on 28 June 2009
Released in 1967, Casino Royale started life as a serious Bond film, designed to rival (and capitalise on) the successful Eon series. When these plans came to nothing, the film was instead touted as a spy spoof, to star Peter Sellers in the Bond role, but due to Sellers' unprofessionalism (leaving before his scenes were finished) and various other production nightmares, the movie gradually mutated into the overblown tribute to 1960s' pop culture that we all know, but don't necessarily love. However, despite its reputation as an unfunny, overblown disaster of a film, the fact is that Casino Royale is actually quite an enjoyable movie; the only real issue with the film is Sellers himself, as many of his scenes lack any real shape or point, he looks visibly uncomfortable in the sequence playing opposite Orson Welles (unsurprising given his petulance and paranoia where Welles was concerned), and his habit of dropping into supposedly funny `ethnic' accents is indulged far too often.
Holding the whole thing together with his customary charm and good humour, the great David Niven (playing the `original' James Bond) deserves the lion's share of the credit for the movie remaining at least watchable; when Niven starts saying lines like `be careful, that's my loose kneecap' and `it's depressing that the words `secret agent' have become synonymous with `sex maniac'', you can't help but buy into the film, and laugh with it, rather than at it. Barbara Bouchet, playing Miss Moneypenny, is one of the most attractive women I have ever seen, and the film features a veritable parade of gorgeous sixties' starlets wearing very little indeed. Welles, John Huston, and William Holden do great (if largely pointless) cameos, and Woody Allen, back when he was funny, has some good lines as Niven's nephew Jimmy Bond. The sets and art design for the film are absolutely astounding, and tons of British comedy actors appear in minor roles, some funny (Geoffrey Bayldon, Ronnie Corbett), some not (Bernard Cribbins). But the best thing about the movie is the music; Burt Bacharach's score for Casino Royale must be one of the most underrated in film history, and is annoyingly catchy. All in all, Casino Royale is by no means a great movie, but it is a harmless and funny one, and like the 1960s' Batman TV series, it has today largely escaped the decades' worth of scorn it has previously generated to be appreciated as a notable part of its iconic hero's history.
on 14 October 2010
True, it's nothing like the movies produced as part of the "official" James Bond series, which is why I suspect it has earned such derision from film critics and, from what I can see, other users of Amazon too. Nevertheless I have always rather enjoyed this sprawling comedy purely on its own terms rather than comparing it with the contemporaneous 007 epics of Sean Connery and I think, for the uninitiated, that is really the best way to appreciate it.
Arguably, the key to understanding the folly of CASINO ROYALE is to watch the excellent documentary included as a bonus feature on the Region One edition. Without giving too much away, according to the film's original director Joe McGrath, CASINO ROYALE was conceived as a comedy Bond with Peter Sellers in the role of 007 which, as the proposed three-month shoot dragged on to more like six, gradually spiralled out of control as more stars, including David Niven, replaced a troubled Peter Sellers, while a succession of directors, such as John Huston and Val Guest, took over from McGrath, who had ultimately been dismissed by the project's producer, Charles Feldman. As a result, a flabby script became a chaotic, psychedelic ode to the swinging '60s, where any aspirations to remain faithful to Ian Fleming's original novel simply fell by the wayside in an effort to get something - ANYTHING! - into the cinema.
CASINO ROYALE is not a great film but it has plenty to recommend it. The bizarre auction segment makes me chuckle, where we see representatives of the American, Chinese and British armies confusingly explaining how they will indicate to the auctioneer (Vladek Sheybal) that they are making a bid for articles from villain Le Chiffre's collection of blackmail material (the Chinese - led by Burt Kwouk - announce that they will stand up; the Americans say that they will sit down; while the British - decisive as ever - casually choose to do a bit of both). There is also the scene designed to spoof the famous sequences involving Q in the official Bonds, where Sellers' 007 tries out various gadgets and special clothing which allows the actor to indulge in some punning repartee and innuendo with Geoffrey Bayldon and co. Meanwhile, the parade of guest stars is entertaining in itself, with the likes of George Raft and even racing driver Stirling Moss making cameos, and Dusty Springfield cooing 'The Look Of Love' over the soundtrack enabled the song to become one of the standards of the 1960s. Lastly - and politically incorrect as this may be - you've got to admit that the actresses featured throughout, including Ursula Andress, Joanna Pettet, and Jacqueline Bisset, are just gorgeous; here at least CASINO ROYALE gives the true Bond films a run for their money!
As a fan of the James Bond films and the original novels of Ian Fleming, I really shouldn't like CASINO ROYALE. However, I don't consider it a Bond movie; rather, it is a notoriously wacky 1960s time capsule of innocent fun with - thanks to this Region One edition - a fascinating background story to go with it.
on 17 March 2014
CASINO ROYALE  [Blu-ray] CASINO ROYALE Is Too Much . . . For One James Bond!
With gadgets, gaming and girls galore, this camp classic is not only the coolest of the spy films, but it's also a brilliant parody of itself!
Will the real "James Bond" please stand up? When secret agency chief "M" [John Huston] is killed, James Bond [David Niven] is thrust out of spy retirement to help smash SMERSH, the band of hit men who are likely responsible. And to protect his real identity, Bond's name is given to numerous other agents, including Evelyn Tremble [Peter Sellers] and Bond's neurotic nephew, Jimmy [Woody Allen]. With five directors, a cast of Hollywood icons that also includes Ursula Andress, Charles Boyer, Peter O'Toole, Jacqueline Bisset and Orson Welles, a soundtrack by Burt Bacharach and a frisky, farcical script, Casino Royale is Bond. Psychedelic Bond.
FILM FACT: Burt Bacharach's musical score was praised, earning him an Academy Award® nomination for the song "The Look of Love" and was performed by Dusty Springfield.
Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Orson Welles, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, John Huston, Kurt Kasznar, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Terence Cooper, Barbara Bouchet, Angela Scoular, Gabriella Licudi, Tracey Crisp, Elaine Taylor, Jacqueline Bisset, Alexandra Bastedo, Anna Quayle, Derek Nimmo, Ronnie Corbett, Colin Gordon, Bernard Cribbins, Tracy Reed, John Bluthal, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Wells, Duncan Macrae, Graham Stark, Chic Murray, Jonathan Routh, Richard Wattis, Vladek Sheybal, Percy Herbert, Penny Riley, Jeanne Roland, Jennifer Baker (uncredited), Susan Baker (uncredited), R.S.M. Brittain (uncredited), Geraldine Chaplin (uncredited), Erik Chitty (uncredited), Alexander Doré (uncredited), Valentine Dyall (uncredited), Hal Galili (uncredited), Veronica Gardnier (uncredited), Bob Godfrey (uncredited), Jack Gwillim (uncredited), Anjelica Huston (uncredited), Burt Kwouk (uncredited), John Le Mesurier (uncredited), Yvonne Marsh (uncredited), Caroline Munro (uncredited), Peter O'Toole (uncredited), David Prowse (uncredited), Milton Reid (uncredited), Robert Rowland (uncredited), Richard Talmadge (uncredited), Nikki Van der Zyl (uncredited), Mona Washbourne (uncredited), Jennifer White (uncredited) Robert Rietty (Dubbing voice)
Directors: John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Richard Talmadge (uncredited) and Val Guest
Producers: Charles K. Feldman, Jerry Bresler and John Dark
Screenplay: Ben Hecht (uncredited), Billy Wilder (uncredited), John Law, Joseph Heller (uncredited), Michael Sayers, Peter Sellers (uncredited), Terry Southern (uncredited), Val Guest (additional dialogue) (uncredited), Wolf Mankowitz, Woody Allen (uncredited) and Ian Fleming (suggested by the novel "Casino Royale")
Composer: Burt Bacharach
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard, BSC, Nicolas Roeg, BSC and John Wilcox, BSC
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono, French: Dolby Digital Mono, German: Dolby Digital Mono and Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 125 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: At the height of the James Bond craze in the mid-sixties, the studio executives at Columbia Pictures desperately wanted to capitalize on the 007 phenomenon, but Harry Saltman and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who had a distribution deal with United Artists. owned the rights to every Ian Fleming novel except one ‘Casino Royale,’ which had been acquired by producer Charles K. Feldman in 1967. A deal was struck to create the biggest James Bond extravaganza of all time, but the resulting film was something else entirely a wildly uneven parody that required the services of five directors, countless screenwriters, and a cast of international actors and celebrities, many of them reduced to fleeting cameo appearances.
In the early days before Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were in the picture, Ian Fleming's first James Bond title had been sold to Charles K. Feldman for a substantial sum. The bad news is that it would take fifteen years to make it to the big screen. By that point, five James Bond films were already out and there seem to be no hope to make an alternate James Bond picture. The filmmakers in their infinite wisdom decided to scrap the storyline, keep the title, and make a spy spoof which had been making lots of money at that time with the success of the Matt Helm and ‘Our Man Flint’ films. With Charles K. Feldman’s agent connections, he established an all-star cast not to mention five directors to make the ultimate wide spy spoof with the number of 007 attached to it. The result was ‘Casino Royale.'
It's a dark time for the spy world. Five agents go to a remote spot to one car to seek out bringing Sir James Bond [David Niven] out of retirement for his assistance. Unfortunately, James Bond has been living a modest life and does not much care about the spy world as he used to. That is, until an attempt on his life at his residence claims the life of his former boss "M" [John Huston] whose only remains happen to be his toupee. After some careful thought at his former boss' residence, he takes over his superior's position to counteract on the mysterious deaths within the organisation using his moniker for recruits to use in order to confuse the organisation known as SMERSH and its chief enemy Dr. Noah [Woody Allen]. This includes a baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble / James Bond 007 [Peter Sellers] and his long lost daughter with Mata Hari. Together they infiltrate their main hideout which is under the cover name "Casino Royale."
It was best that a familiarity with the ‘Our Man Flint’ series and the Austin Powers films are enough to satisfy with this all star vehicle. The wackiness plus the use of the kind of jokes that you don't know whether to laugh or not happen to be used to a great extent. A lot of the craziness going on in this movie makes a viewer wonder if the filmmakers were all on something during the production. Nonetheless, it's a psychedelic spy spoof with a nutty sense of some of the previous Bond films as well as brandishing its own brand of cool, thanks to a solid score by Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
The look of the sets in this film is quite breath-taking and full of colour and uses a wonderful stained glass palette that let all the colours explode out sixties style. As for the performances, they all range from being in the movie a little while to a glorified cameo to some uncredited that do surprise and make me grin at their use in this film. All is different in this incarnation of James Bond and 007, and this multi-directed film came with much criticism and was not looked on too highly at the time. It was also not a box office success. However in this day in age when spoofing the sixties is a happening, it does freak me out in a way that spreads it away from the traditional Bond series and into its own groovy mould.
By the end, the budget of ‘Casino Royale’ had swollen from its initial cost of $12 million to more than twice that amount. And no wonder the costs were high considering the extensive locations included Paris, the South of France, West Berlin, Ireland, and the Pinewood and MGM-British studios in England. The mammoth slapstick climax alone, featuring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a French Legionnaire, George Raft as himself, and countless famous faces and cost $1 million and took two months to shoot! Yet, despite the film's troubled production history, there is fun to be had amid the insanity, everything from Scottish comedian Ronnie Corbett as a robot with a German accent to the lovely Jacqueline Bisset as Miss Goodthighs. So, if you want to experience the Hollywood-style Sixties, this is the ultimate pit stop and an enjoyable one had by all.
‘Casino Royale’ was a big box-office hit and it's not hard to find passionate fans of the film due to its oddball and chaotic structure; it's closer to a sixties "happening" than a major studio release. After all, what's not to like about a film that features a Burt Bacharach score performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Dusty Springfield singing "The Look of Love" while Ursula Andress seduces Peter Sellers, Woody Allen in one of his first screen roles as the megalomaniac Dr. Noah (billed as "the tallest dwarf in the world"), lavish special effects, and groovy art direction with all the psychedelic trappings?
Blu-ray Video Quality – Here we have an awesome 2.35:1 aspect ratio and an even more stunning 1080p image is about the most inconsistent that I've encountered on Blu-Ray, then again I've never seen a film with half a dozen directors, either. Image quality varies from scene to scene, but it's a reflection of the source material I'm sure. I will say that Ursula Andress looks as good as ever. Though the detail has been improved over the previous inferior DVD format release, there's still a bit of edge enhancement that I noticed. Still, it's what I believe to be a step up from the previous DVD and if this kind of movie floats your boat - should find a nice home next to the "real" Bond movies in your collection.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The disc has a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track, but let's not get too excited? The Audio has been cleaned up a bit and though this title in no way competes with the newer soundtracks, does have a moment or two of greatness. Take "greatness" with a grain of salt, if you please. Dialogue sounds nice and natural with little to no distortion. It's about as close to a mono track as you can get without actually being mono. Still, it's not a horrible or unlistenable mix and for that and I'm very pleased.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Bond Historians Steven Jay Rubin and John Cork: Steven Jay Rubin is author of The Complete James Bond Encyclopaedia, and John Cork has co-authored several books about Bond, as well as biographies of Ian Fleming, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Cork has also co-produced many of the documentaries included on the "ultimate" Bond DVDs. Between them, Steven Jay Rubin and John Cork provide a wealth of detail not only about ‘Casino Royale’ and its troubled history, but also about film history in general and various personalities both in front of and behind the camera. The commentary often takes on a "six degrees of James Bond" quality, as the speakers riff on the subsequent careers and chance connections of people involved in the film. Example: Woody Allen appeared in ‘Casino Royale’ and did uncredited writing work. In 2006, Woody Allen was nominated for a screenwriting OSCAR®, as was Paul Haggis, making it the only year when two writers who had worked on the same James Bond story were nominated for an OSCAR®.
Special Feature: The Making of Casino Royale  [41:30] This special documentary presents a relatively straightforward, chronological account of the film's genesis and troubled production, using informative interview footage from many of the participants. They include directors Val Guest and Joseph McGrath; actresses Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi and Jacqueline Bisset; cameramen Nicholas Roeg and Alex Thomson; and assistant director Roy Baird. The documentary is divided into five parts: Bond . . . James Bond?, A Three Ring Circus, More Directors . . . More Stars!, The Big Climax and It's a Wrap!
Theatrical Trailer  [2:22] This Original Theatrical Trailer announces that it is “Too big for just one Bond!” At least so they claimed.
Finally, this 1967 `Casino Royale' definitely inspires a 'cult' appreciation. Similar to its finale - this remains a jumbled mass of bubbles and fun. If you can allow the fun to sweep over you rather than scrutinize it - you will definitely be better-off for your viewing experience. Plots don't always have to make sense - and looking at `Casino Royale' as another disjointed 'runaway production' kind of adds to its kitsch. I like the performances and all tongue-in-cheek and the sexy 1960's gals like Ursula Andress, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Jacqueline Bisset etc. plus Bacharach's peppy theme gives it some real joy. The Blu-ray, in my opinion, represents the best it's going to get for this psychedelic James Bond film. Have some fun... the price encourages it and a total honour to add this to my James Bond Blu-ray Collection as it is a fun ride throughout its 125 minutes. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 16 October 2012
It's not an obvious film to love, but I have loved it since I saw it in full Cinerama 70mm glory in 1967. I'd like firstly to explain some of the reasons I love it and secondly comment on the new Blu-Ray edition.
If you want to get a sense of just how important this film is, go to the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris. It includes a display for each decade of the 20th Century, and the one for the '60s includes a movie showing snippets of movies that most advanced the visual dimension of decorative arts in the 1960s. Only two English Language films are featured, 2001 which gets one scene (the scene at the beginning of the space station sequence where they discuss the likely disease on the moon base, sitting on those amazing red chairs), and Casino Royale which gets three scenes - the most of any film featured. And this is the first reason to watch this film - the interiors are absolutely remarkable. Literally every scene is a work of art, with amazing pop art adorning just about every wall and the most striking use of furniture, sets, cars etc. To deepen your sense of this, head over to the Pompidou gallery of modern art. There you will find a recreation of an interior from the movie - the amazing one featuring parallel curvy green and white lines, so that it is impossible to tell where the floor ends and the walls begin, where the walls intersect and where the ceiling starts. And this disorienting interior, which literally fascinated me for the whole of my childhood, features for about 30 secs in the movie. So too does the unforgettable and amazingly over the top car-wash scene. The scene in the "control room" too, with the Scalelectric set and the four gorgeous women in the rear managing the "maps" - really just an excuse to move in the most erotic way. Or what about the revolving pink bed and the glass mirrors and flying feathers? Or Mata Hari's bed - "The German army was very large in those days." These interiors, they go by in seconds and yet they are indelible. The women in this film too, they have to be the most stylish, beautiful, beautifully dressed collection ever assembled, with lead honours going to Ursula Andress, much more impressive here than in Dr No.
So this is a film to watch. You don't need much of a story to be mesmerised by it. It is the ultimate expression of '60s design and sensibility, which is why it has become something of a cult.
It is also a film to be listened to, and surely the most visually striking scene in the whole movie is accompanied by one of the best movie songs ever written, 'The Look Of Love'. Watching Andress and Sellers walking in ultra-slow-motion past that over long fish tank to the room with the sinking lounge while listening to the perfect sultry accompaniment of Dusty Springfield - this is the second great aspect of the film. I also love the title track, and the music is great throughout. I was one of the lucky few who bought the original LP and, although mine is all scratched out, I have subsequently learned that the first edition of the Casino Royale sound track is the ultimate audiophile recording (ever ever made) because of its extraordinary clarity and dynamic range.
It is also a funny film. I think the funniest scene is the one where Miss Moneypenny has to go through the back files (the most perfect spoof on the James Bond sensibility). Woody Allen is hilarious throughout (he wrote his own lines). I also love the East German scenes, with the impressionistic art, the distorted staircases, the two spy training rooms, Dudley Moore and Frau Hoffner (who gave Dr Evil his funny little finger). Most of the film uses dry humour, so that the punch line isn't always obvious.
It does actually have a story, and the story is remarkably coherent considering how it came together (it's actually the same story as the second, official Casino Royale, plus a few embellishments: James Bond is activated/reactivated, has to defeat Le Chiffre who has placed himself in a pickle with his criminal employer and must now win back his money via a card game. James Bond must ensure he does not do this. Bond wins the game but Le Chiffre captures him and the girl, tortures him but runs out of time and is killed by the real baddy. Bond then goes after the real baddy. In this first version he defeats him while in the second that is left to the dreadful follow-up movie Quantum Of Solace.
This being a spoof of Bond movies, the ultimate baddy (Jimmy Bond) has not one but three over-the-top plots. Step one is to use beautiful female agents to seduce and destroy the world's spy networks thus rendering their governments defenceless. This phase has all but been completed at the beginning of the movie, hence the recruitment of the retired Sir James Bond, who has always been immune to beautiful women (nearly always, as it turns out). Step two is to replace the world's leaders and leading intellects with unthinking robots. This too is underway (a funny joke moment identifies the leaders who have already been replaced). Step three is to unleash a specially designed bacterium that will destroy all males higher than Woody Allen and make all women beautiful. In its absurdity it makes even Dr Evil look tame, and formed the core plot concept of the very next official James Bond movie, On Her Magesty's Secret Service (the beautiful women spreading bacteria).
I think the main flaw is the opening scenes in Scotland, which take too long to develop. They cause the film to loose energy, feel long and bloated. They are also not thematically consistent with the amazing stylishness of the rest of the movie. How much better would it be if the car chase (with the beautiful blonde in the amazing yellow e-type Jag) immediately followed the opening scene at James Bond's villa?
Oh, and how does the Blu-Ray stack up? I've obviously seen the film on various formats and this leaves all others for dead. It is incomparably superior to the DVD release. It gives the opportunity to totally immerse yourself in the visuals, and the sound is the best I've ever heard including the original cinema release. It would be interesting to have an audiophile compare the sound track with a pristine first edition LP - probably not much difference - it is certainly better than the CD. In summary, this is a great Blu-Ray restoration. My only quibble is with some of the skin tones, which seem a tad too red.