Thursday, 15 October 2015

007 - Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale is about how beautiful Ursula Andress is and precious little else. The film is a mess. Lacking any coherent dramatic thread, scenes proceed like a series of chain reactions. David Niven's prissy Sir James Bond is the catalyst, a stuttering bore dragged out of retirement to bumble around anointing successors and instigating a never-ending wave of digressive asides.

Niven's scenes, some of which were directed by John Huston, revolve around a well-dressed English gent breezing through highly dangerous situations. His incredulous presence is a sight gag that plays in any language. It's an idea the 'official' Eon films would return to when Roger Moore became the series' driving force.

This spoof Bond project began as a something of a follow-up to What's New Pussycat? with spendthrift producer Charles Feldman hoping that the lightning generated by pairing Sellers with Woody Allen might strike twice. Unfortunately, Sellers' idea of a farcical 007 is a smartly dressed man prone to random, ultra-violent outbursts, a shtick Sean Connery had long since canonised.

Lacking any particularly outlandish, or even humorous, character ideas, Sellers appears to actually be playing his Bond reasonably straight. Although he breaks out some terminally unfunny comedy accents for the film's climactic baccarat game (with Orson Welles, no less), earlier scenes spent romancing Andress reach for machismo. Perhaps sensing the damage he stood to do his career, Sellers duffed up director pal Joeseph McGrath then refused to participate in any more filming.

Feldman's solution to a half-finished film? Throw millions upon millions at the screen. Cameos! Extravagant sets! A mise en scene heaving with models, each and every one wearing the latest Paris fashions. This is the best of Casino Royale. It may not have even a basic idea of how to build a consistent tone or sense of character but it is, at least, amusing to look at.

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