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Sunday, November 12, 2006

DIAMONDS ARE FOR NEVER 

In 1971, Sean Connery made his second last James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. I saw this movie a bunch of times as a kid. I love the fight with Peter Franks in the elevator in Tiffany Case's building, where he kills him and puts his ID on Franks and makes Tiffany think that he killed James Bond. She's pretty impressed. "You killed James Bond! Let's fuck! Let's get out of here first and go to Las Vegas. But then let's fuck!"

Most of the movie's in Las Vegas, too, which is pretty cool. Lots of points for being set in Vegas.

And the homosexual killers, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. When I was a kid, they kinda freaked me out. I had no idea they were supposed to be homosexual. I thought they were just weird killers.

And then there's Charles Gray as Blofeld. Ernst Stavros Blofeld is the ultimate James Bond villain and because I saw this so many times as a kid, Charles Gray was Blofeld to me. (He's also the criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes him the only person in that midnight movie classic who is also a Bond villain.)

Such a fun movie. It even kind of makes sense. Bond is tracking down a diamond smuggling ring, and it leads him to Jill St. John, a cheesy Las Vegas comedian, homosexual assassins, Jimmy Dean playing Howard Hughes, Natalie Wood's sister (she doesn't float either), Blofeld, a sinister international blackmail plan involving a laser, and a woman who turns into a gorilla. And also one of the guys from the original King Kong is in this movie.

So it's pretty nifty, for a lot of reasons. Even if it's not quite You Only Live Twice or Dr. No or Live and Let Die.

The DVD has a documentary that explains a little about why they had Connery (in You Only Live Twice) and then Lazenby (in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and then Connery again (in Diamonds Are Forever). Connery quit after You Only Live Twice because he was tired of the Bond films and the amount of time he had to spend working when he did a Bond film. Then they got Lazenby for one film. (And I've heard a bunch of stuff about what happened to Lazenby. The DVD documentary says Lazenby didn't want to make any more Bond films. I've also heard that being Bond went to his head and he became a total asshole and wanted too much money. Who knows?) The documentary says that the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed as the teaser for the next film, but they tacked it on to the end of OHMSS when they learned Lazenby was out. I'm a little dubious, but we'll go with it.

So with Lazenby out they needed a new Bond. Somebody wanted to make the series appeal to Americans more, so they adapted Diamonds Are Forever with its many scenes set in Las Vegas. And they also hired a new James Bond. An American James Bond. The actor James Gavin.

Well, yes, James Gavin. I think he was in Spartacus, as Julius Caesar, no less. When I try to think of what he looks like, I keep getting images of James Brolin or James Garner. I guess he was on the verge of being a big deal at one time. Something happened. I think the producers weren't really very confident with another new James Bond and they decided they needed Sean Connery one last time. (His second last James Bond movie. He would make his third last James Bond movie about ten years later with the kinda sucky Never Say Never Again.) So they offered Sean a bunch of money and his chance to develop two other movies. (Only one of which was actually made. It would be nice if that film was Zardoz, but it was something called The Offense, which hardly anybody has ever seen. It's recommended by some of the fine folks at imdb.com.)

Another interesting bit of trivia about Diamonds Are Forever is the involvement of Howard Hughes. They put him in the movie because he was friends with producer Cubby Broccoli. Broccoli had a dream that the mysterious Hughes had been replaced with an imposter, and it became part of the strip. In addition, Hughes used his clout with Vegas city authorities so that some of the big chase scenes could be filmed on Vegas streets.

All in all, a pretty nifty movie that I always liked as a kid. I still get a kick out of it.

Did I mention they don't follow the book very closely? They use the scorpion though! That's pretty nifty. Diamonds Are Forever is kind of like the movie version of You Only Live Twice because it has the same charatcters but they all kinda decide the book is dumb abd do other stuff. It's a lot closer to the book than You Only Live Twice but not as close as, say, From Russia With Love.

For more information on Diamonds Are Forever, see the wikipedia entry.

So that's it for the James Bond movies. Except for Casino Royale, which opens Friday. I will be reviewing that next week. I can't decide whether I want it to be good and fun to watch, or bad and fun to write about. Either way is fine with me.

But other critics aren't as open-minded as I am. I suspect they are just waiting to crucify the new Bond.

Pray for Daniel Craig.

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