“I’m afraid you’ve caught me with more than my hands up”
Having previously turned down the chance to reprise the role of Bond, Sean Connery was persuaded back to don the tuxedo one more time by being offered the then record breaking sum of $1.25 million and a percentage of the profits. Although “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” had received critical acclaim and good box office returns, Lazenby’s portrayal had been judged a dangerous misstep and so Connery was brought back to re establish the franchise. Guy Hamilton returned to direct his second Bond movie which followed on from the tone of “you only live twice”, introducing more humour and increasingly outlandish situations and set pieces.
The plot follows Bond’s mission to infiltrate a diamond smuggling ring, leading him first to Amsterdam where he picks up an accomplice in the shapely shape of Tiffany Case, then to a casino in Las Vegas owned by millionaire Willard Whyte where he becomes involved with the voluptuous Plenty O Toole (played with panache by Lana Wood) before eventually tracking the diamonds to a research facility where Blofeld (who Bond was seen to have apparently killed in the pre titles sequence) has been constructing a laser satellite, powerful enough to destroy the great powers’ stockpile of nuclear weapons from orbit. Felix Lieter and a CIA team infiltrate the base and rescue Bond and Tiffany, before Bond manages to defeat Blofeld and destroy the satellite’s controls.
The tone of the film is noticeably more camp than previous outings, especially so in the case of Wint and Kidd, two assassins and the first apparently gay characters to feature in a Bond film. Jill St John is a bubbly and upbeat Tiffany Case, winning the role against strong competition and the ever changing Felix Lieter returned yet again, this time played by Norman Burton. As millionaire Willard Whyte, Jimmy Dean is an absolute scene stealer while Blofeld was portrayed by Charles Grey, giving the character a saturnine charm and quiet powerful menace, as well as a penchant for cloning and, most unbelievably of all, a full head of hair. He could make millions out of that!
In one of the film’s best remembered scenes, Bond is systematically beaten by two female gymnasts, Bambi and Thumper. It’s slickly shot and edited but feels like it was put in for shock value more than anything to do with advancing the plot.
Shooting took place in 1971 in Los Angeles, California and the ever present Pinewood Studios in England with the assistance of famous recluse Howard Hughes, a friend of Cubby Broccoli’s who provided the use of several of his Vegas hotels. A highlight of the film is the appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as Q who, for his own amusement tries out a magnetic device he has invented on the slot machines in one of the Vegas hotels and makes a killing.
Box office was again good but the film met with largely negative reviews from the critics who disliked the camp tone and outlandish situations, citing Bond’s escape in a NASA moon buggy as being particularly ridiculous. The movie was to be Connery’s last “official” outing as Bond though he returned several years later for the aptly titled “Never say never again”.
Director: Guy Hamilton
Ian Fleming (novel)
Richard Maibaum (screenplay)
Tom Mankiewicz (screenplay)
Release Date: 30 December 1971 (UK)
Run time: 120 Mins
Sean Connery (James Bond)
Jill St. John (Tiffany Case)
Charles Gray (Blofeld)
Lana Wood (Plenty O’Toole)
Jill St. John was the first American Bond Girl