The Return of 007: Sean Connery in DIAMONDS ARE FORVER (United Artists 1971)


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007 fans all over the world cheered when Sean Connery returned to the role that made him famous in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, the 6th James Bond screen outing. Connery left the series in 1967 (YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), and was replaced by George Lazenby for 1969’s ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Lazenby was actually pretty good, if a bit boring, but he was one-and-done, choosing not to be typecast as cinema’s most famous spy (how’d that work out, George?). Producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman offered Connery an unprecedented $1.25 million dollars to come back, which the smart Scotsman snapped up in a heartbeat… who wouldn’t? Well, except for George Lazenby.

The opening sequence has Bond searching the globe to fins Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE’s megalomanical leader who ordered the death of Bond’s wife in the previous movie. 007 hunts down his arch nemesis and ends his villainous career in…

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Jurassic Joke: THE LOST WORLD (20th Century Fox 1960)


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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure novel THE LOST WORLD was first filmed in 1925 with special effects by the legendary Willis O’Brien  . O’Brien gets a technical credit in Irwin Allen’s 1960 remake, but his wizardry is nowhere to be found, replaced with dolled-up lizards and iguanas designed to frighten absolutely no one. This one’s strictly for the Saturday matinee kiddie crowd, and though it boasts a high profile cast, it’s ultimately disappointing.

Genre fans will appreciate the presence of The Invisible Man himself, Claude Rains , in the role of expedition leader Professor Challenger. The 71 year old Rains is full of ham here, playing to the balcony, and still managing to command the screen with his sheer talent. Challenger claims to have discovered “live dinosaurs” in the remote Amazon rainforest, a claim scoffed at by the scientific community, especially rival Professor Summerlee (the equally hammy Richard Hayden). The crusty Challenger…

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Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar Nominees: The Oscar (dir by Russel Rouse)


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I stayed up way too late last night but it was totally worth it because I was watching a film from 1966, The Oscar.

Among those of us who love bad and campy movies from the 50s and 60s, The Oscar is a legendary film.  It has a reputation for being one of best so bad-its-good-films ever made.  The Oscar is a film that I’ve read about in several books but, until last night, I had never gotten a chance to actually see it.  When I saw that the film was going to be on last night, I said “Sleep be damned!” and I stayed up and watched.  What other choice did I have?

The Oscar takes place in a world where women are “dames” and men are “fellas” and everyone acts as if they’re a character in a Rat Pack-themed fanfic.  One look at Frankie Fane (played by Stephen Boyd) and you know he’s the type of guy who snaps his fingers when he walks and probably uses pig Latin when he flirts.  He’s one cool cat and as the film begins, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

The film begins at the Oscars.  Frankie sits out in the audience, surrounded by Hollywood royalty and nervously waiting for the envelope to be opened.  The camera pans over to Frankie’s personal manager, Hymie Kelley.  Hymie stares bitterly at his former friend and suddenly, we hear his thoughts and do they ever let us know what type of movie we’re about to see.

As Hymie himself puts it:

“You finally made it, Frankie! Oscar night! And here you sit, on top of a glass mountain called “success.” You’re one of the chosen five, and the whole town’s holding its breath to see who won it. It’s been quite a climb, hasn’t it, Frankie? Down at the bottom, scuffling for dimes in those smokers, all the way to the top. Magic Hollywood! Ever think about it? I do, friend Frankie, I do…”

Hymie, incidentally, is played by the singer Tony Bennett.  This was Bennett’s first dramatic film role and it was also his last.  Whatever talent or magnetism Bennett may have had as a singer, it didn’t translate into screen presence.  Bennett goes through the entire film looking embarrassed but who can blame him when the script calls for him to constantly tell Frankie that, “You lie down with pigs, you stand up smelling like garbage…”

As we discover through the use of flashback, Frankie has had to lay down with a lot of pigs to get his chance at winning an Oscar.  After starting out his career working at sleazy clubs, Frankie, Hymie, and Frankie’s stripper girlfriend (Jill St. John) find themselves in New York.  Frankie dumps his girlfriend (unaware that she’s pregnant with his child) after he meets artist Elke Sommer at a “swinging party.”

“Are you a tourist or a native?” Frankie asks her.

“Take one from column A and one from column B.  You get an egg roll either way,” Sommer replies.

No wonder Frankie tells her, “You make my head hurt with all that poetry.”

Eventually, Frankie is discovered by a talent agent who takes him to see studio mogul Joseph Cotten (who went from Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Third Man to this).  Cotten is so impressed with Frankie that he says, “Once in a while, you bring me meat like this.  It all has different names: prime rib of Gloria, shoulder cut of Johnny.  MEAT!”

With the help of savvy talent agent Milton Berle, Frankie becomes a film star but he’s still a total heel who cheats on Sommer and takes advantage of Hymie’s loyalty.  When Frankie gets nominated for an Oscar, he hires a sleazy private investigator (Ernest Borgnine, of course) to leak a story about Frankie’s criminal past.  Frankie assumes that one of his fellow nominees will be blamed for the leak and that he’ll be able to ride a wave of sympathy to victory.

And who are Frankie’s fellow nominees?  We only learn the identity of three of them – Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, and Burt Lancaster.  We never find out what movie Sinatra was nominated for but we’re told that Burton was nominated for The Grapes of Winter (which, I’m going to assume, was a film version of a Shakespeare play about Tom Joad) while Lancaster was nominated for his amazing performance in The Spanish Armada.  Doesn’t that sound like an amazing film?

Oh, how to describe the delirious experience of watching The Oscar?  In many ways, it is a truly terrible movie but it’s fun in the way that only a “racy” film from the mid-60s can be.  Nobody plays his or her role with anything resembling subtleness.  Instead, everyone spends the entire film yelling, screaming, and gritting their teeth while flaring their nostrils.  Everyone, that is, except for Tony Bennett who gives a performance that has a definite community theater feel to it.  Even better is the dialogue.  People in this film don’t just say their lines – they exclaim them.  If you’ve ever wanted to spend two hours in a world where every sentence ends with an exclamation point, watch The Oscar.

For a film that was apparently meant to be something of a love letter to the Academy, The Oscar was only nominated for two Oscars.  It received nominations for Best Art Design and Best Costume Design.  While I had a hard time seeing what was so impressive about the film’s art design (in the world of The Oscar, Hollywood has a definite Ikea feel to it), the costumes were fairly impressive in a tacky, 1966 type of way.

Finally, I think it’s time that somebody remake The Oscar.  David Fincher can direct it, Aaron Sorkin can write the script, Jessie Eisenberg can play Frankie Fane, and Justin Timberlake would make for an adorable Hymie Kelley.  For the supporting roles, I think Billy Crystal would be a natural for Milton Berle’s role and perhaps Philip Baker Hall could step into the shoes of Joseph Cotten.  Perhaps veteran film blogger and self-described very important person Sasha Stone could make her film debut in Ernest Borgnine’s role.

Seriously, I think it would be a winner.

James Bond Review: Diamonds Are Forever (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


I think it’s a well-known fact that the Austin Powers series was spoofing the spy film of the 60’s and 70’s with it’s main target for laughs being the iconic James Bond character and his international adventures of action and intrigue. The James Bond films with each successive entry became more and more fantastic as the megalomania of each new villain became more and more cartoonish and over-the-top and the gadgets themselves started entering the realm of science-fiction (for that time and era, at least) and back-of-the-comic-book ingenuity. I think the tipping point for the series that took James Bond from action thriller to spoofing it’s own past was with Sean Connery’s last official film as James Bond with Diamonds Are Forever.

To say that Sean Connery was truly getting tired and bored with playing the character James Bond on the big screen would be an understatement. His previous Bond entry with You Only Live Twice showed him pretty much disinterested with the role and one would almost think he was phoning in his performance. After that film Connery had announced his retirement from playing Bond, but after George Lazenby also retired from the role after just one film Connery was soon back for one more ride on the James Bond train.

Diamonds Are Forever once again pits James Bond against his arch-nemesis, the leader of SPECTRE and feline connoisseur, Ernst Blofeld. This time around the role of Blofeld was played by the actor Charles Gray and the film does a good job in explaining why the character has been played by so many different actors in each entry he appeared in. It is in this early sequence in the film that we begin to see that this latest James Bond entry had jumped the shark when it came to trying to keep things even remotely believable. It’s the film’s biggest flaw an, at the same time, what made it such an interesting, fun ride.

Even the plot of the film owes more to the spoofs of the Blofeld character by way of the Austin Powers films as Bond must try to stop SPECTRE from using smuggled South African diamonds from being used to create  weaponized satellite with a massive “laser” that SPECTRE will use to destroy the nuclear arsenal of every superpower then auction off the rights to be the only nuclear power to the highest bidding country. It’s pretty much the the basic foundation of what would be the plot for the first Austin Powers, but with this film filmmaker Guy Hamilton still tried to treat the script as something that was of the serious Bond when it was more 60’s camp through and through.

Diamonds Are Forever may be the weakest of all the Connery Bond films, but it’s groovy sensibilities that celebrated the 60’s (despite the film having been made in 1971) psychedelic, swinging lifestyle poked fun at Bond’s predilection as a suave and charismatic womanizer that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 60’s love-in. Even the action sequences was something that looked more humorous than thrilling whether it was Bond escaping SPECTRE henchmen on a moon buggy to the inept duo assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd looked more at home in an action comedy than a series that was known for serious action.

I would be remiss to not mention that this was the only time the Bond series had a redhead as a Bond Girl in the vivacious form of Jill St. John as Tiffany Case. I would also like to think that the other Bond Girl in the film, played by Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s younger sister), was also a redhead but I’m not entirely sure since most audiences probably didn’t pay too close attention to Plenty O’Toole’s hair color. Either way this would be the only Bond film that would cast what fellow writer Lisa Marie calls the 2%.

Diamonds Are Forever might not have been the sort of return Sean Connery envisioned for himself when he agreed to return as James Bond after taking a film off, but then again this wouldn’t be the first time he would retire from the role only to come back again. Yet, despite all it’s flaws (there were many of them) the film does entertain though probably not in the way it’s filmmakers hoped it would. I do believe that it was this film that finally brought in Roger Moore as the next Bond, but also convinced the film’s producers to tailor the Bond films using some of the humorous aspect of Diamonds Are Forever but tempered to accompany the action in the story.

James Bond will soon return in Live And Let Die….