Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale (1967) (250)Synopsis: Welcome to Casino Royale, the ultimate psychedelic secret agent satire! Packed with girls, guns and gags galore, this “very funny picture” (The New Yorker) delivers “laughs all the way” (Cue)! Starring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Joanna Pettet, Orson Welles, Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, and others, and with an original score from Oscar winner Burt Bacharach, this groovy spy movie is “even farther out” (L.A. Herald Examiner) than all other spoofs combined.

British intelligence is waning… in every possible way! When the diabolical SMERSH begins killing off Her Majesty’s Secret Service, super-agent James Bond (Niven) recruits six more “James Bonds” to confuse and conquer their enemies. But it won’t be easy, they’ll have to face an army of irresistibly sexy female operatives, exploding robotic fowl, parachuting Indians and a germ that makes all women beautiful… but kills all men over 4’6″!

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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

Casino Royale (1967)

Dates of viewings: August 1-3, 2014

1-Casino Royal (1967)

Opening credits

The Thorn: 4.0 – Following a really brief sequence featuring Peter Sellers as James Bond, which doesn’t really tie into anything, we are treated to an unusual set of opening credits that featuring footage of each credited cast member framed in hand-drawn doodles. It’s not great, but it’s very sixties.

***

2-Casino Royale (1967)
Story
The Thorn: 1.0 – This ‘Casino Royale’, although loosely based on the book, retains very little aside for a couple of characters and the Baccarat match between Bond and Le Chiffre – which itself is turned into a parody. It is said that this is due to Sellers not completing the film and the producers scrambling to patch everything together. The end story is that the original James Bond, played by David Niven, decides to confuse the opposition by renaming all MI6 agents (men and women) “James Bond 007”. One of those James Bonds, one of many, is played by Peter Sellers. Don’t ask. B-t-w, this is the coherent version of the plot, but it makes very little sense in practice; it’s all over the damned place. A real nightmare. Honest.
***
3-Casino Royale (1967)
Banter
The Thorn: 2.0 – There are a few amusing lines here and there (I’d say the more absurdist ones were successful: “You can’t shoot me! I have a very low threshold of death. My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”), but it’s mostly really corny material. Or just plain bad.
***
4-Casino Royale (1967)
Villains
The Thorn: 4.0 – Most of the villains are nondescript and forgettable, with the exception of Orson Welles as Le Chiffre. He’s got a terrific presence. Unfortunately, this is marred by his predilection for doing parlour tricks between each hand of Baccarat. I suppose that it fits the film’s satirical nature, but it took up far too much time. Then there’s the surprise villain, who is so corny that you want to smack him around. And I’m a fan of the actor. Hint, hint.
***
5-Casino Royale (1967)
Bond Girls
The Thorn: 7.0 – There are so many beautiful ladies in this movie, it’s ridiculous – it’s a veritable cornucopia of sexiness. Being on that set would have been like being a kid in a candy shop. Jacqueline Bisset has memorable turn as Miss Goodthighs, Barbara Bouchet brings a girl-next-door quality to Miss Moneypenny’s daughter, Joanna Pettet (oh, I would, baby!) was luscious as Mata Bond (before her hair gets cropped) and Ursula Andress was gorgeous as Vesper Lynd (even if she couldn’t act herself out of a bag). The characters weren’t especially strong, but they weren’t weak either.
***
6-Casino Royale (1967)
Gadgets
The Thorn: 4.0 – Radio fishing pole, radio bagpipe, machine-gun bagpipe, remote-controlled milk truck. That’s as good as it got.
***
7-Casino Royale (1967)
Vehicles
The Thorn: 4.0 – The film has little to offer other than a Bentley, a race car, the afore-mentioned milk truck and… a flying saucer (don’t ask!). The rest is par for the course, unimpressive.
***
8-Casino Royale (1967)
Locales
The Thorn: 4.0 – There isn’t a lot of location shooting on this film – it seems as though the producers decided to erect tons of sets instead. Sometimes that can work, but here none of the sets look real, so you’re constantly reminded that you’re watching a movie. So much money spent on garbage. Points for ambition and effort, but none for execution. Heck, ‘Batman: The Movie’ looks good compared to this.
***
9-Casino Royale (1967)
Stunts
The Thorn: 3.0 – There’s not much to speak of, as far as stunts are concerned, and the fight sequences (what little there is) all looked fake as hell.
***
10-Casino Royale (1967)
Soundtrack
The Thorn: 5.0 – You know, this is one of the picture’s best assets, but it’s woefully ill-suited – it would better serve a romantic film (Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” was first introduced here, if that says anything). The theme song is a playful number that work for a comedy/satire, but it only plays over the credits. So it’s probably a good album, but not quite right for the film.
***
11-Casino Royale (1967)
Best Bond moment
The Thorn: The Baccarat duel between Evelyn Tremble/James Bond and Le Chiffre. It doesn’t have nearly the same tension as in the 2006 version, but Sellers and Welles both have terrific presence – even if they didn’t film it together (due to an on-set feud between the two). The sequence is annoying because of Le Chiffre’s stupid magic numbers, but it’s by far the best part of the picture – which is saying something.
***
12-Casino Royale (1967)
Worst Bond moment
The Thorn: There are so many that you can’t really narrow it down to just one moment. But the sequence I hate the most is the Mata Bond solo outing in East Germany, which is surreal, nonsensical and just plain dumb.
***
13-Casino Royale (1967)
Overall impression
The Thorn: 3.0 – This is one really bad movie. I give it points for its massive cast, which includes everyone under the sun (including some past Bond series actors and Sellers film staples Burt Kwouk and Graham Stark). That was fun. Also, David Niven and Peter Sellers make this movie palatable, giving it its only air of dignity. The rest is utter shite, though. Due to missing footage, many scenes don’t even connect – one moment you’re in one place, the next moment you’re in an unrelated, inexplicable part of the story. And the ending is totally mental, complete chaos. You have to be on serious drugs to make any sense of this and/or enjoy it. It’s pretty much impossible to watch this in one sitting without gouging one’s eyes and ears out with a plastic spoon.

“James Bond” will return

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