Reviews…James Bond Reviews: Casino Royale (1967)

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“It’s depressing that the words ‘secret agent’ have become synonymous with ‘sex maniac.'”

The Bond: Way too many. The “original” Bond is played by David Niven.

The Villain: Dr. Noah

The Henchmen: Le Chiffre, Vesper Lynd

The Bond Girls: Vesper Lynd, Moneypenny (her daughter,) Giovanna Goodthighs, and Agent Mimi

The Plan: Use biological warfare to make all women beautiful and to kill all men over 4’6. Stop laughing.

The Gadget/Car: Lots of parodies of gadgets like a spy camera and X-Ray specs.

The Song: “Casino Royale Theme” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Please note this song replays every 36 seconds throughout this 131 minute long movie.

Long before parodies like Spy Hard and the Austin Powers trilogy, there was Casino Royale in 1967. It’s not an official EON Productions James Bond film and therefore no one considers it to be canon despite it being (loosely) based on the first novel of the same name and featuring the famous secret agent…it also doesn’t help that this film is purely a comedy with virtually no seriousness to be had. There’s no hardened Daniel Craig and seductive Eva Green in this version. No epic parkour chases or grittiness in here! It’s the “ultimate” spy parody featuring such giants as David Niven and Peter Sellers of Pink Panther fame, Woody Allen, and the one and only Orson Welles.

Since this isn’t an official James Bond movie, it’s difficult to review it like one. It’s a very silly movie that is really just a strewn together series of skits and sequences rather than a coherent film. The plot is difficult to follow but what you can follow is ridiculous. What it all comes down to is: James Bond (here Sir James) is retired but it forced back into the field after a number of agents have been killed by an organization called SMERSH. The main reason revealed later on is because of their inability to resist sex. James Bond orders all agents (regardless of sex) to be given 007 status and renamed “James Bond” in an attempt to confuse the bad guys. Eventually it’s revealed who is behind everything and what the plan really is: The whole beautiful women and no tall people thing. It’s about as silly as it sounds.

The movie boasts an impressive cast and they do their jobs well. A surprise return from Ursula Andress (who played Honey Ryder in Dr. No) is the seductive Vesper Lynd and she is one of the best characters. Not quite as imposing as Eva Green’s portrayal in the reboot of the series, but still great all the same.

Orson Welles is easily the best part of the movie and unfortunately his time on screen is way too short. I gotta admit it was very strange to see someone like him in a movie like this. Again his portrayal of Le Chiffre was nowhere near the intensity of Mads Mikkelsen, but alas, parody. The famous torture of James Bond is included in the film but it involves much less ball-torture and much more psychological torture.

By far the strangest cast member is Woody Allen. He’s very funny and so is his character, but it all just seemed really out of place to me. His plan is hilariously bad (in a good way) and it’s better than some official Bond movie villain plans…I’m looking at you Gustav Graves (Die Another Day.) He was difficult to take seriously as a villain but I realize that was probably the point. It’s pointed out he can’t speak in front of Sir James and that he’s well aware of his physical drawbacks. It’s hilarious to see someone as awkward as Woody Allen masquerading around as some big time villain.

Casino Royale is one that I had trouble getting through. I understand that it’s a parody of James Bond and I understand it’s supposed to be ridiculous and often stupid. Maybe I just don’t “get” the humor but there are other comedies from the time that I love like Bedazzled which was released the same year and Mel Brooks’ The Producers. I thought the silliness was over the top and while there were some genuinely funny moments like Dr. Noah’s big reveal/plan explanation, I was still lost on a lot of it.

I understand the movie had a very troubled production and this is extremely evident by the fact that is has six directors. There were apparently strange things going on like Peter Sellers and Orson Welles not filming their scenes together and Sellers, who plays one of the James Bonds, trying to play the character straight instead of comically.

I did try to separate it from the James Bond movies as it’s not really a James Bond movie, but even when I did that and tried to view it as a parody like Austin Powers I found myself rather bored with it. I know it’s beloved by quite a few people who praise it was the ultimate spy spoof, but I just didn’t really care for it.

I thought it would be a fun and interesting exercise to review Casino Royale alongside the official James Bond movies and I’ll be reviewing another unofficial movieNever Say Never Again when the time comes. But that’s not for awhile. It’s back to business on Friday.

Justin Davis will return…to review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service! 

 

 

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