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Casino Royale (CE)
DVD disk
11.03.2008 By: Mathew Plale
Casino Royale (CE) order
Director:
Various

Actors:
David Niven
Peter Sellers
Woody Allen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In this early James Bond spoof, 007 (Niven) comes out of retirement to confused and fight off Soviet agency SMERSH, with the help of his secretary, his cousin, a Baccarat expert, and more.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Casino Royale is a mad, mad, mad movie. It’s mad for gathering so many superstars on one project. It’s mad for being so unapologetically silly. It’s mad in its relentless to make us laugh. And it’s mad because, despite all of this, it’s a complete failure.

So ignore the two-star rating for a moment and believe me when I reiterate that it is, no doubt in mind, a complete failure of epic proportions. But it was bound to be, both as a capitalization on the Bond franchise (then only four deep) and an excuse to gather some of Hollywood’s most recognizable. Look, there’s David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen! And there’s Orson Welles, William Holden, and Peter O’Toole! And oh baby, Ursula Andress, Jacqueline Bisset, and Barbara Bouchet! And that’s all without mentioning George Raft, Charles Boyer, Joanna Pettet, Deborah Kerr, and Anjelica Huston’s hands!

Despite its 131-minute running time, Casino Royale never finds time to give the cast their due (except Allen, the sole amusement of the whole circus). And also despite (or because of?) its length, Casino Royale is jumbled and incoherent, creating and scrapping plotlines and characters left and right. Blame it on producer Charles K. Feldman, who hired five directors for the project, none of whom knew what the other had done the day before. The directors, just as guilty as their producer, are: Ken Hughes (who did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a year later), John Huston, Joseph McGrath (who later worked with Sellers on The Magic Christian), frequent John Ford collaborator Robert Parrish, and sci-fi filmmaker Val Guest.

The plot, for whatever it’s worth, shows Sir James Bond 007 (Niven) forced out of retirement and devising the plan to give a number of associates the moniker ‘James Bond,’ in order to throw Soviet agency SMERSH off his scent. But of course the plot doesn’t matter; this is a spoof—though you wouldn’t know it, as the laughs are scarce.

So why two stars if Casino Royale is a "complete failure" (to quote myself)? The Burt Bacharach score, maybe. Or maybe it’s just human nature to drool over the failures of The Successful, so long as the ones we love rebound. Woody Allen, for example, is now the most Oscar-nominated screenwriter ever, while Orson Welles sold more frozen peas than any other performer in history.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary with James Bond Historians Steven Jay Rubin and John Cork: Rubin (author of ‘The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia’) and Cork (co-author of ‘James Bond: The Legacy’) have a great chemistry, bouncing stories and facts off one another for the duration of the track. A must-listen.

The Making of Casino Royale (41:28): Divided into five sections (‘Bond…James Bond?,’ ‘A Three Ring Circus,’ ‘More Directors…More Stars!,’ ‘The Big Climax,’ ‘It’s a Wrap!’), this informative documentary sits down a number of contributors to discuss the script’s development, the giant cast, on-set quarrels (Sellers and Welles couldn’t work together), the absolutely ridiculous climax, and much more. Much praise goes to this feature for not shying away from the many lowlights of Casino Royale’s production.

The Theatrical Trailer and a Photo Gallery round out the features on this Collector’s Edition. Also included are miniature reproductions of standees.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Casino Royale is not a James Bond film; at least, not what we're familiar with. This is a spoof, one so memorably bad it's worth seeing once, especially if you're a fan of anyone in the cast. For actual fans of Casino Royale, the commentary and documentary are worth the retail price.
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