I was hoping to review You Only Live Twice this week, but I couldn’t get a copy in time. So you’ll just have to endure the next best thing– Casino Royale! How does one make a successful James Bond spoof? Let me count the ways:
- Explosions galore, check
- Bizarre gadgets and surroundings, check
- Sexy subservient women, check
- Trippy camera angles, check,
- Catchy Burt Bacharach tune, check.
With the broadest, bawdiest style of 60’s farce, Casino Royale ushers in the psychedelic era of comedy with a James Bond spoof that is everything Austin Powers wanted to be (and mostly succeeded at). Casino Royale was highly adapted from the novel by Ian Fleming and nothing at all like the modern Daniel Craig remake — but you wouldn’t want it to be. In this Bond adventure, our hero is a retired country squire in a dressing gown and turban, who would rather be doing yoga than chasing arch enemies. But British intelligence has opted to keep the legend of Bond alive, by having multiple agents pose as him all around the world. Bond despises his modern counterparts, calling his successor a ‘sexual acrobat who leaves a trail of beautiful dead women like blown roses behind him!” But when the faux Bonds start disappearing, M coaxes the original back into service by ‘accidentally’ blowing up his estate, and Bond finds himself an unwilling agent yet again.
The plot is all over the place but eventually it leads to a showdown between this James Bond and a nemesis from SMERSH he didn’t expect. Until you reach that point, you’re treated to multiple ‘James Bonds’, most notably Peter Sellers, who transforms from nebbish baccarat author Evelyn Tremble into a sexy, if nerdy, spy by Vespa Lynd (none other than Honey Ryder herself, Ursula Andress). Another ‘Bond’ is Sir James’ daughter by Mata Hari, also named Mata, who is the spitting image of her mother and has a brief, uncomfortable attraction to her father. Even Moneypenny, (the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet) is trained as a Bond, and has the enviable job of finding other Bonds by practicing osculation techniques on them. There’s also “The Detainer” Dahlia Lavi, who resembles a blend of Gina Lollabrigida and Sophia Loren. As Vespa, Andress not only has some of most glamorous costumes you’d expect in a Bond spectacular, but sunken living room that even Megan Draper would envy. And despite being used as a sex object, her deep love of real estate and enterprising know how makes Vespa is refreshingly independent. Throw this all together with the premiere of Dusty Springfield’s lush performance of The Look of Love and you’ve got 90 minutes of pure silly escapism. The visual gags are plentiful and there are occasional nods to classic Hollywood; a dance studio in East Germany resembles the skewered sets from The Cabinet of Dr. Calighari, and Mata is introduced in a dance spectacular straight out of an MGM musical. Surprising cameos (A magical Orson Welles! A sex-crazed Deborah Kerr!) make Casino Royale totally delightful. The costuming by Julie Harris and Anna Duce is delicious, although you may never trust anyone in a kilt again! I highly recommended it, especially if you’ve just been totally depressed by the remake.
Trivia: Casino Royale had a hellish production, and with the project being split between five directors, Sellers & Welles feuding, and Sellers’ unwillingness to work one minute past his contracted time makes it incredible that it was finished at all.
Continuity error– in the bedroom scene, the feathers in Vespa’s hair magically transform into perfectly placed hearts for the remainder of the scene, and her peignoir turns from light to dark pink.
A couple inspirations to Mad Men; Vespa’s sunken living room and pink versions of Roger Sterling’s mod white couches in her bedroom.
SNACKING GAME: Nibble or imbibe when you hear ‘Bond’
Coop: ‘The vacancy’s just been filled.”
Mata: If you weren’t my Dad, I’d fancy you!
Evelyn: Hello, sailor!
Giovanna: I’m Miss Goodthighs.” Evelyn: “I can see that.”
Bond: I like to see who I’m shooting.
British Officer: I can’t get back for dinner, I’m afraid a war’s broken out.
Evelyn: Oh, you’re going to nothing me to death.
(Surprise Cameo) Excuse me, are you Richard Burton?
- David Niven – Sir James Bond 007
- Peter Sellers – Evelyn Tremble
- Ursula Andress – Vesper Lynd
- Orson Welles – Le Chiffre
- Woody Allen – Jimmy Bond
- Barbara Bouchet – Miss Moneypenny
- Deborah Kerr – Agent Mimi/Lady Fiona McTarry
- Jacqueline Bisset – Miss Goodthighs
- Joanna Pettet – Mata Bond
- Daliah Lavi – The Detainer
- Terence Cooper – Coop
- John Huston – M/McTarry
- William Holden as Ransome
- Charles Boyer as Le Grand
- Jean-Paul Belmondo as a French Legionnaire
- Anna Quayle as Frau Hoffner
- Kurt Kasznar as Smernov
- Angela Scoular as Buttercup
- Geoffrey Bayldon as Q