Casino Royale (1967)
A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005
Remakes became not only very common, but also very depressing practice in contemporary Hollywood. Too many times great films of the past have their reputation scarred by the incompetence of present-day hacks. There are few instances when connoisseurs of classic films can have hopes of new version being superior to the original. One of those examples is CASINO ROYALE, 1967 action comedy directed by Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath and Robert Parrish.
CASINO ROYALE is a James Bond film, which happens to be the least known and the least appreciated of all James Bond films. It was one of two Bond made outside regular Bond franchise. Based on the very first Ian Fleming’s novel (itself adapted for television in 1954), it was supposed to rival of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The movie did have some commercial success, but it quickly sank into oblivion, being either ignored or despised by most of Bond fans.
While all Bond films are, to a certain extent, products of their times, few try so hard to convince audience in it as CASINO ROYALE does. What was envisioned as mere parody of Bond films soon deteriorated into a desperate attempt to look “hip” or whatever average Hollywood executive thought to be “hip” in mid to late 1960s. This reflected not only on film’s content, but also on its structure and narrative techniques. Five directors were hired and worked independently from each other, often without any clue what the others were doing and with very vague idea of what the script – written by three different people – was about.
As a result, CASINO ROYALE doesn’t have anything resembling a coherent plot. There are some bits and pieces about retired Sir James Bond (played by David Niven), British secret agent (played by Peter Sellers) using “James Bond” as alias, Bond’s nephew “Jimmy” Bond (played by Woody Allen), Sir James Bond’s daughter Mata Bond (played by Joanna Pettet) all being involved in something resembling joint effort by British, American, French and Soviet secret services to thwart SMERSH and its evil plans. At the end, few people will know or care of what the film was really about. This will be the aftermath of the series of spectacular but ultimately pointless scenes marked with atrocious dialogue.
Of course, there are few entertaining scenes, especially in the section where Ursulla Andress in a way spoofs her role in DR. NO. But most of the audience is going to be bored – only a very small minority of those acquainted with the more arcane aspects of 1960s cinema are going to have some appreciation for CASINO ROYALE. And even they are going to use CASINO ROYALE as a cautionary tale about the effects of psychedelic drugs. The commercial success of the film is more the product of a mental state of the audience, produced by certain substances that later went out of fashion, taking the film into the path to oblivion. Some aspects of it – including the excellent musical score by Burt Bacharach – proved to be more enduring. And today CASINO ROYALE gives a hope that Hollywood will finally produce a remake better than original.
RATING: 4/10 (+)