Following the disappointing box office returns for On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the departure of George Lazenby as James Bond, Producers decided that a change of direction was needed for the seventh movie of the series. In order to compete at the box office it was felt that an American actor was needed for the role and that the story would be based in the USA. The actor finally selected as the third James Bond was John Gavin and studio space was booked at Universal Studios where Ken Adam began to design the sets required for the film. A last ditch attempt to lure Sean Connery back as Bond and an earthquake in Los Angeles meant that the production moved back to Pinewood Studios and John Gavin was paid off. Director Guy Hamilton enlisted Tom Mankiewicz as co-screenwriter with Richard Maibaum and this new team took Bond in a new direction at the beginning of a new decade.

Moon Buggy Moon Buggy Moon Buggy

As much of the story of Diamonds are Forever was based in and around Las Vegas it was felt that the locale itself could be used as a backdrop and that large scale sets would look out of place in an already unreal environment. Ken Adam again concentrated on the hardware required for the story and enhanced existing buildings with his unique designs. The house where Bond meets Bambi & Thumper was a real structure build out of the rock in the Nevada desert and Adam simply added the dressing to further heighten the modern look of the rooms. The Moon Buggy was designed by Adam using the real lunar vehicle as his inspiration but problems with the construction meant that the finished version was not as robust as he originally intended.

The Whyte House The Whyte House The Whyte House Unused Concept

The inspiration for the story of Diamonds are Forever was real-life millionaire recluse Howard Hughes, who was a long time friend of Producer Cubby Broccoli. Hughes lived in a penthouse suite at the Desert Inn casino and this idea was extended to make Blofeld a Hughes-like figure who was running his empire in a similar fashion. Ian Fleming's diamond smuggling plotline was modernised to include the gem encrusted satellite that was designed by Adam as a cross between a mobile and a radar dish. Unfortunately the final version was spoiled by poor special effects and remains very unconvincing compared to the ones used in later films of the series. The exterior of the Whyte House was executed with convincing matte paintings and models for the long shots but for the interiors Adam designed a sumptuous apartment set at Pinewood including the famous fish-filled waterbed made of Plexiglas.

Laser Satellite Laser Satellite Laser Satellite

Ken Adam wanted Blofeld's penthouse apartment to be ultra-modern and filled with the latest technology and used a great deal of metal and glass in the construction giving it a clean antiseptic look. An early concept sketch by Adam shows a huge room filled with computers that was ultimately dropped from the final script. The huge circular apartment set is one of the stand-out designs of the film and one of the more unreal sets in a film that was ultimately based more in reality than many of its predecessors.

Blofeld's Apartment Blofeld's Apartment Blofeld's Apartment

For the finale of the film a disused oil rig off the Santa Barbara coast stood in for Blofeld's headquarters. Adam added various buildings to the existing structure and created the interior control rooms back at Pinewood Studios. Constrained by the physical size of the oil rig, Adam had to make the control rooms quite small in contrast to the vast designs of You Only Live Twice. Blofeld's bathosub was was constructed full size using Adam's concept sketches and then included in the pyrotechnic finale of the film which pales in comparison to the other final showdowns of the Bond series.

Oilrig & Bathosub Concepts Oilrig Oilrig

Diamonds are Forever was very successful at the box office and the series continued on the fantasy-reality path for the next two films without Ken Adam who took a different route designing three period films in a complete contrast to his work on the Bond films. Joseph Mankiewicz's (Father of Tom) Sleuth contained studio based theatrical style designs (as did The Seven-Percent Solution) whereas Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon was filmed entirely on location and it was for this film that Adam would win his first Academy Award. Ironically both of Ken Adam's Oscars (Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George) were for films that didn't use the remarkable sets designs for which he is most famous. Adam was nominated for the set designs for The Spy Who Loved Me but lost out to Star Wars - in any year other than 1977 Adam would have been honoured for his production design on the Bond series and truly given the recognition that it deserved.

Dr. No | Goldfinger | Thunderball | You Only Live Twice | The Spy Who Loved Me | Moonraker