After last month’s dalliance with an Australian model for the Bond head honchos (and my dalliance with poetry for this particular thread), it’s business as usual for Bond this month. After On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the following conversation took place between Cubby Broccoli and Sean Connery:“Sean, baby, it’s not working without you. Please come back.” “Chertainly not.” “Oh go on. Please.” “Shurely I’m done with all this nonshenche?” “We’ll give you a million dollars.” “I’m schtill not schure.” “A million and a quarter?” “Shee you on the shet.”
So Connery was back for one last outing, and with him was yet another new Blofeld. At least Bond recognised him this time, but as to whether he was that bothered about the climactic events of the last film is anyone’s guess, as Bond pursues one of the more casual vendettas ever committed to celluloid. And casual is the name of the game – despite getting paid his own Fort Knox worth of cold, hard cash, this really does feel like a by-the-numbers Bond, with very little to make it stand out from previous entries. As a consequence, the legacy of this particular Bond is somewhat harder to come by than previous entries; if anything, it’s easier to spot the previous legacies of Connery’s Bonds repeating their effect on this one.
1. Familiarity might not breed contempt – if you’re lucky
In an effort to reassure audiences that this was the Bond they knew and loved, the makers of Diamonds Are Forever went out of their way to inject the formula elements into this one. Before the titles, we get a Japanese setting reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, a casino and a card game, a woman in a bikini, Bond being threatening and offing a bad guy (or so he thinks), and then we rock straight into a Shirley Bassey song – this couldn’t be more of a Bond film if it was just two hours of Sean Connery photocopying his face. So looking back over previous films, there’s a whole slew of previous legacies that are being revisited here:
Dr. No: – ridiculously elaborate plot, ruthless killer, iconic theme tune – check
From Russia With Love: title sequence full of ladies, shitload of henchmen, gadgets, hot looking stupid Bond girls, frequent action sequences, James Bond Will Return – check
Goldfinger: Short film title sequence, Shirley Bassey, recurring characters played by new actor, frequent shagging, irrational evil masterminds, innuendo – check
Thunderball: Blofeld and cat crucial to plot, widescreen – check
You Only Live Twice: SPECTRE vs the real world, giant bad guy lair – check
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Continuing story – check
So this is the biggest expression of the Bond formula to date, and in turn forced the subsequent Bonds to have to maintain a high level of drawing on previous legacies, otherwise your average Joe Public somehow doesn’t feel it’s a proper Bond film. Even those later Bonds that follow OHMSS’s reboot legacy have to incorporate some elements, otherwise they get slated by all and sundry (and we’ll come back to that in October next year if you don’t believe me), so thanks to Diamonds Are Forever, we’re left with a series that continues to set new standards for itself and for action cinema in general, but at the same time paradoxically has to draw increasingly on itself to survive, the formula now having been ingrained to an almost irretrievable extent. Clear? Good.
2. Loud and proud – it’s the American way
Diamonds Are Forever is populated predominantly by Americans, other than Bond, and it’s the first time that there’s been such an American slant on the Bond movies. For anyone wondering why so many modern American action movies rely on English-accented bad guys, it may be that the Bond films (and it just got worse from here on in) made their American characters so genuinely dislikeable that their only possible reaction was to cast us repeatedly as the villains. But everyone from the Bond girls to the roadside cops comes off so badly, that even Blofeld’s changed his accent back closer to Queen’s English in an effort to improve his standing in the popularity stakes. And from this point on, with the possible exception of Felix Leiter, pretty much every American in the series is brash, loud mouthed and obnoxious – but of course, that’s exactly what they’re like in real life, isn’t it?
3. Roger Moore didn’t have a chance from the start
Next month, we get into the purring, safari suit wearing era of Roger Moore. Many put the blame for the dilution of the series firmly at Moore’s door, but at least one thing that tarnished the Moore years actually started here in DAF – the increase in poor quality jokes. Witness:
[after sealing Bond in a coffin and conveying him into a crematorium’s furnace]
Mr. Wint: Very moving.
Mr. Kidd: Heartwarming, Mr. Wint.
Mr. Wint: A glowing tribute, Mr. Kidd.
Mr. Kidd: Well, they’re both aboard, and I must say Miss Case seems quite attractive…
[Mr. Wint glares at him]
Mr. Kidd: …For a lady.
Mr. Kidd: Heh heh heh heh!
Felix Leiter: I give up. I know the diamonds are in the body, but where?
James Bond: Alimentary, Dr. Leiter…
[James Bond is lucky with the dice while gambling]
Plenty O’Toole: You handle those cubes like a monkey handles coconuts.
[to a rat]
James Bond: Well, one of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.
James Bond: I’m afraid it’s me. Sorry, old boy.
[Mr. Kidd conceals a bomb inside the dessert]
Mr. Wint: And for dessert, the piece de resistance… a Bombe Surprise.
Tiffany Case: Mmm! That looks fantastic. What’s in it?
Mr. Wint: Ah… But then there would be no surprise, Madame.
None of these kind of lines would be out of place in a Moore Bond film, but almost all of them would jar horribly – and certainly with this frequency – in any of the earlier Connery films. Diamonds helped to set the template for the Seventies, and it’s helped to give Roger Moore a bad name. Which is a shame, because Roger Moore is perhaps the best pseudonym for James Bond ever conceived.
4. Mind your head – at least when standing atop a moving lift
If you have an action film in or around a building, and one character is stalking the others, it’s inevitable that, sooner or later, said character will climb on top of a lift, and also that the lift will end up going to the top floor. Bond here has to duck, although the lift is moving so slowly (and with a safety rail) that the chances of a squashed secret agent are pretty slim. John McClane is perhaps the most famous example of what the Germans might call liftstandentoppenquickducke, in seminal action movie Die Hard, but by the Nineties bad guys had become wise to the tricks. In Speed, the first third of the film is spent pulling people out of lifts or clambering around on top of them, until Howard Payne becomes wise to the shenanigans and forces Jack Traven to jump down by sending the lift to the top floor.
5. Mr Kidd’s dashing good looks
Separated at birth?