Our review of James Bond Ultimate Edition (Volume 1), published May 14th, 2007, is also available.
If at first you don't succeed, Mr. Kidd? Try, try again, Mr. Wint.
Featuring Sean Connery's final appearance as 007, Diamonds Are Forever mines the riches of Las Vegas for a Bond film that takes itself not at all seriously yet does not quite have the energy and zest of other films in the series. However, this disc is still an entertaining romp with another cool, charming turn by the inestimable Mr. Connery and a somewhat improved collection of extra content.
Facts of the Case
James Bond is looking for his pal and ours, SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and seems rather more determined than usual. After some cloned misdirection, 007 returns to London to be reassigned to a diamond smuggling operation (which he considers beneath his super-agent talents). He takes the role of Peter Franks, a known diamond courier/smuggler, and meets up in Amsterdam with Tiffany Case, a most attractive and world-wise person, as well as being the next link in the diamond smuggling chain.
Tiffany has the merchandise in question, and agrees with "Peter Franks" to smuggle the diamonds into the United States for delivery to their purchaser in Las Vegas. The cadaverous mode of transportation is most alimentary, and soon things get very interesting. It seems that the diamonds are being bought up by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is very much alive and well, for a satellite-based laser capable of wreaking havoc upon the nuclear weapons of the major powers. To cover his tracks, Blofeld has a not very ambiguously gay duo, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, eliminating the links in the diamond smuggling chain. After dodging the assassins, "Peter Franks" soon reveals himself as the true James Bond, and using his charms enlists the assistance of Tiffany Case. Well, calling in the CIA and threatening her with a long prison term helps too…
Having discovered his old foe Blofeld is behind the diamond smuggling, naturally 007 begins to dig around the Las Vegas operations of Willard Whyte, a reclusive billionaire (think Howard Hughes) who seems to be helping the cause of SPECTRE. Tense moments, flashes of humor, and action sequences abound, culminating in the expected massive firefight at SPECTRE's hidden base just moments before Blofeld is set to cause world-wide destruction.
Lured back to the franchise for one final installment, Sean Connery (A Bridge Too Far, Outland, The Russia House) gives us a 007 that is getting older, but still the suave, macho killer/spy that set the standard for all the others to follow. Here, and even in the Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery has aged gracefully and avoids the distracting creakiness of Roger Moore at the end of his run (in A View to a Kill). Complimenting a mature Sean Connery is (in the words of Guy Hamilton) "a very dishy" Jill St. John. She is no young bimbo (leaving that role to Lana Wood), but still very delicious, whose cynical, sardonic attitude puts her on an equal footing with our hero.
Charles Gray (You Only Live Twice, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) gives us a comic book Blofeld whose threatening bluster is hard to take seriously (though this seems to have been the intent of all concerned). To counterpoint the not so serious tone of Diamonds Are Forever, we have a no-nonsense Felix Leiter (Norman Burton—Planet of the Apes and The Towering Inferno) and a dryly witty Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean, of sausage and country music fame). However, the true casting and acting marvels of Diamonds Are Forever are the odd-couple lovers Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover—Walking Tall and Chinatown). Putter Smith, a noted jazz musician who played with Thelonious Monk (among others), and Bruce Glover (father of Crispin Glover) have a very odd vibe that is both creepy and funny. This pair alone is reason enough to watch Diamonds Are Forever.
The anamorphic video transfer is quite good for a nearly thirty year old film that has not been restored. That lack of restoration is my primary complaint for this film (and many others in the series), as the bits of dirt & debris and film flaws are the most significant problems in the video, aside from some visible film grain and occasional edge enhancement problems. Sharpness, color saturation, and other video components are otherwise decently done.
The audio is probably as good as you could expect from a mono soundtrack. Dialogue is clearly understood and the limitations at the high and low end of the sound spectrum are not too apparent.
Extra content starts off with the 30-minute "Inside Diamonds Are Forever: An Original Documentary," narrated by Patrick McNee (who also narrates the next documentary). This film-specific "making of" documentary, included with the other discs in these sets, is probably my favorite extra. It provides vital context, telling us how the changes in the cast & crew, the style and conception of the Bond series, and the world-wide audience for each film fit into the overall history of this amazing series. The second documentary, "Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond" (44 minutes) is a detailed biography and loving tribute to the man, who even more than Harry Saltzman, was the driving passion behind each production from Dr. No through Licence to Kill.
The audio commentary, with director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun) and various members of the cast and crew, sews together a narrator and the separate comments of its participants. The editing keeps the track from falling into sleepy pauses and helps the comments appropriately match the on-screen action. This sort of commentary track is better than some, but it still lacks the freshness and energy of the best.
My favorite addition to the extra content are the deleted scenes. Who would have thought Sammy Davis Jr. was very nearly in a Bond film? A small, but amusing bit. "Dinner with Plenty…" is both unnecessary and annoying, so it is no wonder it was cut. "Plenty Returns…" covers a plot leap in the movie, explaining how Plenty O'Toole later winds up at Tiffany Case's house. Finally, "Through the Alley Again" explains a famous goof in a chase scene, where the car goes into a very narrow alley on two wheels, and comes out on the other two wheels. Topping off the content are two trailers, a funny Christmas themed teaser trailer (properly letterboxed though looking rather washed out) and the theatrical trailer (looking far better, but matted to somewhat less than 1.85:1) as well as five television spots and three radio spots.
The multi-page color booklet contains the usual nice collection of trivia and production notes, and this time around the packaging is a three-pronged quasi-Amaray keepcase. The animated menus are much like the others in the series, and still nicely done with movie-specific visuals, general design, and sounds.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The story of Diamonds Are Forever is probably the weakest link in this chain. Right off the bat, the pre-credits teaser sequence is a perfunctory bit of action that does little on its own or to set up the body of the film. You know it can't be "real," because they simply would NOT kill off the Bond villain mere minutes into the film, so the scene is robbed of its impact. As for the remainder of the script, it keeps things moving along and provides opportunities for some fine actors, but the pace is a but slow and it does a poor job of setting up the lackluster world-wide SPECTRE nuclear blackmail scheme.
A good middle of the road entry in the franchise, Diamonds Are Forever strays farther from the serious thriller mold of many of its compatriots but thankfully stops short of self-parody. Is the trade-off of serious dramatic action for a more cartoonish, fun feeling worth the exchange? I think so, but only as an occasional change of pace to keep the series from getting too beholden to Bond traditions. Your mileage may vary. By all means rent or ($26.98 retail) purchase!
I have to acquit. You think I want Kidd and Wint to come after me? I'd rather face Jaws!
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