In 1971 Sean Connery was coerced one last time (Never Say Never Again notwithstanding) into the role that made him rich, famous, and by this time, fat. Luckily, his added weight lends itself perfectly to Diamonds are Forever as a whole. It’s really an absurdist dark comedy, with the Tom Mankiewicz’s razor sharp dialogue the star of the show (“That’s a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing,” Connery flippantly deadpans at Jill St. John). In terms of plotting, it isn’t fantastic, moving from diamond smuggling to the classic “end of the world” SPECTRE plot without blinking an eye, with a villain who clones himself and dressed up in drag in tow.
Those that take Diamonds are Forever straight up have always bewildered me. Connery’s presence, as powerful as ever, brings that palpable sense of lurking danger to the film, but the events are always so absurd (punctuated by Mankiewicz’s wit) that it never so much as teases with a “thriller” label. It is comedy of the absurd; from 007 “making out” with himself to avoid detection, or falling directly onto a toilet during attempted covert infiltration, if one gag doesn’t hit you, the next will. As hilarious as it is (a highlight being a desert vehicle chase in which Bond flees in an outrageous moon buggy) there is a bizarre darkness blanketing the whole picture (such as the gleeful, menacing, eerie assassins Mr. Wint & Kidd) which gives it a nice, full, unique atmosphere. It might not thrill like From Russia With Love, but Diamonds remains consistently exciting, and Guy Hamilton the perfect director (his knack for the outlandish and bizarre stands unrivaled in the series to this day). Jill St. John, the main Bond girl of the picture, is great, bringing a lively, fiery punch, snapping off every line of Mankiewicz’s dialogue with full attitude and glee.
Although Diamonds does suffer from a fizzling third act (the explosive climax is poorly paced, wholly devoid of any thrills or excitement, and only watchable thanks to John Barry’s as-usual outstanding music) it still remains underrated in the 007 canon. There’s no denying it, this is outrageously campy stuff, but when it is this witty it hardly matters. Connery’s machismo charm and effortless delivery, along with the flashes of macabre darkness, ensure that touches of Ian Fleming’s influence are felt, but this is mostly silly, inconsequential, harmless fun. That said, the more modern 007 installments could learn a thing or two from the sheer sharpness of Diamonds are Forever. It’s the funniest entry in the franchise, with attitude and atmosphere to boot – underrated indeed.