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Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale is a 1967 spy comedy film originally produced by Columbia Pictures featuring an ensemble cast. It is loosely based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel. The film stars David Niven as the “original” Bond, Sir James Bond 007. Forced out of retirement to investigate the deaths and disappearances of international spies, he soon battles the mysterious Dr. Noah and SMERSH. The film’s tagline: “Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond!” refers to Bond’s ruse to mislead SMERSH in which six other agents are pretending to be “James Bond”, namely, baccarat master Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), millionaire spy Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny (Barbara Bouchet), Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), Bond’s daughter by Mata Hari; and British agents “Coop” (Terence Cooper) and “The Detainer” (Daliah Lavi).

Charles K. Feldman, the producer, had acquired the film rights in 1960 and had attempted to get Casino Royale made as an Eon Productions Bond film; however, Feldman and the producers of the Eon series, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, failed to come to terms. Believing that he could not compete with the Eon series, Feldman resolved to produce the film as a satire. The budget escalated as various directors and writers got involved in the production, and actors expressed dissatisfaction with the project.

Casino Royale was released on 13 April 1967, two months prior to Eon’s fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. The film was a financial success, grossing over $41.7 million worldwide, and Burt Bacharach’s musical score was praised, earning him an Academy Award nomination for the song “The Look of Love”. Critical reception to Casino Royale, however, was generally negative; some critics regarded it as a baffling, disorganised affair. Since 1999, the film’s rights have been held by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, distributors of the official Bond movies by Eon Productions.

Image result for The New York Times logo


Screen: Population Explosion Victims:Secret Agents Abound in ‘Casino Royale’ Impersonators of Bond at Two Theaters

Published: April 29, 1967

MORE of the talent agent than the secret agent is flamboyantly evident in Charles K. Feldman’s “Casino Royale,” which opened at the Capitol and Cinema I yesterday—and that despite the fact that the screen is crawling with secret agents of all sexes and sorts. It is absolutely teeming with wild impersonators of James Bond, ranging from David Niven to Woody Allen and from Ursula Andress to Deborah Kerr. It clatters and bangs with 007’s trying to pull the all-time double-oh-cross on all future aspirants to Bond-olatry. But it is still the triumph of the talent agent, which Mr. Feldman used to be.
That is because he has made it on the premise that the more writers and directors he could put to work and the more actors he could cram into his picture, the more impressive, if not the better, it would be, and the more energy and noise would be projected by the sheer human multiplicity.
As a consequence, he had twice as many writers working on the script as the three that are named in the credits. He had six directors shooting segments of it — and so conglomerate are their efforts that you have to consult the program to tell where one left off and another began. And he has a cast of so many, at least 14 of whom are ranking stars, that the screen appears to be a demonstration of the population explosion at its peak.
Furthermore, since he wasn’t paying (Columbia Pictures was), he spared no expense in buying the most elaborate and fantastic sets and the finest outdoor locations in London, Scotland and points east and west to enclose his completely Brobdingnagian burlesque on the crazy cult of Bond.
You would think, with so much going for him, that he would harvest a residue of fun—and he does, especially in the beginning, when a quartet of representatives of Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union call upon the aging Sir James Bond to come out of retirement and help combat the growing power of Smersh, which has been killing off secret agents more rapidly than the automobile.
It really gets off to a fast start as Sir James, whom David Niven plays as though he were a clubmate of the latter-day urbane Sherlock Holmes, goes to Scotland to see the widow of the untimely murdered M, head of British Intelligence, and finds her running a buzzing hive of female spies. With Miss Kerr playing this fuzzy lady and Mr. Huston directing this phase (as well as playing M in the first scene), it looks as though the film is grandly launched.
And it continues to clip along nicely as Peter Sellers, who is supposed to be the world’s great authority on baccarat, is recruited to simulate Bond and confront the demon baccarat ace of the evil system, performed stupendously by Orson Welles. The game between these two in the Casino Royale, which is the only thing in the Ian Fleming novel of the same name translated to the film, is a jolly tangle of two notoriously able scene-stealers.
But all of Mr. Feldman’s scriptwriters and fortune tellers have so cluttered the rest of the film with wild and haphazard injections of “in” jokes and outlandish gags — such as having Joanna Pettet play the illegitimate daughter of Mata Hari and Sir James, or Woody Allen come on as Sir James’s nephew, Jimmy Bond, for one of his interminable surrealistic monologues—that it becomes repetitious and tedious. And since it’s based more on slapstick than wit, with Bond cliché piled upon cliché, it tends to crumble and sprawl.
It’s the sort of reckless, disconnected nonsense that could be telescoped or stopped at any point. If it were stopped at the end of an hour and 40 minutes instead of at the end of 2 hours and 10 minutes, it might be a terminally satisfying entertainment instead of the wearying one it is.

My Review


A Psychedelic mess In the 1950s CBS produced a TV movie that starred Barry Nelson as James Bond (that's right, Sean Connery was NOT the first actor to portray 007). Made for an American audience, the character of James Bond is a CIA agent in that show and Leiter is the British intelligence agent. That movie, also starred Peter Lorre as the villain Le Chiffre. It's necessary to understand this background to understand how the train wreck that is 1967s Casino Royale came into being. Years later, the rights to "Casino Royale" made it into the hands of another movie producer who, convinced that any attempt to make a serious version of "Casino Royale" would be doomed without the talents of Sean Connery, decided to make the remake as a comedy instead. With Peter Sellers playing James Bond and Orson Welles taking on the role of Le Chiffre everything seemed to be going fine until a script dispute caused Sellers to walk out on the project. Left with half a movie the producers were in trouble and they scrambled to save their production. One needs to understand this background to the movie to understand why it turned out the way it did. In it's final version it seems truly confused with several actors portraying the role of James Bond and several directors (including John Huston who also cameos as M) taking a crack at it. There is even an early appearance by Woody Allen and former Bond girl, the stunningly gorgeous Ursula Andress. For me personally, the Peter Sellers scenes are especially brilliant and very funny and David Niven plays the perfect gentleman spy. The action comes thick and fast and in addition to Andress there are a number of actors familiar to devotees to the rival EON productions. This movie is truly a psychedlic mess but it's worth checking out, if only to see Ursula Andress in another Bond role.

Bond girl Appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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