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Tuesday March 2nd 2021

Diamonds Are Forever | 1971

Diamonds Are Forever filming location: Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, Paradise Road, Las Vegas
Diamonds Are Forever location: the ‘Whyte House’: Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, Paradise Road, Las Vegas

Sean Connery returned as Bond, for his last appearance in the mainstream series, in one of the better films – with the best theme song – though unfortunately hampered by production problems.

With Blofeld (Charles Gray, promoted to arch-villain from his Mr Henderson role in You Only Live Twice) apparently disposed of via a gunge tank before the credits, the plot involves diamond smuggling.

Under the guise of ‘Peter Franks’, Bond heads off via hovercraft to continental Europe from the Hoverport at Dover, in Kent. This was all cutting-edge stuff – the Dover-Calais service had only recently been instituted, in 1968. The cross-channel service continued up until 2000, when the abolition of duty charge meant it was no longer profitable.

One of the largest hovercraft built, the Princess Margaret – seen in the film – is now on display in the Hovercraft Museum (the only one in the world) at Gosport, Hampshire, along with the smaller craft seen in Die Another Day.

Bond’s destination is Europe’s gem capital, Amsterdam, where shocked sightseers see the body of the old lady being hauled from the Amstel Canal at the Skinny Bridge.

Diamonds Are Forever location: Reguliersgracht 36, Amsterdam
Diamonds Are Forever location: Tiffany Case’s apartment: Reguliersgracht 36, Amsterdam

The canalside apartment of Tiffany Case (Jill St John) is on the third floor of Reguliersgracht 36.

But, of course, Bond is soon off to glossier locations, in this case Los Angeles, where he meets Felix Leiter over the body of ‘James Bond’ at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), One World Way, with its distinctive its arched concrete 'spider’ – the Theme Building – then less than ten years old.

He’s on his way, with his dead ‘brother’ to Las Vegas, Nevada. Apart from the car chase through the parking lot of the Mint, which was filmed on the Universal lot in Los Angeles, the Las Vegas exteriors were shot in the casino city itself.

Diamonds Are Forever location: Circus Circus, Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada
Diamonds Are Forever location: Bond meets up with Tiffany Case: Circus Circus, Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas

The ‘Slumber Inc Mortuary’, where Bond nearly gets cremated, is put together from three different locations.

The quirky exterior is the Palm Henderson Mortuary & Cemetery, 800 South Boulder Highway, at Henderson, a couple of miles southeast of Vegas itself.

Although there’s hardly a shortage of over-the-top decor in Vegas, the designers went for broke and built the fantasy interior at Pinewood Studios in the UK.

The garden of remembrance, where Bond deposits the urn and gets whacked over the head by Messrs Kidd and Wint, really is Las Vegas. Still there, it’s the Palm Downtown Cemetery, 1325 North Main Street.

Full advantage is taken of the ‘theme’ casinos though, with Bond and Tiffany Case meeting up in Circus Circus, 2880 Las Vegas Boulevard South, where trapeze artists dangle over the heads of the punters.

Diamonds Are Forever location: the Riviera Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas
Diamonds Are Forever location: Bond wins: the Riviera Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas

Willard Whyte’s ‘Whyte House’ is the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (then the Las Vegas International Hotel), 3000 Paradise Road, with an extra tower matted in. The hotel was also featured in two Eighties dramas, Over the Top, with Sylvester Stallone, and Indecent Proposal, with Robert Redford and Demi Moore.

At the now gone Riviera Hotel and Casino, 2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South (a major location for Martin Scorsese’s Casino), Bond wins $50,000 and Plenty O’Toole, though Sammy Davis Jr’s cameo ended up on the cutting room floor.

Diamonds Are Forever location: the Tropicana, Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas
Diamonds Are Forever location: Bond’s hotel: the Tropicana, Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas

Bond stays, naturally, at the home of the bare-breasted Folies Bergère revue, the Tropicana, 3801 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The car chase, filmed on Fremont Street, meant that Vegas’ main drag had to be cordoned off for three nights. The heart of the 'old' Vegas, the street has now been developed into the Fremont Street Experience, covered by a four-block electronic canopy that delivers an eye-and-ear popping son et lumière show.

The ‘Techtronics Missile Laboratories’ are the Johns Manville Gypsum Plant on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Whyte’s winter villa is a private home, the Elrod House, 2175 Southridge Drive, Palm Springs, designed by John Lautner, acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Blofeld launches his satellite from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the coast between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, I-1, southern California. The anti-aircraft guns were mounted on a temporary oil rig which was installed off the coast of Southern California near Oceanside, Route 5, between Los Angeles and San Diego.

It was a confused and troubled production, leading to some eccentric continuity as the disparate shots were matched up. The most famous blooper is the stunt car careering down a narrow alley on its two left-hand wheels and emerging from the alley on its right side.