Monday, August 15, 2011

Casino Royale (1967)

Directors: Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Richard Talmadge

Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, John Huston, Barbara Bouchet, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacqueline Bisset, Richard Burton, eraldine Chaplin, Jack Gwillim, Burt Kwouk, John Le Mesurier, Caroline Munro, Peter O'Toole

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Casino Royale is too much for one James Bond!

Plot: After the death of M, Sir James Bond is called back out of retirement to stop SMERSH. In order to trick SMERSH and Le Chiffre, Bond thinks up the ultimate plan. That every agent will be named James Bond. One of the Bonds, whose real name is Evelyn Tremble, is sent to take on Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat, but all the Bonds get more than they can handle, especially when the ultimate villain turns out to be Bond's nephew, Jimmy Bond.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

CASINO ROYALE is, for most people, a curiosity at best. As a Bond film, forget it. As a comedy, it's wildly uneven, sometimes dull and silly and sometimes genuinely funny as hell. It's one of those big budget 'kitchen sink' comedies which were so prevalent in the late 60s that has a huge cast and tries so hard to deliver something for everyone. They rarely work as intended.

There's an awful lot that does work in this one and that's primarily the cast. David Niven (Ian Fleming's original choice to play Bond) as Bond is great, especially once he's back on the job. Woody Allen is hysterical, Sellers is fun, although not being particularly funny. Orson Welles is hilarious and Barbara Bouchet as Moneypenny is scrummy as ever and she needs to have my babies...

as does Ursula Andress...

and Joanna Pettet...

and Daliah Lavi...

I should clear my schedule.

I could go on about the other more minor roles but I don't have that kind of time. Burt Bacharach's score is one of his best comedy scores. The tunes are fun and firmly belong in the late 60s. Nothing dates a movie like its score and this one revels in it. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the main theme by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass!

As much as I like many aspects of this picture, it's tough getting through the dry spots like the first 40 minutes leading up to Sir James Bond in action once he's back at the office. There's barely a laugh. From that point on it's a fun ride, not always funny (and there are some misses) but a fun time nevertheless. I just wish they'd done something different with the first third of the picture. It's almost pointless and heavy on the not funny.

I think in the future I'll just skip ahead and pretend the first 40 minutes don't exist. It'll be a more enjoyable, not to mention A LOT shorter, movie (it clocks in at 2 hours, 11 minutes!!!). As a die hard Bond fan (with the exception of the Brosnan pictures and one each of the Connery and Moore films) I'm perfectly fine that this exists. As a fan of movies, I really dig it. The psychedelic sets, mood, calamity, film stars (I'm a huge fan of so much of the cast it's ridiculous), the wacky 60s score, the insanely goofy fight at the end, the works.


  1. Also the score is superb. The Herb Alpert title song is possibly my least favorite. "The Look of Love" by Dusty Springfield is really the best Bond theme out there, but overlooked for political reasons. Each composition on the album is very well done, the musicianship is several cuts above the usual, and the sound engineering is legendary for it's quality. I owned this as a child, and have never gotten tired of it even after nearly fifty years.

  2. Funny thing, a few days ago I'm in San Francisco and a street magician was doing his act with the Herb Alpert CASINO ROYALE theme playing. I'm a huge fan of magic but just for playing that song I walked over and put a dollar in his tip jar and said this is for playing such great music. He replied with, "Well, what about the magic?". The dollar had to go somewhere and I wasn't going to break it down to .50 for the song and .50 for the sleight of hand business. He seemed offended (I kind of would be, too, in his shoes) but it was such a delight to hear ANY Herb Alpert in public that I had to respond by giving someone money.

    I have the soundtrack to this and I should give it a spin soon and not just a passive listen. It's a great soundtrack.

  3. I was maybe 12 when I saw this, on the big screen no less - I thought the main theme was so good I went straight back in and watched it again. Still dig the soundtrack.