Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Diamonds are Forever

And so I come to the last James Bond film made by Connery Diamonds are Forever which became a hit for Shirley Bassey. And in which Charles Gray plays all three version of Blofeld who has not only had extensive plastic surgery but has two other men created in his new likeness,

Ian Fleming wrote the book his fourth in Bond series back in 1956 and was a huge success with several immediate print runs and where he investigated diamond smuggling for a non fiction work published a year later. In the oak Bond is assigned to infiltrate a Diamond smuggling  enterprise  based in Sierra Leone to Los Vegas in the USA and uses the identity of Peter Franks a country house burglar turned Diamond Smuggler.

Bond meets up with Tiffany Chase, ( Tiffany’s   being  the well known Jewellers and which reminds that I forgot to add  Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn to my list. Tiffany was gang raped as a teenager and understandably is hostile to men. The investigation takes him to the USA where he encounters his friend and now former CIA man Felix Leiter working for the Pinkertons investigating horse racing rigging.

The investigation then takes him to a former Wild West Town, now converted to a tourist resort where after various adventures he escapes with Tiffany using the much used in USA films the railway push cart and with Leiter’s help they get from California to New York and then journey to London on the Queen Elizabeth. During these adventures the couple are tracked by two the Diamond smuggling gang’s killers and fixer’s called Wint and Kidd who kidnap Tiffany before intending to kill her but Bond turns the tables and kills them. Chase reveals the extent of the smuggling as a consequence of her life being saved.  Miners are paid by a dentist to smuggle Diamonds out via their mouths and then getting to them to London  Paris and on to New York. Bond closes in  and kills the man at the top of the enterprise but only after the man has terminated the rest of the diamond line although I assume this exclude Tiffany.

The film bears little relationship to the book although it does also cover a lot of ground and involves Bond with Jill St John now  as much for marriages and relationships with a well known  number of A listers and other powerful and wealthy men as well as the films Whose been Sleeping in my Bed? The Honeymoon Hotel and the Calling. At sixteen  she ran off with and married the heir to a linen fortune and at nineteen she married a racing driver who was the son of Barbara Hutton. She then married the singer Jack Jones and then the actor Robert Wagner  having been a couple for the previous eight years. Divorced she is reported to have admitted relationships were Connery, Peter Lawford, Robert Vaughn, Jack Nicholson and Frank Sinatra.

Now to the film where Bond pursing Blofeld  thinks he has killed him, but it later transpires to be a look alike. He is then posted to South Africa by M to investigate a Diamond Smuggling ring and where several known operatives have been recently killed. We the audience know that the killers are Wint and Kidd played tongue in cheek and as a comic due who use very creative methods.

Posing as a smuggler Peter Franks, a real fictional character imprisoned in England to enable Bond’s cover, he travels to Amsterdam to meet the link Tiffany Chase. Unfortunately the real Franks escapes and gets to Amsterdam and Bond has to kill him.  Bond  then take this body to be buried in the USA as his brother followed by Wint and Kidd who are continuing their inventive murderous trail. Bond uses the corpse to smuggle the diamonds.

In the USA Leiter meets Bond and they take the body to a mob run Funeral Home for cremation where the Diamonds are recovered and placed in an urn as the ashes of the deceased. His next task is to take the Diamonds to the next person in the chain who is called Shady Tree who captures Bond and Wint and Kidd place  Bond  in a coffin and into the crematoria. Fortunately the process is stopped as Shady Tree discovers the Diamonds in the urn are fakes.

Tree is a stand up Comedian performing at the Casino owned by the multi millionaire recluse Willard Whyte one of the most powerful men in the USA who had become a recluse controlling his empire from the top floor of the Hotel.  Given that the film was made in 1971 it is interesting that this was still five years before the death of  multi millionaire Howard Hughes who had retired to the Days Inn Hotel Las Vegas which he then acquired and ran his empire for the its eighth floor. Hughes was also extremely influential arising from aviation Industries productions, his Film and TV interests and involvement in a wide range of other businesses.

Bond then discovers that Shady Tree has been murdered and enjoying a night at the Casino he meets up with an adventuress called Plenty O’Toole and takes her to his room where gang members are waiting for him and they throw Plenty out of window fortunately into a swimming pool although the intention was to kill her  expecting her to be Tiffany Chase.

Because of her near death experience Tiffany decides against stealing the Diamonds for her use and they are passed to the next link in the chain who is followed to Whyte research facility in the desert where Bond discovers they are being used to create a powerful destructive laser refraction device to be sent into space and then controlled  from a base elsewhere. Bond is discovered  but escapes using a Moon landing buggy and is picked up by Tiffany waiting in a car.

Bond then makes a dramatic entry into the quarters of Whyte It is at this point Bond makes the starling discovery that Whyte has been replaced by Blofeld and a Blofeld lookalike using a voice box machine which makes him sound like Whyte and realise that Blofeld and Spectre are behind the creation of the death and destruction ray. He manages to kill one of the Blofeld’s but this is the lookalike and is rendered unconscious by gas and taken  by Wint and Kidd into the desert and placed in one the new water/sewerage pipes with one machine laying the pipes together and another piling  the earth back on top. When Bond regains consciousness he finds himself sealed into the system and a terrified mouse reveals the oncoming of a machine which he tries to out run  before working out he can squeeze on top and  stop it by fusing its electrical circuit and then making his way to the surface via one of the escape maintenance hatches.

Bond is now able to try and rescue Whyte who is locked away below an isolated desert Home guarded by two energetic martial arts fanatics, Bumper and Thumper, and he just about gets the better of them before the cavalry arrive. With he help of Whyte he identifies the likely location of Blofeld’s latest control centre where the senior scientist believes they will bring peace to the world, demonstrating the power of the Laser by eliminating war heads and other old war weaponry held by the USA, Russia and China. Blofeld has escaped from the Hotel called the Whyte House disguised as an elderly woman but is recognised by Tiffany who tries to give chase but is captured.

Blofield makes his extortion demands threatening to destroy a city while Bond makes his way and boards the sea base oil rig HQ armed with a tape which he hopes to switch for the one controlling the Satellite laser which  White’s company has placed into orbit believing they were doing so under instruction from Whyte. Bond also finds Tiffany on the rig in a swimsuit and who appears to have out in her lot in with Blofeld. When Bond manages to swish the tapes he puts the real one inside Tiffany’s Bikini but she  misunderstands what he has done and later proudly boasts she has switched the tapes again. Leiter and a force arrive in numbers and commence to attack the base while Blofeld attempts to escape in a  mini sub to be launched into the sea by a crane, but Bond takes control of the crane and uses the mini sub to smash into the control room which explodes and prevents the laser from working, Bond and Tiffany falls into the sea from which they are rescued.  The fate of Blofeld is left open.

In the film’s Coda the couple are making their way back to Europe in a cruise liner when unexpectedly they are presented by a banquet in their cabin on behalf of the captain but delivered by Wint and Kidd who have a Bombe Surprise to end the meal. Fortunately they are detected with one setting himself ablaze and the other blown up by the device he planned for the couple.

Connery had to be offered over one million to agree to play Bond again  after Lazenby  said to have made it clear he only wanted to play the role once after falling out with the film people because they controlled his performance along with the story. While Lazenby performed and participated in the creation of other film and TV productions he has not achieved the kind  of lasting work which led to his decision. He was married twice, the most recent to Pam Shriver and the couple have three children before divorcing.

Jill St John was originally cast for the brief part of  Plenty O‘Toole with Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway considered for the role among others.

In my judgement this is the worst of the Bond films to that time as none of the characters engaged or produced any sympathy.

The new Bond was Roger Moore who developed the role into a Tongue in Cheek character exploiting all the worst but popular money making aspects of the role created by Hollywood. The contrast with the creative genius and integrity of the Harry Potter series could not be greater as I plan to soon demonstrate.

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