Plot: What’s it about?
In 1967, producer Charles Feldman had the urge to make a James Bond film. In the early days before Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were in the picture, Ian Fleming’s first Bond title had been sold to Feldman for a substantial sum. The bad news that it would take fifteen years to make it to the big screen. By that point, five Bond movies were already out and there seem to be no hope to make an alternate Bond picture. The filmmakers in their infinite wisdom decided to scrap the storyline, keep the title, and make a spy spoof which had been making lots of money at that time with the success of the Matt Helm and Flint movies. With Feldman’s agent connections, he established an all star cast not to mention five directors to make the ultimate wide spy spoof with the number of 007 attached to it. The result was Casino Royale.
It’s a dark time for the spy world. Five agents go to a remote spot to one car to seek out bringing Sir James Bond (David Niven) out of retirement for his assistance. Unfortunately, Bond has been living a modest life and does not much care about the spy world as he used to. That is, until an attempt on his life at his residence claims the life of his former boss “M” (John Huston) who’s only remains happen to be his toupee. After some careful thought at his former boss’ residence, he takes over his superior’s position to counteract on the mysterious deaths within the organization using his moniker for recruits to use in order to confuse the organization known as SMERSH and its chief enemy Dr. Noah. This includes a handsome country boy (Cooper) resistant to the urge of lovely young ladies, a baccarat expert (Peter Sellers) and his long lost daughter with Mata Hari named (). Together they infiltrate their main hideout which is under the cover name “Casino Royale”.
It was best that a familiarity with the Flint series and the Austin Powers movies are enough to satisfy with this all star vehicle. The wackiness plus the use of the kind of jokes that you don’t know whether to laugh or not happen to be used to a great extent. A lot of the craziness going on in this movie makes a viewer wonder if the filmmakers were all on something during the production. Nonetheless, it’s a psychedelic spy spoof with a nutty sense of some of the previous Bond films as well as brandishing its own brand of cool, thanks to a solid score by Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
The look of the sets in this movie is quite breathtaking full of color and uses a wonderful stained glass palette that let all the colors explode out sixties style. As for the performances, they all range from being in the movie a little while to a glorified cameo to some uncredited that do surprise and make me grin at their use in this film.
All is different in this incarnation of 007, and this multi-directed film came with much criticism and was not looked on too highly at the time. It was also not a box office success. However in this day in age when spoofing the sixties is a happening, it does freak me out in a way that spreads it away from the traditional Bond series and into its own groovy mold.
Video: How does it look?
Previously this title was limited to being a Best Buy exclusive release, but it’s now been released to the masses. The 2.35:1 AVC HD image is about the most inconsistent that I’ve encountered on Blu-ray, then again I’ve never seen a movie with half a dozen directors, either. Image quality varies from scene to scene, but it’s a reflection of the source material I’m sure. I will say that Ursula Andress looks as good as ever. Though the detail has been improved over the previous DVD release, there’s still a bit of edge enhancement that I noticed. Still, it’s what I believe to be a step up from the previous DVD and if this kind of movie floats your boat – should find a nice home next to the “real” Bond movies in your collection.
Audio: How does it sound?
The disc does contain a DTS HD Master Audio track, but let’s not get too excited, shall we? Audio has been cleaned up a bit and though this title in no way competes with the newer soundtracks, does have a moment or two of greatness. Take “greatness” with a grain of salt, if you please. Dialogue sounds nice and natural with little to no distortion. It’s about as close to a mono track as you can get without actually being mono. Still, it’s not a horrible or unlistenable mix and for that, I’m pleased.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray contains the same supplements as the previous standard DVD and nothing is more special than the original Kinescope of the show “Climax” and it’s presentation of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson as James Bond and Peter Lorre. It’s a fifty minute, 3-Act live television play and it is quite intriguing, The condition of the Kinescope is a decent full frame transfer and the audio is ok when it comes to the dialogue and the limitations of fifties sound systems of television, but the result is a great addition on this disc.
Adding to that is the nineteen minute featurette, Psychedelic Cinema, that goes into the back story of shooting seen mostly through the eyes of the only surviving part of the five directors, Val Guest. He’s a wonderful interview subject so much so that I wish he did a commentary track along with that. Thanks to the great quality of the featurette with all its materials, there’s no need and is a wonderful extra.
Finally, there is the theatrical trailer that was as clueless to sell this movie than the viewing audience the studio was gearing toward. It’s even better that MGM didn’t edit for their own logo by having it in full length with the Columbia credits. (this was also well handled on the other unofficial 007 movie Never Say Never Again with the trailer with the old Warner Red White and Black “W” logo).
Overall, Casino Royale is a unique viewing experience that gets better on multiple viewings thanks to its sixties mood that recalls the recent Austin Powers movies and the right amount of recommended extras.