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Diamonds Are Forever (1971) is the seventh spy film in the James Bond series, and the sixth to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6marker agent James Bond. 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 nemesis Blofeld to use the diamonds and build a giant laser satellite that would be used to hold the world for ransom.

Diamonds Are Forever was a commercial success, but its humorous camp tone was met with mixed reviews from critics.

Plot

In the pre-title sequence, James Bond (Sean Connery) is pursuing Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray). After interrogating several of Blofeld's associates worldwide, Bond traces him to a facility where he is surgically creating look-alikes. Bond kills a test subject who is lying in a mud bath. Bond manages to drown the man, but is captured by Blofeld. After a fight, Bond kills Blofeld by throwing him into a pool of superheated mud.

Suspecting that South African diamonds are being stockpiled to depress prices by dumping, and convinced that Blofeld is dead, M (Bernard Lee) orders Bond to go undercover as smuggler Peter Franks and unveil the smuggling ring. Meanwhile, Blofeld's henchmen Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) systematically kill several diamond smugglers involved in the ring. Posing as Franks, Bond travels to Amsterdam to meet his contact, Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), at her apartment where he is to pick up the diamonds. However, the real Franks shows up and tries to contact Case. Bond intercepts and kills him and sabotages the attack to make it seem like Franks is actually James Bond. The two then smuggle the diamonds to Los Angelesmarker hiding them inside Franks' corpse.

At the airport Bond meets his CIA ally Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) and transports the body to Slumber Inc., a funeral home where the body is cremated and the diamonds passed onto the next smuggler, Shady Tree. Bond (still posing as Franks) collects his $50,000 fee for smuggling the diamonds but concludes that the money is counterfeit after Wint and Kidd try to assassinate him (and destroy the fake money) in Slumber's cremation furnace. When Tree and Slumber find that the diamonds in Franks' body were fakes planted by Bond and the CIA they save Bond from incineration and demand that Bond delivers the real diamonds in return for the real $50,000. Bond tells Leiter to ship the real diamonds while he relaxes at Las Vegasmarker in the Whyte House, a casino-hotel owned by the reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), where Tree works as a stand-up comedian. There, Bond discovers Tree has been killed by Wint and Kidd, who do not know that the diamonds were fake.

Bond with Plenty
Bond goes to the craps table in the Whyte House casino. He deliberately shows Bert Saxby (Willard Whyte's assistant) the Slumber envelope containing the fake $50,000 to use as collateral for gambling. Later, Bond meets an opportunistic woman named Plenty O' Toole (Lana Wood). She cheers him on as he gambles and "wins" $50,000 at the craps table - the perfect way for the real payout for the diamond smuggling to be laundered, and, in a deleted scene, they have dinner together. She invites herself up to his room, but after Bond undresses Plenty she is quickly thrown out to the hotel pool by the smugglers already waiting in his room, who have now come for the real diamonds. They leave Bond to spend the rest of the night with Tiffany Case. In another deleted scene, Plenty returns to Bond's room to retrieve her clothes. She sees Bond and Tiffany in bed together, and takes a card from Tiffany's purse, later to show up at Tiffany's house. Tiffany tries to get Bond to reveal the location of the real diamonds by offering to help him steal the diamonds for themselves. Bond pretends to give in and arranges for her to retrieve the diamonds at the Circus Circus Las Vegasmarker casino.

At the circus, Tiffany picks up the diamonds, unaware that she is under the surveillance of Felix Leiter and his men, but she reneges her deal with Bond and flees, shipping off the diamonds to the next smuggler. When Tiffany returns to her operation residence she finds Bond waiting for her and finds the body of Plenty, who was killed when mistaken for Tiffany. Having survived the attempt on her life, the initially reticent Tiffany tells Bond where the diamonds are. Posing as a lab worker, Bond enters the apparent destination of the diamonds – a research laboratory owned by Willard Whyte, where he finds laser refraction specialist Professor Dr. Metz (Joseph Fürst) constructing a satellite. He escapes by stealing a moon buggy and the first TV apperance of a Honda ATC90 (US90) and reunites with Tiffany in a car chase with security and the local police.
Bond and Tiffany
go to a suite in the Whyte house where Bond later scales the walls to the top floor of the Whyte House to confront Willard Whyte. Inside 007 is confronted by two identical Blofelds who are posing as Whyte using an adapted telephone to mask their voice — Bond had previously killed a look-alike. Not knowing which to kill, Bond kicks Blofeld's cat into the arms of one of the pair and shoots him. However, Bond chose the wrong man, killing a look-alike.

Bond is rendered unconscious and then left to die inside a pipeline by Wint and Kidd. He escapes and contacts Blofeld, posing as one of Whyte's employees and Blofeld's right-hand man, Bert Saxby. He finds out Whyte's location and rescues him, but 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 is now already in orbit. Blofeld destroys nuclear installations in the United States, Russia, and China, then proposes an international auction for global nuclear supremacy.

Bond identifies an oil rig off the coast of Baja Californiamarker as Blofeld's base of operations. Arriving at the rig, he switches the cassette containing the codes which control the satellite with a music tape, giving the coded one to Tiffany who is living there as a hostage. However, trying to be helpful, she re-switches the tapes, gets caught trying to fix her mistake and is sent down to the brig. At this point, Leiter and the CIA have already begun a heavy attack on the oil-rig. Tiffany manages to escape amidst the chaos and regroup with Bond. Blofeld tries to escape on a mini-sub, but Bond gains control of it, and crashes the sub into the control room, defeating Blofeld and destroying the satellite control along with the rest of the base.

Bond and Tiffany then head for home on a P&O ship Canberra, where Wint and Kidd also aboard disguised as waiters. Bond sees through their ploy, and disposes of them overboard when they try to assassinate him. The film ends with Tiffany asking Bond how they can get all the diamonds from the laser satellite back down to Earth again.

Cast



Production

The producers originally intended to make Diamonds Are Forever an extensive reboot of the film series to appeal to an American audience. The objective was to re-create commercially successful aspects of Goldfinger, including hiring its director, Guy Hamilton.

Script

This was the last Bond movie by Eon to use SPECTRE or Blofeld – elements that had not been featured in Ian Fleming's book, the content of which was almost entirely eschewed in the adaptation. After this, writer Kevin McClory's legal claim against the Fleming estate that he, and not Ian Fleming, had created the organization for the novel Thunderball was upheld by the courts. Blofeld is seen but not identified later in For Your Eyes Only (1981), as Eon's arrangements with the Fleming estate did not permit them to use McClory's works.

The original plot had as a villain Auric Goldfinger's twin, seeking revenge for the death of his brother. The plot was later changed after Albert R. Broccoli had a dream, where his close friend Howard Hughes was replaced by an imposter. So the character of Willard Whyte was created, and Tom Mankiewicz was chosen to rework the script. The adaptation eliminated the main villains from the source Ian Fleming novel, mobsters called Jack and Seraffimo Spang, but used the henchmen Shady Tree, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.

Richard Maibaum's original idea for the ending was a giant boat chase across Lake Meadmarker with Blofeld being pursued by Bond and all the Las Vegas casino owners who would be sailing in their private yachts. Bond would rouse the allies into action with a spoof of Lord Nelson's famous cry, "Las Vegas expects every man to do his duty." Maibaum was misinformed; there were no Roman galleys or Chinese junks in Las Vegas, and the idea was too expensive to replicate, so it was dropped.

Maibaum may have thought the eventual oil rig finale a poor substitute, but it was originally intended to be much more spectacular. Armed frogmen would jump from the helicopters into the sea and attach limpet mines to the rig's legs (this explains why frogmen appear on the movie's poster). Blofeld would have escaped in his BathoSub and Bond would have pursued him hanging from a weather balloon. The chase would have then continued across a salt mine with the two mortal enemies scrambling over the pure white hills of salt before Blofeld would fall to his death in a salt granulator. Permission was not granted by the owners of the salt mine. It also made the sequence too long. Further problems followed when the explosives set up for the finale were set off too early; fortunately, a handful of cameras were ready and able to capture the footage.

Casting

George Lazenby vacated the role of James Bond on the questionable advice of his agent. Producers contemplated replacing him with John Gavin (though Batman star Adam West was also considered). However, United Artists' chief David Picker was unhappy with this decision and made it clear that Sean Connery should be enticed back to the role and that money was, essentially, no object. When approached about resuming the role of Bond, Connery demanded the then astronomical fee of £1.2 million (then $2.9 million, and over $20m inflation-adjusted for 2005) and to entice the actor to play Bond one more time United Artists would back two films of his choice. When both sides had agreed to the deal Connery used the fee to establish the Scottish International Education Trust where Scottish artists could apply for funding without having to leave their country to pursue their careers. As John Gavin was no longer needed, his contract was paid in full by United Artists. The first film made under Connery's deal was The Offence directed by his friend Sidney Lumet. The second was to be an adaptation of Macbeth by William Shakespeare using only Scottish actors and in which Connery himself would play the title role. This project was abandoned due to the Roman Polanski film version that was also in production at the same time. Sean Connery never played Macbeth on film, although his son Jason Connery later did.

Michael Gambon had been mentioned by Albert R. Broccoli as a possible candidate for Bond before Sean Connery returned. Although United Artists were reluctant to cast another relatively unknown actor, Gambon himself told Broccoli that he was "in terrible shape" and "had tits like a woman".

Charles Gray was cast as master villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, after playing a Bond ally called Henderson in You Only Live Twice (1967). David Bauer who plays Morton Slumber previously appeared uncredited as an American Diplomat also in You Only Live Twice.

Jazz musician Putter Smith was invited by Harry Saltzman to play Mr. Kidd after a Thelonious Monk Band show. Musician Paul Williams was originally cast as Mr. Wint. But when he couldn't agree with the producers on money concerns, Bruce Glover replaced him. Glover said he was surprised for being chosen, because at first producers said he was too normal, that they wanted a deformed, Peter Lorre-like actor.

Jimmy Dean was cast as Willard Whyte after Saltzman saw a presentation of him. Dean was much worried about playing a Howard Hughes pastiche, because he was an employee of Hughes at the Desert Inn.

Actresses considered for the role of Tiffany Case included: Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway. Jill St. John had originally been offered the part of Plenty O'Toole but landed the female lead after impressing director Guy Hamilton during screen tests. St. John became the first American Bond girl. Lana Wood was cast as Plenty O'Toole following a suggestion of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. The woman in the bikini named "Marie", who in the beginning of the film is convinced by Bond to give up the location of Blofeld, was Denise Perrier, Miss World 1953.

Filming

Filming for Diamonds are Forever begun on 5 April 1971, with the South African scenes actually shot in the desert near Las Vegas, and finished in 13 August 1971. The film was shot primarily at the Los Angeles International Airportmarker, Universal City Studios and eight hotels of Las Vegasmarker. Besides the Pinewood Studiosmarker in Buckinghamshire, other places in England were Dovermarker and Southamptonmarker. The climactic oil rig sequence was shot off the shore of Oceanside, Californiamarker. Other filming locations included Cap D'Antibesmarker in France (the opening scenes), Amsterdammarker and Lufthansamarker's hangar in Germany.

Filming in Las Vegas took place mostly in hotels owned by Howard Hughes, since he was a friend of Cubby Broccoli. Getting the streets empty in order to shoot was achieved through the collaboration of Hughes, the Las Vegas police and shopkeepers association. The Las Vegas Hiltonmarker doubled for the Whyte House, and since the owner of the Circus Circusmarker was a Bond fan, he allowed the Circus to be used on film and even made a cameo. The cinematographers said filming in Las Vegas at night had an advantage: no additional illumination was required due to the high number of neon lights.

The car chase where the red Ford Mustang comes outside of the narrow street on the opposite side in which it was rolled, was filmed over three nights on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The alleyway car roll sequence is actually filmed in two locations. The entrance was at the car park at Universal Studios and the exit was at Fremont Street, Las Vegas.

The site used for the Willard Whyte Space Labs (where Bond gets away in the Moon Buggy) was actually, at that time, a Johns-Manville gypsum plant located just outside of Las Vegas. The home of Kirk Douglas was used for the scene in Tiffany's house, while the Elrod House in Palm Springsmarker, designed by John Lautner, became Willard Whyte's house.

While filming the scene of finding Plenty O´Toole drowned in Tiffanys swimming pool, Lana Wood actually had her feet loosely tied to a cement block on the bottom. Film crew members held a rope across the pool for her, with which she could lift her face out of the water to breathe between takes. The pool's sloping bottom made the block slip into deeper water with each take. Eventually, Wood was submerged but was noticed by on-lookers and rescued before drowning for real. Wood, being a certified diver, took some water but remained calm during the ordeal, although she later admitted to a few "very uncomfortable moments and quite some struggling until they pulled me out."

Since the car chase in Las Vegas would have many car crashes, the filmmakers had an arrangement with Ford to use their vehicles. Ford's only demand was that Sean Connery had to drive the 1971 Mustang Mach 1 which serves as Tiffany Case's car. Other Ford vehicles include Blofeld's chief scientist's Ford Econoline van, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd's Thunderbird, and during the moon buggy chase, the security guards are driving Ford Custom 500s.

The Moon Buggy was inspired by the actual NASA vehicle, but with additions such as flaying arms since the producers didn't find the design "outrageous" enough. The fiberglass tires which NASA used had to be replaced during the chase sequence, because the heat and the irregular desert soil ruined them.

Music

"Diamonds Are Forever", the title song, was the second James Bond theme to be performed by Shirley Bassey, after "Goldfinger" in 1964. Producer Harry Saltzman reportedly hated the song, and only the insistence of co-producer Cubby Broccoli kept it in the film. Saltzman's major objection was to the sexual innuendo of the lyrics. Indeed, in an interview for the television programme James Bond's Greatest Hits composer John Barry revealed that he told Bassey to imagine she was singing about a penis. Bassey would later return for a third performance for 1979's "Moonraker."

The original soundtrack was once again composed by John Barry, his sixth time composing for a James Bond film.

With Connery back in the lead role, the James Bond Theme was played by an electric guitar in the gunbarrel sequence and pre-credits sequence and in a full orchestral version during a hovercraft sequence in Amsterdam.

Release and reception

Diamonds are Forever was released on 17 December 1971. It grossed $43 million in the United States, and $116 million worldwide

Reviews were mediocre. Connery was applauded by Kevin A. Ranson of MovieCrypt and Michael A. Smith of Nolan's Pop Culture. Critic Roger Ebert criticised the complexity of the plot and "moments of silliness" such as Bond finding himself driving a moon buggy with antennae revolving and robot arms flapping. However, he praised the Las Vegas car chase scene particularly the Mustang up on two wheels. James Berardinelli criticized the concepts 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". Steve Rhodes said, "looking and acting like a couple of pseudo-country bumpkins, they (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover) seem to have wandered by accident from the adjoining sound stage into the filming of this movie." But he also extolled the car chase as "classic". 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 humor, 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, over The Man with the Golden Gun and Die Another Day, while Norman Wilner of MSN chose it as the sixth worst. Total Film listed Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and Bambie and Thumper, as the first and second worst villains in the Bond series (respectively).

The film was nominated for a Best Sound Academy Award, but lost to Fiddler on the Roof, coincidently also rerecorded by Diamonds are Forever's Dubbing Mixer, Gordon McCallum.

References

  1. David Walliams takes some acting tips from Michael Gambon, The Sunday Times
  2. Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986) p.123


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