Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 13th, 2008
Casino Royale was the only one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels that was not a part of the deal with Ion Productions. It was the only Fleming story that was off limits even though it was the first Bond story written. Until recently it was never filmed as part of the official Bond franchise. However, there was a version made back in 1967 that has been deservedly long forgotten. After 40 years it remains unclear who originally came up with the idea for this farce, and after watching the results, I’m not expecting anybody to stand up and take credit any time soon. This is a James Bond film, but in name only.
You might ask yourself how a film based on an Ian Fleming novel and more specifically on James Bond could turn out all that bad. You might ask yourself how a film with the likes of David Niven, Peter Sellers, Orson Wells, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, William Holden, and even George Raft could be so bad. Finally you might be asking yourself if it were possible that combining these things could give us anything less than an all time classic. Well, pick up a DVD of Casino Royale, and you’ll find yourself asking these questions over and over again for in excess of 2 hours. You might as well ask yourself some questions, because following the plot is next to impossible. The truth is this is an obnoxious mess that deserves to be quickly forgotten for at least another 40 years. The script is about as unfocused as any I’ve encountered. The film goes off on so many tangents that I honestly couldn’t tell you what the dang thing is even about. I’ll try to offer some idea:
It seems that the real James Bond has been living in retirement for many years. The 007 out in the field catching bad guys and seducing women is a plant. To maintain morale in the service, it was decided that the name James Bond must remain in action. The real Bond has grown tired of the antics of his namesake, as he himself is a sexually conservative man who never drinks. Now there is a new threat out there, and he’s killing off secret agents from all countries, even the Russians. So, a delegation is sent to Bond’s home in an effort to lure him out of retirement to take on the case. When he refuses, it seems the service decides to bomb his home as some kind of twisted incentive for Bond to return. The action kills M and leads to the first bit of nonsense as Bond pays his respects to M’s widow and family. From there Bond takes over for M, and it’s soon decided that every spy in the network will have their name changed to James Bond and their service number all become 007. The idea is to confuse the enemy. A better strategy would have been to show them the film; confusion guaranteed. It all ends up leading to one badly played out routine after another. There’s a sub story of Bond’s nephew, Jimmy Bond, and a daughter he had with Mata Hari, Mata Bond.
Beyond the script problems, the film suffered from a lack of leadership. Several directors were brought on to the project as several were also fired. The result is no less than 6 directors before the project was finished. It also didn’t help that two of the leads just couldn’t stand each other. Peter Sellers and Orson Wells were at each other’s throats the entire time. The altercations often came close to blows, and Sellers did end up decking one of the directors. All of their scenes together ended up being filmed separately as neither one would agree to be on the set while the other was present. With such nightmare production, it really isn’t any wonder why this film turned out as badly as it did.
Casino Royale is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There is no evidence of a restoration effort of any kind here. There are plenty of print artifacts which include but aren’t limited to scratches, hair, and burn marks. There is so much excessive grain that black levels are practically nonexistent. The grain makes it virtually impossible to get any level of detail or shadow definition. There’s plenty of compression artifact and noise of just about every variety present here. One of the worst transfers I’ve encountered.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is often wasted here. Everything pretty much happens up front. You can hear everything including the dialog just fine, but don’t expect anything dynamic.
There is an Audio Commentary with film historians Steven Jay Rubin and John Cook. To be honest, I just couldn’t stand watching this film for a second time, so I spent just a few minutes with this option. It’s pretty bad when guys hired by the studio to talk about their film can’t seem to find a lot of good things to say about it.
The Making Of Casino Royale: The cover description has the nerve to call this a “thrilling behind the scenes documentary in five parts” They did get the 5 parts correct. Heck, even these people admit the film is horrible, offering 40 minutes of stories to prove why it was so bad. No one appears at all proud of this film among any of the cast and crew.
Set Of 6 Collector’s Cards
What likely made this worse for me is that I’ve just come off a solid week of watching classic Bond in high definition for the 6 Blu-ray films recently released. With so many of those fond memories still fresh in my head, this one merely made said head hurt… a lot. Don’t confuse this film with the recent Daniel Craig film. They have absolutely nothing in common. I have to wonder why MGM decided to give this film a second DVD release. Is it possible someone there thinks this is good stuff and that anyone out there actually wants another copy? Doesn’t that bother you, just a little? “It worries me too.”