Casino Royale ended up being one of the largest follies ever committed to film. Nobody apparently had any consistent idea of the film they were trying to make. Producer Charles K. Feldman had the film made by five different directors (and about as many uncredited), using over a dozen different scripts, at three different studios and on as many soundstages at once. His idea was to talk some star into coming and playing for the day and then write scenes around them. The budget spiralled up to $6 million, which was a considerable amount for the day. Part of the problem was a difficult Peter Sellers, who started as the star of the film but developed an intense dislike of Orson Welles and refused to appear in the same shots he did and then became fed up and went AWOL from the set without telling anyone.
Not surprisingly, Casino Royale is a sprawling, incoherent mess. Colossal dance sequences rub shoulders with performing animals, UFOs and Frankenstein monsters. Sets are designed as optical illusions or mazes of angular stairs like something out of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919). Peter Sellers is tortured and for no apparent reason thrown into a dream sequence filled with Scottish pipers, one of whom is Peter OToole who asks Sellers if he is Richard Burton, to which Sellers reply is no, that he is Peter OToole. By the end, whichever director it is has realised the absurdity of the enterprise and staged a free-for-all fight in the Casino, throwing in the Cavalry, the French Foreign Legion, the Keystone Kops, performing seals, parachuting and dancing redskins with machine-gun bows-and-arrows and flying roulette wheel gadgets, before the entire Casino is blown up by Woody Allen having swallowed an atomic bomb pill. In the fade-out, most of the cast are seen as angels standing on clouds playing harps. (The sole connection between the film and the Ian Fleming novel is the names of Vesper Lynd and Le Chiffre and the showdown between Bond and Le Chiffre over a card game).
In all of this, there is little that is amusing. The sequence that work reasonably in its droll raucous way is the Scottish interlude near the beginning, which contains a spirited performance from Deborah Kerr who does amazing things with a Scottish accent and at the end runs off in a shot that recalls Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965) across the heather in a negligee and gumboots to join a convent. The sequence makes the films most atrocious pun David Niven presents all that remains of M, his toupee, to Ms widow Deborah Kerr, inquiring if it is a family memento, to which Kerrs natural reply is It can only be regarded as an hair-loom. The other sequences that work amusingly are the ones with Woody Allen, doing his usual schtick most amusingly put up before a firing squad: Do you realize Ive got a very low tolerance of death my doctor says that bullets entering my body could be fatal for me? Couldnt I say that Im pregnant? Do you realize this means a very angry letter to The Times? These momentary respites are however matched by as much of the film that is lumbering and overblown.
Following MGMs inheriting the rights to the book in the late 1990s, the idea of a Casino Royale remake surfaced. At one point, this was intriguingly touted by Quentin Tarantino, who wanted to cast the role with Pierce Brosnan. The Casino Royale property was eventually brought up by the holders of the rights to the other James Bond films and this was mounted as Casino Royale (2006) starring Daniel Craig as Bond. The remake was one of the best James Bond films in some years, having an intelligent script that stripped Bond back to basics (and was surprisingly faithful to the Ian Fleming novel) and casting Daniel Craig who played the part with a thuggish brutality.
The making of Casino Royale 1967 is also briefly depicted in the Peter Sellers biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004).
The other James Bond films are: Dr No (1962), From Russia with Love (non-genre, 1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majestys Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (non-genre, 1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (non-genre, 1987), License to Kill (non-genre, 1989), GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), Casino Royale (non-genre, 2006), Quantum of Solace (non-genre, 2008) and Skyfall (non-genre, 2012). Never Say Never Again (1983) is a further non-series Bond film.
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