"Sad that the word secret agent has become synonymous with the word sex maniac," laments David Niven in the movie Casino Royale. Not to be confused with the 2006 reboot, this Casino Royale was actually a comedy sendup of the James Bond series, released during Sean Connery's tenure as the infamous spy. But sadly, this movie turned out less comedic and more over bloated with spectacle that it takes less time to acknowledge that the script is in such a mess.
The premise of the film is that David Niven is the original James Bond, a pure, sophisticated spy from the first World War. His name and number was actually passed down to the suave, ladykiller we all know. Bond is forced out of retirement because the enemy is killing off all international spies, an evil scheme that only a child could make up. Bond takes over MI5 and decides that all of their spies will now go under the name James Bond 007, in order to confuse the enemy. But what the movie does best is confusing the audience, such as myself.
The movie is in such disarray, that it can't focus on one singular story. We go all over the place; from an insufferable unfunny scene in the Highlands of Scotland to an intriguing Berlin scene which features some interesting use of German Expressionism. This was possibly due to the fact that it was directed not by one, but by six people. Each section each person directed does not essentially contribute to other sections of the story.
One great example is the story of Evelyn Tremble, expert baccarat player, played by Peter Sellers. He is recruited by Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress aka Honey Rider from Dr. No) to face Le Chiffre, a SMERSH agent, at a game of baccarat at Casino Royale. This section is the only section of the whole entire movie that actually somewhat resembles the novel that this movies is supposedly based on. But, when you watch the scene, once it finishes, you realize that that whole section of having Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) loses the game leaving him in debt to SMERSH, who will thusly have him killed contributes absolutely nothing to the rest of the movie or the has anything to do with the sinister Dr. Noah.
The movie does tend to waste scenes by going nowhere. It also wastes its talent. Terence Cooper plays an agent called "Coop" who is trained to resist women. Cooper is really the actor in this movie who could really play a good Bond if he wanted to, or if the movie gave him more than five minutes of screen time. And then we have Jean-Paul Belmondo and George Raft, who are top billed even though they appear in the film's destroy-all climactic ending.
Though the movie isn't extremely funny, it does have great, genuine moments of comedy. I would think that the scenes with Woody Allen are the funniest. He plays James Bond's nephew Jimmy Bond, a neurotic man who can't even talk to his uncle due to an inferiority complex, so he can only talk to him thru pantomime. He also gives off many great lines. While at the end of a firing squad, he tries to convince them not to shot him. "My doctor says that I can't have bullets entering my body at any time. What if I said I was pregnant?" Not only is he neurotic, but he is also a sex maniac, and will do anything in order to help conquer his inferiority.
The movie, instead of focusing on continuity, instead focuses on the lavish, and boy did they go non stop on their set design. From the before mentioned Berlin spy house, to India and down below Casino Royale at Dr. Noah psychedelic lair. In fact, movie does do very well in most aspects. Its music by Burt Bacharach is, though it may not fit well into certain scenes and ruins its serious, is so enjoyable. The best thing about this movie is the song "Look of Love" which is sung by the lovely Dusty Springfield. The song is so seductive and smooth which Springfield accomplished with such grace.
While this movies does have its problems, it important to look at the production of the film and how it faced so many problems, such as Peter Sellers leaving the project before his scenes were finished because he wanted to play a more serious Bond and because of the feud he had with Orson Welles, probably the biggest in Hollywood history.
"Casino Royale is too much for one James Bond," and it's too much for itself. But while this movie does have its problems storywise, it is about up by being a gorgeous thing to look at and, at some moments entertaining. It's a time capsule of the late 60s psychedelia and big budget extravaganza. Not one of the best Bonds, that's a fact, but it is certainly an amusing part of Bond history.