[THE CLASSIFIED INTEL]
Casino Royale (1967): Bond Breakdown by Rantbo
Legendary British spy, Sir James Bond, is reluctantly coursed out of retirement to bring about the destruction of a sinister organization responsible for the disappearances of numerous agents from around the world. Devising a plan of utter absurdity, Bond collects MI6’s remaining agents, re-names them all James Bond and sets them about various tasks that go nowhere, do nothing and are eventually abandoned by the plot in favor of a cavalcade of nonsense.
[THE BOND SONG AND CREDITS SEQUENCE]
Obviously, as this is an unofficial Bond film, the title and credit sequence are a far cry from the Maurice Binder style of sheer perfection. But, it’s not terrible either. At least, the visuals aren’t…
Displaying the credits in a gaudy, though appropriately over-the-top, calligraphy style is in keeping with the grandeur of a movie named after a casino and even more so when regarding the content to follow. As for the theme, it was performed by a group(?) called Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. And I’ll just say their name is more impressive than their musicianship. Legendary musician Burt Bacharach also lent his talent(?) to the film, and I must admit, his contributions did more for me, but not by a great margin. I actually found his scoring and songs to work far better in AUSTIN POWERS, a film clearly inspired by CASINO, yet far, FAR more enjoyable.
[BOND—JAMES, B-B-BOND (DAVID NIVEN)]
Body Bags Filled  Bedpost Notches 
David Niven is “The true, one and only, original James Bond.” “The greatest spy in history, gentlemen.” “He’s more than just a man. He’s a god!”, or so we are told. But I have my reservations. The principal one being this bit of dialogue spoken by the man I am to believe is supposed to be Bond…
“In my day, spying was an alternative to war. And the spy was a member of a select and immaculate priesthood. Vocationally devoted, sublimely disinteresting. Hardly a description of that sexual acrobat who leaves a trail of beautiful dead women like blown roses behind him. Him and his wretched gadgets.”
I don’t care if they are taking a piss, they can’t expect me to accept this charlatan. This is not James Bond! And I really like David Niven. And so did Ian Fleming. Director Val Guest states in the special features on the DVD that Fleming had originally envisioned Niven as playing the role of the ‘official’ James Bond, going so far as to send him a copy of CASINO ROYALE, in hopes of enticing him to the part. Of course, we all know whom Broccoli and Saltzman decided upon, but I found this interesting. As it’s clear with his talent, look and poise that Niven would have been capable of playing a serious Bond.
I find it upsetting that when given the chance, Niven was only ever able to be in the send-up version. But this didn’t stop me from almost despising his mock Bond. He stutters, is celibate and seems to be borderline pacifist. And as such avoids confrontations, weapons, women and narcotics. Niven has a degree of charm, but COME ON! They give the guy nothing to work with! This Bond is a man who was thrown into trashcans in school and had sand kicked in his face at the beach, not a spy! And yes, I understand that THIS is the joke, but I’m not laughing. This shit is sad. Maybe it’s my tight-assed unabashed attachment to the idea and character of James Bond that wouldn’t allow me to just relax and laugh, or maybe this film really was as bad as I thought. Either way—I thought this Bond was terrible. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but be set in my ways on this one. I want my Bond, spoof or no, to be a womanizing, ass-kicking “Joke-shop spy”. Period.
[THE BOND VILLAINS]
Orson Welles is Le Chiffre
Hey, it’s Orson “CITIZEN KANE” Welles, so the role has to be brilliant, right? Wrong. Welles is too camp and unreserved to be a believable Le Chiffre, in my opinion. In keeping with the Bond clichés of unique villain characteristics, the filmmakers decided to yuk-up Le Chiffre and gave him the social “tick” of being unable to contain urges to perform magic tricks. Yes, you read that correctly. Is nothing sacred!? This wasn’t just sad, it was annoying, as each of his little show-stoppers, did just that, dragging the sequences featuring him to a painstakingly unfunny, uninteresting halt. To be fair, I will say that Welles does vamp during the torture sequence (as awful and wacky as it was), but rather than credit his acting talent, I think the malice of his performance was fueled by his real life hatred of his prey, Peter Sellers. More on that later.
Woody Allen is Jimmy Bond a.k.a. Dr. Noah
“You are a wretched, grotesque, ridiculous, insignificant, little monster!”
While watching this, I actually forgot Allen was in this movie. And for good reason, he’s only in it all of ten minutes. In playing a send-up of Dr. No, Allen does manage to pull off something Joseph Wiseman did with the straight performance, in being totally memorable with little screen time. Though unlike Wiseman, this isn’t necessarily a compliment. No, I’ll remember Woody’s “cleverly” named, Dr. Noah, for being so inanely, unintelligibly, random. It’s almost indescribable. While Allen does perform his usual self-deprecating snarkyness, he overshadows himself by acting batshit insane. At one point the character is strapping on a sombrero and performing a hat dance and the next, burping up animated clouds of turquoise poison… I—I don’t know what to make of it, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it.
Also, it bares mentioning that Noah is Bond’s nephew, Jimmy. No real reason, so far as I can figure. Though my best guess is that the writers thought it would be hilarious to have a relative of Bond named Jimmy. Clever…
[THE BOND GIRLS]
Deborah Kerr is Agent Mimi a.k.a. Lady Fiona
Finally someone likable. Kinda. Sent by, I guess Dr. Noah (it’s ill-explained), Mimi’s mission is at least a funny, if not explainable one. Make James Bond horny. And combined with her entourage of hot, young French and Scottish teenagers, gives it her all. Yet, despite her best efforts, Mimi and her buxom brood are thwarted by Bond’s stone-cold celibacy and as such, she becomes enamored with him, and switches sides to aid in his quest to buzz kill the character into oblivion.
Barbara Bouchet is Miss Moneypenny
Wow. While she is clearly a physical improvement on Lois Maxwell, she still managed to make me long for Grandma, as I don’t think this girl was able to speak and walk at the same time when they began shooting this. Bouchet’s scenes play out like a documentary on how she baby stepped her way into communicating other humans. It’s quite painful. Made worse by the fact that this version of Moneypenny had more to do in this spoof movie, than Lois Maxwell did in her combined 23 years in the role. Jesus, that’s sad.
Ursula Andress is Vesper Lynd – 007
In this re-telling of the story, Vesper is a retired British agent, and millionaire, who spends her days accumulating more wealth. OK. Whatever, it can’t get worse, so I’ll just go with it. Acting with Bond as the through-line for this terribly befuddled narrative, Vesper recruits Peter Sellers’s character, Evelyn Tremble, and acts as his liaison, giving him orders from Bond and generally keeping him safe. Though she isn’t very good at her job, it ends up not mattering as Sellers was fired mid-way through the film and his character just disappears. And as such, they decided as a last minute tie-up to have Vesper turn on James a minute or two before the deus ex machina ending, though I couldn’t have cared less, as I was well beyond shaking my head at that point.
It was nice to see Andress in a role in which she wasn’t retarded and/or dubbed, but alas she had little to do other than just hang around looking pretty. However, there was this one scene where Tremble is having some weird acid-trip and freaking out, and Vesper appears with a machine gun and wastes an entire soundstage full of extras. It’s bloodless, of course, but it was still one of the few moments I actually liked in the movie.
Joanna Pettet is Mata Bond
Yes, James Bond had a daughter. Why not!? Abandoned at three and raised by strangers (to be a whore, apparently), James reunites with Mata and recruits her to MI6 to go undercover to some kind of secret spy training facility in Germany. Once there, she uses her exposed navel to ruin an auction, or something that Le Chiffre was using to raise money… I couldn’t really follow it. And it doesn’t matter. Once again, the character serves her purpose for a fifteen minute sequence and all but disappears until the end of the film, where she is sporting a different hairdo and clothing style, leading me to believe that the actress was called back after having been “wrapped” for a few weeks in a half-ass attempt to tie up the ill-conceived story.
Resolution with her father, explanation for her absence, resounding impact on the story? All questions left unanswered. Including why they felt the need to have her be attracted to her father, going so far as to say, in so many words that if she didn’t know who he was, she would have pursued shagging him. Weird? Yes. Hot? Kinda. Unnecessary? Definitely.
Jacqueline Bisset is Miss Goodthighs
OK, THE’RE NOT EVEN F*CKING TRYING! Miss Goodthighs? Are you shitting me!? Twelve year-olds can come up with more cleverly suggestive names than that! I don’t care if this was made in the 60s. Lazy! Stupid! Unfunny! Arghhh…
And in case you’re wondering, NO! She serves no purpose, other than eye candy and is only on screen long enough to say her stupid-ass name and bat her eye lashes.
[THE BEST BOND-AID]
I had honestly wrote this section off, but then about 5 minute before the credits, Bond sees a flashing button on end of a stretch of hand-railing and presses it. What happens next—I don’t understand, but it was easily one of the three likable moments in the movie.
For some reason, Dr. Noah had buttons installed throughout the casino that when pressed, trigger bullets to shoot out from the rails like a firing squad, and in this instance, they end up helping Bond to get his name on the score board. Something he was unable (unwilling) to do before, or after this little scene. So, kudos to this random bit of “gadgetry” for the lone cool Bondian moment of the film.
[BOND’S GREATEST HITS]
The Body Count [20 + Untold Dozens]:
Like I mentioned above, Bond takes out twelve with the press of a button right before the climax, and over previous course of the film, another eight are killed by various comedic means. Including: A mortar strike, a milk cart explosion, a firing squad, several accidental shootings and a couple other small explosions. Nothing too exciting, but this is a spoof comedy, so I wasn’t even expecting the ones we did get.
Then of course, there is the ending in which Woody Allen goes nuclear and explodes in an atomic blast from some Alka-Seltzer tablet of doom and kills off every body in the casino. Yes, everybody. All the main characters, including Bond.
The Best Fight:
There is a very brief tussle in the casino’s main office, that puts Bond up against a trio of Scottish bagpipers and he cleverly(?) overpowers two of them with a couple well placed (though thoroughly unconvincing) judo chops and outwits the third with his matador skills and a make-shift tiger-skin muleta, parrying his oncoming sword attacks. But it’s all rather un-exciting.
The Most Satisfying Kill:
As all of Bond’s kills are all bloodless, in rapid-fire succession and over within a few seconds, I refuse to fill this section out in his name. However, I will give the honor to Psychedelic Freak-Out Vesper and her bagpipe-Tommy gun slaying of an entire army.
[HIS WORD IS HIS BOND]
As again, Bond refrained from killing outside of that one goofy instance, this section is all but moot. Though I did chuckle at the following exchange:
Tremble: What are you going to do to me?
Le Chiffre: Physically, nothing, Mr. Bond.
Tremble: Ah, so you’re going to nothing me to death.
Best Double Entendre:
Moneypenny: And what is your name?
Cooper (another double-0): Cooper, big eyes. But don’t be formal. Call me Coop.
Moneypenny: Sounds like something for keeping birds.
Cooper: That’s me.
[THE MISSION DEBRIEF]
“Sir James Bond is back. With his morals, his vows and his celibate image.”
I’ve tried really, really hard to refrain from using the following expletive from my Bond Breakdowns, but man, fuck this movie.
When film producer Charles K. Feldman (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) acquired the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, he originally intended to have the adaptation be made as one of the Eon Productions’ 007 entries. But, when negotiations with producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman fell through, he decided to make it anyways. Rather than attempt to compete with the juggernaut that was the ‘official’ series, Feldman resolved to make the film a satire of everything beloved in the established world of James Bond.
Released mere months before Eon’s fifth 007 entry, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, and riding purely on the popularity of the shared character’s name, CASINO managed to achieve moderate success, despite receiving less than favorable reviews. And this now includes mine.
Split into segments, each featuring a separate director and seemingly separate ‘feature length’ budget, CASINO is a cognitive and over-blown nightmare. Originally budgeted at six million, the film’s final estimated cost came closer to twelve. Nearly three million MORE than YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. And the worst part is, I couldn’t tell where all the money went. Best I can figure, it had to do with the countless unnecessary large and overly loud Warholian sets. Plagued with a disjointed and frantic production, coupled with the notorious real life feud between Welles and Sellers, leading to Sellers being told not to return back to set by Feldman, it’s not too hard to see why this film plays like such an erratic disaster.
What The Hell Does This Shit Have To Do With James Bond!?
It’s like the 60s vomited and they scooped the spill into film canisters. And the script, if there indeed was one, is heinous. For every joke that hits, there are ten that penguin shit peanut butter. What!? Exactly. To be fair, I’m one of those people that don’t find ‘weird’ to be arty, funny or all that interesting. So, when the filmmakers self-dubbed this film as “psychedelic cinema”, I should have known I was better off staying clear. I just thought that perhaps the fact that this at least had SOMETHING to do with James Bond it would be enough to make it watchable, if only once. But, I was wrong. CASINO ROYALE is long, convoluted, largely un-funny and bizarre. And I seriously recommend avoiding it.
Though in an effort to end on a positive note, I will admit to simply loving the character of Coop (Terence Cooper). A double-0 chosen by Bond via Moneypenny for his charm and way with the ladies, Coop is trained to amp his appeal to women, while at the same time become immune to their returned sexual advances. His role is brief, to say the least, and like so many others, simply disappears without explanation or arch completion and it’s a god damn shame. The role was hilarious and the sequence in which he is training to resist his sexual urges and block out the charm of an onslaught of gorgeous women was the best in the film and easily beats the similar Femme-Bots sequence in AUSTIN POWERS. So, if you have any interest in this film, I implore you to just watch this one scene and leave the rest to be forgotten.
[THE 007 SEVEN]
[ ] Destroys Evil Doer’s Lair
[X] Drinks or Orders a Vesper Martini*
[X] Gets Captured and/or Tortured*
[X] Introduces Himself As “Bond—James, Bond”*
[ ] Teams-Up With Felix Leiter
[X] Uses Judo or a Walther PPK to Dispose of an Enemy
[X] Wears a Tux*
*Peter Seller’s does…
Buttercup: My Daddy liked it hotter!
Bond: I am not your Da-haa-haa—quite.
RANTBO will return in (a breakdown of) YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
Casino Royale (1967) © MCMLXVII Famous Artists Productions Ltd., Columbia Pictures and MGM Home Entertainment