CASINO ROYALE (1967)

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The swinging, silly, sexy, psychedelic sixties. This aptly describes the style of the times and of the outrageously fun flick, CASINO ROYALE (1967). I can’t say for certainty because I was just wee babe of six months old when this film was released in April 1967, but to me, this film is a stylish party that projects what many wanted the 60’s to be. Reality held a different image for many no doubt. But reality is a dish not served in this film.

A Little Background History:

Barry Nelson as James Bond in "Casino Royale" (Climax!) 1954

Barry Nelson as James Bond in “Casino Royale” (Climax!) 1954

“Casino Royale” was Ian Fleming’s first novel published in the infamous James Bond series in 1953. This film was released 14 years after the novel was published.  Interestingly, there was a television production of “Casino Royale” on the CBS show Climax! in 1954 starring Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre and a very Americanized Bond, awkwardly acted by Barry Nelson who is sometimes called Jimmy. Fleming continued with publishing a new Bond book every year until 1966. Despite these novels great successes it took several years for Fleming to bring his novels to the big screen. By 1961 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman with financial backing by United Artists created Eon Productions, to make the first of many James Bond films with Terence Young’s DR. NO (1962).

The "Bond girls" of CASINO ROYALE (1967) poster

The “Bond girls” of CASINO ROYALE (1967) poster

By the time producer Charlie K. Feldman decided to take the original “Casino Royale” story to the big screen (the first of only two non-Eon Productions of Bond films), other than the casino scene,most of the plot points had been taken for use in other Bond films. With very little to work with, he decided to make this James Bond production a parody with four main segments directed by separate directors and writers, starting with director John Huston. In the end, the four directors turned into six. The original three screenplay writers were assisted by another seven writer contributors including Billy Wilder, Ben Hecht and Terry Southern. And the original budget of $6 million doubled to more than $12 million with out-of-control spending, multiple sets and sound stages across the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland plus delays in production, earning it a reputation similar to Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s CLEOPATRA (1963). (Hardly justified considering CLEOPATRA’S 44 Mill price tag.)

CAST & CREW:

David Niven= Ian Fleming's vision of James Bond

David Niven= Ian Fleming’s vision of James Bond

When Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond character, he had actor David Niven in mind to best play the iconic part for the big screen. At the time, Niven was busy with his TV production company “Four Star Productions” which he founded along with a few big name stars like Dick Powell, who scoffed at the idea. Niven ultimately turned it down. Sean Connery kicked off the first Bond film roles instead. When it was decided to make this twist on Bond, Connery was approached first as he had been so closely associated with the role but was rejected due to his 1 million dollar salary request. Ian Fleming’s original James Bond pick of David Niven was ultimately, and very appropriately, chosen…

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

Writers: Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers (screenplay)/ Ian Fleming (original novel)/ Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Billy Wilder, Val Guest, Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern (uncredited contributors)

Cast and Cameo Highlights:

Ursula Andress and Peter Sellers headline the sexy stellar cast

Ursula Andress and Peter Sellers headline the sexy stellar cast

Peter Sellers (Evelyn Tremble/James Bond 007), Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd/ James Bond 007), David Niven (Sir James Bond), Orson Welles (Le Chiffre), Joanna Pettet (Mata Bond), Daliah Lavi (The Detainer/ James Bond 007), Woody Allen (Jimmy Bond aka Dr. Noah), Deborah Kerr, (Agent Mimi/ Lady Fiona McTarry), William Holden (Ransome), Charles Boyer (Le Grand), John Huston (M/ General McTarry), Kurt Kasznar (Smernov), George raft (himself), Jean-Paul Belmondo (French Legionnaire), Terence Cooper (Cooper/ James Bond 007), Barbara Bouchet (Moneypenny), Jacqueline Bisset (Giovanna Goodthighs), Anna Quayle (Frau Hoffner), Bernard Cribbins (taxi driver), Geoffrey Bayldon (“Q”), Burt Kwouk (Chinese General), Erik Chitty (Sir James Bond’s butler), Geraldine Chaplin (a Keystone cop), Jack Gwillim (British officer), John Le Mesurier (M’s Driver), David Prowse (Frankenstein’s monster), Peter O’Toole (as Scottish piper ).

Producers: Charles K. Feldman, Jerry Bresler (producers), John Dark (associate producer)

Burt Bacharach's music for CASINO ROYALE earned both Oscar and Grammy noms

Burt Bacharach’s music for CASINO ROYALE earned both Oscar and Grammy noms

Music: Burt Bacharach/ main title theme by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

Costume Design: Julie Harris, Anna Duse

STORY: (Warning-Spoilers may occur)

The Leaders of the spy world are a legendary line-up

The Leaders of the spy world are a legendary line-up

The film very loosely follows the “Casino Royale” story with characters of the same or similar names known from the Bond series. Our story starts with the death of ‘M’ and spy leaders force legendary Sir James Bond out of retirement to finally stop SMERSH and Le Chiffre (world-class evil nemesis) from taking over the world. Sir James (David Niven) strategizes that every agent will be henceforth called James Bond to play a game of bait-and-switch on the evil doers while the real James Bond gets to work. Evelyn Tremble (one of the fake 007s played by Peter Sellers) confronts Le Chiffre (played by Orson Welles) in a showdown game of baccarat. (On the set, Welles despised Sellers and was not subtle about it, to the point that they shot most of the casino scenes completely separately. Sellers eventually called in sick, permanently- forcing creative editing to be made for his unfinished scenes.)  Silliness ensues in a psychedelic roller-coaster as new agents confront the mayhem intended for the real Bond.

In real life, Peter Sellers hated Orson Welles' magic tricks for the casino scene

In real life, Peter Sellers hated Orson Welles’ magic tricks for the casino scene

Sellers and Andress play it cool for a game of baccarat

Sellers and Andress play it cool for a game of baccarat

Even a UFO finds its way into the silly storyline

Even a UFO finds its way into the silly storyline

In the end, the source of all this madness and our main villain is surprisingly revealed to be Sir James Bond’s neurotic nephew, Jimmy Bond aka Dr. Noah (clearly a play on the name “Dr. No” and played by Woody Allen), a SMERSH defector. Upon capturing The Detainer (another faux 007 played by Daliah Lavi), Dr. Noah describes his evil plan to launch a bacillus that will make all women beautiful and all men shorter than himself. He will then possess the confidence and virility he so desperately lacks and envies of his uncle James. The conclusion is a chaotic confrontation of non-sensical goofiness including cowboys and Indians on horseback, George Raft flipping a coin, French Legionnaires, Keystone cops and an explosive ending where Dr. Noah is tricked into swallowing his own A-bomb pill that “looks like an aspirin, tastes like an aspirin, but it is not an aspirin.”

Dr. Noah holds The Detainer captive- naked, of course.

Dr. Noah holds The Detainer captive- naked, of course.

I must admit that I have never taken any illegal drugs in my day. (I’m a product of my ‘hippies from the 60’s’ parents so my biggest form of rebellion was to NOT take drugs.) So watching this film I can only guess that this film is a “real trip.” There are some very psychedelic moments to be sure. And you really cannot expect to find any structured plot to speak of with the various directors taking turns without a cohesive thread to pull it together (although director/writer Val Guest did his best.)

Despite this disorganized mess, this film has some hilarious one-liner zingers and classic scenes I enjoy watching over and over again, thanks to the talented writers and directors. And where else can you enjoy such an amazing ensemble cast with a parade of cameos?! The music by Burt Bacharach and the title theme is perfection. No wonder it was nominated for an Oscar and Grammy. And the fashions… oh the sexy FASHIONS! The costumes and set designs are a true time capsule of the definitive sixties style and design.

The goddess gown is classic beauty on Ursula

The goddess gown is classic beauty on Ursula

Some spy training with the Bond girls looks more like a lingerie runway show

Some spy training with the Bond girls looks more like a lingerie runway show

Perfection in pink...

Perfection in pink…

While this film was a product of its generational influence and the perfect James Bond spy spoof, it later became an influencer itself. Not unlike Quentin Tarantino paying homage to his beloved spaghetti westerns via DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012), Mike Myers paid tribute to CASINO ROYALE (1967) and the James Bond style in his Austin Powers character and films. A parody paying tribute to another parody for a new generation to enjoy.

Dr. Evil and his fembots took notes from the CASINO ROYALE playbook

Dr. Evil and his fembots took notes from the CASINO ROYALE playbook

Did Austin Powers steal this look from HIS MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE? We think "yeah, baby!"

Did Austin Powers steal this look from HIS MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE? We think “yeah, baby!”

This was my contribution to the FILMS OF 1967 BLOGATHON hosted by SILVER SCREENINGS and THE ROSEBUD CINEMA – please read the full line-up of participants for a “swinging good time!”

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Comments

  1. I’ve only watched 10 minutes of CR, but now you’ve given me reason to settle in and view all of it. Enjoyed your post!

    Like

    • Thanks, Jenni! I appreciate the kind feedback. One must watch Casino Royale with an open-minded view to pure silliness with no rhyme or reason. But if you’re okay with that, I think you’ll really enjoy it!

      Like

  2. Okay, you’ve convinced me to finally see this one! Thanks Kellee 🙂

    Like

  3. This looks like the ultimate 60’s Spy Film. And those fashions! They’re too much fun!

    Kellee, I’m so glad you joined our blogathon with your wonderful review of “Casino Royale” – especially considering you’re hosting your own blogathon tomorrow! Our ’67 blogathon would NOT have been complete without this great cast in “Casino Royale”.

    Like

    • What a wonderful blogathon you two hosted- thanks so much for doing this! I’m glad you enjoyed my Casino Royale entry. As you can imagine, with joining yours and hosting Aurora’s and my Billy Wilder blogathon today, I’ve got a LOT of reading to catch up yet. 😉

      Like

  4. I’ve never taken a look at this. Certainly not opposed to a bit of 60s spy spoof fun, so I’ll have to remedy that soon.

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  5. Such a great spoof, and I adore the soundtrack. I might have to give this 1967 classic a re-watch!

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    • I know, right? The soundtrack is so ‘swanky 60’s party pad’ to me. Love it. The film is a silly fun ride if you’re in the groovy mood. lol. Thanks, Vicky!

      Like

  6. Whatever one could say, it’s certainly a 60’s movie! 🙂

    Very fun post, thanks!

    Like

  7. I’ve been meaning to watch this for ages, and you’ve definitely convinced me to watch it as soon as I can get my hands on it! Really fun write up too! Thanks for taking part in the blogathon!

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  8. I’ve always liked this film because I won a contest to see a special screening of it when I was ten years old. I wrote the review of “The President’s Analyst” on th ebl;ogathon. Bond fans put this down, but you’ve captured what make it special. It is also one of my favorite movie scores of all time. Thanks, Irv Slifkin

    Like

  9. Oh, gal, how much I need to see this! I mean, my favorite British people are there! I also want badly to see Peter Lorre as the very first Bond villain!
    Did I already say your new blog layout is really cool?
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! : )
    Kisses!
    http://criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2014/06/o-fabuloso-dr-dolittle-doctor-dolittle.html

    Like

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