193. Diamonds Are Forever (GB/USA 1971)

James Bond stops Blofeld doing naughty things.

director: Guy Hamilton

screenplay: Ricard Maibaum

starring: Shorn Canary, Jill Saint John, Charles Gray, Putter Smith (Mr Kidd),  Bruce Glover (Mr Wint)

bit part 1: Brindsley Forde (as ‘African boy’), bassist with Aswad, but more importantly ‘Spring’ from David Gerber’s fondly remembered 70s kids’ tv programme The Double Deckers.

Bit part 2: Ed Bishop* as ‘radiation shield’ man. Ed was the token American with an Equity card (see Bruce Boa) for many years until landing the lead role as Commander Straker in Gerry Anderson’s UFO.

fact: creepy actor Bruce Glover is the father of weirdo actor Crispin Glover who’s best known as Marty McFly’s dad in ‘Back to the Future’.

*Died 5/6/5. R.I.P

James Bond films are shit. Obviously. And they’re shit for a million reasons that are too platitudinous to repeat here………….but if I must, they’re only enjoyed by teachers, Daily Star readers and for those who pretend that they are capable of sustaining quite awesome tumescence whereas the reality is that such tumescence is but a mere pipe dream. If you’ll excuse the pun, that is.

And yet… (as the lawyer Alfieri* says in Arthur Miller’s fantastic play A View From the Bridge; obviously he says a lot more than this; I mean it’d be fucking stupid if he just said “And yet”, unless he was some sort of British music hall turn who came on to say “And yet” as a sort of piss your pants, bring the house down catchphrase. What I mean is, “And yet” is followed by a pregnant pause, an ellipsis, a sense of wondrous foreboding as Alfieri ponders  how a legal case of such immense moral complexity has come his way instead of the usual  petty legal squabbles of Brooklyn’s poor and dispossessed and how his very being is shaken to its foundations by its import).....…there’s something out of the ordinary about Diamonds Are Forever that raises it above the usual Bond mire and might even persuade the more sophisticated film fan to persevere with it to the very end of the film.

This is quite a difficult thing to do with a James Bond film. After you’ve seen the opening set piece and thought “it’s quite good, that” (ie Moonraker, where a Roger Moore stunt double has to free fall thousands of feet in a blue blazer, slacks and ‘going out shoes’) and then tried to make out a silhouetted raspberry ripple on one of the floating women of the titles, you have to force yourself to try to watch the rest. And after the completely terrible exposition (Bernard Lee or somesuch curmudgeonly M16 chief telling Bond about some or other threat to the world, complete with prosaic intercutting of what he’s saying), anyone with an IQ above 70 should be thinking “Fuck me! I’m not seven years old! Why am I watching this utter drivel! I think I’ll try and bleach out that melted freckle from the back of me ‘Calvin’s’”.

Why is Diamonds Are Forever good, then? As Jason once said, there are '10 Good Reasons’:

1.    Connery is old, and it’s far more interesting seeing a man past his prime trying to reclaim the spoils of youth with all the incumbent disadvantages of wearing a wig and being more than a little ‘porky’.

2.     It’s incredibly violent. ITV have yet to show anything like the full version because much of the action borders on the sadistic, with the highlight being Bond’s fight with drug smuggler Peter Franks (stuntman/actor Joe Robinson) in a lift in Amsterdam .

                          

3.     The baddies are gay! This wouldn’t be such a big deal today, but it was a bit revolutionary in 1971. Admittedly, they're stereotypes, but it's a start (I suppose). Charles Gray all but blows on his drying nails, whereas sadistic hitmen Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are out of the closet (holding hands in the desert sunset after killing a diamond smuggling dentist with a scorpion).  When Mr Kidd claims that Bond’s ‘bird’ Tiffany Case is “not bad”, he is given a dirty look by Mr Wint. He quickly adds “for a woman!” to appease his partner’s offended sensibilities.

4.     Bond gets battered by two women. ‘Bambi’ and “Thumper’ give him a good hiding until he drowns them in a swimming pool.

5.     Great, oft repeated, rubbish one-liners:

·       “Hi! I’m Plenty, Plenty O’Toole!” says some strumpet in a Las Vegas casino.

·     Named after your father, perhaps?” replies Benny Hill Bond after clocking her b'zooms.

·       When Tiffany Case announces that she’s not a ‘real blonde’,  James ‘tits n’ ass’ Bond hits her with “As long as the collars and cuffs match.” Which, if you’re still unsure means “As long as your pubes are the same colour as your head hair.” Which is a bit picky. And a bit rich coming from a baldy. In fact Connery says something like “Ash long ash the collarsh and cuffsh match.” Which is even richer’ if you ask me.

6. One of the best car chase in film history. Through Las Vegas. Especially good is when Sean and Jill have to go through an alley which is narrower than the width of their car. "Lean over!" says Sean and the car traverses the alley diagonally. Sorry, bit anoraky, Freudian language, subconscious I'm a closet Bond fan, giveaway, that one.

7. The best John Barry score of the lot, although one of the worst of the 'Bond' songs.

8. The deaths of Mr Wint and Mr Kydd

9. The worst pre-title sequence of any Bond film (can't say I've seen them all); violently misogynistic, racist, mostly studio-bound on cheap sets and made for about two bob. Probably not one of the ten good reasons, come to think of it.

10. Bond's interment and possible cremation in a Las Vegas chapel of repose is the stuff of nightmares (especially for those of us who are scared of internment and possible cremation in a Las Vegas chapel of repose).

 

*Last time I saw it, Alfieri was played by ace British comedy actor John Bluthal, a man probably synonymous with The Vicar of Dibley, but to me he’ll always be American TV reporter Dick Scratcher from Spike Milligan’s Q8.