“I don’t need love,
For what good will love do me?
Diamonds never lie to me
For when love’s gone, they’ll luster on.”
It’s time for another 00 Saturdays here at Film Seizure. This week, I’ll be discussing the surprisingly lackluster music to Diamonds Are Forever. It’s interesting that great Bond films have great scores. Bond films that fall short of the mark often also have scores that don’t seem to fit the bill quite the same way as well.
First off, I am more than happy to say that I appreciate the return of Shirley Bassey. Her singing the theme “Diamonds Are Forever” is a welcome return. It fits the idea that the production was shooting for to recapture that Goldfinger feel. The director was back, Connery was here, and now Bassey is belting out a theme.
The theme does seem to capture some idea of the Vegas glitz and the type of musical entertainment you might see at a casino with overblown productions. However, there are some pretty funny behind the scenes stuff going on with this theme.
First, John Barry instructed Bassey to sing the song, with lyrics by Don Black, as if she was singing about a penis. It adds to a little bit of her delivery to the words in a way that… Well, makes it seem like something is hitting just the right spot if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Now, I’m not sure if Harry Saltzman knew of this instruction, but he absolutely hated the song. He despised the suggestive innuendo the lyrics conjured. Albert Broccoli had to convince him to keep the song and quit campaigning for it to be removed.
Me? The song’s okay. I don’t dislike it. A truly bad one is coming, but it’s not quite as special as Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger” or as pretty as the third song she’d sing for the series, “Moonraker”. It’s fine and certainly fits the library of theme songs, but it’s not one that I would ever refuse to skip in a playlist.
This is John Barry’s least impactful score for any of the 11 Bond films he’d score. The title song overshadows everything else on the soundtrack. With Sean Connery back in the role of Bond, the “James Bond Theme” returns in a more classic, guitar version in several parts of the film. Additionally, Barry’s own “007” theme returns too.
Whereas Barry works overtime on the score for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and really showed exactly how inspired he was with the Eastern sounds with You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever is surprisingly quiet, or unnoticeable, in many scenes. It was Barry’s intent that his score for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would overpower any lingering concerns and thoughts over a different guy playing the James Bond character. It is strong and powerful. There are whole sequences in Diamonds Are Forever in which I cannot tell you anything about the music. I know I noticed times where no music played under a scene which is uncommon itself. But if you gave me five scenes that did play music and none of them used either distinctive theme from the previous films in the series, I would not be able to tell you anything about the music that played.
I certainly don’t want to accuse Barry of phoning one in, but I can’t find any other words to describe how uneventful and uninteresting the score is for this film.
The Opening Title Sequence
The score may not have been interesting, but the theme song wasn’t bad. It also returned to the opening title sequence too. Maurice Binder would do something with this title sequence that would be a staple for the rest of the 70s and all of the 80s in terms of Bond films.
Instead of using stark colors and silhouettes of naked women, Binder would have scantily, sometimes nude, women in soft lighting. Most of the time, they will have guns, but diamonds would be the primary theme in this sequence. They are being held by beautifully manicured fingers, worn as large pieces of jewelry just above what’s very likely bare breasts, and when Binder pulls back his camera, you are pretty dang sure you can see some serious side boob just outside the shadowed parts just before everything goes out of focus or credits cover it all up.
From this point forward, and pretty much all the way through three decades’ worth of films, this style would dominate the opening titles. Some of Binder’s final sequences for the films would lose a little luster but it fits a theme he employed and often returned to that would ultimately inspire Daniel Kleinman, designer of the titles for all but one of the Brosnan and Craig era of films.
Honestly, between the fairly bland movie, the okay title song, and the really uninteresting score, watching a fluffy white cat walking around naked women wearing a whole bunch of diamonds turns out to the best thing in this entire movie.
Join me next week for a look at the eighth Bond film, and Roger Moore’s first, Live and Let Die.