Bond evolution – Diamonds are Forever (#7)

After the experiment with George Lazenby, Connery has been lured back to play the role of Bond and he is on a mission to hunt down and destroy Blofeld.

As you’d expect from a film with this title, the opening credits are full of bling – female forms adorned with diamonds as Shirley Bassey belts out the theme song. Was Shirley Bassey just lucky to be offered to sing two of best Bond themes; or are these two of the best Bond themes because Shirley Bassey sings them? “Men are mere mortals who are not worth going to your grave for” she sings. Alas, Shirley, it’s too late to tell that to the trail of female corpses that lie in Bond’s shadow.

The main woman in this film is Tiffany Case (played by Jill St John), who appears is glimpsed in her first scene as a blonde, then a brunette, before eventually appearing before Bond with her natural red hair. “I don’t mind,” says Bond, “as long as collars and cuffs match.” Yes, that’s a terrible line, but no more terrible than the idea that you would greet a man you intend to have a business transaction with, in your apartment, dressed only in your underwear. But she is a hard headed business woman, she knows what it takes to make a deal, so I assume she knows what she is doing.

Casino hanger-on Plenty O’Toole exists only because a bunch of men in a room somewhere came up with that name and wanted an excuse for a girl in a low cut dress to say it. (Meanwhile, elsewhere in world, the world’s first Women’s march was taking place.) That foul name does however put her into the top 5 of most offensive names of Bond Women, even if her screen time was limited.

Bond struggles at first to overcome the ‘security guards’ Bambi and Thumper, acrobatic gymnasts and martial arts experts who enjoy beating the heck out of him, until he somehow turns the tables. I was surprised to read these actresses were not credited in the film. Really? They beat Bond up wearing bikinis and they don’t get their names in the credits?

The film’s main locations are Amsterdam and Las Vegas. We see Bond take the hovercraft from Dover to Holland, which was probably cutting edge technology in 1971 but by the year 2000 the UK-Europe hovercraft has ceased to operate. While Amsterdam is not very exotic, the bright lights and casino craziness of Las Vegas are quite exotic. And certainly they play up the Vegas craziness, with scenes of an elephant playing slots, and Q testing out a new device that gets him a jackpot on any machine he plays. And of course, Bond’s gambling addiction (he has been at a casino in almost every film so far) is indulged here in Vegas at the craps table (where he meets the opportunistic Ms O’Toole).

There’s not much proper spying going on in this film. The technologies are getting silly and the scene where Bond uses those shooting arrows and wires to climb up the side of the casino to get to the penthouse had me feeling a bit queasy. Instead of proper spycraft, we have a car chase through the Fremont Street area. The car chase went on a little long if you ask me, but maybe smash-em-up car chases were new to cinema in those days.

(*spoilers follow*) Blofeld is the villain in this film again. He is using diamonds to build a space laser that has the precision aim to target and blow up nuclear weapons. His villainous plot is to auction this technology to the highest bidder, with the winning country achieving nuclear superiority. It’s a sign of how much technology has moved on that the codes that control the satellites are on a cassette.

Film epilogue I think Tiffany Case is clever enough to find a way to get those diamonds down again, and get herself a commission on their value in the process. I expect she went on to have a successful career as a fixer, working on or around the edges of the law, introducing people who had mutual business interests, negotiating deals where two parties were at an impasse. She would have invested wisely and had funds secured in various tax avoidance jurisdictions throughout the world, before eventually retiring to Panama, where she still did occasional ‘consulting work’ for people with certain business interests that were within her field of expertise.

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