Bond evolution – Casino Royale 1967 (4.A)

I think the phrase “hot mess” was perhaps coined to describe this movie. Several directors working separately, several separate scriptwriters, yet the film has no coherent plot, no proper resolution. I can only think that as this film was made in the 1960s, perhaps everyone involved was on drugs.

Casino Royale was the first James Bond novel but the rights were bought by a different company to the one that runs the mainstream Bond films. It took them so long to get together and make a film, that another company had already started to make Bond films (as previously reviewed). They decided to make Casino Royale as a spoof.

Now spoof spy films can be done well, as Austin Powers shows (and I think the producers watched the first Bond films – including this one – before they made Austin Powers). This film was not done well.

David Niven as the retired James Bond does his best to give some quality to any scene he’s in, but even he looks confused as to why he’s suddenly in a Scottish castle with M’s widow and 11 nubile young girls whose aim is to seduce him.

Peter Sellers is the man who wrote the book on how to win at baccarat and is hired by MI6 to compete against Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat in an attempt to deprive SPECTRE of funds (at least something from the novel’s original plot remains).

In a nice nod to Thunderball, when Sellers (now to be known as James Bond, as are all MI6 spies, for some reason that was not at all clear) comes to Q for gadgets, he passes some men in scuba gear with bows and arrows. But that was a small visual joke in a film that was actually light on jokes despite the amount of comic talent.

Then there is a separate plot line trying to come up with a spy who is resistant to women, which didn’t really tie in with any of the rest of the plot. Nor did Bond’s daughter – Marta Bond – have anything to add to the plot, apart from a Thai dance scene that looked like it was lifted straight from The King and I, and leaping into a taxi and saying “take me to Berlin” when she goes on mission. “East or West love?” replies the driver.

Orson Welles as Le Chiffre steals his scenes, performing a series of magic tricks at the baccarat table. For a few moments you have hope the film is turning a corner… and it does, but not a better one.

*spoiler alert* (although seriously, nothing could spoil this film more than it was spoilt just by being made) the film ends with an explosion and everybody dies. If only it could have happened 130 minutes earlier.

The brightest spot – the theme tune. Dusty Springfield singing The Look of Love. You can’t fault that but now I know it was attached to this movie I am not going to like it so much because it will remind me of the time wasted watching this incoherent mish mash of a movie.

“You’re joke shop spies,” says David Niven as Bond in an early scene. If only it were so good as joke shop spies! This film was truly terrible.

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