Casino Royale (1967) October 06, 2016 21:38
Some franchises simply shouldn't be tampered with, attempting to duplicate success in some other form is typically a recipe for disaster. Its a lesson easily learned by watching the bizarre attempt to turn the James Bond story, Casino Royale, into a comedy. To attempt to explain or even understand what this film is about is a fruitless endeavor, not even the film's own cast understood it, so we certainly won't try. Barbara Bouchet who played Moneypenny is quoted as saying...
The movie just never makes any sense. People ask me if I remember any scenes I filmed that didn't end up in the movie, and I can say - the whole thing was so confusing I don't remember the ones that did end up in the movie!
Produced by Charles K. Feldman, Casino Royale was simply a disaster from the beginning, whether it was all an attempt at cashing in on a name brand franchise, or the manic mind of a once successful producer whose name had been attached to films like A Street Car Named Desire, The Seven Year Itch, and Walk on the Wild Side, will forever remain a mystery. The truth is Casino Royale had the suitable makings of a very respectable Bond knockoff that might have been something worth talking about had it played it's cards straight, but Feldman's bizarre ideas, a team of directors, and a jumbled mess of a story only makes Casino Royale appear to be the after effects of a bad drug induced stooper.
Of course what usually reels people in at first glance is the seemingly stacked cast, but one must stop and realize that most of the big names in this film were in the declining years of their desirability or simply waning in their number of successes. Peter Seller's career was thought to have begun its descent after his starring role in another Feldman mess called What's New Pussycat a year earlier. Ursula Andress's career was almost solely held together by the success of Dr. No, and Orson Welles soon would be reduced to TV appearances and voice acting. Most of the other recognizable names today weren't very recognizable at the time. The only seemingly stable big name at the time was David Niven, who is one of the few high profile actors in the film who seemed to be highly regarded by most of the cast.
Definitely more interesting than the film itself are the stories behind it, mainly those focusing on the unstable nature of star Peter Sellers who required a complete re-write of all his dialogue so that his performance would stand out among everyone else. And he was for some reason "terrified" of Orson Welles, possibly terrified of being out performed, but whatever the case he demanded that the scenes between himself and Welles be shot in a manner that they didn't actually have to be in the same room together. This demand started a disagreement between himself and one of the directors, Joe McGrath, which ended with Sellers un-provokingly hitting him in the jaw and McGrath quitting the film. Sellers eventually left the production as well as the film grew over budget, over schedule and he lost interest or patience. A move which explains the abrupt ending to a scene were Sellers character is chasing after Andress, whose been captured, and then suddenly in the next scene he also is captured by SMERSH (off screen) without any explanation as to how.
When it's all said and done Casino Royale is simply a horrid mess of a film, but what does one expect with a producer such as Feldman with the crazy idea of turning everyone into James Bond, having six different directors with no obvious control, and a story with no cohesive thought behind it. It's a film that took over a year and a half to film yet feels like it was thrown together in weeks. Though there are a few silver linings to this brown stained mess. If you're able to make it past the horrible first act you'll witness a very entertaining section that features Joanna Pettet (often confused with Barbara Bouchet) as Mata Bond. While this section of the film makes no more sense than the rest, its at least mildly entertaining and somewhat amusing. Then all of the scenes featuring Barbara Bouchet as Moneypenny also make Casino Royale slightly worth the wasted hours as she's simply beautiful (as always). But ultimately what do you gain from watching this? Only a grand example of everything you shouldn't do when making a movie, and the frightening fact that there's actually a James Bond film out there that is worse than Octopussy!