Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Death and Diamonds (1968)
Xploited Cinema | Review by Dan Taylor

I didn't know much about Jerry Cotton G-Man going into this viewing of DEATH AND DIAMONDS (aka DYNAMITE IN GREEN SILK), the sixth flick in the popular Jerry Cotton series. All I knew was that he was the subject of a series of popular pulp novels that became a swinging 1960s German movies series starring George Nader as Cotton. Sort of like James Bond, but on a more limited budget. With little more than that to go on I sat down for DYNAMIT IN GRUNER SEIDE, but I wasn't anywhere near prepared for what was to come. But from the point-the-gun-and-paint-the-screen-red opening to the jaunty credit sequence (complete with German beer hall music filtered through a swinging 60s vibe), it became clear I was in for a real treat.

Directed by Harold Reinl, D&D starts off with the heist of a few tanks of poisonous gas from a California research lab (complete with smiley skull & crossbones warning signs). The crooks – working for a mysterious criminal kingpin known only as "Stone" – pull off the robbery but get double-crossed by Stone's henchman. With one last valiant breath, a dying con utters a crucial hint that will help the feds bring down Stone and his entire organization.

Seems that Rick Trevor, a British criminal skilled at disarming high-tech security systems, is next up on Stone's payroll, once he gets out of jail that is. Since Trevor's appearance has inexplicably changed dramatically since he entered the joint a decade ago (wha?!), the fuzz figure this is their perfect opportunity to install one of their own men in Trevor's place.

"Who can I put on this job?," the chief asks. "Who'd be good?"

Well, since the series is called 'Jerry Cotton G-Man' it better fucking be Jerry Cotton!

Not surprisingly, Jerry gets the nod, thanks in part to his ability to – wait for it – play the piano. And, in one of the flick's strangest scenes, Jerry visits his piano instructor mother (Kathe Haack) who expresses her concern for her son's line of work. There's a weird dynamic going on in this sequence, not unlike the relationship between Principal Skinner and his mother on THE SIMPSONS. What's the word I'm searching for? Oh right, creepy. That's it. (Oddly enough, though a big deal is made about Real Trevor and Fake Trevor being able to play the piano, it never re-enters the tale.)

With the real Trevor removed from the picture (by spilling milk on him for crying out loud!), Jerry assumes his identity and insinuates himself into the gang with the sly move of wearing the same color suit as the recently-sprung con. Oh yeah, and by affecting the single most unconvincing and effeminate British accent ever conceived for the silver screen.

How bad is it? Imagine you and your friends are sitting around one night and somebody casually says, "Hey, let's pretend we're Brits and start talking in outrageous English accents old chum and all that bollocks." I guarantee you'd be more believable than Nader. Christ, he could've spoken like a bloody pirate and been more convincing!

Once in tight with the gang, Cotton/Trevor immediately makes a nuisance of himself by asking questions. Lots of questions. Who's the boss? What's the job? When can I meet the boss? What's the job? Who's the boss? And so on. Add this to his penchant for snooping around rooftops, beating up Stone's righthand man Bloom (Carl Mohner), and slipping his guards, and it's hard to believe they don't just cut their losses, kill him and find another crook!

After heisting a gadget referred to over and over again as The Absorber, the real heist goes into motion. Do I even need to mention that it's a highly elaborate heist, riddled with opportunities for things to go wrong? Nah, I didn't think so.

The plan is to steal millions of dollar worth of diamonds by having Cotton/Trevor disarm the alarm system, fill the room with the poison gas lifted in Scene 1 and employ The Absorber (which I both love writing and hearing) to suck the diamonds from the room. Yep, The Absorber is a vacuum cleaner with a really, really long hose. Awesome.

Not surprisingly, Jerry's had just about enough of Bloom and Co. and decides to stop the heist. Which doesn't go as well as planned, despite fight choreography that's on par with anything done on an episode of BATMAN starring Adam West. Fun and enjoyable to this point, DEATH AND DIAMONDS takes this opportunity to ratchet the action up a few notches and makes the last 20 minutes twice as zanily entertaining as any similar stretch from a Bond flick. But if you filmed it with zero budget.

For instance: Jerry gets trapped in and escapes from an incinerator, in a scene that puts Nader uncomfortably close to the flames (and is eerily prescient of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER); Bloom double-crosses the other criminals (naturally) and ends up losing the diamonds to Jerry (naturally) during yet another double-cross (naturally); Jerry convinces his bosses (who thought he was dead, naturally) to let him have the diamonds so he can draw the mysterious Stone out into the open; Jerry gets hosed by Mabel (Marlies Drager), the mysterious brunette who's been hanging around the hideout marked with a giant sign that says BAR over the doorway; Mabel bullwhips (!) Lana (Silvie Solar), the voluptuous non-love interest whom Jerry treats with the good-natured casualness of a close chum; a motorcycle vs. car chase that features Jerry leaping from a speeding cycle to avoid an explosion; a 100-foot jump from a bridge onto the canopy of the getaway boat; fistfights, exploding boats and more.

Whew... I'm outta breath just writing it!

Of course, I'd be totally remiss if I failed to mention what is undoubtedly the flick's Price of Admission sequence. Facing down a getaway car in an alley, Jerry doesn't pull the usual stunt seen in such flicks. You know what I'm talking about, the old step aside and let the car s-q-u-e-e-z-e by routine. Instead, Jerry runs at the car and jumps – FEET FIRST! – through the front windshield! And if that ain't enough, he then conks out the driver and takes over the wheel... all without mussing a hair on his head. An amazing, laugh-out-loud because you can't believe what you've just seen, holy crap I gotta rewind that scene if ever there was one.

DEATH AND DIAMONDS is a hoot. Nader – who strikes me as a cross between Cliff Robertson, Dick Clark, Jerry Orbach, Jim Rockford and Principal Skinner – drifts through the flick with a detached casualness that makes the whole thing kinda charming and (in many ways) more fun than same-era Bond flicks like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE or DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. The 60s-era Southern California architecture sprinkled throughout is nothing short of delightful and I wish the flick had put it to even more use. Peter Thomas's score gives the proceedings added lightness and I found myself walking around the house whistling the opening theme, much to the dismay of my perplexed pooch. Harold Reinl's direction is solid and keeps things moving, punctuating the action with a fight or some kind of dustup every few minutes, and we even get some swinging go-go chicks at the BAR dancing up a storm in their white bra and panties.

Schwing-tastic!!


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