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Diamonds Are Forever Retro Review: Farewell, Sean Connery

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BY October 11, 2020
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We’ve now come to the sixth James Bond movie in our Retro Review series. If this is your first time, then a Retro Review is what it sounds like: a review of something older that we missed the first time around. I’ve been working my way through the James Bond series. I was pretty unfamiliar with it, beyond the usual things that everybody knows (“Bond, James Bond,” etc.). And now we’re on a first name basis. So let’s get started on my Diamonds Are Forever Retro Review.

And if you’re new here, start at the beginning with Dr. No.

This Is the Last Dance with Sean Connery

diamonds are forever retro review image via Eon Productions and United Artists

And now it’s really over. After a brief pause with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, we’ve come to Sean Connery’s last turn in the official run of James Bond movies. He, of course, would go on to appear in Never Say Never Again, but for all intents and purposes, this is the end.

I’m fine with it. My hands aren’t shaking.

Also, when you watch this movie, this is the first time Connery really looks visibly aged, so you’re like, “Yeah, makes sense that he didn’t want to do it anymore–I guess he was getting up in years.” Then you learn the startling fact that you’re looking at him at FORTY. As I always say, people used to be a lot older.

Diamonds Are a Spy’s Best Friend: A Plot Summary

Would y’all believe it if I told you that Bond is facing off with Blofeld once again? And not only are we on our third Blofeld (Charles Gray), but we’re also on our fourth Felix Leiter (Norman Burton). Actually, it’s even more repetitive than that–my first note for this film was “Oh good, he’s fighting an Asian man.” Well, forget that part–it’s not important (unless you’re one of those folks who sees this movie as a sequel to YOLT).

But the repetition stands throughout the plot. For example, M sends James on a mission to root out a diamond smuggling ring. Why are they smuggling diamonds? Well, M thinks they’re trying to affect the market. If you think that sounds suspiciously reminiscent of the Goldfinger plot, then you’re not alone.

And as with Goldfinger, this movie sees Bond traveling from Europe (Amsterdam) to the United States (Los Angeles and Las Vegas) in pursuit of this ring. Along the way he meets a saucy gal with shifting allegiances (Tiffany Case, played by Jill St. John). He also meets another gal, Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood), who like many a Bond lady, is doomed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twice.

Clocking the similarities with Goldfinger then, it comes as no surprise that the whole diamond racket is a pretext for a bigger crime. This intrigue draws James into the world of billionaire recluse Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), a Southerner who likes hollerin’. (That’s redundant.)

The World of James Bond

After the strange sensation of a James Bond theme without words, we are now back in a big way. Shirley Bassey–who else?–performs the title theme, which plays over the opening images of sexy ladies dancing and what can only be described as a cat vibing.

As with the Goldfinger theme, it’s about as subtle as a kick to the face. Or a diva belting “HE ONLY LOVES GOLD” in your face. Still, I like it, probably because of the vibin’ cat.

Unfortunately, though, this movie takes a “Q” (I won’t apologize for that) from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and really leaves out a lot of cool gadgets. I mean, Q’s there, in Las Vegas, using a device of his own creation to scam slot machines, seemingly just for fun. (He doesn’t collect the coins that pour out.) But he doesn’t really give James any neat toys, beyond a holster…finger trap (?). I guess the voice changer is cool, though.

Diamonds Are Forever Retro Review

diamonds are forever retro review image via Eon Productions and United Artists

As I mentioned in my last review, one of the biggest issues I had with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is that it didn’t really feel like a Bond movie. It took too long to get going with the spy stuff, for one thing. Well, that’s not a problem I had here.

Don’t get me wrong–this movie takes a while to get where it’s going, too. As Xan Brooks wrote for The Guardian, “…the plot seems to drift in and out, like ground-fog or the frequency of a long-distance radio broadcast.” An hour in, I suddenly thought, Wait, what’s the mission again? I forgot I was watching a James Bond movie.

I mean, no wonder they agreed to Connery’s terms–£1.25 million and two movies of his choice. He’s so damn good at playing Bond and the movie is so fun to boot that you forget that, oh yeah, he’s supposed to be doing spy stuff.

In fact, it’s the funniest Bond yet, from Bond himself to the indignant kid at the carnival to Jimmy Dean’s performance as Whyte. By the way, the character is based on Howard Hughes, who at the time of filming, was actually holed up in a Las Vegas hotel.

The Diamonds Are Forever Bottom Line

But that doesn’t really matter to the movie, just like the plot doesn’t really matter. And the repetition doesn’t matter. This is Connery’s swan song as Bond and it feels like the movie is just going through the Bond motions. And you know what? It’s okay.

As this is his last outing as Bond, it’s okay and it’s understandable that they don’t reinvent the wheel. This is one last time, getting the band back together, playing all the old hits. So while it’s nothing new, it works. It’s campy, it’s more than a little tired at points, but it fits its era well. And it’s a good time, which is really all I ask of these movies.

What’s your retro review of Diamonds Are Forever? Share your thoughts with me on our social media or in the comments below.

featured image via Eon Productions and United Artists

MoviesDiamonds Are Foreverjames bondmoviesRetro Review

Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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