The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.
Synopsis: A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Stars: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Jimmy Dean
Director: Guy Hamilton
Running Length: 120 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Though he had supposedly called it quits after You Only Live Twice, Connery was persuaded to come back to the franchise that helped make him a household name out of the goodness of his heart. Oh wait…who am I kidding? Producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli promised Connery an astronomical sum to return as James Bond for a sixth time…a decision made easier when replacement Bond George Lazenby’s agent tried to work out a larger payday for his client after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Broccoli figured, if I’m going to pay a large sum to someone, why not our proven star? Though Lazenby was a solid Bond in an overall great picture, he didn’t connect with audiences as much as the producers would have liked.
So Lazenby and director Peter R. Hunt were out and Connery and returning director Hamilton (Goldfinger) were back in. Though it was nice to see Connery back in the saddle, that homecoming warmth wears off pretty fast when you realize Diamonds are Forever is one goofy ride for our favorite secret agent. Filled with a lot of hokey jokey material, a real dim bulb of a Bond girl (St. John) and a been-there-done-that villain vibe, it’s a shame that Connery would leave the Bond franchise in a middling film. Money won out a decade later when Connery again returned to Bond in Never Say Never Again, a loose remake of Thunderball that was distributed by a different studio that held the rights to that story.
Back to Diamonds are Forever, though. Following one of the more harried pre-credit sequences, the Shirley Bassey sung theme song rightly sits up there with some of the best themes created for the series. After that, it’s a tough ride through a few continents as Bond hunts down some diamonds that are of interest to not just a few shady characters.
Winding up in Vegas and working with St. John’s Tiffany Case (a pun-ny name that I admit to just getting now) and flirting briefly with Lana Wood (Natalie’s younger sister) as Plenty O’Toole, Bond finds that he’s up against a familiar adversary intent on world domination. The whole affair feels like a second-run Bond adventure that strains to make it all the way to the end of its two hour running time.
Connery looks a little out of sorts as he struggles for the majority of the film to get back into the swing of things. Even his hairpiece seems out of place among the gaudy 1970 casino sets, hideous costumes, and some very strange supporting characters. With erstwhile sausage magnate Dean showing up as a hickory flavored millionaire and Bruce Glover creepily paired with Putter Smith as evil Laurel and Hardy-type henchman, it’s just a strange concoction of elements that doesn’t make anyone a winner.
While St. John looks every bit the part of a Bond girl, she’s done in by a real idiotic script by Tom Mankiewicz and absent direction by Hamilton. And why is it that whenever a villain kidnaps a Bond girl she is later found sunbathing without a care in the world? Add a totally lame-o and very forced double ending and you have one of the more forgettable Bond films.