Casino Royale (1967): Messy James Bond Spoof, by Five Directors, Starring Woody Allen, David Niven

In this messy, awful spoof of the James Bond movies, an aging James Bond (David Niven) is called out of retirement to fight the forces of SMERSH. He logs to hand over the demanding role of 007 to a successor, and considers his inept nephew, Jimmy Bond (played by Woody Allen in what’s the film only decent performance).

Casino Royale
Casino Royale 1 – UK cinema poster.jpg

poster by Robert McGinnis
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Grade: D (* out of *****)

The plot kicks into gear when M (played by director John Huston) is killed, and Sir Bond contacts several agents, all of them 007. In this preposterous telling, Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet) is David Niven’s daughter from a liaison with Mata Hari! This pile of witless, star-loaded vignettes culminates in Niven’s realization that the real villain is his own ineffectual nephew.

Author Fleming, a friend of David Niven, always wanted the star to play the lead; hard to believe but initially he dismissed Sean Connery as Bond. This was one of the few Ian Fleming titles not owned by producer Albert Broccoli. Unfortunately, producers Charles K. Feldman and Jerry Bresler decided to make a movie out of the book, and in the process hired and fired at least five directors.

The all-star cast includes: Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble, Ursula Andress (who was in Dr. No) as Vesper Lynd, Orson Welles as Le Chiffre, Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond, Daliah Lavi as the Detainer, Deborah Kerr as Agent Mimi, Lady Fiona McTarry), William Holden as Ransome, and Charles Boyer as Le Grand.

Five Directors/Eight Writers

This is a laden, overly long (2 hours and 11 minutes) spoof, with two or three funny moments (mostly belong to Woody Allen). At least five directors “contributed to the movie, including John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Val Guest, and Joseph McGrath.

And no less than eight writers get credits for adapting Fleming’s novel to the big-screen, including Billy Wilder, Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers, Val Guest, Joseph Heller, Ben Hecht, and Terry Southern.

Despite negative reviews, Casino Royal was a commercial hit, earning about $42 million at the global box-office, against a budget of $12 million.

Origins

“Casino Royale” was first a one-hour TV show for CBS’s “Climax” in 1954, which was later acquired by the Hollywood agent Charles Feldman.

Oscar Alert

The movie received a Best Song Oscar nomination for its melodic, “The Look of Love,” music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David, but was defeated in the final race by Leslie Bricusse’s “Talk to the Animals,” from the awful Fox musical, “Doctor Doolittle,” starring Rex Harrison.

Credits:
Directed by Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest
Richard Talmadge (uncredited)

Director credits:

Val Guest (scenes with Woody Allen and additional scenes with David Niven)
Ken Hughes (Berlin scenes)
John Huston (scenes at Bond’s house and scenes at Scottish castle)
Joseph McGrath (scenes with Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles)
Robert Parrish (casino scenes with Peter Sellers and Orson Welles)
Richard Talmadge (second unit)

Produced by Charles K. Feldman and Jerry Bresler
Screenplay by Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers (and others uncredited), based on Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Music by Burt Bacharach
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard, Nicolas Roeg, John Wilcox
Edited by Bill Lenny

Production company: Famous Artists Productions

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: 13 April 13, 1967 (London) April 28, 1967 (New York), May 1967 (US)

Running time: 131 minutes
Budget $12 million
Box office $41.7 million