Diamonds Are Forever (1971) is the seventh spy film of the British James Bond series and the sixth to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film is based on Ian Fleming's 1956 novel of the same name, and is the second of four James Bond films directed by Guy Hamilton. The story has Bond impersonating a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring, and soon uncovering a plot by his former nemesis Blofeld to use the diamonds and build a giant laser satellite that would be used to hold the world to ransom.
Diamonds Are Forever was a commercial success, but its humorous tone was met with mixed reviews by critics.
Suspecting that South African diamonds are being stockpiled to depress prices by dumping, and convinced that Blofeld is dead, M orders Bond to replace a diamond smuggler named Peter Franks and unveil his associates. Meanwhile, Blofeld's henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd systematically murder several diamond smugglers to cover up their trail. Posing as Franks, Bond travels to Amsterdam to meet a smuggler, Tiffany Case, at her apartment. However, Franks escapes from custody and reaches Case's apartment. Bond intercepts and kills him with a fire extinguisher after a fight in a lift, then switches wallets to make Case think James Bond is dead. The two then smuggle fake diamonds to Los Angeles within Franks' corpse.
At the airport Bond meets his CIA ally Felix Leiter and transports the body to Slumber Inc., a funeral home where another smuggler, Shady Tree, quickly realises that the diamonds are fake. Bond tells Leiter to ship the real diamonds while he heads for Las Vegas where Tree works as a stand-up comedian; however, Tree is killed by Wint and Kidd. Later in the casino, Bond meets a girl named Plenty O' Toole and takes her to his room, but she is shortly evicted (out the window and into the hotel swimming pool) by the smugglers, who have come for the real diamonds. Instead, Bond spends the night with Case, who has been waiting in the suite's bedroom in order to get him to talk about the true location of the diamonds. Bond sends her to retrieve the diamonds at a circus, but she loses her watchers despite the proclaimed fool-proof surveillance by Leiter and the CIA.
Bond reveals his identity to Case when the latter returns to her operation residence and finds the body of Plenty, who was killed when mistaken for Case. Having survived the attempt on her life, the initially reticent Case decides to assist him in his mission. Posing as a lab worker, Bond enters the apparent destination of the diamonds – a laboratory owned by reclusive Las Vegas millionaire Willard Whyte, where he finds laser refraction specialist Professor Dr. Metz constructing a satellite. He flees by stealing a moon buggy and reunites with Case in a car chase with security and the local police. They return into town where Bond scales the walls to the top floor of the Whyte House. Inside, he is disarmed and confronted by two identical Blofelds who are posing as Whyte using an adapted telephone to mask their voice — Bond had previously killed a look-alike. Not knowing which to kill, Bond kicks Blofeld's cat into the arms of its owner and shoots him. However, the cat also turns out to be a look-alike.
Bond is rendered unconscious and then left inside a pipeline by Wint and Kidd. He escapes and contacts Blofeld, posing as one of Whyte's employees and Blofeld's middle-men, Bert Saxby. Learning about Whyte's penthouse, Bond goes there and fights the bodyguards Bambi and Thumper, forcing them to tell him where Whyte is. The latter is rescued, but Blofeld abducts Case. With the help of Whyte, Bond raids the lab and uncovers Blofeld's plot to create a laser satellite using the diamonds, which is now in orbit. Blofeld destroys nuclear installations in the United States, Russia, and China, then proposes an international auction for global nuclear supremacy.
Bond identifies an oil rig off the coast of Baja California as Blofeld's base of operations. Arriving at the rig, he switches the cassette containing the codes which control the satellite with a music tape, giving the coded one to Case who is living there as a hostage. However, trying to be helpful, she switches the tapes back. As Blofeld plans to attack Washington D.C. using the satellite, Whyte and Leiter lead an air assault on the base. Blofeld tries to escape on a mini-sub, but Bond gains control of it, and crashes the sub into the control room, destroying the satellite control along with the rest of the base.
Bond and Case then head for home on a cruise ship, where Wint and Kidd also board disguised as waiters. Bond sees through their disguise, and kills them. The film ends with Tiffany wondering about how to get all the diamonds from the laser satellite back down to Earth.
The original plot had as a villain Auric Goldfinger's twin, seeking revenge for the death of his brother. The plot was later changed after Albert R. Broccoli had a dream, where his close friend Howard Hughes was replaced by an imposter. So the character of Willard Whyte was created, and Tom Mankiewicz was chosen to rework the script. The adaptation eliminated the main villains from the source Ian Fleming novel, mobsters called Jack and Seraffimo Spang, but used the henchmen Shady Tree, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
Richard Maibaum's original idea for the ending was a giant boat chase across Lake Mead with Blofeld being pursued by Bond and all the Las Vegas casino owners who would be sailing in their private yachts. Bond would rouse the allies into action with a spoof of Lord Nelson's famous cry, "Las Vegas expects every man to do his duty." Maibaum was misinformed; there were no Roman galleys or Chinese junks in Las Vegas, and the idea was too expensive to replicate, so it was dropped.
Maibaum may have thought the eventual oil rig finale a poor substitute, but it was originally intended to be much more spectacular. Armed frogmen would jump from the helicopters into the sea and attach limpet mines to the rig's legs (this explains why frogmen appear on the movie's poster). Blofeld would have escaped in his BathoSub and Bond would have pursued him hanging from a weather balloon. The chase would have then continued across a salt mine with the two mortal enemies scrambling over the pure white hills of salt before Blofeld would fall to his death in a salt granulator. Permission was not granted by the owners of the salt mine. It also made the sequence too long. Further problems followed when the explosives set up for the finale were set off too early; fortunately, a handful of cameras were ready and able to capture the footage.
Michael Gambon had been mentioned by Albert R. Broccoli as a possible candidate for Bond before Sean Connery returned. Although United Artists were reluctant to cast another relatively unknown actor, Gambon himself told Broccoli that he was "in terrible shape" and "had tits like a woman".
Charles Gray was cast as master villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, after playing a Bond ally called Henderson in You Only Live Twice (1967). David Bauer who plays Morton Slumber previously appeared uncredited as an American Diplomat also in You Only Live Twice.
Jazz musician Putter Smith was invited by Harry Saltzman to play Mr. Kidd after a Thelonius Monk Band show. Musician Paul Williams was originally cast as Mr. Wint. But when he couldn't agree with the producers on money concerns, Bruce Glover replaced him. Glover said he was surprised for being chosen, because at first producers said he was too normal, that they wanted a deformed, Peter Lorre-like actor.
Actresses considered for the role of Tiffany Case included: Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway. Jill St. John had originally been offered the part of Plenty O'Toole but landed the female lead after impressing director Guy Hamilton during screen tests. St. John became the first American Bond girl. Lana Wood was cast as Plenty O'Toole following a suggestion of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. The woman in the bikini named "Marie", who in the beginning of the film is convinced by Bond to give up the location of Blofeld, was Denise Perrier, Miss World 1953.
Filming in Las Vegas took place mostly in hotels owned by Howard Hughes, since he was a friend of Cubby Broccoli. Getting the streets empty in order to shoot was achieved through the collaboration of Hughes, the Las Vegas police and shopkeepers association. The Las Vegas Hilton dubbed for the Whyte House, and since the owner of the Circus Circus was a Bond fan, he allowed the Circus to be used on film and even made a cameo. The cinematographers said filming in Las Vegas at night had an advantage: no additional illumination was required due to the high number of neon lights.
The car chase where the red Ford Mustang comes outside of the narrow street on the opposite side in which it was rolled, was filmed over three nights on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The alleyway car roll sequence is actually filmed in two locations. The entrance was at the car park at Universal Studios and the exit was at Fremont Street, Las Vegas.
The site used for the Willard Whyte Space Labs (where Bond gets away in the Moon Buggy) was actually, at that time, a Johns-Manville gypsum plant located just outside of Las Vegas. The home of Kirk Douglas was used for the scene in Tiffany's house, while the Elrod House in Palm Springs became Willard Whyte's house.
While filming her fall in the swimming pool, Lana Wood actually had her feet loosely tied to a cement block on the bottom. Film crew members held a rope across the pool for her, with which she could lift her face out of the water to breathe between takes. The pool's sloping bottom made the block slip into deeper water with each take. Eventually, Wood was submerged but was noticed by on-lookers and rescued. Wood, being a certified diver, remained calm during the ordeal, although she later admitted to a few "very uncomfortable moments.
Since the car chase in Las Vegas would have many car crashes, the filmmakers had an arrangement with Ford to use their vehicles. Ford's only demand was that Sean Connery had to drive the 1971 Mustang Mach 1 which serves as Tiffany Case's car. Other Ford vehicles include Blofeld's chief scientist's Ford Econoline van, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd's Thunderbird, and during the moon buggy chase, the security guards are driving Ford Custom 500s.
The Moon Buggy was inspired by the actual NASA vehicle, but with additions such as flaying arms since the producers didn't find the design "outrageous" enough. The fiberglass tires which NASA used had to be replaced during the chase sequence, because the heat and the irregular desert soil ruined them.
"Diamonds Are Forever", the title song, was the second James Bond theme to be performed by Shirley Bassey, after "Goldfinger" in 1964. Producer Harry Saltzman reportedly hated the song, and only the insistence of co-producer Cubby Broccoli kept it in the film. Saltzman's major objection was to the sexual innuendo of the lyrics. Indeed, in an interview for the television programme James Bond's Greatest Hits composer John Barry revealed that he told Bassey to imagine she was singing about a penis. Bassey would later return for a third performance for 1979's "Moonraker."
The original soundtrack was once again composed by John Barry. This was his sixth time composing for a James Bond film. The song has subsequently been sampled by rapper Kanye West in the track Diamonds from Sierra Leone. It was also used by hip-hop group Dead Prez on the song "Psychology" from Let's Get Free.
Reviews were mediocre, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a 67% fresh" rating. Connery was applauded by Kevin A. Ranson of MovieCrypt and Michael A. Smith of Nolan's Pop Culture. Critic Roger Ebert criticised the complexity of the plot and "moments of silliness" such as Bond finding himself driving a moon buggy with antennae revolving and robot arms flapping. However, he praised the Las Vegas car chase scene particularly the Mustang up on two wheels. James Berardinelli criticized the concepts of a laser-shooting satellite and the performances of Jill St. John, Norman Burton and Jimmy Dean. Christopher Null called St. John "one of the least effective Bond girls — beautiful, but shrill and helpless". Steve Rhodes said, "looking and acting like a couple of pseudo-country bumpkins, they (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover) seem to have wandered by accident from the adjoining sound stage into the filming of this movie." But he also extolled the car chase as "classic".