Ranking Diamonds Are Forever

I previously ranked some of the James Bond movies herehereherehere, and here. Last night my son and I watched Diamonds Are Forever, the final of the six Bond movies Sean Connery appeared in. It’s acquired a reputation as one of the more ridiculous Bond movies–for instance, much of the first Austin Powers movie mocks/homages this installment in the Bond series. Sean Connery was really phoning his performance in–he had not intended to return as Bond and only came back because of the large paycheck the producers offered–and this is also the first of three or four Bond movies to use a lot of US locations to save money. It’s in no way one of the better Bond movies.

That having been said, I think my little rubric for rating the Bond movies is going to do Diamonds Are Forever a disservice. It’s a thoroughly mediocre Bond film, and yet there’s little really bad about it. It’s entertaining all the way through. It’s certainly better than, say, The Man With the Golden Gun, but because that movie did a couple things pretty well despite its overall terribleness, I think it will end up ranking higher than Diamonds Are Forever, which does no single thing especially well. Let’s see how it works out.

Since the Bond movies are formulaic and their quality is based on how well they fulfill the formula, I created a little rubric to rank the Bond movies, with several categories a movie can get points in. A Bond film gets 2 points if the movie is one of the top 4 Bond movies for a category, and 1 point if it’s in the top 8, plus a couple special categories. Here are the criteria, with a maximum of 14 points available:

Story/Plot–2 points–Is the plot coherent and logical? Are the stakes high?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Action–2 points–Are the stunts exciting? The car chases thrilling?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Villain–2 points–What’s a Bond movie without dastardly villains and their henchmen? (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Setting–2 points–The Bond movies are all about exotic locations. (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–2 points–What’s the cool stuff?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Bond girls–2 points–The ladies, oh yes, the ladies. (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 8)

Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?–1 point–These are the best Bonds (no need to debate) and get an automatic extra point if appearing in the film.

Musical theme–1 point if in the top 5

Diamonds Are Forever
Story/Plot–The story involves Bond trying to stop some smuggled South African diamonds from reaching their mysterious buyer in Las Vegas. Not real high-stakes, the ultimate use of the diamonds is a rather perfunctory surprise, and there’s at least one Wha? moment in the plot, when James Bond just shows up at a house where he needs to be in Las Vegas with no indication of how he knew where to go. (0 points)
Action–Hmm. An early fight in a slowly-rising open elevator in an Amsterdam apartment building is expertly staged, but not all that interesting. A car chase in a casino parking lot has some impressive driving by Bond, but not actually that great to watch–I mean, they’re just driving around a parking lot! I can do that myself! Another chase with a moon buggy in the Nevada desert is fun, but not quite Top 8. A scene with Bond scaling the outside of a casino in Las Vegas is nice but also not quite Top 8. (0 points)
Villain–Blofeld is the villain, played here by Charles Gray, who’s no Telly Savalas. The henchmen, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, are an unfortunately-stereotyped gay couple with a shared penchant for elegant, sadistic, but only mildly creative assassinations. (0 points)
Setting–Amsterdam is a bit exotic from the American point of view, I suppose, but Las Vegas certainly is not. (0 points)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–There are some cool vehicles and gadgets in this one. Blofeld’s cover for his nefarious doings is an aerospace firm outside Las Vegas, where they are apparently practicing driving around in a moon buggy in the stark Nevadan landscape (and possibly filming fake moon landings?). Q wins multiple jackpots on Las Vegas slot machines with a magnetic something-or-other he’s testing out. Bond must evade a deadly pipe-cleaning robot when he’s buried alive in some sort of pipeline that’s under construction. Bond scales a casino with a grappling hook that can embed itself in concrete. This ranks #6 on my list for this category, pushing Live and Let Die out of the Top 8. (1 point)
Bond Girls–Lana Wood is extremely hot as Plenty O’Toole, but dumb as a rock and only in the movie briefly. However, she, together with Jill St. John as diamond smuggler Tiffany Case, manage to edge out Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. (1 point)
SC or DC? Sean Connery (1 (point)
Music–Theme song is sung by Shirley Bassey, who also sang the great Goldfinger theme. Unfortunately, this one is a pale imitation. (0 points)
Total: 3 points

Rejiggered points for other movies:
Live and Let Die moves out of Top 8 for Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs (-1)
Thunderball moves out of Top 8 for Bond Girls (-1)

And, here are the updated results:
1) The Spy Who Loved Me (12 points)
2) Casino Royale (10 points)
3, 4) Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (tied with 9 points)
5) Skyfall (8 points)
6, 7, 8) Thunderball, Spectre, The Man With the Golden Gun (5 points)
9, 10, 11) Die Another Day, A View to a Kill, Live and Let Die (4 points)
12) Diamonds Are Forever (3 points)

One Comment on “Ranking Diamonds Are Forever

  1. Pingback: Ranking From Russia With Love – Nicholas Bruner

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