CASINO ROYALE (1967) ***
*NOTE* I will attempt (if it’s at all possible) to review a variety of JAMES BOND films over the course of the next few days. I won’t tell you which ones I have in mind because I want the element of surprise on my side.
THE JAMES BOND project was originally started by one of my best friends in the whole wide world: MR. CRAIG KENNEDY of LIVING IN CINEMA
I’ll be back tomorrow with more.
There has never been a film like the first version of CASINO ROYALE.
There never will be again…
(The 2006 motion picture of the same title bears little resemblance to this magnificent ode to excess aside from some characters with identical names and a number of very minor plot points.)
Only the splendid anarchy of the 1960s could produce such a ravishing mess.
It’s so wild and beyond the bounds of anything you could ever imagine. How could you possibly keep a straight face?
When will you ever see a movie where someone takes a taxi from London to West Berlin in the blink of an eye and then the passenger refuses to pay the cab driver because she hasn’t got any change?
There’s the scene where you think that you’re going to see a highly anticipated makeout session between two famous people and you get a full scale historical fashion show instead, while the fabulous DUSTY SPRINGFIELD sweetly intones THE LOOK OF LOVE in the background.
There’s an enormous flying spacecraft that lands right in the middle of central England. Plus there’s that bombastic, over the top ending that makes as much sense as running barefoot through a minefield.
It was wall to wall with cherished favourites: PETER SELLERS as EVELYN TREMBLE, WOODY ALLEN as JIMMY BOND/DR. NOAH and ORSON WELLES as LA CHIFFRE.
It also possesses the distracting presence of ultraglamorous URSULA ANDRESS as the original VESPER LYND.
There are five credited directors (JOHN HUSTON among them; he also had a small role as M where he did one of the worst Scottish accents ever committed to film) and as least as many writers. WOODY ALLEN and PETER SELLERS wrote their own material. BILLY WILDER also worked on the script.
It has a superb musical score by BURT BACHARACH and a fantastic title theme performed by HERB ALPERT & THE TIJUANA BRASS.
The great JULIE HARRIS made the glorious costumes for the film. (Ms. Harris previously designed clothes for DARLING and two BEATLES pictures, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and HELP. She went on to such projects as GOOD BYE MR. CHIPS and an actual BOND flick, LIVE & LET DIE.) The eye catching gowns for the casino scenes were commissioned from GUY LAROCHE.
There isn’t much plot and what there is doesn’t really register anyway. You don’t watch movies like CASINO ROYALE for the story. You’re either entertained by its bizarre off the wall charm or it gives you a massive headache.
DAVID NIVEN (the original JAMES BOND in the movie) is coaxed – actually manipulated – out of retirement. Once he’s agreed to fight the forces of evil once again, he finds that some megalomaniacal fiend is attempting to take over the world. He recruits a variety of people (baccharat expert EVELYN TREMBLE among them) and they all call themselves JAMES BOND to confuse the other side. Much chaos ensues and it ends with… a bang.
So to speak.
One of the most inspired comedic performances in this movie comes from the gorgeous DEBORAH KERR. She was in her mid 40s when this was filmed. She plays a French double agent named MIMI who poses as M’s widow FIONA. Her job is actually to seduce JAMES BOND and destroy his reputation. But she ends up falling for him instead.
In a motion picture with an untold amount of beautiful young women (many of whom were half her age), Ms. Kerr is undoubtedly one of the most awe inspiring of them all. She is not only hysterically funny but she has a scene where she wears a black negligee and just rocks the house in it.
She is just incredible, as you can see here:
Looking back nostalgically at a dreamy childhood watching movies like CASINO ROYALE, it remains a fond memory of a wondrous time and place.
It’s an unbelievable joy to experience. To this day.
It still makes no sense whatsoever.
But I’ll never stop loving it…