Friday, January 16, 2009

James Bond review: Casino Royale (1967)

CUT TO THE CHASE: Well, it’s not really a Bond film, now is it?

BOND, JAMES BOND: It not really being a Bond film, there’s no point in looking for a real Bond in it. However, Peter Sellers, as Evelyn Tremble James Bond, is a joy to watch, as usual, and Woody Allen, as Jimmy Bond, provides most of the laughs in the film.

VILLAIN AND VILLAINY: The plot is impossible to follow, but that’s not really the point. Orson Welles, as Le Chiffre, is très cool, and his one scene with Peter Sellers is the best one in the film. The early motif of trying to corrupt a sexually incorruptible David Niven, is a cute concept, although it doesn’t actually result in many laughs. Woody Allen as Jimmy Bond/Dr. Noah is great. Did I already say that?

GRATUITOUS SEX: Ursula Andress is, if possible, even more stunning here than in Dr. No. There’s really a cast of thousands in the chick department, but another particularly memorable one is the Italian woman Woody Allen straps nude to the table with stainless steel clamps. More misogynistic than anything in the serious Bond films, one should note.

AND VIOLENCE: Well, that’s not what it’s really all about, is it?

BOYS WITH TOYS: Ditto. But the poofy Q and his assistant are pretty funny.

ETC.: Of course it’s really only a spoof of the Bond films, but it is officially based on the Ian Fleming book, and uses the names and the 007, so it deserves inclusion in the canon. If only to get Dusty Springfield’s ineffable “The Look of Love” on your collection of Bond theme songs. It's one of the very best… There’s nothing at all wrong with the idea of an official Bond spoof. The problem here is that it’s just not very funny. A lot of the concepts are good, like the finicky, celibate Niven Bond character, and the Evelyn Tremble baccarat expert. But the multitude of directors and confusion of cast prevent it from being, in the end, anything more than a violently disconnected series of set pieces. Which, again, wouldn’t be so bad - if only it was funny. It’s just not. It’s “madcap,” I believe the word used to be. A poor substitute for funny.

RATING: 002.

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