Diamonds Are Forever - Bond 50 Box Set Blu-ray Review
Diamonds Are Forever has the same AVC encode as the rest of its brethren in this exhaustive set, and the resulting transfer is pretty much as excellent as you will have come to expect. The 2.35:1 image has been meticulously cleaned-up and restored by Lowry and looks clean and damage-free. Despite the neon setting of Vegas and the escapades that Bond has in a variety of outlandish locations, this never appears to me be the most colourful of his outings. Grain is not intrusive, but it has certainly been retained and the image has that essential film-like texture.
Contrast is good and allows the image to retain its vitality. One or two instances of blooming, maybe, but this is down to the source photography, I think. Shadows don’t hold back on depth or stability, and they provide some plenty of atmosphere for the night-time car chase and for Bond’s high-rise infiltration of Willard Whyte’s penthouse. I never thought that any detail was lost within these darker elements.
As I have intimated, I feel that there is an earthier palette to this movie than the rest of the series. The film looks a little darker and muddier. But the transfer still sizzles when required to.
There’s a minor colour fluctuation occurring as Bond and Willard Whyte exchange views on Blofeld’s plan which slightly changes the temperature of the image, but fidelity is strong and consistent, otherwise. Skin-tones are ruddy and brazen, which fits right in with the tanned roster of characters, and that burnished look that the Connery Bond outings seemed to favour. The various settings benefit from banding-free saturation – nice, arid yellow deserts and vibrant blue skies – and the interiors are far more colourful than I think I have seen them appear before. The bubbling mud at Blofeld’s cosmetic surgery clinic is thoroughly icky and hot-looking. The little of dribble of spittle from the fake fiend that gets drowned in the hot mud is clearly rendered as a white stream sitting on the surface of the slop. The intense red laser of the diamond-powered satellite is certainly very intense and very red, the glow of its incinerated targets when they come under this comic-book attack really burns bright and livid and turns the image into something akin to a George Pal fantasy. The sudden deluge of flames that surround 007’s casket is tremendously vivid, making a startling contrast to the ruddiness.
And I love the gorgeous gleam of the equally gorgeous Tiffany’s red Mustang that Bond tools around Vegas in. The transfer preserves all the reflections of the neon-suffused streets in its shiny bodywork, and the vehicle looks sublime as it cuts through either sunny daytimes or the shadow-swallowed night-time chase.
Although some shots can look soft, there are many times when close-ups are fabulously crisp and detailed. Connery’s face is always a good benchmark, with lots of crags and fissures and bushy eyebrow foliage to bedeck the frame. The original photography leaves some elements slightly blurred – the front, lower portion of the image, and occasional peripheral areas – but this is only to be expected. Overall, this is very detailed and sharp, without having been unnecessarily tampered-with.
A strong 8 out of 10.
Well, to be honest, I can’t help but be disappointed by Diamonds Are Forever sounds. But this isn’t a reflection upon the quality of either the remixed lossless 5.1 or the original DD mono that you can choose between. Their transfers are just fine, thank you very much. Rather it is because the film simply doesn’t have much audio excitement about it. Other than the score, the sound-design is not as gloriously nuanced or as involving as those for most of the rest of the films in the series. Whether you like the 5.1 remixes for these earlier films or not, they have mostly been able to provide some interesting dynamics and a pleasing revamp of the original mono. But Diamonds, to me at least, doesn’t seem to have much that could be extended, embellished or dressed-up in the first place.
There are no qualms about the presentation of Jon Barry score or Shirley Bassy’s tectonic-plate-shifting vocals. For the moon-buggy chase Barry’s quirky flutes and woodwinds flutter about with definitely perceivable movement and melodic undulation, his ominous strings and jazzy brass are filled with warmth and character. The return of the 007 secondary theme, for its fourth outing, is welcome, even if this slightly more upbeat variation is rewarded with considerably lacklustre visuals. It sounds great though, and that is what counts.
The surrounds are brought into play, for sure, but I found that they delivered absolutely nothing of noted worth to report upon here. Nothing. There is even a marvellous opportunity for showing off the mix’s steerage when Bond walks around the honeymoon suite and, off camera and behind us, he replies to the seductively attentive Tiffany and her eyes follow his unseen movements all around the room. But the track doesn’t do anything with this at all. Arguably, it shouldn’t given that this was originally a mono track … but it would have been nicely evocative, wouldn’t it?
I found the bass to be a bit lacking too. Aye, there are a few explosions going off – the helicopter near the start, the oil rig attack and poor Mr. Kidd getting a blow-job that he really hadn’t anticipated – but they all sound a little bit too “contained” and weak when compared to the plentiful examples to be savoured in the majority of other titles.
This said, the track still manages to provide plenty of detail, and dialogue is always finely delivered.
The fight with Peter Franks, still the greatest moment in the entire movie, is full of shattering glass, vicious thuds and impacts. Gunshots have some clout and velocity, which is what you want, but the ballistic set-tos are not as strenuous or as exciting as audiences had come to expect from the series. The rattling of dice at the casino, or the wheel spinning, the cascade of cash from the fruit-machines, especially when Q gets to work with the sort of cash-grab gadget that we could all do with, the pop of the balloon that Tiffany unbelievably manages to inflate, the growling of the gorilla and the general hubbub of a Vegas gambling-den are all elements that make the environment come to life. The crackling of sparks as that little platform trundles its way towards Bond in the pipeline also sounds good, fizzing and popping right across the front.
The sudden yowl of Blofeld’s cat, serenading the arrival of Maurice Binder’s title-sequence, is louder and more forceful in the surround mix. This was one the effects that was embellished in the previous Lowry transfer edition. I think it sounds fine, and appropriately jolting.
Although I am vaguely disappointed by how Diamonds sounds, it is not something caused by the audio transfer. The film is surprisingly laidback and, barring one or two strenuous, action-stuffed moments, the sound design sort of follows suit. But, undoubtedly, both tracks are presented with care and precision, and should pose no problems.
7 out of 10 from me, folks.
Although I am just basically going to list up what is available on this disc – which is a very familiar selection, I think you’ll find – it is worth mentioning that the half-hour making of is excellent, with great trivia coming from Lana Wood and Jimmy Dean, and that the Deleted Scenes are actually very good. For a start, we have the original introduction to Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, in which Mr. Kidd puts the scorpion in the nefarious South African diamond-smuggling dentist’s mouth instead of down the back of this neck – which is altogether more shocking – and the connective scenes that explain how Plenty O’ Toole ended-up at the bottom of Tiffany’s pool. Plus there is the full sequence of Shady Tree’s assassination. These things would have better served the film by remaining in place, I think.
There is also a nice little behind-the-scenes look at the rehearsal and filming of the great lift-fight between Bond and Peter Franks.
But, for the record, this is what we find
Audio Commentary with Guy Hamilton and cast and crew.
Declassified MI6 Vault has
Lesson 007 – Close Quarter Combat
Oil Rig Attack
Satellite Test Reel
Alternate and Expanded Angles
Then we find the Mission Dossier, which contains
Inside Diamonds Are Forever
Cubby Broccoli – The Man Behind Bond
Marketing material is, as ever, to be found in the Ministry of Propaganda section with
And, as usual, the selection is rounded with stills located in the Image Database
Diamonds Are Forever will never be hailed as a classic amongst the series. There is something dry and indifferent about it that makes the whole scenario strangely uninvolving. This disappointment is compounded by the fact that Connery is just doing things by-the-numbers and playing Bond without any real zest or flair. He had his own reasons for coming back this last time for Eon, and they didn’t include a love for the character or his fans.
Blofeld is not as three-dimensional or as intimidating as Savalas, nor is he as archetypal as Pleasance as a boo-hiss evil mastermind – he is much more like a loquacious upper-class foil for John Steed. His plans are once again hi-tech and world-threatening but, at the same time, they also seem quite low-key and all rather commonplace. After all the messing about with shady lowlifes from Amsterdam to Nevada, the SF angle, however enjoyably comic-book it is, feels like it has wandered in from another film altogether. But, on the flipside, we have some gorgeous ladies, especially Jill St. John and Lana Wood, two brilliantly bizarre hit-men and a couple of great action scenes in the famed elevator-fight and the car chase through the Vegas strip. Even if the finale is exceptionally poor for a 007 adventure, there is still much entertainment to be had from it.
Even if this is one of Bond’s most disappointing of missions, certainly the weakest of the Connery outings, the film gets a great presentation with its BD debut. The transfer is detailed and strong, with appreciable texture, and boasts a solid, if unremarkable lossless makeover. The extras are good. A smart making-of is boosted by some interesting deleted scenes and a cool glimpse at the creation of the film’s best sequence.
It certainly doesn’t sparkle like its titular gems, but Diamonds Are Forever is definitely still worth a closer inspection.
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