matter of [MINOR SPOILER ALERT] Bruce Glover's send-off, which involves an oddly sexualized humiliation with Bond practically mounting Glover in order to tie his coat-tails to a bomb and pinwheel him off the deck of a luxury cruise ship.

It should feel jaw-droppingly offensive, but there's Glover, by God, pushing it over the edge into actual brilliance.  Give this man an Oscar.  

Nearly five stars, 007.

-Sean Gill


Anonymous said...

Good review, the only bond zanier is the one with Christopher Walken trying to destroy silicon valley... I much prefer the newer movies that are darker and more somber than these cartoon antics. Also, there is another gay bond villian... see Bardem in Skyfall.


Jack Thursby said...

That pic of Connery reflected in the glass is priceless. What a legend!

Sean Gill said...


Thanks, man. And oh yeah, been meaning to revisit VIEW TO A KILL for some time. I have to admit that I haven't seen any of the new Bond films since GOLDENEYE. A lot of friends have recommended the Craig ones and I've been meaning to check them out.


Indeed he is! Thanks for stopping by.