The James Bond Turning Point
Cause for celebration during senior year was Sean Connery returning as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. Dog-like loyalty had inspired my boycott of On Her Majesty's Secret Service for its lacking the real 007, thus years' delay seeing this perhaps best of Bonds. Headed toward an end of high school, I wanted not for certain things to change, even as surely they would, both television and movie-wise. Connery Is Bond, said UA in 1967's You Only Live Twice publicity, making OHMSS all the more a violation of their aesthetic contract with fans (how many others ducked Lazenby in 1969?). Connery being back amounted to restoration of proper order and spiked interest in Diamonds Are Forever.
Our trip to Winston-Salem's opening day, six wedged in and me driving, was 1971 Christmas come early, the Thruway Theatre's holiday attraction held over into a next annum. Already at seventeen was I embarked on nostalgia trips like this and there'd be more at the Thruway two years later when Jack The Giant Killer turned up as a kiddie booking (me again the oldest kiddie there). Movie-going seemed so utterly changed between the mid-sixties and 1971. I'd begun to feel old seeing so much disappear. Double-features first, even at last-stand
Diamonds Are Forever recently streamed from Netflix. I watched for whatever memories it would bestir from Thruway's forty-year ago opening day. There's no calling this a best of Bonds, except among tastes running toward jokey installments to come. Of these, Diamonds earns laughs most honestly, but whose idea was it to make 007 a figure of fun? I guess 1971 was the point at which camp finally caught up with the series (in hindsight, you wonder why it didn't happen sooner). Certainly Diamonds' success indicated this as direction a public wanted to go. I read at the time how UA offered Connery the moon to come back, which raises another question I've still not got straight ... Was Lazenby fired or did he quit?
The seriousness of OHMSS's ending was not maintained for even a moment of Diamonds Are Forever. A recast Lazenby would've gone about the pre-credit search for Blofeld with far greater intensity than a disengaged Connery visibly aged since You Only Live Twice of four years back. There's a feeling throughout Diamonds of Connery being there purely for cash. He had tired of the part and made no secret of it. Too much compensation had gone to his jowls and midsection. The wit of SC's earlier Bond had become indifference. Still, we were happy to have him back because Connery was, if nothing else, a link to adolescent discovery of James Bond and the glimpse of grown-up-ness that afforded.
|Connery Getting Ready To Fall Asleep While Standing Up During Diamonds' Casino Sequence.|
What Diamonds Are Forever had was tempo. It's like serial chapters wired together and never mind coherence lacking. There must've been hard decisions made going into this one. Surely producers realized that, from here, we'd not take James Bond seriously again. Still, there are fun enough moments in Diamonds to forgive what we'd lose, sort of like eating out on a credit card you know is overdrawn. DAF seems closest to an imagined Bond picture Howard Hawks might have directed: Just give the audience good scenes and don't annoy them too much the rest of the time (if only he had been in charge here!).
There were grosses. Oodles of that. Diamonds was an early occasions I remember Variety talking about a monumental opening weekend. Playboy saluted Bond girl Lana Wood with an extravagant pictorial. She'd later slap-back the franchise writing of an off-set Connery canoodle ... He smelled like the bottom of a lion's cage! ... said Lana. It was tough regarding him the same after that. Someone else talked of SC wandering Vegas casinos during the shoot sans hairpiece and outer-wear appropriate to Bond. Handlers had to hustle him upstairs for a change to avert fan disillusionment (in fact, a lot of tourists didn't even recognize 007).