Directed by: Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish (1967) and William H. Brown Jr. (1954)
Premise: The MGM DVD release includes the 1967 feature film parody of James Bond and the 1954 television episode of Climax that is a straight adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel. The 1967 film features multiple intercut storylines shot by different directors.
What Works: The 1967 film was one of the earliest parodies of its kind and can be taken as a mix of British and psychedelic comedy. Although this is a bit of a reach, the film can be viewed as a piece of counter culture that rejects bourgeois notions of narrative. Casino Royale takes the epitome of British mainstream values and chic and makes a mockery of him; in that respect this version of Casino Royale is a successfully subversive picture. The cast includes great Hollywood talents including David Niven, John Huston, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Jacqueline Bisset, and Peter O’Toole. The 1954 version of Casino Royale is a solid made-for-TV thriller of its time. Peter Lorre plays villain Le Chiffre and uses his characteristic skills playing a heavy to full effect.
What Doesn’t: It is an understatement to stay that the 1967 Casino Royale is a mess. The film’s cross cutting between narratives is disorienting, and although it is part of the film’s intended psychedelic effect, the picture just gets frustrating after awhile. Like many comedies of this era, the humor has not aged well, even for those who enjoy films like Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther. The 1954 Casino Royale features a very Americanized James Bond, here referred to as Jimmy Bond, and he is very different from the incarnations of the character audiences have come to expect.
DVD extras: Aside from the two versions of Casino Royale, the DVD also contains a featurette and a trailer.
Bottom Line: The 1967 Casino Royale is not a great film, but the DVD is interesting as a film artifact. This DVD will be of obvious interest to hardcore fans of James Bond, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Peter Lorre, Orson Welles and fans of Austin Powers, which was clearly inspired by this picture. Although films like Top Secret! and Austin Powers probably spoofed the spy genre more successfully, this was one of the first major films to do so and the DVD’s inclusion of both the feature film and the made-for-TV-film make it an interesting addition to the James Bond series.
Episode: #119 (November 26, 2006)