Connery’s Bond is dead… long live Connery’s Bond! He’s back!

Eon hit home run after home run with Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. The role of Bond then went to George Lazenby when Connery walked away. Lazenby starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service . Once the Lazenby experiment failed due to questionable decision-making on his part, the machinations started between the studio and producers. The search was on for a new Bond, but the path of movies is never straightforward. Come with us now, as Stark and Wrenage journey through a turbulent period in 007 history. Things seemed somewhat calm with Diamonds Are Forever, but beneath the surface, things were more rough than they appeared.


Diamonds Are Forever – Behind The Scenes

Bond was potentially in trouble. The only actor who could fill the role, Sean Connery, was gone. His replacement, George Lazenby, had a very short stint as 007, then decided to be a hippy. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a hit but underperformed previous entries. Producers racked their brains. To keep the franchise alive, they turned to past successes. The initial goal of the post-Lazenby experiment was to recapture the magic of Goldfinger. First, Guy Hamilton was brought back. He had been away from James Bond long enough to bring a fresh viewpoint to the director chair. Next, Richard Maibaum wrote a script where the villain was Goldfinger’s twin brother, which sounds crazy enough to be interesting.

Opposing viewpoints arose. Due to the social upheaval of the times, some thought Bond’s country club values were passe. They also believed Bond should be Americanized. This idea went far enough along to a point where Adam West and Cubby Broccoli “had the conversation.”


Stanley Sopel, producer, also traveled to the US and tested multiple Bonds. Actor John Gavin (Psycho) was signed on for the role. A decision to film in Hollywood was made. Production Designer Ken Adam took stage space at Universal. At this point, Goldfinger’s brother was dropped. Broccoli had a dream about a doppelganger Howard Hughes, which led to the Willard Whyte character becoming part of the story.

Producers also wanted a young American screenwriter who understood British idiom to punch up the story. Tom Mankiewicz was brought onboard. Mankiewicz took zero convincing. He felt like a kid in a candy store to get to work on a Bond movie. He also got along great with Guy Hamilton.

Yet, things pivoted once more. First, the San Fernando earthquake spooked the Bond folks. Next, United Artists wanted Connery back. Broccoli and Saltzman were hesitant to beg a reluctant actor to return, however. Or maybe they didn’t like Connery’s price tag, which was rumored to be $2 million.


The Eady Levy ended up being the savior of the movie. Basically, for every penny a movie made, a slice was returned to the producers. Broccoli and Saltzman realized they could recoup Connery’s fee with the tax levy, so they pulled the trigger. Connery returned. Gavin departed and went on to become the US ambassador to Mexico. Broccoli still paid Gavin’s contract in full, however.

Part of Connery’s motivation was to use his salary to jumpstart a Scotting International Trust for artists. With what he was paid, Connery figured the trust would have so much money that it couldn’t fail. He also negotiated for the right to make two other pictures with United Artists. Only one was eventually made, however: The Offense.

Despite bad blood between Connery, Broccoli and Saltzman, Connery was a pro during filming. He even sat down and worked with Mankiewicz on the script. Mankiewicz said it was the least self-centered script meeting he ever had. Most of Connery’s notes were about dialogue for other characters.

Once Connery returned, that was the end of the American Bond, but Jill St. John came on board as the first American Bond girl. During filming, she formed an unlikely friendship with Charles Gray, who played Blofeld. They taught each other chess and bridge, badly. Maybe St. John had a thing for slightly burly, older gentlemen. She did have a dalliance with Henry Kissinger, after all, which we all learned from Futurama.

Lana Wood joined Diamonds Are Forever as a sub-Bond Girl. She came aboard via Mankiewicz’s recommendation. Wood was thrilled, as she read the Bond books as a teenager. She was less thrilled about her nude scene. She didn’t want to be on display in front of people. Everyone told her to relax. They would shoot the scene at night. Everyone would be in bed. That mollified Wood…until she realized no one in Vegas slept, and she ended up performing for a crowd of onlookers.

Ken Adam and the entire department actually lived around the pool, and Adam confirmed that no one went to bed. They worked all day and gambled all night. There were no clocks or windows in the casinos, so they simply lost track of the time.


For others, sleep might have been artificially-induced. Broccoli and his wife had their hotel room broken into and Barbara’s jewelry stolen. They never woke up during the crime. Jill St. John reported she had heard about thieves using chloroform to ensure sleeping victims stayed sleeping. Is that what happened? If so, it is a caper worthy of a Bond movie.

Singer and sausage king Jimmy Dean was chosen for Willard Whyte. Cubby saw Dean’s Vegas act and handpicked him for the role. Dean was initially nervous. It was plain to him that his character was based on Howard Hughes, and Dean was an employee at Hughes’s casino. Fortunately, Hughes was all for the Bond film. Producers sent him 16mm prints of all of the movies, so Hughes could watch them in his personal theater. When Guy Hamilton asked the city if he could shut down Vegas for five nights to film the car chase, word came down from Hughes’s penthouse that the Bond crew got anything they wanted.

Dean ended up enjoying his time working with Connery. Connery called him the “noisy American,” and the two often golfed together. It was basically in Connery’s contract that he got to play golf once a week. Dean said Connery gave him the best golf lessons he ever had.

Putter Smith (Mr. Kidd) was handpicked by Broccoli off the Vegas entertainment circuit, as well. Smith was a musician who worked with Sonny and Cher, Burt Bacharach, The Righteous Brothers, Thelonious Monk, and more. Since he was not an actor, he played himself in the role. It shows. Meanwhile, producers wanted someone like Peter Lorre for Mr. Wint. They got Crispin Glover’s father, Bruce, instead. Glover treated his relationship with Mr. Kidd like looking at the man was the most enjoyable experience he could have. He considered Mr. Kidd his toy and was very possessive of the man.

When it came to the homosexual duo’s assassination of the smuggling dentist at the beginning of the film, Mr. Wint originally jammed the scorpion into the dentist’s mouth. Censors deemed the scene too shocking, so they went with dropping the scorpion down the character’s shirt instead.

Wint and Kidd, as portrayed in the Fleming novel

Other issues production encountered included the stunt where Bond drives a car on two wheels. The gag was shot second unit. The original team of stunt drivers could not complete the sequence, so a French team was brought in to finish it. The problem was the car was shown entering the alley on two wheels, driver-side up. When the French completed the stunt, they did the trick driver-side down.

Editors immediately got their hearts stuck in their throat when they saw the footage. Their solution was to tilt the soundstage shot of Connery and Jill St. John, so it looked like the car somehow switched sides in the middle of the alley via the magic of editing.

The moon buggy was another vehicle that caused trouble for the film. Adam designed it with proper moon buggy tires, but the rough terrain kept snapping them off. You can even see one of the moon buggy tires rolling off by itself during a shot of a pursuing vehicle crashing.

Another minor issue happened during the pre-title. Mashed potatoes were used to fill the mud bath. It seemed like a good idea at first. The next day, everyone quickly realized it was, in fact, a terrible idea. The potatoes went bad, and their stench was reported to be “unbearable.”

During the oil rig finale, Guy Hamilton wanted to do one last dry run before setting off the explosions. The Assistant Director misunderstood him and set off the pyrotechnics. Suddenly, explosions lit the oil rig. Fortunately, the lead helicopter was on the ball and went into action. The shots it captured were actually used in the movie, so the premature detonations weren’t a total waste. Guy Hamilton was not happy, though. To his credit, he maintained the British stiff upper lip. When the assistant director profusely apologized, Hamilton met every comment with, “I’ll handle it.”

Handle it, they did. Diamonds Are Forever went on to be a success. It grossed $117 million on a $7 million budget. Whether or not that was deserved is open for debate…

Do You Expect Us To Talk?

Stark: I have told you my unified Bond theory, haven’t I? That Bond is like sex and pizza. Even when it’s bad, it is still pretty good and you are glad you had it. Well… Diamonds Are Forever is the movie that tests my unified Bond theory to the very limit. Yes, recoil in shock. Avert your eyes in horror. We are only seven movies into the series and we have reached my least favorite Bond movie. Yes, I said it. This is my least favorite of them all. A Connery movie is at the bottom of my list.

Wrenage: The best way to view Diamonds Are Forever is as a companion piece to The Man With The Golden Gun. Watch them as a double-feature and embrace the campiness. As On Her Majesty’s Secret Service seems the most 1960s Bond, Diamonds Are Forever seems the most 1970s Bond.

Stark: I see The Man With The Golden Gun and Live And Let Die as companion pieces. More on that, no doubt, in the next instalment. Diamonds Are Forever, for me, is all on its own, thank God.

Wrenage: The look of Diamonds Are Forever does not help. After the bang-up jobs Freddie Young did on You Only Live Twice and Michael Reed did on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever looks chintzy. Ted Moore was the same guy who did cinematography on Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball. They all look great. Maybe Moore experimented with different techniques on Diamonds Are Forever. It looks more like a television show than a movie.

Stark: You know why this is chintzy? Because ’70s Vegas was chintzy. Hell, ’70s America was chintzy. The most interesting locations of South Africa and Amsterdam were wasted. Instead, we spend the bulk of the movie from a decade that style forgot and in a city that never had any style to begin with. That awfulness and lack of taste permeate the entire movie with an unfortunate atmosphere that is very nearly death to a Bond movie. Bond movies have style; it’s what they do. Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t have style, and that is why it suffers. It is like the Kentucky scenes in Goldfinger. When you end up with strip malls and gas stations as backgrounds in a Bond movie, that’s just wrong.

Wrenage: By jove, I think you nailed it. The world of Diamonds Are Forever is empty deserts and a new city on the verge of development. Ted Moore probably went to bed crying every night for trying to put lipstick on a pig. Do British people have that saying? Or do they say something like, “Putting whore-paint on a porky, guv’nor?” See, Mankowicz isn’t the only American here that understands British idiom!

Ranking And Rating

Let’s get to the ratings and rankings. Wrenage and Stark will give their opinions on the Bondian elements found in Diamonds Are Forever and come up with a score and ranking to place this appropriately in our league table of all things Bond.


Stark: It’s weird to have Connery back and to see him so visibly aged, all greyed-up and bloated-out so much from his lasting outing, which was only three and a half years before. He’s still Connery, dammit, but something is missing. It’s not a certain sparkle, either. He’s still one charming motherfucker. It’s like his ruthlessness is gone. It’s the chintz, camp, and American-ness of the whole thing. It got to Connery too!

WrenageI daresay Lazenby does a better job in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service than Connery does in Diamonds Are Forever. Connery looks to phone it in for a paycheck. This performance makes one realize Connery stepping aside was a good thing for the franchise in the long run. Each new Bond brings a fresh era to the table. Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever is a bridge too far. His presence has clearly run its course.

Stark: Watching these movies again, in order, you realize the sheer athleticism of Lazenby in the role too. At the time, it was maybe great to have Connery back. In retrospect, viewed through the lens of time and re-runs… not so much!

Wrenage: Not only does Connery look older, it also appears he didn’t do much to get in shape. About the only time I buy him as Bond is when he climbs the hotel to Willard Whyte’s penthouse. Kicking the cat and shooting the wrong Blofeld is also nicely done. To be fair, Connery said he liked the script, but the Bond quips don’t help him this time around. The quips are too frequent, too cute and too overthought.

ACME pollution inspection…we’re cleaning up the world and thought this was a suitable starting point.

Who talks like that? Mankiewicz has some legendary credits, but he overdoes the yucks here.

Stark: This is a common mistake as we go deeper into the franchise. The yucks didn’t start with Moore, but people came on board thinking these gags are integral. They don’t realize that early Bond, as a character, used quips as something of a sardonic release. Diamonds Are Forever is when we really see the switch towards the quips being played purely for laughs.


Bond Girl

Stark: Tiffany Case is a great character in the book, a classic bird with a wing down that gets to Bond.  She is an attractive gang member who developed an antipathy towards men after being gang-raped as a teenager. The plot involves the mob, and SPECTRE is nowhere to be seen. This book occurs before Blofeld and his organization are introduced. Bond has not married yet. Jill St John is a great-looking woman, but her character in Diamonds Are Forever needs work.

Wrenage: Agreed, Jill St. John looks great. She has several outfits that look great. But that’s it. After multiple wonderful Bond girls, Tiffany Case is mostly ornamental. Her part feels like a fashion show for various outfits she bought while on holiday. She is in the movie because she smuggles diamonds. She is Bond’s door into the plot. After that, she merely hangs around. It’s almost a buddy picture. Bond and his redhead friend save the world.

Stark: She does provide a very nice place to hide a cassette tape though!

Wrenage: You see what’s happening, don’t you? The “cheekiness” of Diamonds Are Forever is infecting us! We are one step away from buying platform shoes with goldfish in them and putting wood-paneling on everything, even our newfangled Tupperware!

Stark: I can’t stick around here talking to you… I suddenly feel the urge to go and buy the world’s least comfortable bed!



Stark: Charles Gray as Blofeld…who thought that was a good idea, and why? The weird, unsettled nature of Pleasance and the cold menace of Savalas is replaced by a sneering, yet camp, upper-class Britishness. Blofeld should always be foreign. This is a part of Bond and the general distrust of these foreign Johnnies. Duplicitous, untrustworthy swine that they are…or were until they were colonized.

Wrenage: Seeing Charles Gray in drag doesn’t help. Talk about falling out of the ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down. Charles Gray in drag is like hitting the ground, climbing back up the ugly tree, and swan-diving off all over again.


Stark: Evil and villainy only have a British accent if it’s an American movie. These are the rules. This probably adds more weight to the theory that this is kinda the “American Bond”. The Americans need a bad guy with a British accent. It’s comforting to you guys. Luckily though, Blofeld has some help!

Wrenage: Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are good in concept, but hiring a non-actor with such an odd look for Mr. Kidd was probably a mistake. He is unique, I guess, but it is out-of-control campiness again. Bambi and Thumper also contribute to the problem. They are a fun idea, but the way Guy Hamilton has them prancing and posing is weird. They look like they came from the Batman TV show.

Stark: I agree. That fight is fun, but it also manages to encapsulate almost all of my problems with this movie in one scene, and that is before we even get to Bond’s pink tie.

Wrenage: Sharp-eyed viewers might also notice Sid Haig in the movie as a low-level goon.

Stark: I wasn’t surprised to find out how many of the supporting players were directly from the Vegas lounge act scene. That sort of cheesiness seeps through. What would we get if they made a Bond movie in Vegas today? Britney Spears in a cameo? Bond staying at the Wynn? Have you seen the new Mustang? It doesn’t bear thinking about.



Stark: I literally don’t even know what the plot of this one is. There isn’t any plot. There are diamonds and a space laser and a missing billionaire and then it’s all just thrown into a blender and somehow shit happens and stuff gets blown up. What was Blofeld’s goal? Why did he need Willard Whyte? Does it even have a plot?

WrenageWe get another space-based weapon. I don’t know how much of this plot is lifted from the book. Basically, Blofeld becomes Howard Hughes to use the Hughes empire to construct a space laser. Sure, why not? The movie has beaten me into submission.


Stark: In the book, it is the Mob and a routine diamond smuggling operation. Their diamond smuggling is hurting the price of diamonds and therefore British interested as the Brits owned the mines. That’s about it. No space lasers. No missing tycoon. Just Bond infiltrating the Mob and then killing lots of people, before he travels to Sierra Leone and shuts down the other end of the smuggling pipeline. It does feature Vegas though.

Wrenage: Another problem is that Bond never feels in danger. He is delivered out of bad situations too easily. He doesn’t get cremated because…the bad guys open the coffin. He is in a tunnel. Uh-oh! A weird machine spitting sparks is headed for him. What will he do? He will lay down on the machine and cross some wires. Oh… And how will Bond escape drowning by Bambi and Thumper? He stands up and drowns them instead. Okay…

Stark: That might be part of why people call Connery’s performance lazy, now that I think about it. The situations he finds himself in are lazy. He’s missing his ruthlessness because he doesn’t need it. As you say, we only really see him as Bond when he kicks the cat and assassinates faux-Blofeld.

Wrenage: Throw in all of Mankiewicz’s witticisms, and it becomes too much. About the only quip I enjoyed was the “Alimentary, Dr. Lechter” quip. Runner-up goes to “I didn’t know there was a pool down there,” though.

Stark: And the low-level mafia hood who returns in The Man With The Golden Gun as Scaramanga’s warm-up is there. In my head, it’s the same character too.

Action Sequences

Wrenage: The action is okay. The moon buggy chase is maybe the highlight. I wish they could have gotten three-wheelers bigger than tricycles, though. It looks comical to have grown men riding on what look like toys. Diamonds Are Forever is also where we get our first instance of dumb policemen chasing Bond. This gag would end up appearing in numerous Bond films throughout the 70s and 80s.

The car chase through the streets of Las Vegas is solid. The elevator fight is also fun. I wonder that was the first time that was done, where guys throw punches in an enclosed space and hit the wall. I’ve seen that in a few films since, like Unleashed with Jet Li. Meanwhile, the finale feels big and cramped at the same time. Helicopters attacking an oil rig are good spectacle, but when it gets to Bond running around on the oil rig, it feels listless.

Stark: An oil rig? A bloody oil rig? We go from a volcano lair and a mountaintop laboratory up an Alp to an oil rig? That, to me, kind of sums up this movie and feels like the whole thing just lacks ambition.


Pre-Title Sequence

Stark: The worst in the series. Studio-bound, and lazy. It feels like they had to do something to address the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but their hearts weren’t really in it.

Wrenage: The mud and lava looks like something out of Land of the Lost. The encounter with Blofeld is also a huge letdown after the ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The dude killed the love of Bond’s life, and now he is quipping?

Stark: What the hell does mud have to do with plastic surgery anyway?

Wrenage: I am having a hard time deciding which Hollywood starlet to roast in making a joke to answer this question. I think I will just refrain. Too easy…


Theme Song

Stark: “That Goldfinger movie got great reviews! Get us that broad who sang for that!” I can imagine the meeting.

Wrenage: The attempt to make Diamonds Are Forever like Goldfinger remains with Shirley Bassey returning for the theme song. It’s not a great song. It kind of meanders and doesn’t have a solid hook. Music in general is another strike against Diamonds Are Forever. John Barry was not on his A-game here. A lot of his score reminds me of a Pink Panther movie, especially the Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd theme. All of this amps up the camp.


Stark: Not just Vegas, but ’70s Vegas! It has as much X-Factor as… well, the X-Factor. It isn’t exotic or foreign. It’s just naff and cheap and was sleazy even then. At least we know one thing: the Americanization of Bond is a bad idea. Tried it, it was shit. Don’t ever try it again.

Wrenage: Connery returns. There is not a lot left for an X-Factor beyond that.

Stark: I get the impression we are both getting more and more bored with this movie the more we talk about it. Shall we get on to the scoring…

Scoring Breakdown

Stark Wrenage
Bond 4 5
Bond Girl 5 5
Villain 4 5
Plot 2 5
Action Sequences 5 7
Pre-Title Sequence 2 4
Theme Song 5 5
X-Factor 2 4
TOTAL 29 40


Stark: I feel I should point out these scores are in the context of Bond. So they are bad… for Bond. Back to my Bond = sex + pizza equation again! Connery gets 7 simply for being Sean-fucking-Connery back as James Bond. Then he loses a point for showing up out of shape, a point for being uninteresting, and another for not really being Bond at all. It’s the same sort of story all the way down the list of scores.


Wrenage: I use a slightly different logic in my scoring. Ergo, my scores are higher, but it will all even out in the averages over time, especially when combined with your scores. Regardless of how we get there, we reach the same conclusion: Diamonds Are Forever is not a good Bond film. I will still watch it, enjoy it and defend it, because I am a Bond fan, but it is clunky. It is not my least favorite, though. It at least knows it’s a joke. Some later entries take themselves a smidge too seriously.

Stark: It is my least favorite. It’s an insult to Bond. There are some other clunkers in the series, but they were still really trying. They still put it all on screen. I don’t like this one because it all just feels so damn lazy.

Wrenage: I wonder if everyone involved with the movie went to Vegas, partied it up and made the movie in between hangovers and lamenting gambling losses instead of giving the film their complete attention. What happens in Vegas should have stayed in Vegas when it comes to Diamonds Are Forever.

Stark: It seems to be some sort of overreaction, an overcorrection, to the hard Fleming, emotional On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However, look at what else was happening in cinema around it? That year heralded Dirty Harry, A Clockwork Orange, Play Misty For Me, and The French Connection. Something was happening in cinema. In the 60s Bond was it. There was nothing else like him out there. In this decade the world began to change, and Bond almost moved in the opposite direction. As the mood in cinema embraced the darkness, Bond went looking for the light.

Overall Rankings

First Tier:

From Russia With Love (61.5)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (61)
Goldfinger (54.5)
Thunderball (53)
You Only Live Twice (51.5)

Second Tier:

Dr. No (49.5)
Diamonds Are Forever (34.5)

Third Tier:


Fourth Tier:


That’s A Wrap

Stark: Thank God that’s over. Onwards and upwards, eh? After all, what could they possibly do wrong after this? I mean, it’s not like they will keep elements of the camp tone and try and make a Blaxploitation movie in the Bond universe. I mean, surely nobody would do anything like that, right? Right?

Wrenage: You shut your whore-painted mouth!

Stark: Come on Wrenage. It’s time to go to Harlem and fire up the Paul McCartney!


Next time, Stark and Wrenage tackle the ’70s even further as Bond enters his flares era and Sir Roger Of Moore enters the fray. It’s time for Live And Let Die.

Check back every day for movie news and reviews at the Last Movie Outpost


Check back every day for movie news and reviews at the Last Movie Outpost