James Bond Spoof Casino Royale Released Today in 1967
Casino Royale is a 1967 spy comedy film originally produced by Columbia Pictures featuring an ensemble cast. It is loosely based on Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. The film stars David Niven as the "original" Bond, Sir James Bond 007. Forced out of retirement to investigate the deaths and disappearances of international spies, he soon battles the mysterious Dr. Noah and SMERSH. The film's tagline: "Casino Royale is too much... for one James Bond!" refers to Bond's ruse to mislead SMERSH in which six other agents are pretending to be "James Bond", namely, baccarat master Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), millionaire spy Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), Bond's secretary Miss Moneypenny (Barbara Bouchet), Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), Bond's daughter by Mata Hari; and British agents "Coop" (Terence Cooper) and "The Detainer" (Daliah Lavi).
Charles K. Feldman, the producer, had acquired the film rights in 1960 and had attempted to get Casino Royale made as an Eon Productions Bond film; however, Feldman and the producers of the Eon series, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, failed to come to terms. Believing that he could not compete with the Eon series, Feldman resolved to produce the film as a satire. The budget escalated as various directors and writers got involved in the production, and actors expressed dissatisfaction with the project.
Casino Royale was released on 13 April 1967, two months prior to Eon's fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. The film was a financial success, grossing over $41.7 million worldwide, and Burt Bacharach's musical score was praised, earning him an Academy Award nomination for the song "The Look of Love". Critical reception to Casino Royale, however, was generally negative; some critics regarded it as a baffling, disorganised affair. Since 1999, the film's rights have been held by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, distributors of the official Bond movies by Eon Productions.
Sir James Bond 007, a legendary British spy who retired from the secret service 20 years previously, is visited by the head of British MI6, M, CIA representative Ransome, KGB representative Smernov, and Deuxième Bureau representative Le Grand. All implore Bond to come out of retirement to deal with SMERSH who have been eliminating agents: Bond spurns all their pleas. When Bond continues to stand firm, his mansion is destroyed by a mortar attack at the orders of M, who is, however, killed in the explosion.
Bond travels to Scotland to return M's remains to the grieving widow, Lady Fiona McTarry. However, the real Lady Fiona has been replaced by SMERSH's Agent Mimi. The rest of the household have been likewise replaced, with SMERSH’s aim to discredit Bond by destroying his "celibate image". Attempts by a bevy of beauties to seduce Bond fail, but Mimi/Lady Fiona becomes so impressed with Bond that she changes loyalties and helps Bond to foil the plot against him. On his way back to London, Bond survives another attempt on his life.
Bond is promoted to the head of MI6. He learns that many British agents around the world have been eliminated by enemy spies because of their inability to resist sex. Bond is also told that the "sex maniac" who was given the name of "James Bond" when the original Bond retired has gone to work in television. He then orders that all remaining MI6 agents will be named "James Bond 007", to confuse SMERSH. He also creates a rigorous programme to train male agents to ignore the charms of women. Moneypenny recruits "Coop", a karate expert who begins training to resist seductive women: he also meets an exotic agent known as the Detainer.
Bond then hires Vesper Lynd, a retired agent turned millionaire, to recruit baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble, whom he intends to use to beat SMERSH agent Le Chiffre. Having embezzled SMERSH's money, Le Chiffre is desperate for money to cover up his theft before he is executed.
Following up a clue from agent Mimi, Bond persuades his estranged daughter Mata Bond to travel to West Berlin to infiltrate International Mothers' Help, an au pair service that is a cover for a SMERSH training center. Mata uncovers a plan to sell compromising photographs of military leaders from the US, USSR, China and Great Britain at an "art auction", another scheme Le Chiffre hopes to use to raise money: Mata destroys the photos. Le Chiffre's only remaining option is to raise the money by playing baccarat.
Tremble arrives at the Casino Royale accompanied by Lynd, who foils an attempt to disable him by seductive SMERSH agent Miss Goodthighs. Later that night, Tremble observes Le Chiffre playing at the casino and realises that he is using infrared sunglasses to cheat. Lynd steals the sunglasses, allowing Evelyn to eventually beat Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat. Lynd is apparently abducted outside the casino, and Tremble is also kidnapped while pursuing her. Le Chiffre, desperate for the winning cheque, hallucinogenically tortures Tremble. Lynd rescues Tremble, only to subsequently kill him. Meanwhile, SMERSH agents raid Le Chiffre's base and kill him.
In London, Mata Bond is kidnapped by SMERSH in a giant flying saucer, and Sir James and Moneypenny travel to Casino Royale to rescue her. They discover that the casino is located atop a giant underground headquarters run by the evil Dr. Noah, secretly Sir James' nephew Jimmy Bond, a former MI6 agent who defected to SMERSH to spite his famous uncle. Jimmy reveals that he plans to use biological warfare to make all women beautiful and kill all men over 4-foot-6-inch (1.37 m) tall, leaving him as the "big man" who gets all the girls. Jimmy has already captured The Detainer, and he tries to convince her to be his partner; she agrees, but only to dupe him into swallowing one of his "atomic time pills", turning him into a "walking atomic bomb".
Sir James, Moneypenny, Mata and Coop manage to escape from their cell and fight their way back to the Casino Director's office where Sir James establishes Lynd is a double agent. The casino is then overrun by secret agents and a battle ensues. American and French support arrive, but just add to the chaos. Eventually, Jimmy counts down his atomic explosion. When it reaches the last hiccup, Jimmy/Dr Noah's atomic pill explodes, destroying Casino Royale with everyone inside. Sir James and all of his agents then appear in heaven, and Jimmy Bond is shown descending to hell.
Sixteen actors were named in the opening credits, with a number of them given the additional designation "James Bond 007" during the film, as a plot device to confuse the party (SMERSH) trying to kill James Bond:
Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble/James Bond 007 – A baccarat master recruited by Vesper Lynd to challenge Le Chiffre at Casino Royale.
Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd/James Bond 007 – A retired British secret agent forced back into service in exchange for writing off her tax arrears.
David Niven as Sir James Bond – A legendary British secret agent forced out of retirement to fight SMERSH.
Orson Welles as Le Chiffre – SMERSH's financial agent, desperate to win at baccarat to repay the money he has embezzled from the organisation.
Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond/James Bond 007 – Bond's daughter, born of his love affair with Mata Hari.
Daliah Lavi as The Detainer/James Bond 007 – A British secret agent who successfully poisons Dr. Noah with his own atomic pill.
Woody Allen as Dr. Noah/Jimmy Bond 007 – Bond's nephew and head of SMERSH under his Dr. Noah alias. Dr. Noah is voiced by Valentine Dyall
Deborah Kerr as Agent Mimi/Lady Fiona McTarry – A SMERSH agent who masquerades as the widow of M but cannot help falling in love with Bond.
William Holden as Ransome – A CIA executive who accompanies the cross-spy-agency team to persuade Bond out of retirement, then reappears in the final climactic fight scene.
Charles Boyer as LeGrand – A Deuxième Bureau executive who accompanies the cross-spy-agency team to see Bond.
John Huston as M/McTarry – Head of MI6 who dies from an explosion caused by his own bombardment of Bond's estate when the cross-spy-agency team visits.
Kurt Kasznar as Smernov – A KGB executive who accompanies the cross-spy-agency team to see Bond.
George Raft as himself
Jean-Paul Belmondo as French Legionnaire
Terence Cooper as Coop/James Bond 007 – A British secret agent specifically chosen, and trained for this mission to resist the charms of women.
Barbara Bouchet as Miss Moneypenny/James Bond 007 – The beautiful daughter of Bond's original Miss Moneypenny. She works for the service in the same position her mother had years before.
Major stars like George Raft and Jean-Paul Belmondo were given top billing in the film's promotion and screen trailers despite the fact that they only appeared for a few minutes in the final scene.
Well-established stars like Peter O'Toole and sporting legends like Stirling Moss took uncredited parts in the film just to be able to work with the other members of the cast. Stunt director Richard Talmadge employed Geraldine Chaplin to appear in a brief Keystone Cops insert. The film also proved to be young Anjelica Huston's first experience in the film industry as she was called upon by her father, John Huston, to cover the screen shots of Deborah Kerr's hands. The film also marks the debut of Dave Prowse, later the physical form of Darth Vader in the Star Wars series, as Frankenstein's monster, a role he would later play again in the Hammer films The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. John Le Mesurier features in the early scenes of the film as M's driver.
Ian Fleming sold the film rights of his novel Casino Royale, the first book featuring the character of James Bond,
Ben Hecht's contribution to the project, if not the final result, was in fact substantial. The Oscar-winning writer was recruited by Feldman to produce a screenplay for the film and wrote several drafts, with various evolutions of the story incorporating different scenes and characters. All of his treatments were "straight" adaptations, far closer to the original source novel than the spoof which the final production became. A draft from 1957 discovered in Hecht's papers – but which does not identify the screenwriter – is a direct adaptation of the novel, albeit with the Bond character absent, instead being replaced by a poker-playing American gangster.
Virtually nothing from Hecht's scripts was ever filmed. He died from a heart attack in April 1964, two days before he was due to present it to Feldman. Time reported in 1966 that the script had been completely re-written by Billy Wilder, and by the time the film reached production only the idea that the name James Bond should be given to a number of other agents remained. This key plot device in the finished film, in the case of Hecht's version, occurs after the demise of the original James Bond (an event which happened prior to the beginning of his story) which, as Hecht's M puts it "not only perpetuates his memory, but confuses the opposition.
The principal filming was carried out at Pinewood Studios, Shepperton Studios and Twickenham Studios in London. Extensive sequences also featured London, notably Trafalgar Square and the exterior of 10 Downing Street. Mereworth Castle in Kent was used as the home of Sir James Bond, which is blown up at the start of the film. Much of the filming for M's Scottish castle was actually done on location in County Meath, Ireland, with Killeen Castle, Dunsany, as the focus. However, the car chase sequences where Bond leaves the castle were shot in the Perthshire village of Killin with further sequences in Berkshire (specifically Old Windsor and Bracknell).
The production proved to be rather troubled, with five different directors helming different segments of the film and with stunt co-ordinator Richard Talmadge co-directing the final sequence. In addition to the credited writers, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Val Guest, Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder are all believed to have contributed to the screenplay to varying degrees.
Part of the behind-the-scenes drama of this film's production concerned the filming of the segments involving Peter Sellers. Screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz declared that Sellers felt intimidated by Orson Welles to the extent that, except for a couple of shots, neither was in the studio simultaneously. Other versions of the legend depict the drama stemming from Sellers being slighted, in favour of Welles, by Princess Margaret (whom Sellers knew) during her visit to the set. Welles also insisted on performing magic tricks as Le Chiffre, and the director obliged. Director Val Guest wrote that Welles did not think much of Sellers, and had refused to work with "that amateur". Director Joseph McGrath, a personal friend of Sellers, was punched by the actor when he complained about Sellers' behavior on the set.
Some biographies of Sellers suggest that he took the role of Bond to heart, and was annoyed at the decision to make Casino Royale a comedy, as he wanted to play Bond straight. This is illustrated in somewhat fictionalised form in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, based on the biography by Roger Lewis, who has claimed that Sellers kept re-writing and improvising scenes to make them play seriously. This story is in agreement with the observation that the only parts of the film close to the book are the ones featuring Sellers and Welles. In the end, Sellers' involvement with the film was cut abruptly short.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and George Raft received major billing, even though both actors appear only briefly. Both appear during the climactic brawl at the end, Raft flipping his trademark coin and promptly shooting himself dead with a backwards-firing pistol, while Belmondo appears wearing a fake moustache as the French Foreign Legion officer who requires an English phrase book to translate "merde!" into "ooch!" during his fistfight. Raft's coin flip, which originally appeared in Scarface (1932), had been spoofed a few years earlier in Some Like It Hot (1959).
Sellers left the production before all his scenes were shot, which is why his character, Tremble, is so abruptly captured in the film. Whether Sellers was fired or simply walked off is unclear. Given that he often went absent for days at a time and was involved in conflicts with Welles, either explanation is plausible. Regardless, Sellers was unavailable for the filming of an ending and of linking footage to explain the details, leaving the filmmakers to devise a way to make the existing footage work without him. The framing device of a beginning and ending with David Niven was invented to salvage the footage. Val Guest said that he was given the task of creating a narrative thread which would link all segments of the film. He chose to use the original Bond and Vesper as linking characters to tie the story together. In the originally released versions of the film, a cardboard cutout of Sellers in the background was used for the final scenes. In later versions, this cardboard cutout was replaced by footage of Sellers in highland dress, inserted by "trick photography".
Signs of missing footage from the Sellers segments are evident at various points. Evelyn Tremble is not captured on camera; an outtake of Sellers entering a racing car was substituted. In this outtake, he calls for the car, à la Pink Panther, to chase down Vesper and her kidnappers; the next thing that is shown is Tremble being tortured. Out-takes of Sellers were also used for Tremble's dream sequence (pretending to play the piano on Ursula Andress' torso), in the finale - blowing out the candles whilst in highland dress - and at the end of the film when all the various "James Bond doubles" are together. In the kidnap sequence, Tremble's death is also very abruptly inserted; it consists of pre-existing footage of Tremble being rescued by Vesper, followed by a later-filmed shot of her abruptly deciding to shoot him, followed by a freeze-frame over some of the previous footage of her surrounded by bodies (noticeably a zoom-in on the previous shot).
For the music, Feldman decided to bring Burt Bacharach, who had done the score for his previous production What's New Pussycat?. Bacharach worked over two years writing for Casino Royale, in the meantime composing the After the Fox score and being forced to decline participation in Luv. Lyricist Hal David contributed with various songs, many of which appeared in just instrumental versions. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass performed some of the songs with Mike Redway singing the lyrics to the title song as the end credits rolled. The title theme was Alpert's second number one on the Easy Listening chart where it spent two weeks at the top in June 1967 and peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. Alpert would later contribute a trumpet solo to the title song of the "unofficial" 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again (which was sung by Alpert's wife, Lani Hall).
The film features the song "The Look of Love" performed by Dusty Springfield. It is played in the scene of Vesper Lynd recruiting Evelyn Tremble, seen through a man-size aquarium in a seductive walk. "The Look of Love" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song. The song was a Top 10 radio hit at the KGB and KHJ radio stations. It was heard again in the first Austin Powers film, which was to a degree inspired by Casino Royale. For the European release, Mireille Mathieu sang versions of "The Look of Love" in both French ("Les Yeux D'Amour"), and German ("Ein Blick von Dir").
Bacharach would later rework two tracks of the score into songs: "Home James, Don't Spare the Horses" was re-arranged as "Bond Street", appearing on Bacharach's album Reach Out (1967), and "Flying Saucer – First Stop Berlin", was reworked with vocals as "Let the Love Come Through" by orchestra leader and arranger Roland Shaw. A clarinet melody would later be featured in a Cracker Jack commercial. As an in-joke, a brief snippet of John Barry's song "Born Free" is used in the film. At the time, Barry was the main composer for the Eon Bond series, and said song won an Academy Award over Bacharach's own "Alfie".