Admittedly after George Lazenby left the James Bond franchise when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was released, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli wanted to go with a more American-based Bond in their seventh film, and were pretty serious in their intent. At one time, Adam West (yes, Batman) was even involved in negotiations to play the part. Actor John Gavin (Psycho) was signed and sealed for the role a week before principal photography started. But Sean Connery was pitched for it, a bunch of money was thrown at him, and he went upon his merry way to reprise the role that made him famous.
In this film, which was adapted from Ian Fleming’s novel by Richard Maibaum (Goldfinger) and Tom Mankiewicz (Live and Let Die) and directed by Guy Hamilton (The Man with the Golden Gun), James finds himself at the beginning of the film thwarting yet another attempt at world domination, this time by Blofeld (Charles Gray, who ironically played a Bond ally in You Only Live Twice). SPECTRE does make a larger plan though, with the planned kidnapping and impersonation of a mysterious and reclusive Las Vegas-based millionaire, in order to proceed with nuclear testing with the goal of mutually based destruction.
It seems like in this film, the problem lied within two big areas, the story and the casting. To tackle the second part first, the millionaire in question was played by Jimmy Dean. Yes, that Jimmy Dean. Once you get past the sausage connection, along with the fact that the villainous assassins were played by Crispin Glover’s dad and a guy who played in a backup band for Sonny and Cher, it’s clear to the viewer early on that Connery, aside from coming back a noticeably heavier, grayer and lighter on the follicles, was taking the story a little more tongue in cheek than he had in previous films. Indeed, one could say that he was playing Bond in a Roger Moore-type of story, and the whole thing just didn’t work. Combine that with a Bond girl (Jill St. John, The Lost World) who was more Halle Berry than Diana Rigg (meaning annoying rather than watchable, which is saying something considering the prototypical Bond girl), and things were just a little bit different, not necessarily for the better.
Diamonds Are Forever comes to us in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen that is decent, but not necessarily leaps and bounds better than other standout Bond films. The image looks OK, but I’m wondering whether the folks at Lowry Digital (those who handled the restoration efforts for the Bond library for these new DVD releases) might have taken the day off on this title.
Like the other Bond films, you get a choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack or a DTS option. Unfortunately, even on the DTS option, the sound range is quite limited and a little bit weak. Surround effects are almost nonexistent, as is the score, both of which are more prevalent on the other Connery films.
The Special Edition commentary has been retained for this Ultimate Edition, which is the usual edited cast and crew track. You’ve got Hamilton, Mankiewicz and others recalling their time on the production. A gentleman named David Naylor who doesn’t identify his relevance to the Bond franchise serves as the John Cork on this commentary, providing trivia and identifying lesser known cast members in the film. Like some of these other multi-participant commentaries, this one tends to lean a little heavily to Hamilton and Mankiewicz on detail, and would be better served by a commentary with the two participants.
On Disc Two, the “Declassified: MI6 Vault” kicks things off with a veritable cornucopia of new material. Well, not so much. A piece titled “Lesson # 007: Close Quarter Combat” is narrated by Hamilton and takes a look at the fight sequence in the elevator. There’s a lot of on-set footage of the stunt performers and Connery examining how to pull off the sequence, which is done in four minutes.
Next is an interview with Connery on the set. Sean shares his thoughts on how he’s changed since taking on the role, and he talks about how things are on this film, and this lasts another five minutes. There are a couple of alternate angles on the elevator fight and the car chase, and a couple of expanded angles on the Bambi/Thumper fight, the moon buggy chase and the oil rig sequences. Following that is some test footage and some storyboards of the satellite sequence in the film. There is also some test footage for explosions, using some old footage and matte paintings or something. And one of the final sequences is given a bit more exposition, as it’s in its uncut mode. All of these segments are narrated by current Bond producer Michael Wilson.
“007 Mission Control” is your usual interactive guide to the Bond icons in this installment, and the “Mission Dossier” has the old extras, starting off with the “Inside Diamonds are Forever” special. The search for a new Bond is given some attention, along with the pitching to Connery for the role. The story’s rewrites are touched upon (Live and Let Die‘s Tom Mankiewicz pitched in for some work). Most of the surviving cast members contribute some recent interview footage as well, and the crew remembers some of the more memorable scenes in the film. Overall, it’s the usual making of look at the film, but not without a bunch of information.
“Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond” looks at the man behind the production of most of the films in the franchise. I was first expecting a 15-20 minute look at the man, but it’s a more much detailed look at his life from various friends ad family, along with several biographers who bring up some interesting details. In terms of length and detail, it’s not unlike the Ian Fleming biography that is on The Living Daylights disc, running a little over 40 minutes, and shows you everything you could want to know about the big-time movie guy. There are 6 deleted scenes that are pretty bland, save for one that features the man himself, Sammy Davis Jr. There are a couple of other scenes that are incomplete, but include a text or vocal introduction (by Wilson) to discuss the reason for excision. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section holds a teaser, trailer, 5 TV spots and 2 radio spots, and the “Image Database” section has yes, you guessed it, the stills galleries.
If there’s one thing people can agree on, it’s that Diamonds are Forever is easily categorized as “worst Bond film with Connery”. Definitely in the lower tier of Bond films, and the video and audio merits are OK, but not worth writing home about. Pass on this in Volume 1 of the R1 Bond sets (the only thing worth getting in that set is Goldfinger), and catch this maybe if a marathon is on or something.