TALES OF DIAMONDS AND LIONS
TAMES BOND, 007 has `' never commanded my interest as a reader or my affection as a filmgoer, although 1 like and admire Sean Connery and appreciate the obvious technical skill and verve with which the series has been developed into its undoubted popularity as a national institution. With these reservations, I am glad to find Diamonds are Forever ("A", Odeon Leicester Square) the most enjoyable and least offensive of the series that I have seen.
At the start, an apparently routine assignment for Bond's first contact in Amsterdam with the aptly-named Tiffany (Jill St. John) to investigate a diamond-smuggling racket leads into all the usual perils, personal and mechanical. After smuggling diamonds to Las Vegas in a coffin, Bond is presumed dead and the coffin is licked by the flames from the fiery furnace of the crematorium --until his diamonds prove to be fakes. The girl follower (Lana Wood) who picks him up at a Las Vegas casino is thrown from a tenth floor window — into a swimmingpool.
Action grows faster and more furious with a magnificent car chase which drew rare but well deserved applause at the press show, a marvellous run-around in a lunar trolley seized from astronauts on a practice moonscape, and a diamond-studded, butterfly-shaped space satellite.
The human menaces include Bond's old enemy, the blond fiend Blofeld (Charles Gray) plotting to destroy Washington, two leopard-clad Amazons to beat Bond up and two killers Wint (Bruce Glover) and Kidd (Putter Smith) who SUTvive in reserve for the next instalment, however firmly Connery insists this is his last appearance in Bondage. The mellow maturing of Connery's own humour in the role is one of the things which
made this instalment much more acceptable to me. Others are the light, firm touch of Guy Hamilton as director and the increased stylisation of both the violence and the sex which are basic ingredients.
Even Jill St. John, who has hitherto seemed a robust and vital good-looker, is transformed into a wisp of formal prettiness. The beating-up of Bond by the two Amazons might have been offensive, but is only a reduction to absurdity of Honor Blackman's old "Avengers" technique.
In answer to a young Catholic mother who wondered if she should let her thirteen-yearold son go to see "Diamonds are Forever," I must say I don't think it could do anybody with a sense of humour any serious harm — and its certainly not dull.
This same 13-year-old accompanied me to Living Free ("U" Carlton) which inspired none of the same fears, though I did occasionally wonder whether he might be mildly bored by this second film in the wonderful saga of Elsa the lioness which Joy Adamson and her husband tamed as a pet in Africa, then trained back into wild life.
My escort was polite enough to insist he wasn't bored and enjoyed it very much. Animallovers of all ages must enjoy the beauty of the African scene and the appeal of -the animals. But "Born Free" was the story of Elsa, and its fascination the charm of Elsa herself (though one might suspect she wasn't the same lioness) and of seeing her in close contact with her human foster-parents.
Its sequel follows her cubs from sheltered infancy on codliver oil. through the turbulent youth of the leonine equivalent of student age (elephants are not the things to get up to mischief among), to their eventual delivery into Serengeti National Park.
The story is as much that of the Adamsons' long. hard struggle against and with the friendly warden (Geoffrey Keen) to be allowed to carry out their determined campaign to give the cubs a lion's life. This means we see perhaps a little too much of people and not quite enough of lions.
The spreading out of the very pedestrian everyday dialogue written for the Adamsons makes the film move very slowly indeed, while, it is not within its scope to treat in depth the implied problems of adults' attitudes to animal conservation.
Susan Hampshire, succeeding Virginia McKenna as Joy Adamson, tackles the problems honestly while looking inevitably like a relaxed Fleur Forsyte in denim shorts. Nigel Davenport as her husband George is such a good actor that at first I didn't recognise him and thought him some unfamiliar Australian (or Rhodesian?) of the type who might be found doing such an outdoor job.
The scene of the delivery to Serengetti is funny as well as satisfactory. Only the infuriating final song on the soundtrack about freedom undermines the film's credibility (in the pre-jargon sense).
A key-figure in the British cinema retired from films at the turn of the year when Sir Michael Balcon resigned from the board of governors of the British Film Institute. At Ealing Studios Bakon founded one of the healthiest and happiest traditions in British films.
Both at Ealing and at the British Film Institute, Sir Michael was always an active promoter and patron of young film-makers. The great series of Ealing comedies produced under his auspices—a series of movies always modest; always rooted in the truths of everyday life—gave us a series of comedies of universal and abiding delight unmatched by any other series in the British cinema.
By a more than usually happy coincidence, a season of all six of what the British Film Institu4's valedictory tribute to Sir Michael calls "these
masterpieces" are to be shown at the Everyman, Hampstead, for a six-week season from next Monday, January 17 until Sunday, February 27.
One each week, the halfdozen are "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "Whisky Galore," "The Lavender Hill Mob," "The Man in the White Suit," "The Titchfield Thunderbolt," and "The Ladykillers." The three great directors developed at Ealing Studios are represented : the late Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton and Alexander Mackendrick.
The Ealing stars include: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Dennis Price, John Gregson, Stanley Holloway, Sidney James, Alfie Bass, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker, Hugh Griffith, Michael Gough, Frankie Howerd and the late Katie Johnson. These were the kind of films we need today. and once had. Here's a chance to see them all again.
It is arguable that titles, like posters, should be censorable independently _of the films to which they apply. What Are You Doing After the Orgy? ("X," Cinephone) is a title calculated to put off any selfrespecting filmgoer. So I didn't go to the press show.
Colleagues then told me the title was the only bad thing about this rather engaging little "black comedy." So I went to see it. But I don't know: the "X" certificate is not misplaced.
The setting, at a typical Swedish waterside holiday home. is lovely to look at and the film is witty and well played. But the story of men who are old (and a few young) Adams and two women who are serpentine Eves, with a benign middle-aged hero who lives, as far as I could tell, off the ill-gotten gains first of his wife, then of his daughter, is pretty unsavoury.
I would go to see other work by the same director, and with the same cast; but I cannot conscientiously recommend