Last updated 3 weeks ago by Michael Darmanin
The Lover’s Boat for touristic canal cruises looked almost exactly the same in 1971 as they do now. Only those were the days way before GPS based guiding through a pre-recorded voice ringing through plugged in earphones.
So, in the movie, there is a real lady acting as guide on the boat as it approaches the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug) along the Amstel River. She regales the tourists with the tale of the two sisters who lived on either side of the river and supposedly built the bridge so that they could visit each other more frequently. And then they had run out of money, leaving the bridge incomplete.
As the boat moves forward, she points towards the right, talking about the beautiful old houses commonly seen in the paintings of Rembrandt. Then she points to the left. What would she have shown the tourists? The building of blood graffiti? The three major canals emptying into the Amstel?
We never get to find out. Because that is when, looking towards the left, the passengers scream and gasp. The corpse of an old woman is being fished out of the river.
On the Skinny Bridge stand the two creepy villains, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd. The latter clicks a picture and observes, “Mrs Whistler did want some pictures of the canals for the children.”
Diamonds Are Forever. The 1971 James Bond movie.
Sean Connery in Amsterdam
As the two villains walk along the bridge, in the background we see a yellow Triumph Stag driving along the river. In the next scene the car cruises along Reguliersgracht from the south, turns left to cross the tiny bridge along Keizersgracht and parks in front of a typical canal house. Sean Connery, dapper in a dark suit, gets off the car. He runs up the steps of Reguliersgracht 36 and rings the bell next to a card that says ‘T.Case’.
Connery, as James Bond, is impersonating the professional smuggler and murderer Peter Franks. It is as Franks that he announces himself and is buzzed in by Tiffany Case. He takes the elevator up to the third floor.
The second time he visits the house, Bond comes face to face with Franks. The smuggler is British, and acts as the Amsterdam liaison for diamonds smuggled from South Africa to the United States operations of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Yet, for some reason, Sean Connery greets him in German. Of course “Guten abend” is easier to manage than “Goedenavond” with the infamously guttural Dutch ‘g’.
Inevitably they get into a fight in the elevator. A typical James Bond plot. However, unless totally refurbished into modern hotels or cutting edge office buildings, it is very rare for Amsterdam canal houses to have elevators. The interior shots of the house and the elevator fight were filmed elsewhere, not in the Netherlands.
The canal house, however, is still called the ‘Tiffany Case House’. One can search Google Maps with that name.
I’ve read the first one
Sean Connery did travel to Amsterdam for the movie. There was also an interview from a behind-the-scenes report, conducted by movie journalist Simon van Collem. That was shot in July 1971 when the scenes in the Amsterdam canals were being filmed.
In the interview we see van Collem asking Connery, “Have you read the James Bond books?” And Connery nonchalantly answers, “I read the first one.” His voice seems to imply that the rest are all the same.
Ian Fleming had been dead for seven years by then, else perhaps the answer could have prompted him to vote for an earlier introduction of Roger Moore.
Van Collem’s interview is extremely interesting. The reputation of Amsterdam as the liberal capital of Europe in the late sixties and early seventies is apparent when he asks, “Don’t you think the Bond movies racist? They always portray the black and Chinese people as villains.” And Connery does his best to take it in his stride.
We must remember it was almost half a century ago.
A Diamond forever
Last year I was taking a guest, an elderly man from England, on a tour around Amsterdam. I pointed the Skinny Bridge, the Tiffany Case House, and spoke about the Bond connection of the city.
My friend reflected, a glint in his eye: “You know what we used to say? Sean Connery ‘was James Bond’. The rest of them, from Moore to Craig, are ‘as James Bond’.”
May he rest in peace. A diamond forever.