Casino Royale (1967)
Casino Royale (1967)

Genre: Comedy and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.

Release Date: April 28th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Kenneth Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish Actors: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, George Raft, Jean Paul Belmondo, Barbara Bouchet, Angela Scoular, Gabriella Licudi

 


 

T

he most prominent component of “Casino Royale” is not what impact or legacy this adaptation might have on the massively successful string of serious James Bond pictures started by “Dr. No” in 1962, but rather the music by Burt Bacharach. After all, even if this weren’t a spoof, it’s only “suggested by the novel” (by Ian Fleming) – not even based upon it. Bacharach’s score is – even when the movie becomes terribly dull or ineffective in its humor – sensationally jazzy and upbeat. If only a movie could be judged by its soundtrack alone.

When M (John Huston) takes a visit to James Bond’s (David Niven) enormous estate (surrounded by gardens of lions), accompanied by a CIA agent, a KGB operative, and a representative of the Deuxieme Bureau, he hopes to recruit the retired superspy back into the never-ending clash against evil. All of the various security organizations have had their forces depleted, and are now desperate to engage the help of the legendary 007, who has since had his name and number reassigned to many other replacements. When he refuses, M has Bond’s mansion razed for motivation, inadvertently leading to the agency leader’s own explosive demise.

Bringing his morals, vows, celibate image, and discombobulating stutter back into the spy game, Bond journeys to Scotland to visit M’s widow, but the entire establishment has been overrun by abettors of SMERSH, an evil empire intent on destabilizing the world. And, firstly, they’re assigned to drag Bond’s reputation through the mud. Failing that, they’re ordered to simply kill him. To counter SMERSH’s relentless plotting, Bond decides to call all remaining agents by the moniker “James Bond,” to confuse enemies, while also beginning a training program to create an agent who is immune to the allure of sexy women.

What starts as a mildly amusing parody of James Bond’s profession (in the first few minutes only) quickly devolves into outrageous follies and whimsical takes on his adventures – conducted by hypersexualized interpretations of his female acquaintances (such as the aptly named Giovanna Goodthighs). The rest of it is badly orchestrated Benny Hill-styled slapstick and terribly goofy characters cavorting about in seemingly unrelated skits (or as if in a musical, as evidenced by the lavish Mata Hari/Bond routine and the mindtrip torture sequence). Every few minutes, Bond changes locations and missions, just to put him in the path of an unusually large assemblage of cameos (including Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Orson Welles, Joanna Pettet, Woody Allen, Charles Boyer, Jacqueline Bisset, Peter Sellers, and Ursula Andress, among many others) or to play dress-up.

Staying true to what Bond has since become renowned for, “Casino Royale” incorporates an abundance of fireballs, car chases, villainous henchmen, hi-tech (or faulty) gadgets, his catchphrase (“Bond, James Bond”), gambling (still baccarat), and a cornucopia of sexual innuendo. A parade of flesh so lengthy and comprehensive that it makes this mid-’60s production practically equivalent to mid-’90s softcore pornography is also included, surely intended to distract the viewer from the utter lack of worthwhile substance. Ultimately, the laughs are at a minimum and the creative lampooning virtually nonexistent, even when specific cast members (such as Sellers) could have been extraordinary in a proper mockery, or when a handful of one-liners possess subtly diverting jokes about Bond’s signature weaponry and seduction techniques. A few innovative sets, a wealth of eye-popping colors, and oodles of bared midriffs can’t redeem this juvenile experiment in adolescent fantasy from its draining runtime and its scarcity of hard-earned entertainment value. Then again, there’s always that music.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10

 

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