James Bond
Diamonds Are Forever
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Sean Connery
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

James Bond goes undercover to trace a diamond-smuggling operation to its ultimate destination, but what starts out as a relatively simple matter becomes something far more outlandish. Teaming up with the beautiful Tiffany Case, 007 discovers that an old enemy has been stockpiling the gems for use in a deadly laser satellite...

The early '70s witnessed an Americanisation of the Bond movies. This is often attributed to the influence of director Guy Hamilton or to the series' new American co-writer Tom Mankiewicz, but the truth is that these individuals were only part of a deliberate policy decision to appeal to the US market. In fact, the producers even cast an American actor, John Gavin, to take over as Bond, before Sean Connery was ultimately coaxed back to the role.

So keen were Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to revive the massive popular appeal that the Bond franchise had enjoyed during the mid-'60s that they endeavoured to revive as many elements as possible from the formula that had made Goldfinger such a success back in 1964. An early draft of the script even brought back Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger's twin brother (perhaps having changed his name by deed poll to Diamondthumb)!

These and other fascinating facts are included in the documentary features on this DVD. Together they reveal that, with regard to undermining the Britishness of James Bond, in fact he got off lightly with Diamonds Are Forever.

The Las Vegas setting provides many memorable elements, including the wonderfully tacky Slumber Inc funeral service; the Howard Hughes-style recluse, Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who is abducted without anyone noticing; and the trend-setting smash-'em-up car chase. The wholesale destruction of police cars would become a staple ingredient of many subsequent Bond films, as would the presence of an overweight American sheriff. Charles Gray also makes an excellent contribution, bringing style and wit to the role of Blofeld.

Other aspects of the movie prove disappointing, however, particularly where it glosses over the events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It is as though the production team wish to forget about Lazenby's movie and its tragic climax. The film opens with Bond seeking out and apparently killing Blofeld, but there is never much of a sense, either in the script or in Connery's performance, that 007 is feeling particularly embittered or grief-stricken. Later on, Bernard Lee as M comments that, "The least we can expect from you now is a little plain, solid work," which seems incredibly insensitive under the circumstances. Similarly, the request made by Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) for Bond to bring her "A diamond... in a ring" from Amsterdam is not the sort of thing one would say to a man who has recently lost his wife.

As with the majority of the '70s and '80s Bond movies, only the title and certain character names are retained from Fleming's original book. As such, the movie could be novelised as part of the literary canon with relatively minor changes. (Indeed, a prose adaptation, by Vic Davis, was published in the Daily Express newspaper during December 1971, but was prematurely curtailed.) The names of Blofeld, Wint, Kidd, Tiffany Case and Shady Tree would all need to be changed, since their characters are very different from their counterparts in Fleming's books. Blofeld could be replaced by the new Number 1 from You Only Live Thrice - 007 could be chasing him at the outset in order to exact revenge for his role in the murder of Aki. Alternatively, since Gray's characterisation is almost completely different from that of Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, he could be an entirely different villain.

Diamonds Are Forever is the earliest Bond film for which proper deleted scenes are known to exist. One of these four scenes explains how Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood) ends up at the residence of Tiffany Case (a feisty Jill St John), but two of the others, including an appearance by Sammy Davis Jr, are blighted by such stilted acting that one is actually extremely grateful that they were cut in the first place! Disc 2 also includes additional footage, new to DVD, from the laser satellite sequences and the oil rig attack, plus a 1971 BBC interview with Connery (though these were not supplied for review).

This movie is a decidedly rough diamond, but it's exquisitely presented.

Richard McGinlay

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