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Are Forever

50th Anniversary 1971-2021


Diamonds goes gold! Diamonds Are Forever 50th Anniversary 1971-2021

Diamonds Are Forever is the only James Bond film not to have had a premiere in London's West End. The film opened to the public on Friday December 30, 1971 at the ODEON Leicester Square, and then went on to break the box-office record at the cinema (then held by On Her Majesty's Secret Service), taking almost £35,000 in its first week. The ODEON showed the film five times each day (three times on Sundays) starting at 10.45am, with late-night performances on Fridays and Saturdays throughout its eleven week run. Despite the bitterly cold winter, hundreds of cinemagoers queued around the block in Leicester Square waiting for tickets for the sell-out performances. The final performance on Thursday January 13, 1972 however got off to a slow start, reported the Daily Mail the following day; advertised to start at 8.15pm after the short cartoon support, Diamonds Are Forever eventually appeared at 9.00pm after half-an-hour of vacant screen time. The audience expressed their disapproval with a spontaneous display of slow-handclapping, a phenomenon usually reserved for more boring evenings at the theatre, rather than a West End cinema!

Diamonds Are Forever Odeon Leicester Square/Odeon Clerk Street with Sean Connery attending the Gala Scottish Premiere

ABOVE: (left) Diamonds Are Forever opened  on Friday December 30, 1971 at the ODEON Leicester Square and is the only James Bond film not to have a West End premiere. (right) Sean Connery did attend the Gala Scottish Premiere at the ODEON Clerk Street, Edinburgh on Friday January 14, 1972. (pictured above with his brother Neil Connery [1938-2021] also sporting a moustache)

Diamonds Are Forever ended its 13-week run at the ODEON Leicester Square on Sunday March 26, 1972, and then transferred to the London Pavilion on Piccadilly Circus for a further nine weeks, going on general release across the UK in early March. Two weeks after its London opening Diamonds Are Forever had its Gala Scottish Premiere at the ODEON Clerk Street in Edinburgh on Friday January 14, 1972. The event was attended by Sean Connery and proceeds from the evening went to the Scottish International Education Trust, the charity he founded with the one-million dollar fee he received for appearing in the film.

For many years it has been reported that Diamonds Are Forever was beaten at the UK box-office in 1971 by the popular Reg Varney comedy On The Buses, which became the highest-grossing film in the UK of that year (£2.5 million). Although a true fact, when examined, one realises that it is a highly misleading and pointless statistic. On The Buses was a spin-off from the highly popular ITV television series of the same name, and released across the United Kingdom on August 1, 1971 - while Diamonds Are Forever was first released in the UK on December 30, 1971 - and only played in one cinema, the ODEON Leicester Square, for two days at the end of the year - hence, there was no way any James Bond film could have beaten On The Buses at the box-office over two days! Like many so-called ‘facts’ surrounding the James Bond series, this example needs viewing in perspective.

Moon Buggy at the Odeon Kensington 1972/Odeon Chelsea

ABOVE: (left)  The Moon Buggy featured in Diamonds Are Forever makes an appearance at a press screening at the ODEON Kensington in February 1972. Inside the Buggy is Ray Potter - motoring correspondent, ex-motor racer and proprietor of the Hackney Gazette. (right) Diamonds Are Forever was the final film to play at the ODEON Chelsea before its closure on Saturday March 11, 1972.

Diamonds Are Forever opened at the ODEON Kensington from Thursday February 3, 1972, and New Victoria on Monday from February 7th. Even though Diamonds Are Forever was hugely popular on its original London release, cinema attendance in general was still in decline with many venues being converted into Bingo Halls, or closing altogether. This was the case for the 2,500-seat ODEON Chelsea located on the King's Road in South West London. Opened in 1934 as the Gaumont Palace, the final film screened was Diamonds Are Forever and the cinema closed after the last performance on Saturday March 11, 1972. A new much smaller 739-seat ODEON cinema was created from the old balcony area in 1973, and the venue re-opened on September 9th with Live And Let Die as the first film screened. The revival was short-lived however, and the cinema closed again on November 21, 1981.

Diamonds Are Forever was showing in cinemas at a time when the Government had just declared a state of emergency in the UK as a result of the first national miners’ strike since 1926. The strike which lasted from January 9 - February 28 resulted in power shortages across the country, and many homes and businesses had their electricity cut off for up to nine hours per day in an attempt to conserve energy. Newspapers warned cinemagoers that theatre heating was in operation as usual, but performance times may have to be adjusted due to the power cuts.

On February 25, 1972, the Kensington Post reported:

“If Goldfinger and Dr. No failed what chance then had the miners to knock out mighty James Bond? While the whole country sat meekly around its diminishing candles ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ provided a solitary glow in Kensington High Street. "Call it luck of call it Divine Will, the power cuts have not knocked out James Bond - we've only had two so far," said Mr. Roy Pearce, who manages the ODEON in Kensington High Street.”

Ken Adam with Sean Connery/Guy Hamilton directs Connery on Ken Adams set at Pinewood Studios Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever was a very odd James Bond film when released in 1971, and remains a very odd James Bond film 50 years later. Despite being hugely successful on release, its strange mixture of styles and camp humour has dated it more than many others in the series. Sub-standard special effects and several continuity errors remain in the sloppy final edit; and despite its substantial budget the film still looks cheap, exhibiting no sense of scale worthy of a James Bond film. With sets designed by Ken Adam, only one stands out as being worthy of the celebrated Production Designer; Willard Whyte’s glass-floored penthouse apartment is clearly a Ken Adam design, but nowhere near as expansive as his earlier constructions. Whilst Tom Mankiewicz’ script is genuinely witty, he can be regarded as the one who, along with director Guy Hamilton, introduced the tongue-in-cheek style that Roger Moore inherited and then ran with for the next decade. The curious combination of humour and genuinely gratuitous graphic violence was in keeping with the direction cinema in general was going in 1971, but seems oddly out of place in a James Bond film, a fact highlighted by its re-classification for home entertainment. 50 years later Diamonds Are Forever has gone gold, but its current ranking in most fans’ list of best/favourite films of the series, will probably be at the opposite end of the scale to Goldfinger; which although made by pretty much the same team far exceeds Diamonds in almost every department. As odd as Diamonds Are Forever is, it could have been even odder. Several light-hearted scenes were wisely deleted from the finished film, including a cameo appearance from entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. These deleted scenes can be viewed on the DVD/Blu-ray of Diamonds Are Forever. If the proposed American-based production starring John Gavin (who had his contract paid in full when Connery returned) had gone ahead it is doubtful that the series would have lasted, even though he was still being considered again by the producers before Roger Moore finally took on the role of 007 in 1973. Unfortunately neither Gavin’s screen-test, nor any continuity photographs have ever surfaced, so one can only speculate how he would have looked in the role. Diamonds Are Forever saw the return and departure of Sean Connery from the official EON series, and that we are still talking about it 50 years later is a testament to the enduring popularity of the franchise, but as a standalone film it is not really worthy of the James Bond character and its stock has significantly depreciated when compared to its predecessor, OHMSS, the film which ultimately brought about its production.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

A certification controversy
Since the late 1960s there had been an increase in the number of films released with violent content. Although most of these were awarded an ‘AA’ or ‘X’ certificate when released in the UK, the 1960s Bond films had always been aimed squarely at the ‘A’ audience and sometimes slightly trimmed to achieve this rating. When Diamonds Are Forever was submitted to the British Board of Film Censors in early December 1971, the Board viewed the film very carefully as it contained several scenes which caused concern in their then current form.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)  ‘AA’ certificate quad poster

Several small cuts were made (particularly to the Amsterdam lift fight between Bond and Peter Franks, and the later fight with Mr. Kidd who threatens Bond with with flaming shish kebabs) and the film was released on December 30, 1971 with an ‘A’ certificate. Although Diamonds Are Forever is played slightly more tongue-in-cheek than earlier Bond films, BBFC examiner Stephen Murphy did have pause for thought and said in his notes: “I have no doubt that if we give this film an ‘AA’ we will be criticised because every child in the United Kingdom will see clips on television”. The case notes go on to say: “I am worried by the incidents of violence in the film, which although nowhere near the intensity of some films, are still vulnerable to public criticism and possibly even to imitation”. The Board recognised they were subjecting themselves to the argument by precedent, meaning that if they passed the film uncut they would then have to pass similar violent films ‘A’ certificate in future. That said, if they had awarded an ‘AA’ (a new rating that was introduced in 1970 limiting entry to those below 14 years of age), this would have significantly reduced the audience, and had a detrimental effect on the overall box-office for the film. The ‘AA’ certificate was the first BBFC rating specifically aimed at teenagers, and acknowledged that while they might not be considered mature enough to deal with strong sexual and violent images, they were not so innocent as to require protection from everything that one might not wish very young children to see. As a result, those films awarded an ‘AA’ certificate could include mild sexual and violent material, plus a moderate amount of swearing.

Diamonds Are Forever/From Russia With Love BBFC ‘A’ certificate cards

On its original release Diamonds Are Forever played without much controversy, although the BBFC did receive one letter of complaint calling their ‘A’ rating a disgrace. Subsequent re-releases on double-bills with From Russia With Love in 1973, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1976 saw both films retain their original ‘A’ certificates [replaced in 1982 with ‘PG’]. However, local Government authorities in some locations did choose to apply the ‘AA’ rating when the film was re-run throughout the 1970s, although it was never formally classified as such by the BBFC. In addition to the re-releases with another ‘A’ rated James Bond films, Diamonds Are Forever was often double-billed with ‘AA’ rated films but was always the ‘main feature’, being the newer of the two titles. In these instances no actual double-bill poster was produced and cinemas would display just the Diamonds Are Forever poster, even though entry to the overall programme would be restricted to over 14's. This rating had also been applied to You Only Live Twice when it was paired with the Burt Lancaster Western Valdez Is Coming (1971) [already certified ‘AA’] on a provincial double-bill in 1972. Diamonds Are Forever was therefore only re-rated locally, which meant the quad-crown poster supplied by the National Screen Service needed changing, and many were overprinted (or hand lettered) with the new certificate, or had a small pasted snipe covering the amended area. These instances were rare, but as local authorities had the final say on whether a film could be screened in a given town or city, Watch Committees sometimes exercised their power in order to be seen bowing to public pressure in the wake of a larger number of films released in that period with violent subject matter. The ‘AA’ rating was also locally applied to late-night screenings of Diamonds Are Forever in order to restrict the audience to older cinemagoers. Diamonds Are Forever has also proved controversial since its UK television premiere on Christmas Day in 1978, when it was subjected to further slight cuts. However, its overall viewing figures were much smaller than for those of other James Bond films transmitted on ITV, only achieving 14.4-million viewers, a significantly lower audience than usual for a James Bond premiere as the film was not completely networked. A strike in the Yorkshire Television region meant that the channel was completely off-air throughout the 1978 Christmas period, and Diamonds Are Forever did not receive its YTV premiere until Saturday January 27, 1979 after the channel had resumed broadcasting in the first week of the New Year.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) violence

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) violence

Diamonds Are Forever was re-submitted to the BBFC in its original uncut format for its 2012 Blu-ray and DVD release. It was evident that when viewed with contemporary guidelines (which had not existed in 1971) the film was now clearly unsuitable for the equivalent ‘PG’ rating, and was re-classified as ‘12’ for home media. Interestingly, different scenes of violence were targeted than those which had caused concern in 1971. The sexual violence and misogynistic attitude of Bond as he ‘throttles’ a girl with her bikini top in the pre-credit sequence was not considered ‘PG’ material; nor was Bond calling Tiffany Case a ‘bitch’ near the end of the film (even though this line is delivered semi-jokingly). Also, the portrayal of the two killers Wint & Kidd as openly gay proved a little too much for 2012 sensibilities, even though they could have been considered quite progressive in 1971.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) at the Majestic Cinema, Aberdeen

Diamonds Are Forever front of house still

ABOVE: (left) The Majestic Cinema in Aberdeen displayed six out of the eight front-of-house stills in their foyer display announcing the upcoming screening of Diamonds Are Forever in 1972.  Unusually the two missing stills were not those depicting graphic violence. (right) One of the set of eight UK front-of house stills that depicted graphic violence.

Three out of the eight front-of-house stills displayed in cinemas during the original release had also showcased violent scenes. An alternate black & white set with different images was also available from the National Screen Service for reissue screenings. Diamonds Are Forever remains the only James Bond film to have its classification increased for home media in the UK. Licence To Kill had caused similar concerns for the BBFC in 1989, and although it was subjected to numerous cuts in order to achieve its ‘15’ certificate, this did have a huge impact on the box-office take at the time. Once again the original cuts have now been re-instated for home media, but the ‘15’ rating still remains. Minor cuts were also made to Le Chiffre's torture of Bond in Casino Royale (2006) in order to achieve the original ‘12A’ rating, and have also been reinstated in subsequent home media editions which are now classified ‘15’. However, the US and UK home media editions still have different versions of the pre-credits bathroom fight and later stairwell fight scenes, as the film was re-edited to achieve its American ‘PG-13’ rating.

US MPAA ‘GP’ rating applied to Diamonds Are Forever in 1971

Original MPAA ‘GP’ rating with additional advisory disclaimer applied to Diamonds
Are Forever
for its US release in 1971

Diamonds Are Forever was not cut for its original US release and awarded a ‘GP’ certificate by the Motion Picture Association of America. The voluntary ratings system had been in effect in the USA since November 1968 as a response to the changing attitudes across the nation, and more films being released for an adult only audience. In 1970 the ratings were amended, replacing the original ‘M’ rating (applied to On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969) with ‘GP’: All ages admitted – Parental guidance suggested; and in 1971 an advisory disclaimer was introduced stating “This film contains material which may not be suitable for pre-teenagers”.

Diamonds Are Forever was one of the small number of films that carried the new advisory rating. However, it was widely reported that neither youngsters nor their parents paid any attention to the new ratings, and on February 11, 1972, ‘GP’ was revised to ‘PG’: Parental guidance suggested – Some material may not be suitable for pre-teenagers. Diamonds Are Forever was one of the last films to carry this short-lived rating, and it is a useful tool for dating original release film posters. Attitudes changed again in more recent years, and American TV screenings of Diamonds Are Forever were usually trimmed for violent and sexual content, with some versions digitally altered to cover up exposed female flesh.

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