James Bond (Sean Connery) hunts down Blofeld (Charles Gray), resolving to kill him once and for all. He tracks the criminal mastermind to a laboratory where he is planning to clone himself, and pushes Blofeld into a pit of boiling mud; satisfied that he is done with Blofeld, Bond returns to Britain. When he gets there, he given instructions to go to Amsterdam and foil a diamond smuggling ring that could create financial disaster, but when, posing as one of the smugglers, Bond meets his contact Tiffany Case (Jill St John), he uncovers a trail leading to Las Vegas - and a bigger, more dangerous, plot than simple diamond smuggling...
After On Her Majesty's Secret Service, George Lazenby decided he didn't want to be James Bond anymore, so the producers were forced to look around for a replacement. Burt Reynolds was reputedly a candidate, but in the end they called Sean Connery back for just one more go at the role that made him famous, with a huge salary and chance to make more personal films as an incentive. Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz adapted Ian Fleming's story into a more light-hearted instalment than the previous one, and the Bond franchise was brought into the seventies where it would stay as a glitzy moneymaker for the rest of the decade and beyond.
Tacky and expensive is not a combination that appeals to everyone, but that's what they achieve in Diamonds Are Forever. For a change of tone after a death that devastates Bond in OHMSS, the murders here are either casual or sadistic, if not both, displaying a cavalier attitude to the bodies piling up as the baddies keep their options open. It's jokey and artificial throughout, constantly winking to the audience with one-liners ("I'm Plenty O'Toole!" "Named after your father, perhaps?") and daring escapes where you're satisfied Bond is in no danger.
Once the adventure in Amsterdam, which is closer to a sixties Bond, is out of the way, it's appropriate that the scene should change to Las Vegas, because this is the equivalent of Elvis taking up residence there in his rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuits: it's flashy, gaudy and exists to make as much money as possible by cashing in on past glories. They're playing it safe this time, stacking sensation on sensation without much regard for the plot. Still, the details become more and more eccentric: at one point, Bond sneaks into a top secret technology plant, and stumbles across a group of scientists faking a moon landing; he wastes no time in stealing the moon buggy for a quick getaway - but why are the fake astronauts moving in slow motion when he does?!
The characters are pretty strange, too. Blofeld is now a smooth-talking cad with a cigarette holder, surely better suited to the drawing room of a stately home, never mind his new found cloning capabilities. Tiffany is less exotic and more plain spoken than her predecessors, a girl with diamonds on her mind and prone to making stupid mistakes. Then there's the chief assassins, Mr Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr Kidd (Putter Smith), a camp, homosexual double act who relish their inventive ways of dealing death when a uncomplicated shooting would suffice. In a nod to the changing times, womankind gets her own back on Bond in the shape of Bambi and Thumper, two martial arts experts who give Bond a taste of his own medicine - perhaps revenge for all those one night stands?
It transpires that Blofeld has taken over the empire of a Howard Hughes-style reclusive billionaire, Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), leading to some sci-fi intrigue with a diamond encrusted satellite carrying a powerful laser beam. What this means is that Diamonds Are Forever is best for settling down with in front of the TV on a Christmas afternoon, because it's not too taxing, and there are enough easy laughs and big budget spectacle to waste a couple of hours with without ruining your appetite. Music by John Barry, including a theme sung by Shirley Bassey. Would anyone really be fooled by the old "facing away from everyone, pretending to canoodle by running your hands up and down your back" trick?