At the end of my last post on the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, I had stated the following:
But WHY is this film, flaws and all, so special to me?
There's a good reason. But first, after mentioning some of the flaws of this film in my last post, let me highlight it's strengths, of which there are many, and why they made this movie stand out to my much, much younger self forty years ago this month.
There's Sean Connery!
Back after a one film absence, and not quite as fit as he once was (I should talk), Connery, the first (and best*) screen Bond, nevertheless holds the audience's attention in every scene. Poised, jaunty, with plenty of charisma and presence (we'll ignore the wig and sideburns), plus physical grace, Connery never seems to phone it in. Maybe he was bored by this point with the role, but listening to his nonchalant delivery of lines like "Named after your father perhaps?" after first meeting Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood), watching him straighten out the cuffs on his shirt after taking out Peter Franks in a vicious battle, or clambering up the Whyte House building with only a slim cable to hold him up, I'm still convinced, after all these years, that Connery's 007 is the epitome of coolness. The man just never loses it. Just wish the writers and director (and Connery, whose private life isn't exactly without blemish when it comes to women) of this film didn't have him slap around Tiffany (Jill St. John) to emphasize how cool he is. We already know it**.
Plot Holes Aside, This Is One Exciting Action/Adventure Thriller!
Bond battles an array of colorful bad guys including Mr. Wint, Mr. Kidd and Blofeld, plus he takes part in two wild car chases, has that elevator fight with Franks, climbs up the multi-story Whyte House building, infiltrates Whyte's underground lab... The action never lets up! And those hairbreadth escapes from situations like almost getting cremated in an oven! Your pulse rate really is going up when you watch this film.
Those Fantastic Ken Adam Sets!
Whyte's penthouse/office, Blofeld's various hideouts....Nuff said!
That Great Classic John Barry Music Score!
But watching Diamonds Are Forever became important to me for another reason. After seeing the film (twice, the second time being June, '72), I sought out the original novel (and boy,was younger me confused by the differences between the book and film versions), then started reading the other installments of the series by Ian Fleming. My local library (Wellesley Hills at the time) was very helpful in finding out which order the books should've been read. (BTW Fleming's physical description of 007 fits Connery as he looked in the earlier films to the tee.) I also discovered, again thanks to the library's film reference area, the previous films in the series.
And like a sponge, I watched the earlier films at various drive-ins and theatres whenever they popped up. (This is before home video, remember.) Meanwhile, having read reviews of the books and films, I discovered writers comparing Bond to various earlier fictional characters like Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Leslie Charteris' The Saint, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu (Fleming's Dr. No was the author's affectionate-in-a-backhanded-way send up of that character), Lester Dent's Doc Savage, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee... The list goes on. I actively sought out these and other related works as well as moving towards slightly higher examples of genre fiction (Ray Bradbury; H.P. Lovecraft; Mickey Spillane; plus recent authors like George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Max Allan Collins, etc.) and never looked back. I owe Diamonds Are Forever (not to mention my parents, who allowed me to see and had to acconpany me to see these films) big time!
Hopefully, I've encouraged anybody reading this to check out the film (better entries of the series to start out with would be Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but I'm biased). More importantly, I hope you've remembered some film or book that had just as profound an effect on your development.
*(Sorry Daniel Craig fans. He's good -practically all the actors that succeeded Connery were. But Sean's the REAL 007 to me.)
**(And remember the heartbreaking scene in 1965's Thunderball as Connery's Bond tries to stay calm while informing the heroine, whom he's fallen in love with, of her brother's murder? This brief moment of empathy, well played by Connery, reminds us of the 007 we really admire and allows us to give a slight pass on the Bond we see in Diamonds slapping Tiffany, who, as we see in that film, is pretty much out for herself anyway. Still..)