Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish
Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Orson Welles, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, John Huston
Wolf Mankowitz & John Law & Michael Sayers, Ian Fleming (novel)
Casino Royale is too much for one James Bond!
Welcome to Casino Royale, the ultimate psychedelic secret agent satire!
Packed with girls, guns and gags galore, this "very funny picture" (The New Yorker) delivers "laughs all the way" (Cue)! Starring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Joanna Pettet, Orson Welles, Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden and others, and with an original score from Oscar winner Burt Bacharach, this groovy spy movie is "even farther out" (L.A. Herald-Examiner) than all other spoofs combined! British Intelligence is waning in every possible way! When the diabolical SMERSH begins killing off Her Majesty's Secret Service, super-agent James Bond (Niven) recruits six more "James Bonds" to confuse and conquer their enemies. But it won't be easy. They'll have to face an army of irresistibly sexy female operatives, exploding robotic fowl, parachuting Indians and a germ that makes all women beautiful but kills all men over 4'6"!
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 131 min.
Release Date: 10/21/2008
• Audio Commentary with Film Historians Steven Jay Rubin and Peter Cork
• “The Making of Casino Royale” Five-Part Documentary
• Photo Gallery
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Casino Royale: 40th Anniversary Edition (1967)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 11, 2009)
Over the period of one year, MGM released all of the James Bond movies on DVD – sort of. Between October 1999 and October 2000, they produced all 19 official Bond flicks to that point along with bastard offspring Never Say Never Again. That summed up the whole package as of 2000, right?
Wrong, for one other exception to the rule existed. In addition to Never in 1983, the “unofficial” Bond spoof Casino Royale came out in 1967. As a Bond fan, I felt interested to see this parody, so I was happy when the wait finally came to an end two years after the release of all the other 007 flicks.
Was it worth it? Yes and no. While interesting to see as a historical artifact, Royale offered an erratic experience at best. It never seemed sure of itself and it provided an awkward and only intermittently entertaining piece.
Really, Royale consists of a series of semi-related vignettes, all shot by different directors. Any attempt to fully summarize the story would be a serious headache and it’d probably give away too much of the action, so I’ll try to keep things brief and generally. At the start of the film, we meet Sir James Bond (David Niven). He’s the originator of the 007 legend, and he bemoans the fact that the current one disgraces his name with his sexual acrobatics and spy gizmos.
Someone’s depleting the ranks of international spies, so a gaggle of bigwigs including “M” (John Huston) try to bring Bond back into the game. Initially he declines the offer, but some violent events prompt him to return. Bond gets his first threatening interaction with the nasty spies of SMERSH during a stay at a Scottish castle. This gets him started on the right path, and he takes over MI6. Since 007 makes for an obvious target, Bond decides to create a legion of spies who answer to that number, though he wants them to avoid the sexual obsessions of the popular 007.
First he finds Cooper (Terence Cooper), a man women find irresistible but who gets trained to resist them. Subsequently Bond recruits absurdly wealthy business tycoon and sex kitten Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), bookish baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), and illegitimate daughter Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet). We also meet Sir James’ nerdy nephew Little Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen).
As I noted, the different segments of the film really act as entities unto themselves. A general plot thread holds them together, but otherwise they exist as separate pieces. Heck, even that vague connecting material seems thin. Sometimes the movie appears to focus on the threat directly from SMERSH, while other elements concentrate on money-raising attempts made by gambling debtor operative Le Chiffre (Orson Welles).
None of them have much to do with anything else, and even within each segment, the content seems nearly incoherent. There seems to be little effort to coordinate the segments and make them work as a whole, so Royale flits from here to there virtually at random. We meet Cooper and learn of his training and then poof! He disappears, only to briefly show up again during the film’s climax. Lynd comes and goes with no apparent rhyme or reason, and other roles and themes pop in and out with no discernable rationale. The film’s producers couldn’t even keep Mata’s haircut straight; while she displayed long locks most of the time, she showed up for the movie’s climax with an ugly cropped ‘do that looks like Mia Farrow’s cut in Rosemary’s Baby.
That chop job upset me more than anything else in Royale, for Joanna Pettet looked gorgeous with the longer hair. However, she seemed no equal for Barbara Bouchet, who played Moneypenny’s daughter. If we consider her to be a Bond girl, she has to be considered one of the all-time hottest. During the movie’s ending, she wore a skimpy, semi-transparent dress that truly dazzled.
Unfortunately, sexy Bouchet was pretty much the only thing about Casino Royale that dazzled me. At times the movie seemed moderately entertaining, but its terribly disjointed nature really harmed it. From the exceedingly loose plot to the radical stylistic differences observed from segment to segment, the movie never flowed at all, and it always appeared stuttering and tenuous. Royale couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to embrace the Bond flick clichés or mock them, and the result appeared watchable but too erratic to be anything more than that.
Footnote: some controversy greeted the movie’s running time on this DVD. While the original 2002 disc claimed to fill 137 minutes, this one lists its length as only 131 minutes. That meant fans feared the 2008 transfer lopped off six minutes.
Nope. Both run exactly 131 minutes, so the old package simply suffered from a typo. Don’t worry about any alterations made for the 2008 Collector’s Edition, as it provides exactly the same movie as its predecessor.
The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio B+ / Bonus B
Casino Royale appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer provided an erratic presentation.
Sharpness was inconsistent. Some shots showed good clarity, but many images – especially wide ones – came across as rather soft and fuzzy. Though much of the flick looked decent, too much of it suffered from a lack of definition. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no concerns, but edge enhancement caused a more significant issue, unfortunately. It didn’t crop up continually, but it seemed fairly prominent when it appeared, and it could become a moderate distraction that contributed to the general softness.
Print flaws also demonstrated inconsistent problems. Parts of the movie seemed fairly clean and fresh, but others looked significantly dirtier. At times, I noticed moderate levels of speckles and grit along with some marks, spots, small hairs, and a scratch or two. Some of the issues related to different forms of photography. Scenes with “burned-in” subtitles showed higher levels of defects, and shots with special effects definitely displayed increased issues.
Given the film’s “psychedelic” orientation, I expected a vivid palette, and Casino Royale delivered. However, the quality of the hues varied. Sometimes we found dynamic, concise tones, but too many shots suffered from heavy, runny colors. Black levels came across as nicely deep, while shadow detail mostly appeared appropriately dense. Ultimately, Casino Royale was too up and down to merit a grade above a “C-“ for visuals.
Although it demonstrated some limitations of its era, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Casino Royale provided a surprisingly satisfying experience. While the soundfield emphasized the forward channels, it managed to offer a compelling sense of place. Some speech emanated from the side speakers at times. Music showed very nice stereo presence and separation, and effects also popped up in logical locations. Those elements meshed together reasonably well and created a good atmosphere. Panning and movement seemed decent given the vintage of the material, and the surrounds kicked in some acceptable presence at times. For example, cars zoomed around the rears, and the Scottish ball game in the McTarray sequence also manifested positive use of the surrounds.
Audio quality also appeared relatively positive. Speech sounded fairly natural and warm and displayed few concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects displayed a slight amount of distortion on occasion, but they usually seemed nicely accurate and distinct. Music functioned best of the bunch, as the score sounded clear and lively.
Bass response varied throughout the production, but it usually came across as strong for the age of the material. At times low-end audio sounded quite deep and rich, especially when matched with the smooth quality of the music. However, sometimes the score seemed a little less robust, and some effects displayed moderately boomy bass; for example, the explosion of a house presented elements that sounded somewhat muddy. Nonetheless, most movies of this era show much less impressive audio than what I heard during Casino Royale, so the soundtrack earned a solid “B+”.
How did the picture and audio of this Collector’s Edition compare to those of the original 2002 DVD? Both seemed identical to me. I did direct comparisons and saw virtually all of the same issues on both discs. That’s too bad, as Royale could use a visual upgrade.
This 2008 Collector’s Edition drops most of the extras from the 2002 disc and provides some new ones. We open with an audio commentary from film historians Steven Jay Rubin and Peter Cork. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that looks at the source novel and its long path to the big screen, cast and crew, sets and locations, the flick’s tone, and a mix of production challenges and details.
I expect Cork and Rubin have forgotten more about Bond than most people will ever know, so they provide a wealth of information here. They cover the flick in detail and give us a fun and involving take on things. Expect a great deal of good notes in this fine commentary.
Next we get a five-part documentary called The Making of Casino Royale. All together, it fills 41 minutes, 29 seconds with notes from Rubin, publicist Warren Cowan, former UA executive David Picker, segment director Val Guest, original director Joseph McGrath, Woody Allen’s manager Charles Joffe, 1st assistant director Roy Baird, stunt unit camera operator Alex Thomson, stunt unit DP Nicholas Roeg, and actors Jacqueline Bisset, Joanna Pettet and Daliah Lavi. “Making” looks at the source novel and its complex path to the screen, script issues, cast and crew, music and cinematography, various problems, and anecdotes from the shoot.
Because Cork and Rubin covered so much information in their commentary, it becomes inevitable that repetition occurs here. Nonetheless, the additional perspectives provide different details, and the show examines the flick in a fine manner. The flick offered a messy production and it gets treated well here, as the show reveals plenty of conflicts and controversies from the movie’s creation.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a Still Gallery. It presents 67 images, most of which show shots from the film. Some ads and behind the scenes shots appear as well, so it gives us a decent collection.
Finally, the set includes six Advertising Cards. Each of these shows paintings of movie characters. We see all three James Bonds along with Mata Bond, Vesper Lynd and “The Detainer”. They don’t add a lot, but they’re a nice little bonus.
Although the 2002 disc included only a couple of extras, the CE loses both of them. It drops a good featurette and the original 1954 TV version of Casino Royale. That omission becomes the biggest disappointment, as fans clearly want to have the earliest filmed Bond.
In the end, I think that Casino Royale deserves a screening, at least for serious Bond fans. The movie may offer the most erratic piece of work ever filmed and never goes much of anywhere, but it seems generally entertaining and stands as an interesting footnote in the history of 007. The DVD provides inconsistent and often flawed picture along with surprisingly solid sound and a few useful extras.
The movie’s too flawed for me to recommend it to anyone other than big Bond fans, but they’ll dig it. I can’t choose it over the previous release of Royale, however. Both discs offer identical picture and audio, but they come with different extras. I really like the commentary and documentary found here, but all Bond fans will want the 1950s TV version of Royale found only on the 2002 disc, so it remains a must-have for them. Face it, Bond buffs: you’re gonna have to own both of them if you want all the extras. If supplements don’t matter to you, either disc is fine, though I imagine most fans will prefer the 2002 release because of that TV Royale.
To rate this film visit original review of CASINO ROYALE (1967)