THE BOOK

Author: Ian Fleming

Date: 1956

THE PLOT

M assigns James Bond to infiltrate a diamond-smuggling operation, as it largely takes place on British territory, and is a danger to Britain's economy. Bond takes on the identity of Peter Franks, a new hire in the smuggling operation, whom Special Branch quietly arrests.

Bond, as Franks, tracks the pipeline forward from London to New York City to Las Vegas and backward to Sierra Leone. In the course he finds "the Spangled mob," led by American gangsters Serrafimo and Jack Spang, who run the smuggling pipeline. In London he meets Jack Spang, who goes by another name as a VP at "The Diamond House," but Bond doesn't discover his true identity until much later.

Disguised as Franks, Bond meets Tiffany Case at her London flat, an attractive woman who is nevertheless standoffish due to teenage sexual trauma. She takes orders from someone called "ABC" on the phone, who is also Jack Spang, though neither know it yet. She arranges the smuggling operation, and guards Bond on his trip to New York. She is also, it turns out, a dealer in Vegas for the Spangs. The readers (but not Bond and Case) learn both are watched on the plane to New York by Spangled gang members Wint and Kidd, torpedoes from Detroit who really enjoy their work.

Bond meets "Shady" Tree, the NYC boss for the Spangs. Tree is supposed to pay Bond $5,000 for smuggling the diamonds from London to NYC, but to launder the money, gives him $1,000 as a stake to "win" the rest at a fixed horse race in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Bond runs into Felix Leiter in NYC, now with the Pinkertons after his injuries in Live and Let Die, and discover they are both working the horse-racing fix in Saratoga Springs from opposite directions. Leiter's plan to cost the Spangs millions succeeds, but involves Bond paying off a jockey at the mud baths. Wint and Kidd (in black hoods) assault the jockey with boiling mud while Bond is helpless to stop them in his mud "casket."

"Franks" tells Tree he still wants his money, and he is directed to Vegas, where he "wins" his payoff at a blackjack table where Tiffany is the dealer. Bond's cover is blown (partly through his own efforts). He is kidnapped by Seraffimo Spang, who has his men beat Bond close to death on a mint 1880s train in a refurbished ghost town. He is rescued by Case, Seraffimo pursues, and Bond kills Seraffimo. Both are then rescued by Leiter.

Bond heads home on the Queen Elizabeth, where he and Case admit their feelings for each other. They (obliquely) discuss marriage and have sex. Afterward, Bond discovers Wint and Kidd are also aboard, and have kidnapped Case. He climbs down a rope made from bedsheets to their stateroom porthole, swings in and kills them both.

In the final chapter, Bond travels to Sierra Leone where he and some Army chaps surveil the dentist at his rendezvous. Jack Spang himself arrives on the helicopter — it's implied he killed the regular pilot — and kills the dentist. The smuggling racket is bust, and Spang is covering his tracks. Bond calls for Spang to surrender, but he tries to escape on the helicopter. Bond reluctantly shoots him down.

We are told that this ties up the last end of the diamond smuggling ring, as all the principals are dead and most of the Spangled Gang have been rounded up.

Random Bullets:

In the first chapter, when we meet the Sierra Leone dentist who is smuggling diamonds out, we are given the unnecessary information that his cover story is sex with a black woman who wants his "fine white body" once a month. Ick, on so many levels.

This assignment seems to support the theory on this board that Bond isn't a spy or secret agent at all, but instead a sort of policeman who fights crime abroad instead of at home. He does, in fact, tell Tiffany Case that he is a "civil servant," although that's probably meant as a joke.

There is no reason for "Shady" Tree to be a hunchback, but he is. I guess to make him memorable? But it's weird, especially since he disappears from the narrative quickly.

The rigamarole of Bond having to win his payoff is a bit silly. Mob people pay people off in cash all the time. And if "Shady" Tree is going to give him $1,000, why make him "win" the other $4,000? Just give him the lot and be done with it. Whatever excuse Bond's going to use for the $1,000 (if he's picked up by the cops) would work, or not work, identically for $5,000.

Also, someone as high up in the organization as Tree would pay off Bond with a cut-out.

Leiter and Bond bumping into each in New York is such a wild coincidence it's almost farcical. For one thing, Leiter's assignment is in Sarasota Springs.

Bond agreeing to play bagman for Leiter is a stretch. And when part of that agreement is Bond being bound up in a box full of hot mud where he is helpless, I simply can't believe it. Nobody, agent or not, would agree to that as part of a mission or as a favor to a friend.

Leiter could have paid off the jockey some other way, or with some other cut-out, or he could have done it himself. But that would require following Leiter for a chapter, and it occurs to me that the books never do that. The narrative follows Bond, and only Bond, and if someone else experiences something important where Bond's not present, he is simply told about it (with us listening in) later. Or, as sometimes occurs, Bond imagines what happened in his mind's eye.

This is the second book where Bond/Fleming muses that Americans have to deal with race issues right away in school, while Brits can ... what, ignore them until adulthood? Ignore them altogether? I don't want to follow this thought any further.

TIffany Case has a flat in London, but works as a dealer in Las Vegas. She must smuggle a LOT of diamonds to justify going back and forth. Given that her boss is the same in both jobs, I suppose they arrange her schedule to suit. Still, heckuva commute.

Tree tells Bond specifically, and more than once, not to gamble in Vegas after "winning" his payoff at the blackjack table (where Bond is impressed with Case's card-sharking). But he does so anyway, winning big at roulette, because he is tired of being a passive participant, and being ordered around by people he doesn't respect. This draws Seraffimo Spang's attention, who has Bond kidnapped. It is soon after Bond is snatched that Spang gets word from London from his brother that the real Franks has been arrested and violence ensues. But if Bond hadn't already been kidnapped, he'd have had a fighting chance against Spang's gunmen. This act is gobsmackingly reckless.

If people could win at roulette as easily as Bond does, casinos would go out of business. And why is he a civil servant instead of a professional gambler?

I think Fleming was trying to flesh out Tiffany Case like he did Gala Brand, which I applaud. Unfortunately, he still doesn't seem to have any idea how women actually talk. And she ran so hot and cold I nearly got whiplash from watching her alternate between kissing Bond and snarling at him, both in the same scene. I get it — he's trying to show that she's tough, independent and not to be trifled with. He's just not good enough a writer to pull that off. Fortunately her actions told us more about her than her dialogue. She showed plenty of agency and saved Bond's life at least once.

Seraffimo Spang's refurbished ghost town is called Spectreville, after the nearby Spectre Mountains. Of course, it's the Specter Mountains, because this is America. As my wife keeps saying, "These books could really have used a good editor." I guess Fleming likes the word "Spectre," because I know from the movies it comes up again.

I'm going to forgive Bond (on his last legs) and Case being found by Leiter on a Nevada highway and whisked away for medical help. I'm sure Fleming had absolutely no idea how big Nevada is, and how preposterous it is to find a couple of pedestrians by driving randomly on the network of highways that cross the Nevada desert. Let's just call that one "luck."

Every time Bond has sex with Vesper Lynd, he retired to his own room afterward. In this book, Tiffany Case retires to her own room after sex in Bond's. (Solitaire and Bond don't separate after sex, but they are on a train and nobody has a separate room.) Is this a thing in England? Or is just narratively useful?

The "my darlings" were broken out again in this book, but surprisingly, Bond was really into it. They were metaphorically discussing marriage before the kidnapping. This is new!

Bond shows reluctance to kill Spang, and remorse for all the bodies he's left behind him on this case. If I didn't know there were 10 more books to go, I'd say he was considering retirement, along with marriage to Case.

THE MOVIE

Date: 1971

Director: Guy Hamilton

Screenwriters: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz

Starring: Sean Connery (James Bond), Jill St. John (Tiffany Case), Blofeld (Charles Gray), Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood), Jimmy Dean (Willard Whyte), Bruce Glover (Mr. Wint), Putter Smith (Mr. Kidd), Norman Burton (Felix Leiter), Bruce Cabot, (Albert R. Saxby), Joseph Fürst (Dr. Metz), Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Leonard Barr (Shady Tree), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny),

"This is such a great movie!" — Joan Carr, January 2023

THE PLOT

A prologue shows James Bond (Sean Connery) infiltrating a facility dedicated to transforming henchmen into lookalikes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray). Bond kills a lookalike and then Blofeld (or so he thinks).

When he returns to London, M (Bernard Lee) assigns Bond to the diamond-smuggling case seen in the book. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) have killed the African dentist and the helicopter pilot, and these deaths lead M to believe (somehow) that someone intends to dump diamonds and depress the market, or hold the market to ransom by threatening to do so.

WInt and Kidd are shown taking the diamonds they got from the helicopter to the next link, a first-grade teacher in South Africa named Mrs. Whistler (Margaret Lacy).

Back in London, known smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson) is arrested at Heathrow and Bond takes his place. Bond flies to Amsterdam, where he sees Mrs. Whistler pulled from a river, another victim of Wint and Kidd (unbeknownst to Bond). Presumably Mrs. Whistler had already succeeded in giving the diamonds to the next link, Tiffany Case. Bond, as Franks, meets Tiffany (Jill St. John) at her Amsterdam apartment, where they flirt, make plans and he leaves.

The real Franks escapes Special Branch custody. Alerted, Bond catches up to Franks just as he's arriving at Case's apartment, and kills him. Bond and Case fly to Los Angeles with the diamonds hidden in Franks' body, where Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) awaits, disguised as a customs agent, to wave them and the coffin through.

Bond is picked up by thugs, who take him to a funeral home that is a front for the mob, and he gives the diamonds to "Shady" Tree (Leonard Barr), a Vegas comic and diamond smuggler. Wint and Kidd show up and try to assassinate Bond, but he is rescued by Tree, who has discovered the diamonds Bond gave them are paste (Bond and Felix switched them), and he wants the real ones.

Bond goes to the Whyte House in Vegas, a casino owned by reclusive multi-millionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), where Tree and Case both work. Wint and Kidd have already been there, and Tree is dead. (His actual murder is a cut scene.)

Bond and Case hook up, and she is told to get the diamonds from the Circus Circus casino (concealed in a teddy bear). She changes her mind and sends them on to the Whyte House manager, Bert Saxby (Bruce Cabot). She changes her mind again and helps Bond follow the diamonds to a laboratory run by Dr. Metz (Joseph Fürst) who is using the diamonds to power a satellite laser. Bond is uncovered and he escapes in a moon buggy used to train future astronauts.

Bond rides an outside elevator to near the top of the Whyte House (on top of it, rather than inside), and climbs the rest of the way. He is captured, and discovers the still-alive Blofeld has been impersonating Whyte and using his resources. He kills a fake Blofeld, but then is gassed and put inside an oil pipeline under construction by Wint and Kidd.

Bond escapes, and he, Q and Leiter trick Saxby into revealing where Whyte is being held. They also raid Metz's lab and discover that Blofeld has built and launched a satellite with a powerful laser that he uses to blow up a Soviet nuclear submarine and nuclear missiles in both the U.S. and China. He makes demands of the world's governments and sets a deadline.

Whyte identifies an oil platform off Baja California that he doesn't own, and Bond goes in alone. Tiffany is there, apparently having switched sides again. Bond tries to sabotage the satellite controls surreptitiously and succeeds. But Tiffany, showing her true colors, tries to do the same and accidentally reverses Bond's sabotage.

U.S. Army helicopters (under Leiter's command, somehow) attack the platform. Bond and Case escape in the confusion, but not before Bond kills Blofeld (again).

Bond and Tiffany then head for Britain on a cruise ship, where Wint and Kidd pose as room service and attempt to kill them. Bond kills them instead.

Plot Differences

Where to begin? It's like Eon Productions took a lot of the elements of the book and put them in a blender.

The book begins with a description of a scorpion killing a beetle, and being killed in turn by a rock wielded by the dentist-turned-smuggler. In the movie, Wint and Kidd drop a scorpion down the back of that dentist, killing him.

In the book, a jockey is scalded with hot mud, almost killing him. In the book, Bond dispatches one of Blofeld's decoys in hot mud.

In the book, Bond's "Peter Franks" cover is blown when ABC sends a message to Seraffima Spang that Franks has been arrested in London. In the movie, Franks is arrested at the airport, but escapes, which threatens to blow Bond's cover.

In the book, Bond provokes the Spangled mob by playing roulette against orders. In the movie, he plays craps with demonstrable facility, impressing Plenty O'Toole.

In the movie, Wint and Kidd blow up the helicopter with a German pilot in Africa. In the book, it's Bond, and the smuggler is the big man, ABC.

In the movie, Bond climbs into Willard Whyte's penthouse by daringly "mountaineering" up the building. In the book, Bond gets into Wint and Kidd's stateroom by daringly mountaineering down the side of the Queen Elizabeth.

Also:

Early in the book, M says, "Most of what we call 'gem' diamonds in the world are mined on British territory and ... 90 percent of all diamond sales are carried out in London." That was true in 1956, but not in 1971. So why the diamond-smuggling ring is a problem for the British Secret Service isn't really explained.

This is much like Live and Let Die, where Jamaica was a British colony when the book was written in 1954, but was independent when the  movie came out in 1973. So the movie had to invent reasons for Bond to have an adventure that took place entirely in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The book focuses on the diamond smuggling start to finish, but in the movie it leads Bond to Blofeld's true scheme, holding the world's governments to ransom using a diamond-powered satellite laser. I guess the producers didn't think smuggling was exciting enough. But that means all scenes not connected to the smuggling operation are invented for the movie. That includes all the Blofeld scenes, all the Whyte House scenes, all the Circus Circus scenes, Metz's lab, the Las Vegas car chase, the moon buggy chase, anything involving Willard Whyte and the climactic battle on an oil rig.

It also includes Wint and Kidd killing everyone in the smuggling pipeline. In the book they were killers working for the Spangs, but they weren't killing the people in their own network! In the movie they are killing everyone in the network, which I read somewhere was because Blofeld thought it was drawing too much law-enforcement attention and he had all the diamonds he needed. I don't believe the movie ever makes that clear — 13-year-old me thought Blofeld and the smugglers were rival criminal gangs.

The non-Regency's Park London scenes in the book are omitted in the movie, in favor of scenes set in Amsterdam. The New York scenes are omitted as well, transplanted where necessary to Amsterdam, Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

Tiffany Case has another long international commute, this one from Amsterdam to Las Vegas.

Action scenes

Earlier movies had more memorable action scenes, but this movie had some good ones.

The Las Vegas car chase was well done, especially when you consider it was entirely practical effects. Some like to point out that Bond drove his car into the alley on the two left wheels and came out of the alley on his two right wheels. I don't really care, as the whole scene was implausible. Why couldn't he have switched to the other wheels?

My wife said nobody could drive on two wheels like that, and I pointed out that it was a practical effect, which meant somebody actually did it. But it no doubt took days of set-up, practice, logistics and more, so it's laughable that Bond could do it on the fly. So, again, if he can do the impossible on the left two wheels, I can swallow that he miraculously switches and does the same on the right ones.

The oil platform scenes were good, too. Tiffany Case vibrating herself into the water by trying to shoot a machine gun made me laugh out loud twice, 50 years apart.

It must be noted that this scene had its problems, too.

For one thing, the helicopters didn't need to put themselves in danger; they could have hovered out of range and used missiles. Ah, but it's a movie and we need helicopters to blow up.

Also there's no reason for Bond to go in alone. The military could have blown up the platform without him being involved at all, and given the gravity of the situation, should have. They don't even have to use those flimsy helicopters; it was said earlier in the film that two submarines were lurking near the base, and bombers could have taken it out rather easily.

Ah, well. We needed Bond to have a piece of the action, didn't we? And subs and bombers wouldn't have blown up as spectacularly as those choppers.

The battle with Bambi and Thumper was ... weird. Why did Whyte have bikini-earing gymnasts as bodyguards? Were they supposed to be gay, as to be a lesbian counterpart to Wint and Kidd? Was it empowering or demeaning for women?  I'm not sure what that scene was supposed to convey. Maybe nothing.

Once again I have to point out that Bond didn't need to go in alone. The CIA could have just stormed the place (which they eventually did) and Bambi and Thumper would have been irrelevant. But it's a Bond movie, so Bond has to do something.

The final scene with Wint and Kidd was excellent. The buildup had been the whole movie, and the ways they were trying to dispatch Bond inventive. His turning-the-tables seemed plausible enough, especially by recognizing Wint's aftershave, which was set up in the oil pipeline scene with Bond talking to a mouse ("One of us smells like a tart's handkerchief. I think it's me. Sorry, old boy."). It was satisfying to see them get their, uh, just desserts.

The books also had action scenes that didn't quite live up to their predecessors, but were pretty good.

The mud-baths scene was chilling, although it took a lot of writers' fiat to set up.

And the final standoff with Wint and Kidd wasn't as good as the movie, but it was riveting in a low-tech kind of way. That's actually what I enjoy most in Bond books, when the hero uses the tools of the time in practical but inventive ways to achieve his goal.

Sleight of Hand

This is an important element of tradecraft with this Bond, which stands to reason, given he's a card shark. Bond's acts of legerdermain in the movie include:

  • Getting into Tiffany's apartment building with Peter Franks, by holding a random key up to the lock just as Tiffany unlocks it, as if he lived there;
  • Getting into Blofeld's HQ from the parking garage by pretending to swipe a card key with an empty hand, but using his hand and 6-foot-2 frame as cover;
  • Swapping his wallet with that of Franks, to fool Tiffany into thinking the dead man is Bond;
  • Sneaking into the back of Dr. Metz's minibus, while using Tiffany as a distraction; and
  • Swapping out the cassette tape that controls the satellite.

Moore's Bond doesn't seem this good at being sneaky.

The dialogue

This is worth mention, because Diamonds Are Forever made my wife and I laugh out loud multiple times. Since one of the screenwriters (Mankiewicz) is the same one who puts all those terrible sex puns in Roger Moore's mouth, it stands to reason that it's not the writing, but the delivery that makes the jokes work. Connery's deadpan delivery and Scottish burr land every one-liner perfectly. And he's not the only one — several characters land some good lines.

Some examples:

     Bond (pretending to be German in an elevator): "You are English? I speak English! Who is your floor?"

***

     Felix Leiter: I give up. I know the diamonds are in the body, but where?

     James Bond: Alimentary, Dr. Leiter.

***

     Plenty O'Toole: Hi, I'm Plenty.

     James Bond: But of course you are.

     Plenty O'Toole: Plenty O'Toole.

     James Bond: Named after your father, perhaps?

***

     James Bond: I tend to notice little things like that — whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette.

     Tiffany Case: Which do you prefer?

     James Bond: Well, as long as the collar and cuffs match ...

     Tiffany Case: We'll talk about that later.

(I confess I did not understand this joke at 13.)

***

     Mr. Wint: ... And for dessert, the pièce de résistance, La Bombe Surprise (which is an inside joke because it's a cake with a time bomb in it).

     Tiffany Case: Mmm! That's looks fantastic. What's in it?

     Mr. Wint: Ah, but then there would be no surprise, Madame.

***

     Blofeld: Tiffany, my dear. We're showing a bit more cheek than usual, aren't we?

     [Tiffany takes the cassette out from her bikini bottom and hands it to Blofeld]

     Blofeld: [to the guards] Take her below and lock her up with Mr. Bond.

     [the guards take her to a cell]

     Blofeld: What a pity, such nice cheeks too. If only they were brains.

***

     Bond: It's Saxby.

    Whyte: Bert Saxby?

     [The CIA kill Saxby]

    Whyte: Tell him he's fired!

    [Bond gives Whyte a priceless look.]

 

THE PLAYERS

James Bond: After two Roger Moore movies, Connery was a breath of fresh air. Not only can he deliver comedy lines better than Moore, not only does he flirt better than Moore, but when he moves, he moves like an athlete. Plus, his default expression looks like he's mad and someone's gonna get it. (Moore's default expression is "smirking.")

Both book and movie have Bond basically acting like a cop, infiltrating a diamond-smuggling ring to stop it (and in the movie, find out where the diamonds are going). Movie M calls this assignment "good, solid work" to the returning-from-vacation Bond. Movie Tiffany Case knows James Bond's name (although apparently not what he looks like). This all supports the "civil servant vs. secret agent" theory on this board.

Tiffany Case: Movie Tiffany is much like Print Tiffany: Tough, greedy and sympathetic in equal measures. She's also described as very attractive, which the movie producers spectacularly fulfilled with 30-year-old Jill St. John, who appears in a bikini for the entire third act. Personal note: Jill St. John is about all 13-year-old me remembered about this movie, as his brain basically stopped working the first time Ms. St. John appeared on the big screen at her Amsterdam apartment (in bra and panties).

In the book, Tiffany gets her name because her father wanted a boy, and when she came out a girl, he gave the mother a Tiffany case before abandoning the family. In the movie, Tiffany gets her name because her mother gives birth in the Tiffany showroom while shopping for an engagement ring (giving Bond the chance to quip that she's lucky her mother didn't shop at some other diamond store whose name I didn't quite catch, but it's long and complicated).

In the book, Tiffany's brusque manner and toughness are the result of a hard life, beginning with being gang-raped in her mother's brothel as a teenager. There's not much mention of Tiffany's background in the movie, but one must assume she didn't have an easy life.

M: The immortal Bernard Lee. "We do function without you, 007." He isn't as caustic in the books. But then, in the books Bond seems to adore him.

Miss Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell almost didn't appear in this movie, as contract negotiations with Eon weren't working out. But a breakthrough allowed Miss Moneypenny to appear, albeit briefly at Heathrow disguised as a flight attendant. She is more forlorn than usual, asking Bond to bring an engagement ring back from Amsterdam, but will settle for a tulip.

In the book, of course, she has "warm eyes" and is "desirable."

Felix Leiter: Norman Burton's CIA agent Felix Leiter is boring and absolutely forgettable. Not that he has a lot to do; the character functions almost entirely as support for Bond.

In the book, Leiter has more agency. He works with Bond on the Saratoga Springs case, and is instrumental in saving Bond and Case later.

Q: Desmond Llewelyn delivers his usual delightful performance. It's fun to see him in Vegas, more interested in how well his device works on the slot machines than either the money or Tiffany Case's considerable charms. He also replicates Blofeld's voice-faking machine on the fly. "I made one for the kids at Christmas."

"Q branch" gets referenced in the books, but I don't think a character of that name has appeared yet.

"Shady" Tree:  He's an old vaudeville-style stand-up comedian, who looks a bit like Jimmy Durante. The name of his act — "Shady" Tree and his acorns — is supposed to be a phallic joke, but it's not a very good one.

In the book he's the Spang organization's New York boss, and a ginger hunchback as well.

The African dentist: Did we ever get a name for this character in either book or movie? A James Bond wiki  tells me he's Dr. Tynan, but I don't know if that's canon.

In the movie, he is the first person we see killed by Wint and Kidd, who drop a scorpion down the back of his shirt. He dies instantly. (It should be noted that most scorpion stings aren't fatal. Nor are they instantaneous.)

In the book he is killed by Jack Spang, for the same reasons as in the movie: To cover up the gang leader's tracks. (Blofeld in the movie, Spang in the book.)

Ernst Stavro Blofeld: While only appearing in three Fleming Novels (Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice), Blofeld was all over the movie franchise. By the release of Diamonds are Forever, he had already appeared in four Bond movies (From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service), had been played by Donald Pleasence,Telly Savalas and two unidentified men (one with a full head of hair) and been killed a couple of times. This movie introduces the idea that Blofeld has numerous Life Model Decoys duplicates, henchmen who undergo plastic surgery to look just like him. That helped the Li'l Capn, who was a comic book fan and therefore a continuity purist, put aside all the Blofeld contradictions (including being played by a fifth actor here, Charles Gray).

Wiki helpfully informs me that yet another Blofeld appears, and dies, at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only, played by John Hollis. D'oh!

Also, it should be noted that Blofeld's laser wouldn't work, because a laser would be refracted in Earth's atmosphere and not have the desired effect. The laser certainly wouldn't reach a submarine, as water refracts light even more than air.

Also, many lasers are red because light is amplified through a ruby. Blofeld's laser, amplified through blue-white diamonds, would have a blue-white color. Science!

All that being said, Gray gives us a good megalomaniac, and colors within the lines of the other versions: thirsting for world domination; affecting a sophisticated air, until his plans are foiled, resulting in immature temper tantrums; stroking a white cat; and never killing Bond outright. When people joke that action movie heroes are always strapped into elaborate death traps instead of just being shot, I believe it is Blofeld (or maybe Ian Fleming) we have to thank for the trope.

Blofeld does not appear in the book.

Plenty O'Toole: This is a basically a gag character, a big-busted opportunist at the casino who latches on to wealthy men in a low-cut top. She is thrown into a swimming pool in the first act, and is shown dead in one in the second.

A cut scene explains how Plenty O'Toole found Tiffany Case's house in Las Vegas: She returns from being thrown in the hotel pool to find Bond and Case in the sack, and quietly rifles through Case's purse, where she finds the address. So she gets to the house first, and is murdered by Wint and Kidd (unseen), who think she is Tiffany.

But I can't find any explanation for how Bond finds Tiffany's house, when more than 30 CIA agents can't track her down. When Tiffany arrives, she complains to Bond that he left her "freezing my butt off for more than two hours at a blackjack table." I have no idea what that means. I feel like I missed some dialogue or a scene where Bond and Case arranged a rendezvous that didn't work out, and a backup rendezvous at the house where Plenty is murdered. Anybody know? Or must we assume pillow talk?

"What's my black wig doing in the pool?" Ouch.

I didn't catch on when I watched the movie in 1971 that the dead girl in Tiffany's pool was Plenty. I realized it on this watch. (Bond confirms, but I couldn't understand his Scottish burr in 1971. Also, my Blu-ray has closed-caption!)

Anyway, as an adult Plenty's fate made me plenty sad. Plenty didn't seem like a bad sort, just one making the most of her assets, which our society frowns upon unfairly. She didn't deserve to die simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with no idea why she was being murdered. Did she have family? Is anyone wondering where she is? Or is she just another Jane Doe in the morgue?

But I will note that this time I watched the movie, the elaborately cruel method of execution said "Wint and Kidd" to me right away.

Plenty O'Toole has no book equivalent.

White cat: Amusingly, Blofeld not only has duplicate decoys of himself, but also has duplicates of his unnamed white cat, which all movie Blofelds seem to have. It took me a minute to realize that when Bond kicked the cat, he was not kicking it at the Blofeld on the couch (which is how it looked), but was kicking it to see which master it would run to, which would be the real Blofeld, and Bond would know which one to kill. The cat ran to Couch Blofeld, so Bond used his one trick -- his divot gun -- to kill that one. Turns out that was a decoy Blofeld, and that was the decoy's decoy cat, which is why it ran to him. That's why when the real cat comes out and goes to Desk Blofeld, Bond remarks, "Wrong pussy."

White cat has no book equivalent.

Willard Whyte: Played with over-the-top Texan gusto by Jimmy Dean (of Jimmy Dean's sausages), Whyte is a reclusive millionaire with his hands in a lot of industries, who never leaves his Las Vegas penthouse. It seems obvious Whyte is based on Texan and Las Vegas recluse Howard Hughes.

Willard Whyte has no book equivalent.

Bert Saxby: The manager of the Whyte House, he is a chief henchman for Blofeld. He doesn't really do a whole lot, functioning mostly as an exposition machine. His attack on the CIA at the end was spectacularly useless and ended anticlimactically.

Bert Saxby has no book equivalent.

Dr. Metz: Your standard mad scientist with a European accent. A stock character who is casually dismissed by Blofeld at the beginning of the third act and never seen again.

Dr. Metz has no book equivalent.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell

  • The Pinkertons, an 1850s security firm that gained fame for foiling the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, is now owned by Securitas AB, a security services group based in Stockholm, Sweden. I had to look it up, because I wasn't sure if it still existed.
  • Jill St. John is the first American "Bond girl" in the series.
  • Plenty O'Toole is played by Lana Wood, Natalie Wood's sister. Wood and St. John have a lifelong dislike for each other, due to both dating Sean Connery at the same time on the set of Diamonds Are Forever, and then St. John marrying Natalie's widower, Robert Wagner, whom Lana blames for Natalie's death.
  • Jill St. John was born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. was filmed in an extended cameo as himself, a performer at the Whyte House, but it was cut.
  • Mr. Wint is played by Bruce Glover, the father of Crispin Glover, who played George McFly (Marty McFly's father) in Back to the Future.
  • This is the last Eon Productions movie with Sean Connery as James Bond, but he will play the character again in Never Say Never Again.

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My initial thoughts on the movie.

I remarked back then it felt more like a Moore film than a Connery one, and that Connery felt out of place with all the silliness.

As I prefer Moore to Connery, Cap, you and I shall not agree about the various performances. You liked him here, I thought Moore would have been better for this script. Agree to disagree I guess.

Actually, I think you liked this movie more than I did as well. I didn't hate it, and it certainly wasn't the worst in the series, but I thought it could have been better.

Oh, and while it takes a fair amount of practice, the car stunt isn't so difficult, as proven by Mythbusters: https://youtu.be/sFfmC5PrOsw

As I prefer Moore to Connery, Cap, you and I shall not agree about the various performances. You liked him here, I thought Moore would have been better for this script. Agree to disagree I guess.

That's what makes horse races! Also, an interesting insight from a different POV. Now I'm trying to imagine Moore in the role.

Actually, I think you liked this movie more than I did as well. I didn't hate it, and it certainly wasn't the worst in the series, but I thought it could have been better.

It wasn't Connery's best, but we're getting to those.

I have not read the main article yet (I'll save that for tomorrow), just the comments. 

I think the problem with the Bon franchise for a long time was not necessarily Roger Moore, but Cubby Broccoli... and this movie proves it. The movies were already drifting silly and If Sean Connery hadn't left when he did, his Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun and so on would have been just as silly as Moore's were. 

My perspective on why I prefer Moore to Connery:

I've said before that Roger Moore is my favorite Bond, but I don't think I've ever said why.

In my mind, Bond is superhuman. In fact, it's almost unfair to expect him to have a hard time with anyone he deals with, therefore I enjoy it less when the films are taken seriously and portrayed seriously. It's easy to discern that Connery is a better actor than Moore, but the tongue-in-cheek quality that Moore brings to the character just fits my personal idea of the character better. This is not to say that Connery was a poor Bond--in fact, I'd say he was a great Bond. I just enjoy Moore's portrayal better.

"The narrative follows Bond, and only Bond..."

Four words: "From Russia With Love."

"There are no Spectre Mountains in Nevada."

According to Wikipedia: "The Specter Range is a small mountain range in southeastern Nye Country, Nevada." (You're right about the spelling, though.)

"If I didn't know there were 10 more books to go, I'd say he was considering retirement, along with marriage to Case."

From Russia With Love will explain why that relationship didn't work out. Look for that pattern to repeat.

I continue to regret not reading these along with you. Diamonds Are Forever, IIRC, has many little "bits" I appreciated that you didn't mention [the helicopter, the scorpion, the black bra (I was 13!), the "front tail"... unless I'm confusing them with  other books in some cases]. EDIT: I see you mentioned the scorpion in the "Plot Differences" section.

"A prologue shows James Bond (Sean Connery) infiltrating a facility dedicated to transforming henchmen into lookalikes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray). Bond kills a lookalike and then Blofeld (or so he thinks)."

This is the movie immediately after Bloefeld kills Bond's (George Lazenby's) wife. There is a certain continuity from movie-to-movie one misses when watching them in "book order." You will notice that Bond doesn't actually get his revenge on Bloefeld in this movie; that happens in the prologue sequence of For Your Eyes Only (my personal favorite Roger Moore sequence). 

"Plenty O'Toole..."

"...named after your father, perhaps?"

"But it no doubt took days of set-up, practice, logistics and more..."

Wait until you get to The Man with the Golden Gun.

"Why did Whyte have bikini-wearing gymnasts as bodyguards?"

Wouldn't you?

"(I confess I did not understand this joke at 13.)"

Me neither.

"Jill St. John is about all 13-year-old me remembered about this movie..."

She was in the first episode of the Batman TV show, too. (Choked me up when she fell into the nuclear reactor (!) in the Batcave.)

"Norman Burton's CIA agent Felix Leiter is boring and absolutely forgettable."

There were seven different Felixes in the movies, most of them miscast.

"...yet another Blofeld appears, and dies, at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only"

Technically that character is unidentified, but of course it's Bloefeld!

"[Blofeld's] unnamed white cat"

I like to think of it as "Fluffy."

This time I commented as I read, which means I had some thoughts you later anticipated, but doing so is faster than reading your (lengthy) posts twice in order to avaoid that. Think I'll keep doing it that way going forward.

Diamonds Are Forever has a special place in my heart as it is the first Bond film I ever saw in a theatre during its original release. Nostalgia aside I have to admit it is the weakest effort in Connery's run. Only four years had passed since he last appeared as Bond in You Only Live Twice yet Connery looks much older and heavier in this film. 

I think Thunderball was easily Connery's worst

doc photo said:

Diamonds Are Forever has a special place in my heart as it is the first Bond film I ever saw in a theatre during its original release. Nostalgia aside I have to admit it is the weakest effort in Connery's run. Only four years had passed since he last appeared as Bond in You Only Live Twice yet Connery looks much older and heavier in this film. 

Fleming wrote a non-fiction work about diamond smuggling, The Diamond Smugglers. It came out the year after the Bond novel.

The movie's space laser is very like Zemo's in Captain America #100 (1968). But it's likely enough the idea had also appeared elsewhere: there had been any number of rival superspy movies, paperback series, episodes of The Man from UNCLE etc. In a 1968 "Trigan Empire" sequence (from Britain's Look and Learn) the conquerors of the moon Bolus scourge the planet Elekton with a death ray.

Dr Metz was played by Joseph Furst. He was an Austrian actor who did a fair amount of work for British films and TV. Doctor Who fans might recall his role as Professor Zaroff in "The Underwater Menace", where he's terrible.

I've seen the title song spoken of as one of the series' best. It doesn't do so much for me, but one can't like everything. It's another with lyrics by Don Black. The title sequence is reportedly a favourite of Stephen Spielberg's.

I've said before that Roger Moore is my favorite Bond, but I don't think I've ever said why.

In my mind, Bond is superhuman. In fact, it's almost unfair to expect him to have a hard time with anyone he deals with, therefore I enjoy it less when the films are taken seriously and portrayed seriously. It's easy to discern that Connery is a better actor than Moore, but the tongue-in-cheek quality that Moore brings to the character just fits my personal idea of the character better. This is not to say that Connery was a poor Bond--in fact, I'd say he was a great Bond. I just enjoy Moore's portrayal better.

That makes perfect sense. As established, that's now how I've seen the character. But now I understand where you're coming from. As I've said many times before, I love hearing from people who enjoy things that I don't. Not only am I jealous, but I want to know what I'm missing. Maybe I'll never like what they do, but at least I'll understand what I'm too blind to see. The more I know, the more I know how much I don't know.

So thanks for sharing that, Randy -- it legit gives me a lot of food for thought. And I hope you keep bringing that perspective to other non-Moore movies, so I can see them from your eyes. I will likely enjoy Moore more (ahem) with your help.

Four words: "From Russia With Love."

No fair! I'm not there yet!

There is a certain continuity from movie-to-movie one misses when watching them in "book order." 

Sure, I accepted that coming in. I'm focusing on the books, with the movies as a counterpoint. You know that already, but it's worth saying.

Wait until you get to The Man with the Golden Gun.

I'm not there yet!

She was in the first episode of the Batman TV show, too. (Choked me up when she fell into the nuclear reactor (!) in the Batcave.)

My wife was trying to argue with me tonight that 1971 Jill St. John wasn't all that, and her hair was too short, and some of her clothes were ugly.

I love my wife, and she's the smartest person I've ever met. But she has never been a 13-year-old boy.

There were seven different Felixes in the movies, most of them miscast.

I've only seen two others so far in this discussion (Jeffrey Wright, David Hedison) and both were terrific.

"Why did Whyte have bikini-wearing gymnasts as bodyguards?" Wouldn't you?

Cute, but my point is (which you know, but are ignoring for the sake of the joke), is that they were incredibly ineffective. If you want bodyguards, pick some that can, I dunno, stop an unarmed guy from walking into your house with his coat thrown casually over his shoulder. Even as a 13-year-old I knew the purpose of the scene was to get a couple of girls in bikinis on screen. If you can't fool a 13-year-old, then you're doing something wrong.

This time I commented as I read, which means I had some thoughts you later anticipated, but doing so is faster than reading your (lengthy) posts twice in order to avaoid that. Think I'll keep doing it that way going forward.

That sounds good! But I know that my last post, maybe my last two posts, weren't working. One reason is that I decided to add fairly comprehensive plot descriptions, to make it easier for me to make short, direct comments later (since the particulars had been established). Because in the first couple of posts, I had to go around the block, describing every tree, before I could state my opinion. The first approach was disjointed, the second too long (with much of the length simply regurgitating old information).

Neither approach was particularly effective. I have something else in mind for post #5. It's a work in progress.

Diamonds Are Forever has a special place in my heart as it is the first Bond film I ever saw in a theatre during its original release.

That makes it the best Bond film in existence for you, Doc, and I will shiv anyone who has the lack of couth to say different in front of you.

I think Thunderball was easily Connery's worst.

NOT THERE YET! (Also, what about Never Say Never Again? I don't remember it well, but Connery must have been well over 50.)

I've seen the title song spoken of as one of the series' best. It doesn't do so much for me, but one can't like everything.

Agreed, it's not the "James Bond Theme," "Goldfinger" or "Live and Let Die." But I can recall it without prompting, unlike "Moonraker," which is completely forgettable. And I seem to remember liking "Casino Royale Theme," but can't remember it without prompting. I can recall "Diamonds Are Forever" off the top of my head, which I can't say for more than four or five Bond themes.

Of course, some of that may have to do with my favorite Bond themes coming out before the Internet revolution. Everything before the Internet I was subjected to on radio whether I liked it or not, whereas afterward I listen to only what I select, and there are hundreds of songs I'll pick to listen to before I get around to a Bond theme. Which means post-Internet Bond themes are at a distinct disadvantage.

(Sigh. How long before that distinction is meaningless? For anybody under 30, the Internet has always been there. Most of us on this board are a dying breed.)

"No fair! I'm not there yet!"

Oh, that's not a spoiler.

"I'm not there yet!"

Think of it as foreshadowing.

"I've only seen two others so far in this discussion and both were terrific."

Keep watching. (I'm already on record as deeming Jeffrey Wright the best Felix.)

"NOT THERE YET!"

That one wasn't me.

"(Also, what about Never Say Never Again?)"

I liked it, but consider it separate from the other Connery Bonds. It's a remake of Thunderball (for reasons we need not go into here). Earlier in this series of discussions, you watched the 1967 Casino Royale in conjunction with the 2006 version. The two aren't really comparable, but you might want to consider comparing and contrasting Never Say Never Again with Thunderball when you get to that point. Speaking of NSNA, prior to Jeffrey Wright, I considered Bernie Casey to be the best version of Felix Leiter. 

I liked (Never Say Never Again), but consider it separate from the other Connery Bonds. It's a remake of Thunderball (for reasons we need not go into here). ... The two aren't really comparable, but you might want to consider comparing and contrasting Never Say Never Again with Thunderball when you get to that point.

I had planned to do exactly that. I'll probably mention why the Thunderball rights were so screwy, too.

I considered Bernie Casey to be the best version of Felix Leiter. 

I'm not familiar with that name, because whatever movie he's in, I'm not there yet!

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