Mel and I have recently been discussing table names for our forthcoming wedding. I suggested we use Bond movie titles, and to my great surprise she agreed. We had seven tables to name.
“Nothing with ‘kill’ or ‘die’ in it,” was Mel’s immediate caveat.
I suggested Octopussy.
“Not a chance!”
We agreed to call our top table Diamonds Are Forever. Hopefully she will still like the idea after we watch the film….
I put the DVD in the player while Mel is making a cup of tea in the kitchen. I need to get past the clips on the menu, so she won’t see who is playing Bond.
The film opens with an unseen man beating people up until they tell him where Blofeld is.
Mel thinks she recognises his voice, “That’s Sean Connery’s voice… No, it isn’t…. is it?”
We finally see his face when he introduces himself to a bikini-clad woman.
“He came back?!”
SURPRISE! I say, with a big grin.
“How come he’s back?” Mel asks. “Because of laddo?”
I explain that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was perceived as a failure, so the producers were desperate to lure Connery back to the franchise. According to Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films by James Chapman (I.B. Tauris, 1999), “United Artists were worried about introducing a new leading man after the disappointment of OHMSS, and decided that Connery must be bought back, whatever the cost. United Artists president David Picker personally negotiated the one-picture contract that earned Connery a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the (then) highest paid actor in the world: a straight fee of $1.2 million (which Connery donated to his Scottish International Educational Trust charity), 10 per cent of the gross receipts, and an undertaking from United Artists to back two films of the actor’s choice.”
I ask Mel if she’s pleased to see him?
“Nope. He’s like a bad penny.”
I think he’s like a good penny. Not a shiny new penny, one that’s lost a little of its lustre over the years, but basically a good penny all the same.
Meanwhile, in a classic piece of ingenious improvisation, Bond has whipped the young lady’s bikini top off to throttle her with it to make her disclose Blofeld’s whereabouts.
“Even when he’s killing women he sexualises them!”
I know, I say, he should kill them in a nice way!
“Why does he have to take her top off?”
He doesn’t have any other weapons to hand.
But you complain when he hits women!
“No, he could have strangled her with his hands. Now that woman will be found topless and dead. Insult to injury.”
Well, I don’t think he kills her, because she must tell him Blofeld’s whereabouts.
“He sleeps with her then?”
It worries me that Mel thinks that these are the only two possible responses for Bond when he meets a woman.
The new-look Blofeld, played by Charles Gray, appears.
“How many faces has Blofeld got?”
As part of his plan to create decoy Blofelds, a man is lowered into a mud bath.
“At Stobo Castle [Mel’s hen party venue] you can get mud treatments like that.”
Bond dispatches Blofeld by drowning him in…
“Custard! Proper baked custard.”
The titles start up.
One of the women in the title sequence is wearing nothing but diamonds over her…
“Is that supposed to be funny? A pussy between a woman’s legs?”
I suggest that the this song has a feminist message.
Diamonds are forever,
Sparkling round my little finger.
Unlike men, the diamonds linger;
Men are mere mortals who
Are not worth going to your grave for.
“Yeah… but I think it emphasises the idea that woman are materialistic.”
Bond is briefed by M and Sir Donald. M tells his agent, “Refreshing to hear there’s one subject you’re not an expert on.”
“I like that!” She points at M and says, “I like your flavour! James Bond is such a know-it-all.”
Hitmen Wint and Kidd have killed two links in the diamond-smuggling chain. Wint says, “Curious how everyone who touches these diamonds seems to die.”
“That’s why they call them die-monds,” quips Mel.
Maybe she will like Roger Moore after all.
Mr Wint and Mr Kidd walk off hand-in-hand, and Mel decides she likes them. This seems to be because they are a couple in a relationship, and not bedding strangers like Mr Bond.
Even though they kill people with scorpions and blow up their helicopters?
“James Bond just killed a woman with her own bikini.”
M witheringly tells Bond, “We do function in your absence, Commander.”
“I love that he’s got James Bond’s card marked.”
Bond asks Moneypenny what he can bring her back from Holland.Moneypenny replies, “A diamond… In a ring? ”
Mel: “Don’t be needy.”
I ask Mel if she thinks it’s a bit insensitive of Miss Moneypenny to talk of engagement rings to Bond just after his wife Tracy has been killed.
“Yes. And nobody’s mentioned her. He’s over it already. It’s like Coronation Street. If I was Tracy’s father I’d be after him. He paid a million quid and James Bond got her killed straight away.”
I ask Mel if she thinks this one follows on from OHMSS?
“It must do, but you’d never tell.”
James Chapman makes a similar point in Licence to Thrill: “In narrative, as well as style, Diamonds Are Forever marks a complete change from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There are no references to the death of Bond’s wife… and no obvious burning desire for revenge on Bond’s part in his confrontation with Blofeld (Charles Gray). In the pre-title sequence Bond tracks down Blofeld and (apparently) kills him in a pit of burning sulphur, but even when Bond says, ‘Welcome to hell, Blofeld’, it is done with a self-satisfied smirk rather than vengeful relish. M reminds Bond curtly that Blofeld is dead and tells him ‘the least we can expect from you now is a little plain, solid work’. It is almost as if Diamonds Are Forever sets out to erase the memory of Lazenby and OHMSS, taking up the Bond story from the time when Connery left the series.”
Bond is undercover as the smuggler Peter Franks. He meets his contact, Miss Tiffany Case. Her hair colour changes as she swaps wigs, but Bond says he doesn’t mind, as long as the cuffs match the collars.
“What does that mean? He eyebrow colour?”
Mel gasps, “He meant pubes! He’s a filthy pig!”
The real Peter Franks escapes MI6 and goes to Tiffany’s house. Bond intercepts him in the lift, and Mel finds the claustrophobic fight quite brutal, especially when Franks brandishes a shard of broken glass. Luckily, 007 manages to get the better of him.
Bond tricks Tiffany into believing the corpse is James Bond, and flies the body to the USA, smuggling the diamonds in the alimentary canal. Wint and Kidd try to kill Bond by putting him in a coffin and sending it for cremation. Mel finds it really disturbing.
“This is really disturbing,” she says.
Afterwards Bond unwinds in his hotel suite, in a large, round bath.
“We’ve got a bath like that in our bridal suite! Only eleven weeks to go now!”
Bond meets a girl called Plenty O’Toole. She’s just ditched a man who lost all his money and latches onto 007, going back to his room after he wins on the craps table.
Mel is not impressed by her only being interested in men who are winning cash, “She just like a prostitute isn’t she?”
There are some hoods waiting for Bond in his room, and one of them throws poor Plenty out of the window and into the pool below.
“That was horrible. That is just how disposable women are in these films. Like a chewing gum wrapper. James Bond says, ‘Exceptionally fine shot’; not ‘Oh my God, you’ve literally thrown a woman out of a window, what the hell are you doing?!’ It’s not believable, why not just put her out of the door?”
Tiffany Case is awaiting Bond in the boudoir.
“Urggh, he’s got another one waiting. ‘You’ll do, Love. I don’t care who it’s attached to.’ That’s really chavvy. They don’t care who they sleep with either.”
“Minging… He’s got hair all over his arms.”
I suddenly remember that I picked up a little accoutrement to go with the film. Having started the tradition by having sushi with for You Only Live Twice, I tried to think of something American to suit the main setting for Diamonds Are Forever. There was really only one choice for me, and I present it to Mel with a flourish.
“What is it?” She asks.
Twinkies represent a certain cultural Americanness to me, having seen them since I was kid in Ghostbusters, Die Hard, The Simpsons etc, but they are not generally on sale in Great Britain. I bought one in a shop that sells American sweets (or ‘candies’ in the correct nomenclature).
We break the Twinkie in half and share it. Mel likes the mallow-y filling, but I find it’s something of an anti-climax after all these years. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about; Why is Tallahassee so obsessed with finding them in Zombieland? Hopefully when I eventually get to try corn dogs and grits they will live up to my expectations.
On the screen Tiffany has seduced Bond to try and get the diamonds.
“Do you think that’s rape?” Mel muses, “Because she thinks it’s someone else. We did an exam question at law school about this. There was a man who pretended to be his twin brother so he could sleep with his girlfriend.”
And what was the right answer?
“There is no right answer. It was a law question.”
Then how do you know if you passed the exam?
“What?! Are you joking?! Yes you are. You studied English. That annoyed me, Mark.”
Mel checks the Student Journal of Law and finds this section:
Section 76 spells out two circumstances where, once proved, it will be conclusively presumed that the complainant did not consent, and that the defendant did not reasonably believe the complainant consented. These are that:
(a)the defendant intentionally deceived the complainant as to the nature or purpose of the relevant act;
(b)the defendant intentionally induced the complainant to consent to the relevant act by impersonating a person known personally to the complainant.
We decide that Bond is not guilty of rape (this time), because Tiffany didn’t already personally know Peter Franks.
It doesn’t matter for much longer as Tiffany has figured out that the man she thought was Peter Franks is, in fact, James Bond.
Trying to get to Willard Whyte’s penthouse, Bond is nearly crushed as the lift he’s atop reaches the top floor.
“Stupid man… That was a lucky escape”
I agree it would have been an ignoble end to an illustrious career.
“As much as I hate him, you do watch him, whereas laddo was just… shit.”
Saying that Sean Connery is better than George Lazenby is damning with faint praise, but at least there’s some praise for the great man.
Mel is quite quiet, which usually means she’s quite enjoying a film. We learn that Blofeld, far from being dead has actually stolen Whyte’s identity. After a bit of capture and escape, Bond teams up with the CIA and Q.
“I love Q. He’s so nice. He’s a little geek.”
I’m little surprised to learn that Mel likes geeks, but I’m too busy scribbling notes for my James Bond blog to question it.
They go to rescue the real Willard Whyte from his own summerhouse.
“That looks like Iron Man’s house.”
Whyte is being guarded by Bambi and Thumper, two tough henchwomen. They kick and throw Bond around for a bit.
“These are some fierce women… they’re really beating him up.”
Mel seems to be enjoying the film even more now. She’s even laughing at some of the jokes.
As Bond and the Americans attack Blofeld’s oil rig HQ, Mel is quiet and enjoys the action-packed finale as the bad guys are defeated. She tuts with frustration when Tiffany switched the tape that Bond already switched.
With Blofeld defeated once more, and Bond takes Tiffany on a cruise ship back to the UK. But Wint and Kidd are also aboard. They pose as waiters to bring the couple room service, including a giant ersatz cake with a ticking bomb inside.
“Bomb Surprise! How uninspired…. You’d try that cake by dipping your finger in it.”
“Is he going to spot it’s wrong by the wine again?”
He kind of does, tricking Wint into revealing that he doesn’t know the wine is a claret. This is twice Bond’s life has been saved by his knowledge of wine. I would have to rely on Mel to save us if we’re ever in this kind of situation; I only know about films and stuff.
Mel then says something quite unexpected.
“That was the best one yet.”
“The story was good and it was fast-paced and funny.”
I tell her it’s my least favourite Connery Bond movie.
Because it’s a bit silly and, although it’s good to see Sean Connery back, he phones it in. I ask Mel if she’s pleased to see Connery back?
“Yes and no. I don’t like him, but he’s better than the other one. Is he in any more?”
I reply that, sadly, he never worked for EON again.
Mel Will Return… Watching Live and Let Die
Diamonds Are Forever trailer:
Order Diamonds Are Forever on DVD from Amazon:
Licence to Thrill: