The Best Casino Royale | San Diego Drive


Casino Royale: Ursula Andress handles interference between a feud between Peter Sellers and Orson Welles.

No, not that Casino Royale. The other, better!

Casino Royale (1967)

We open with a postscript that we find in the additional section of the DVD: it is Peter Sellers who suggested Orson Welles for the role of Le Chiffre in the spy parody 007 Casino Royale, a gesture that his ego later regretted. Sellers was so intimidated by Welles’ genius that he demanded that the two not be filmed in the same shot. (Blows were traded when director Joe McGrath called him.) According to Sellers, who received a huge salary plus a percentage of the gross, he left the set never to return, as Welles and McGrath ganged up on him. . Months after straining production, Sellers called director McGrath to set up a cocktail party where he apologized at length for his unprofessional behavior. McGrath recalls that in the midst of Sellers ‘indefensible rant, one of Columbia Pictures’ big bosses approached the table to express his own apologies to the director for everything that happened during the making of the film. . He concluded with, “And that was that bastard Sellers’ fault.” According to McGrath, the executive then turned to Sellers and said, “We’re glad you’re here, Mr. Allen. It’s a pleasure to have you in our movie. He walked away and Sellers said, “He thought I was Woody Allen. I just got a million dollar check from him. And he signed it!

Door panels with Woody Allen and Ursula Andress.

By the time it was released in 1967, the term “James Bond spoof” had become an oxymoron. Forgive me, followers of bondage, but outside of Dr. No, from Russia with love, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, everything that follows, in one form or another, owes a debt to campy buffoonery, enhanced by gadgets for the easily amused. Razor-razor-topped villains or goliaths whose annual dental visits are paid to can opener repairers are the stuff the comics are made of. Want to see the greatest Bond movie you’ve never heard of? Discover Pierce Brosnan in John Boorman’s The Panama tailor. Want to see the most guilty of all of Bond’s guilty pleasures? welcome to Casino Royale.

It was the first 007 novel written by Ian Fleming and the only one that didn’t belong to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s Eon Productions. Producer / super agent Charles K. Feldman has acquired the rights to the wife of his late client, producer / actor Gregory Ratoff. All efforts to work with Eon and acquire Sean Connery’s talent have failed. David Niven, Ian Fleming’s initial choice to play Bond, was a little baffled by the choice of a Scotsman to play his unmistakably British spy. Rather than face off against the franchise, Feldman pitched it as a comedy and a Columbia track. Niven’s Bond lives in an “Eden without Eve” and contrary to popular belief, the greatest spy in history abstains from sex. It represents a time when espionage was an alternative to war and a spy was a member of a “select and immaculate priesthood” devoted to their work and disinterested in the type of sexual acrobatics associated with the character.

Back then, anthology films – several directors attributed short segments of a thematically linked whole – were almost as noticeable as spy films. Feldman didn’t have much of a sense of humor, as evidenced by the choice of his directors: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, stunt coordinator Richard Talmadge, Val Guest and Joe McGrath. Of the six, only the last two had a notable aptitude for comedy.

“Chicago Tribune”, April 28, 1967.

Who knows how different the image would have been if Sellers had featured it? The obscene gag that opens the picture – Evelyn Tremble (Sellers) in an outdoor Parisian urinal admiring the ‘credentials’ of Lieutenant Mathis (Duncan Macrae) – was clearly destined to land much later in the film. As it stands, this reflects a committee decision, the harbinger of an oncoming parody that only occasionally knows what it’s kidding. After that, and for too little time, it looks like Feldman looked to take on the Eon series. Richard Williams’ animated opening credits sequence is up to the best of Maurice Binder. Find out how each actor’s credit predicts their character’s fate.

Huston’s decision to co-direct and act was made to the delight of a bookie he was attached to with his orangutan-orange hairpiece. Its segment opens up the picture, and if you can get past the first 38 minutes, the navigation is relatively smooth, albeit narratively inconsistent. According to Guest, Feldman asked him to see how many footage they had from vendors and if there was enough to go on without him. When told yes, Feldman called Sellers in Spain and fired him. When Sellers leaves, the film moves away from comedy and into a psychedelic parody. McGrath and Guest fare better, while Hughes and Parrish get lost trying to please the producer. (When asked if he’d like to be credited as a “segment coordinator,” Guest called the film the least coordinated production he’s ever worked on.) Talmadge’s contribution eerily foreshadows Flaming saddles, with his team of cowboys on horseback trampled at the foot of the casino.

According to Playboy’s broadcast, “The Girls of Casino Royale,” Orson Welles attributed the film’s success to an advertising campaign featuring a nude tattooed woman in posters and print ads for the film.

I was outraged the first time I saw this. There was nothing against Casino Royale, but rather the sudden downpour halfway through the second feature film, that of Jerry Lewis The Big Mouth, which required an early exit from the drive-in. For years, I defended him against the royal snoozefest of Martin Campbell. Seeing it again for the first time in over two decades, there are images that refuse to fade, including the slow-motion entry of Sellers and Ursula Andress, highlighted by Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” and filmed through an aquarium, bubbles gurgling like little diamonds that fill a quarter of the screen.

Jack Hildyard (Caesar and Cleopatra, the Bridge over the River Kwai, 55 days in Beijing) was a member of the British Old Guard, a cinematographer who devoted time and care to making every shot. His insistence on using arc lamps – it took them 20 minutes to warm up – then led McGrath to complain that they were lucky if they had a minute of film in the box each day. And a Bond movie without Monte Norman’s iconic guitar theme might have seemed more apparent without the score; Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass’s stereo herd to the tune is as good a Bond theme as any. (This is the only 007 movie to promote two hit songs.) Feldman knew as much about music as he was about acting. He called “The Look of Love” “artist shit” and told Bacharach to take it off because it wasn’t funny. Thank goodness no one was listening.

According to Val Guest, Welles refused to work with Sellers, calling him “that fucking amateur.”

For years, I ignored the expression “guilty pleasure”. Hot rods in hell and The Oscar added more laughs to my life than most intentional comedies. Where is the guilt? Certainly not at Casino Royale. And be sure to stick around for the closing credits theme – with the lyrics. Move over to Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones: Seven James Bonds at Casino Royale! They came to save the world and win a girl at Casino Royale. And before it’s over, there’s not a single Leap left standing!


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