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Diamonds Are Forever

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1956)

Written by: Ian Fleming

Yes, Mr. Bond. Diamonds are, indeed, forever. But it kind of seems as if the Bond series wouldn’t be. This is, so far, the weakest of the books. It’s not bad, by any means, but it’s kind of weak compared to the first three.

Bond is sent on a small investigation in New York City to find out who is in charge of a diamond smuggling ring. He meets up with his old pal, Felix Leiter. When last we saw Felix, he was recovering from being chewed up by sharks. Well, he’s minus a leg and an arm now, so he’s not really with The Company anymore. He’s doing some side work privately and just happens to be working on the same case as James.

James is posing as a smuggler so that he can get some info on the Spang brothers, a pair of gangsters. Strangely, Bond has no respect for these American gangsters. He thinks they’re all talk and no action. Little does he know…

He does a job for them and is then told how to pick up his money. He is to bet on a certain horse who is The longest in the history of shots. Of course, the race is fixed so that he will be paid off. But he and Felix fix it the other way. It is then that Bond finds out just how serious these guys are. The Spang brothers send two gay hitmen, Wint and Kidd, to kill the jockey.

And this is where Tiffany Case comes in. She’s a spunky little gangster moll who has a history full of gang rapes and drugs. Now she’s dealing cards for these guys and occasionally running diamonds. She blows off all of Bond’s advances…but we all know how long that lasts.

All roads lead to Vegas and Bond ends up there to collect his payment for the job he did. Tiffany comes along to deal him his money at blackjack. He pushes his luck by winning more than he should and, eventually, they figure out who he is. He kills just about everyone and makes an escape, Tiffany in tow, to the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship. There he has to kill Wint and Kidd. He and Tiffany get away, everything is covered up and he goes to French Guinea to get the last of the Spangs…ABC as he’s called.

Bond really seemed to be in less danger in this one than he ever has before. Even though I knew that Bond wouldn’t die in the others, there was always a feeling that he would get pretty severely beaten. And, typically, he was. This time out, though, he never seemed to be the one in any kind of peril. Tiffany also never seemed to be in any danger. Even when she’s tied up, naked in Wint and Kidd’s room on the ship, I never felt like she would be hurt in any way. And that’s part of the fun of a Bond book: everyone is in danger. Hell, even Leiter ended up two limbs lighter.

Still a pretty good story, though. And an interesting look at American gangsters from an outsider’s perspective. We’re taught to be so scared of these guys. It’s kind of interesting to see that they aren’t always so well respected outside of our borders.

I am getting a bit tired of the line, “Don’t be a goose.” Really? Did guys really talk this way? Really?!

GLOBE HOPPING: New York City; Las Vegas; French Guinea.

CONQUESTS: Tiffany Case

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by: Richard Maibaum/Tom Mankiewicz
Based on book by: Ian Fleming

When a movie opens with the main nemesis of the series being killed by the hero, you know that things are changing.

That’s right. In the opening sequence of this movie, not only do we get the first (and pretty much only) real nudity in the Bond series (it’s quick, so get your pause buttons ready), but Bond kills Blofeld! (This time, played by Charles Gray of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. He also played a Bond friend in You Only Life Twice.)

Bond quickly moves on to thwart a diamond smuggling ring. M teaches him all about diamonds (in a scene pretty much straight from the book) and sends him to Amsterdam to pose as a smuggler named Peter Franks to get the diamonds to Las Vegas. In Amsterdam, he meets the charming (cough, cough) Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). Tiffany is much dumber in the movie, but almost as cold to Bond…at first. It doesn’t take him nearly as long to warm her up here as in the book. And there’s no mention of past gang banging.

When the real Franks shows up, Bond kills him and tells Tiffany that the dead man is James Bond. (Somehow, she knows exactly who that is.) Meanwhile, two hitmen named Wint and Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith) are gunning for them and anyone else who comes near the diamonds. They’ve already killed a dentist (who, in the book, was the last smuggler to be killed in the desert) and an old lady. (The old lady says, “Thus endeth the lesson.” I wonder if that’s where Connery got it.)

Bond goes to Vegas with the diamonds hidden in the body of Franks. The mortuary is run by the mob who is supposed to pay him for the job. (Watch for horror awesomeness Sid Haig as an attendant.) They pay him, but Wint and Kidd almost kill him by beaning him over the head and sticking him in the body cooker.

Eventually, as all good movies that take place in Vegas should, this one ends up on the Strip. But not the big one that we see all the time now, but the OLD Strip…Fremont Street. Bond wins lots of money at Willard Whyte’s casino in order to pay for the rest of the job. Whyte is the guy who is heading this whole smuggling ring up and he seems to be controlling the mob…and maybe Wint and Kidd, too.

Tiffany ends up in Circus Circus where she wins the diamonds…kind of. This whole part of the movie was pretty convoluted and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Bond goes to see where the diamonds are processed and ends up in a moon lander, being chased through the desert. Don’t ask why this moon lander was there, but it was.

He and Tiffany finally meet up again for a pretty good car chase through Fremont where they tip the car on two wheels to drive it through a narrow ally. (Awesome.)

Oh yeah. I almost forgot about Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood, sister of Natalie), one of the shortest lived Bond girls ever. She also has the best introduction ever:

“Hi, I’m Plenty!”

“But of course you are.”

“Plenty O’Toole.”

“Named after your father, perhaps.”

Poor Plenty ends up dead in a pool…which is a little creepy when you think about her sister. She also serves as a warning to Tiffany, who is now ready to work for Bond and MI6.

Eventually, we find out that Whyte is actually…BLOFELD!! It was a double who was killed in the opening sequence. (There’s a double here, too, but he is dispatched pretty easily.) Blofeld has been using an electronic voice box to sound like Whyte, complete with Texas accent.

We finally meet the real Willard Whyte (sausage maven Jimmy Dean) sometime after Wint and Kidd try to prove that there are a lot of holes in the desert. Turns out that there’s a real pipeline in the “pipeline.” But Bond takes his rat for a walk and, of course, escapes a lonely death. Whyte is also saved as Bond meets Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks), two acrobatic assassins. Their escapades, I think, were re-used years later for Xenia Onatop. They were pretty ridiculous, but pretty hot at the same time. (Although, I could do without Bambi’s hat.)

But why is Blofeld going to all of this trouble? Well, he wants money, of course. He is using the diamonds in a laser-armed satellite (!) to threaten the worlds’ governments into paying him millions of dollars. (Also re-used in GoldenEye.)

Bond figures all of this out and finds Blofeld’s hideout is. It’s an oil rig off the coast of Baja, California. This is also, by the way, where Blofeld (dressed in freakin’ drag) takes Tiffany. Bond goes there, foils the plan and saves the day and the girl.

The two go on a cruise to get back to England, meet up with Wint and Kidd again, kill them and live happily ever after…or at least until Live And Let Die.

As a friend of mine has always said, this is more of a Roger Moore Bond movie than a Sean Connery movie. (Blofeld shows up in drag, for M’s sake!) But it was the last of the Connery Bonds and it was his return after the (unsuccessful?) experiment with George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They paid Sean a LOT of money (and a two picture deal to produce, direct, write, star in whatever he wants) to come back for one more. This is the reason that they don’t show his face in the first part of the movie. It’s just some faceless person knocking folks around…until he walks up to the chick in the bikini that he quickly strips off of her, using it to bind her arms.

Nice.

If Connery hadn’t decided to come back, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were talking to Michael Gambon. He turned them down because, in his own words, he had “tits like a woman.”

They also talked to John Gavin (who was cast until Connery came back) and…drumroll…Adam Freakin’ West! How would that’ve been, old chum?

The song is pure Bond. Shirley Bassey came back to belt one out and it’s great. And the title sequence is pretty cool, with lots of naked chicks and pussy….cats. And the first belly button jewel in movies? Maybe.

Leiter shows up pretty early in the movie and keeps popping up, but he doesn’t really have a lot to do. He just kind of comes in, does his thing and then disappears. He’s played by Norman Burton and is pretty forgettable.

Bond, on the other hand, is pretty fucking brutal. He kills Blofeld and the real Peter Franks within about 25 minutes and doesn’t really let up through the whole movie. And he never looks back after he kills someone like he does in the book. He tends to reflect a lot on the people he kills in the book. “I don’t wanna kill. Waah-waah-waah!”

Well, to be honest, I guess I would be like that, too. I’m kind of a pussy, though.

Shady Tree was a pretty big part of the book. He was kind of Tiffany’s boss, who she reported to to get instructions from ABC. Here, he’s some two-bit comedian (of the Shecky Green variety) who gets killed by Wint and Kidd pretty quickly. He’s shown once alive and once dead. (Watch for Valerie “Miss Teschmacher” Perrine as one of Shady’s “Acorns.”)

Which brings us to cute little Plenty O’Toole. She’s a complete dumbass gold-digger, but she’s really, really cute. (And, apparently, was cast after the producers saw her Playboy spread.) I was pretty surprised when she ended up dead. I was also surprised that her nipples were on such prominent display. The Bond movies usually shy away from that, but there they were. Right there for all to see underwater. And that’s really her. They tied her to a cement block in the pool. Either way…hot in a creepy sort of necrophiliac way. (Anybody know why her voice was dubbed? That’s kinda weird.)

All kinds of risque things happened in this one, actually. Not only the near nudity, but Bond says “bitch” and Wint and Kidd are not so ambiguously gay. They finish each others’…

…Sentences, Mr Kidd?

Yes, Mr. Wint.

And, of course, they walk off into the sunset (literally) holding hands. I wonder if gay people would take offense to that these days. Either way, it was kind of funny. The book was a bit more homophobic about Wint and Kidd. People called them fruits and they were a little more stereotypical.

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) shows up for a bit, of course. Twice, actually! He gets to have a little fun with Tiffany, too! No, not that kind of fun. Q is pretty asexual throughout the series. (Although, he is the one who tries to kind of cover up with Bond is (ahem) attempting re-entry.) But here he cheats at the slots and shows Tiffany how he was doing it. Of course, he would get shot for that in Real Vegas.

Overall, not a bad adventure for Bond. Not great, but it has some great moments. More of a “fun” Bond than Connery was usually known for. Some bits worked (Q) and some bits didn’t. (No, really. Where the FUCK did he get a fucking moon lander?!) Bond got off some great lines (“That’s a very nice little nothing you’re almost wearing. I approve.”) and we got a guy doing a countdown at the end who was amazing! Definitely an inspiration for Mike Myers twenty-odd years later.

Check it out. Definitely worth it, even if Connery looks oddly like Christopher Lee.

The special features on the new disc are more of the same excellent docs and stuff as the others so far. It starts with a 1971 interview with Connery where he tells why he came back, how unsuccessful his non-Bond (and the non-Connery Bond) films were and that he really didn’t think that he would come back for another one.

The first actual doc is called “Lesson #007” and concerns close-quarters fighting. Director Guy Hamilton talks about the fight with Peter Franks on the elevator. Basically, it’s a lot of footage from the filming of the scene with Hamilton saying inconsequential things like, “May the best man win.” Thanks, Guy.

Another doc shows footage of a cut scene of frogmen and helicopters showing up at the oil rig for the climax of the film. There was also supposed to be a “fight to the death” (as producer Micheal Wilson puts it) between Bond and Blofeld. But, alas, they decided to shorten the film. Oh well.

Next up is some test footage of the satellite footage, from storyboard to final footage. The special effects guy was Wally Weevers, who worked on The Shape Of Things To Come back in 1936. For some reason, that’s very impressive to me. They also show us some of the elements of the explosion shots from the end of the film. Pre-digital effects are pretty amazing to me. Sure, everything’s all glossy and pretty now (and sometimes actually almost realistic), but there was some real imagination and creativity behind the effects of yore.

A set of multiple angle action scenes is interesting but, ultimately, kind of useless. Too much information thrown at you at one time and the different angles didn’t seem to work too well.

Definitely check out the deleted scenes. Shady Tree’s death scene is silly, but hilarious. And the cameo by Sammy Davis, Jr. makes it all worthwhile.

“Inside Diamonds Are Forever” is, of course, great. Lots of anecdotes about the making of the film from everyone…except Connery. His stamp is nowhere on this entire set. That’s too bad. I kind of wonder if that’s because he’s retired and didn’t want to “come out of retirement” or if he just doesn’t want to have anything to do with Bond anymore.

Either way, the doc is just as good as the others in the series and has a LOT of footage from the filming. (Including an alternate and more grisly death for the dentist at the beginning of the film.)

Also check out the doc about Cubby Broccoli. It goes through his entire life and is pretty interesting. Cubby worked his way up from extreme poverty to the producer of some of the most successful films ever made. They focus a lot on his early career, but that’s ok. Who really knows about this guy before the Bond movies?

A pretty good set of discs for a silly but very good Bond film. There’s some stuff here from the book, but it’s a pretty loose translation. But they’ll get looser.

GLOBE HOPPING: Amsterdam; Las Vegas; Baja, CA; and all in the pre-credits sequence: Japan, Cairo and Eden Rock off the Mediterranean Coast

CONQUESTS: Tiffany Case