Bond 50: Part IV – Diamonds Are Forever (1971) & Live and Let Die (1973)

Part4

I’m finally back into the swing of reviewing my Bond box set. I feared for a minute that I would go all of June without posting an installment in my 12-part Blu-Ray review of the Bond 50th Anniversary Set. But I made it, here in the eleventh hour.

Let me know what you think of these two entries in the franchise by commenting below. You can also follow me on Twitter @ObsessiveViewer and like The Obsessive Viewer on Facebook. For good measure, check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast and subscribe to it on iTunes. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s Part IV…

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Release Date: December 17th, 1971

Director: Guy Hamilton

Writers: Richard MaibaumTom Mankiewicz 

Stars: Sean ConneryJill St. JohnCharles Gray

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Movie

Plot:

James Bond investigates a diamond smuggling operation that takes him to Las Vegas where he, once again, goes up against Blofeld.

Thoughts:

I’ll be honest. I’m writing this at 8pm on June 23rd. If you go to my “Movies Watched” page for May, you’ll notice that I watched this movie on May 5th. So why has it taken me almost two months to compose my thoughts on it? Because it’s a turd of a movie.

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond enters the 70s and Connery exits the franchise both with a whimper. If Lazenby is the William Henry Harrison of Bond actors, Connery is its Grover Cleveland.

I loved Connery’s first 5 outings, if only because of his performance. But Diamonds Are Forever just doesn’t feel the same. Right from the pre-credit sequence, it feels strange. Bond fighting Blofeld with light choreography and an emphasis on close ups makes me think Sean Connery may be too old to play Bond at this point.

As far as the movie’s henchmen are concerned, Wint and Kidd are really over the top as the homosexual, homicidal duo. They aren’t over the top in a fun way, either. They’re the kind of over the top where the actors are having a lot more fun playing the part than anyone has watching it on screen. They really got under my skin.

But the movie wasn’t all bad. There’s a scene with Bond trapped in a box about to be cremated that is very terrifying. Even though I didn’t like the character Plenty O’Toole (too peppy for my tastes), her introductory scene was reminiscent of Pussy Galore’s in Goldfinger. I also really enjoyed the car chase on the Vegas strip a lot. And, despite the erratic close ups of the scene, the elevator fight was memorable.

On the other side of the coin, however, seeing Bond escape from bad guys in a moon buggy was just bizarre and laughable.

I also would have liked a traditional Q scene in lieu of an over the phone cameo and a plot convenient display of a gadget that already appeared in the movie. But Q ripping off the casino is my favorite part of the movie.

The Blofeld plot is pretty dull. When he unveils his extortion plot, I sighed on impulse. I was hoping for something more original than another extortion plot. The oil rig at the end made for a nice ending but it felt like it came about half an hour too late in the movie.

It took me almost two months to get around to writing about Diamonds Are Forever. Now that I can officially put the movie behind me, I can move on to Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond with a clear head and low expectations. Hopefully it’s an improvement over this one.

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Blu-Ray Features

MI6 CommentaryCommentary featuring director Guy Hamilton and members of the cast and crew.

Declassified: MI6 Vault 

Sean Connery 1971: The BBC Interview (5mins, 31secs) – Connery muses about his return to Bond and his thoughts on the character.

Lesson #007: Close Quarter Combat (4mins, 36secs) – Behind the scenes footage of the elevator fight scene narrated by Guy Hamilton.

Oil Rig Attack (2mins, 22secs) – Producer Michael Wilson talks about shooting the movie’s climactic oil rig attack sequence.

Satellite Test Reel (1min, 55secs) – Michael Wilson talks briefly about the space sequences over footage, storyboards and test footage. It ends with side by side comparisons of all three.

Explosion Tests (1min, 53secs) – Michael Wilson introduces

Alternate and Expanded Angles – This feature allows you to cycle through different angels in the following scenes: Elevator Fight, Vegas Car Chase, Moonbuggy Chase, Bambi & Thumper and Bond Arrives on Oil Rig.

Deleted Scenes (7mins, 38secs)

Mission Dossier 

Inside Diamonds Are Forever (30mins, 40secs) – There are some interesting stories in this featurette about the making of the movie. The people involved with the movie talk about the troubles filming in Vegas and some of the casting choices in the movie.

Cubby Broccoli – The Man Behind Bond (41mins, 23secs) – A thorough look at the producer’s life and experiences bringing Bond to the screen.

Exotic Locations (4mins, 25secs) – Maude Adams talks about the movie’s various filming locations.

Ministry of PropagandaTheatrical Archive, TV Broadcasts & Radio CommunicationA thorough collection of all the promotional material.

Image DatabaseA sizable gallery of pictures from the making of the movie.

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Buy the individual “Diamonds Are Forever” blu-ray here.

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Live and Let Die (1973)

Release Date: June 27th, 1973

Director: Guy Hamilton

 Writers: Tom Mankiewicz

 Stars: Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto

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Movie

Plot:

James Bond is on the trail of Mr. Big, a sinister heroin magnate with a vast network of thugs, a tarot card reader and a deadly man with a mechanical arm.

Thoughts:

Before I begin, I want to point out that I just happened to watch this movie on the 40th anniversary of its release date. Given the movie’s inclusion of foreseeing and tarot cards, I was amused by this coincidence.

All I knew going into this movie was that it was Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond and that it had something to do with heroin and a tarot card reader. This made for an interesting viewing experience for me. Considering I haven’t seen any of the remaining non-Craig 007 movies, I think I’ll make an effort to go into the rest of the set as blind as possible.

The first thing I noticed in the pre-credit sequence was the absence of Bond. I was expecting an introduction to Roger Moore a la George Lazenby’s beach adventure before the credits of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Nonetheless, the different assassinations across the film’s varying locales were quite effective at grabbing my attention.

The credit sequence was also very good. The song performed by Paul McCartney is one of the catchiest Bond songs yet. It’s got a good chance of sticking with me longer than the Goldfinger theme did. I really enjoyed hearing bits of it repeated throughout the movie’s score.

Aside from the song, not only did seeing Jane Seymour’s name give me a surprise but also the fact that the movie “introduced” her made me excited. She does a good job with the role of clairvoyant Solitaire. She’s a powerful force in the villain’s cavalcade of evil while also being a love interest of Bond’s who has the allure of purity to her. Seymour plays this dichotomy very well.

One of the things that contributed to me buying the set and deciding to review it was the chance to see how the movies adapt to the changing world around them. 50 years of James Bond is a long time and Skyfall is a very different film from Dr. No. I got a taste of the cultural tone and slight offensiveness to the Japanese in You Only Live Twice and I was eager for more.

I found the use to African American villains interesting in Live and Let Die. Having been filmed in the early 70s, I was surprised to see the movie pay service to the racial tensions of the time period. Bond travelling to Harlem where the evil Mr. Big’s network of henchmen is far reaching (to say the least) really highlighted the climate of the time. It also struck me that the alley where Bond is nearly killed in Harlem looks rundown to the point of resembling WWII era Europe.

The movie had some interesting villains. Yaphet Kotto as Kananga was great, better than Charles Gray’s Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. I speak with a slight bias as I was instantly floored to see Parker from Alien in a Bond movie. Tee Hee, the henchmen with the mechanical hooked arm was cool as well. His scene at the end was a little too reminiscent of From Russia With Love’s climax, however.

While I’m on the subject, the snake being dropped in on Bond while he’s in the bath was also similar to the spider in the bed scene from Dr. No. Between those two near rehashes and the return to the Caribbean setting, I’m surprised the movie felt as fresh as it did. It was the 8th movie in the series and, although there are retreads, the movie as a whole functions well.

Speaking of Dr. No, I was glad to see a callback to Bond’s first movie with the inclusion of Quarrel Jr., the son of the doomed ally in Dr. No. I really enjoy whenever a Bond movie appreciates the series’ continuity and isn’t just a standalone adventure.

Several other things stood out to me in the movie. The scene in which Bond commandeers a student pilot’s plane is one such scene. In theory the scene is absolute gold but the dull reaction shots of the actress playing Mrs. Bell (the student) sucked any and all humor from the scene for me.

The scene with Bond and the crocodiles was probably the most intense Bond scene yet. The tension of the scene was really elevated by the lack of music. It was by far my favorite sequence of the movie.

The small town sheriff who appears toward the end of the movie started out kind of funny but the gimmick wore thin very quickly. I enjoyed adding the element of local law enforcement to the mix, but bumbling Sheriff Pepper was just over the top and the comedy was too broad for me to get on board with it. The trivia on the movie’s IMDb page says Clifton James appears in the next Bond movie. Shit.

I have to give quick props to the screenwriting of the movie, though. The way the villains’ methods of murder are set up in the opening sequence and then called back to later in the movie is a great way of creating tension. A man is killed on a New Orleans street in the opening scene, his body instantly concealed and transported by a large funeral. Later in the movie, we see the beginnings of this MO and then cut to Bond and Felix arriving. The two comment on the passing funeral, not knowing the man they are meeting is in the coffin.

I keep a note open on my phone while I watch these movies so I can jot down some points I want to bring up in my review. For Live and Let Die I jotted down that it was almost a return to form after the disastrous Diamonds Are Forever and that it’s a very strong first movie for Roger Moore’s portrayal as Bond. But halfway through the note I wrote: “Where the hell is Desmond Llewelyn?!” I’m glad to see there was fan outcry over the lack of Q and he returned for the next 11 Bond movies. Good job 1970’s Bond fans!

I liked Live and Let Die quite a bit but it isn’t a perfect movie. In the grand scheme of the Bond franchise (or at least, the movies in the franchise I’ve seen) I would definitely say it’s somewhere in the middle for me. Desmond Llewelyn’s absence definitely left a hole in the pace and tone of the movie. The tarot cards and the voodoo ceremony were bizarre and out of place for a Bond movie. But it came off the heels of the worst movie in the franchise so far and had a memorable villain in Yaphet Kotto.

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Blu-Ray Features

MI6 CommentaryCommentary featuring screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz

Declassified: MI6 Vault 

Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary (21mins, 41secs) – A pretty thorough making of doc from 1973. It includes a lot of cool behind the scenes footage. There’s also a really interesting interview with a black stuntman about the hardships and annoyances of having segregated stuntman unions.

Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964 (7mins, 44secs) – Footage of Roger Moore playing James Bond in a short-lived TV comedy from 1964 called Mostly Minicent.

Live and Let Die Conceptual Art (1min, 39secs) – Some concept art for the movie’s posters.

Mission Control – After missing it in the last couple discs, the handy categorized bookmark feature is back for Live and Let Die’s blu-ray release! This makes me happy.

Mission Dossier 

Inside Live and Let Die (29mins, 47secs) – These are a staple of the blu-ray set now. This is a comprehensive retrospective on the making of Live and Let Die. They touch on a lot of the familiar topics while also mentioning the subject of race and how the climate of race relations affected the filming.

On Set with Roger Moore: The Funeral Parade (1min, 42secs) – An anecdote from Roger Moore on the set of the funeral scene. 

On Set with Roger Moore: Hang Gliding Lessons (3mins, 58secs) – Behind the scenes look at the hang gliding sequence.

Ministry of PropagandaTheatrical Archive, TV Broadcasts & Radio CommunicationA thorough collection of all the promotional material. (11mins 50secs).

Image DatabaseA sizable gallery of pictures from the making of the movie.

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Buy the individual “Live and Let Die” blu-ray here.

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Verdict

Diamonds Are Forever was a disaster. The boring plot, the labored choreography, the dull villains all forced me to hold off for almost two months before I watched Live and Let Die. It was that bad of an experience for me. So it’s pretty clear that there’s no contest here. Live and Let Die is the far superior movie between these two entries in the Bond franchise.

Even though the supernatural elements of Live and Let Die were really out of place and distracting (seriously, what’s the deal with that last shot?), it’s still a very strong introduction to Moore’s Bond and an accidental time capsule when it comes to race issues in 1970s America.

I’ll watch Live and Let Die again sometime, for sure. I’m not confident I can say the same for Diamonds Are Forever.

You can buy the Bond 50th Anniversary blu-ray collection here.

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The Obsessive Viewer will return in…

Bond 50: Part V – The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) & The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

4 responses to “Bond 50: Part IV – Diamonds Are Forever (1971) & Live and Let Die (1973)

  1. I hate Diamonds are Forever. It’s such a lackluster film. The biggest problem that I have with the film is Connery’s performance. He completely phones in it. You can tell he doesn’t give a shit and doesn’t want to be there. Blofield murdered his wife in the previous film and in this one Bond acts like he did nothing more than scratch the paint on his new car or something. They should have searched out a new actor instead of bringing him back one last time because as you mentioned in your review, his initial 5 films are really good and You Only Live Twice would have been a good exit point.

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    • Yep. You Only Live Twice would have been a perfect end. It’s enough of a departure that it teeters on the edge of not being good without going over. Diamonds are Forever was just a disaster.

      After On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I was wishing Lazenby would have returned. But a still new Bond in Diamonds could have been a disaster for the franchise.

      Say what you will about Connery in Diamonds (and I will fully agree), but I guarantee that his name carried a lot of weight at the box office. I’m not sure Lazenby would have drawn the numbers. Even with OHMSS behind him.

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  2. Pingback: Bond 50: Part V – The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) & The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) | The Obsessive Viewer

  3. Lana Wood, who played a Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever, is scheduled to appear at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Sept. 18-20, in Hunt Valley, Md., at the Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel. Also scheduled to appear are Piper Laurie, Veronica Cartwright, Angela Cartwright, Lee Meredith, George Lazenby, and more. More information is at http://midatlanticnostalgiaconvention.com.

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