By Steve Vivona
Although the reputation of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" has improved dramatically over the years it was not well received at the time of its release. Additionally, Sean Connery's successor in the role of James Bond, George Lazenby, proved to be petulant and uncooperative. He would not be asked to return.
Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli were again faced with the difficult prospect of searching for a new Bond. Feeling the series may be running out of gas the producers opted to cast American actor John Gavin in the role. Happily distributor United Artists balked at this drastic change and demanded they pull out all the stops to woo Sean Connery back to the role.
Connery was paid a whopping $1 million for the role (he later donated all the money to a trust he established for Scottish performers). During the filming he announced that he had agreed to come back for this one last time, and would never again play the role of James Bond. Never say never!
Watching "Diamonds are Forever" one thing is readily apparent: Connery had aged significantly in the four years since "You Only Live Twice." No longer svelte and trim, Connery had a significant paunch and a really bad toupee! Having said that he still slipped back into the role effortlessly, losing none of his trademark wit and style.
After completing a mission of personal vengeance against his nemesis Blofeld (presumably for killing his wife in the previous film) Bond is assigned to track a ring of diamond smugglers by posing as a smuggler himself. He follows the trail from Amsterdam to Las Vegas where he realizes this is more than just a scheme to steal diamonds before they reach the open market.
"Diamonds are Forever" is not the best of the Bonds, but it's refreshing to have Connery back in the saddle again. He could have very easily just phoned in his performance but he gives it his all (although his final performance as Bond in "Never Say Never Again" is much more enthusiastic).
With the advent of Roger Moore the series would take a decided turn for the worse, both in terms of comedy and gadgetry, which Connery eschewed. He delivered his one-liners with relish but he never wanted them to dominate the script. People not watching the films in sequence may not realize that Bond's extreme fervor to kill Blofeld is a result of what happened at the climax of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (which Connery was obviously not in).
It will be sad to see the Bond special editions end. I eagerly looked forward to a new wave every six months, and this third wave is particularly impressive. Although their documentaries and supplements have been terrific I was wondering why there were no deleted scenes included on any of the previous DVDs, but with this wave they are included on a number of them ("Diamonds" having the most generous amount).
The documentary is enlightening as always, combining new interviews with cast members with archival interviews (including Connery discussing his return to the role) and behind the scenes footage. Just like previous entries there is an additional documentary -- this one discusses the impact of producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli on the series. There are four deleted scenes, as well as trailers, TV and radio spots.
The transfer of "Diamonds are Forever" is a real stunner. Colors are strong and vivid and the widescreen image is razor-sharp with little grain and no pixellation. The remastered soundtrack has really strong bass levels and no distortion.
In addition to this final wave of Bond films MGM has also released the "renegade" Bond film "Never Say Never Again," and in the future will also release "Casino Royale," the Bond spoof starring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen.