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"I could never be a spy! I have a very low threshold of death."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

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CASINO ROYALE

Casino Royale is a 1967 spy comedy film originally produced by Columbia Pictures starring an ensemble cast of directors and actors. 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 slogan: "Casino Royale is too much... for one James Bond!" refers to Bond's ruse to mislead SMERSH in which six other agents are designated as "James Bond".

Charles K. Feldman, the producer, had acquired the film rights 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 film has had a generally negative reception among critics, some of whom regard it as a baffling, disorganised affair, with critic Roger Ebert branding it "possibly the most indulgent film ever made". On the other hand, Andrea LeVasseur called it "a psychedelic, absurd masterpiece" and cinema historian Robert von Dassanowsky has described it as "a film of momentary vision, collaboration, adaption, pastiche, and accident. It is the anti-auteur work of all time, a film shaped by the very zeitgeist it took on."

The all star cast included David Niven as Sir James Bond 007. Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble, a baccarat master recruited by Vesper Lynd to challenge Le Chiffre at Casino Royale and one of the six James Bonds. Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd playing a retired British secret agent forced back into service in exchange for writing off her tax arrears. Orson Welles as Le Chiffre, SMERSH's financial agent, desperate to win at baccarat in order to repay the money he has embezzled from the organisation. Woody Allen as Dr. Noah/Jimmy Bond, Bond's nephew and head of SMERSH. Barbara Bouchet as Miss Moneypenny, the beautiful daughter of Bond's original Miss Moneypenny. She works for the service in the same position her mother had years before. 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. Kerr was 46 when she played the role and was the oldest Bond Girl in any of the James Bond films. Jacqueline Bisset (credited as Jacky Bisset) as Miss Goodthighs, a SMERSH agent who attempts to kill Evelyn Tremble at Casino Royale. Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond, Bond's daughter, born of his love affair with Mata Hari. Daliah Lavi as The Detainer, a British secret agent who successfully poisons Dr. Noah with his own atomic pill. Terence Cooper as Coop, a British secret agent specifically chosen, and trained for this mission to resist the charms of women. Bernard Cribbins as Carlton Towers, a British Foreign Office official who drives Mata Bond all the way from London to Berlin in his taxi. Ronnie Corbett as Polo, a SMERSH agent at the International Mothers' Help who was in love with Mata Hari and expresses the same feelings for Mata Bond. Anna Quayle as Frau Hoffner who plays Mata Hari's teacher, portrayed as a parody of Cesare in the German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (her school is modelled on the film's expressionist decor). John Huston as M/McTarry, Head of MI6 who dies from an explosion caused by his own bombardment of Bond's estate. William Holden as Ransome, a CIA agent who accompanies M to persuade Bond out of retirement, then reappears in the final climactic fight scene. Charles Boyer as LeGrand, a Deuxième Bureau agent who accompanies M and Ransom to see Bond.

Casino Royale takes credit for the greatest number of actors in a Bond film either to have appeared or to go on to appear in the rest of the Eon series — besides Ursula Andress in Dr. No, Vladek Sheybal appeared as Kronsteen in From Russia with Love, Burt Kwouk featured as Mr. Ling in Goldfinger and an unnamed SPECTRE operative in You Only Live Twice, Jeanne Roland plays a masseuse in You Only Live Twice, and Angela Scoular appeared as Ruby Bartlett in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Jack Gwillim, who had a tiny role as a British army officer, played a Royal Navy officer in Thunderball. Caroline Munro, who can be seen very briefly as one of Dr Noah's gun-toting guards, received the role of Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me. Milton Reid, who appears in a bit part as the temple guard, opening the door to Mata Bond's hall, played one of Dr. No's guards and Stromberg's underling, Sandor, in The Spy Who Loved Me. John Hollis, who plays the temple priest in Mata Bond's hall, went on to play the unnamed figure clearly intended to be Blofeld in the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only, while John Wells, Q's assistant, appears in For Your Eyes Only as Denis Thatcher. 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 were prepared to take 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.

The production proved to be rather troubled, with five different directors helming different segments of the film, 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. Val Guest was given the responsibility of splicing the various "chapters" together, and was offered the unique title of "Co-ordinating Director" but declined, claiming the chaotic plot would not reflect well on him if he were so credited. His extra credit was labelled "Additional Sequences" instead.

Casino Royale was directed by: Val Guest (additional sequences; scenes with Woody Allen and additional scenes with David Niven); Ken Hughes (Berlin scenes); John Huston (scenes at Sir James Bond's house and scenes at Scottish castle); Joseph McGrath (scenes with Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles); Robert Parrish (some casino scenes with Peter Sellers and Orson Welles) and Richard Talmadge (uncredited as co-director of the final sequence)

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.

Later drafts see vice made central to the plot, with the Le Chiffre character becoming head of a network of brothels whose patrons are then blackmailed by Le Chiffre to fund Spectre. The racy plot elements opened up by this change of background include a chase scene through Hamburg's red light district that results in Bond escaping whilst disguised as a lesbian mud wrestler. New characters appear such as Lili Wing, a brothel madam and former lover of Bond whose ultimate fate is to be crushed in the back of a garbage truck, and Gita, wife of Le Chiffre. The beautiful Gita, whose face and throat are hideously disfigured as a result of Bond using her as a shield during a gunfight in the same sequence which sees Wing meet her fate, goes on to become the prime protagonist in the torture scene that features in the book, a role originally Le Chiffre's.

Hecht never produced his final script though, dying of a heart attack two days before he was due to present it to Feldman in April 1964. Time reported in 1966 that the script had been completely re-written by Billy Wilder, and by the time the film reached production almost nothing of Hecht's screenplay remained. The one thing that did endure, and indeed became a key plot device of the finished film, was the idea of the name “James Bond” being given to a number of other agents. In the case of Hecht's version, this 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." Peter Sellers hired Terry Southern to write his dialogue (and not the rest of the script) in order to "outshine" Orson Welles and Woody Allen.

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The studio approved the film's production budget of $6 million, already quite a large budget in 1966. However, during filming the project ran into several problems and the shoot ran months over schedule, with the costs also running well over. When the film was finally completed it had run twice over its original budget. The final production budget of $12 million made it one of the most expensive films that had been made to that point. The previous Eon Bond film, Thunderball, had a budget of $11 million while You Only Live Twice, which was released the same year as Casino Royale, had a budget of $9.5 million. The extremely high budget of Casino Royale caused it to earn the reputation as being "a runaway mini-Cleopatra," referring to the runaway and out of control costs of the 1963 film Cleopatra. The film was due to be released in time for Christmas 1966 but premiered in April 1967.

The film is notable for the legendary behind-the-scenes drama involving the filming of the segments with Peter Sellers. Supposedly, 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".

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 fictionalized form in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, based upon a biography by Roger Lewis, who claims that Sellers kept re-writing and improvising scenes himself 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.

Sellers left the production before all his scenes were shot, which is why Tremble is so abruptly captured in the film. Whether he 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 indicated 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. Guest states that 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 image was replaced by a sequence showing Sellers in highland dress, inserted by "trick photography".

AV CLUB FEATURETTE DEPARTMENT

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Trailer for Casino Royale (1967). Long before Austin Powers there was this James Bond parody, based on the Ian Flemming Novel, David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen star as James, James, and Jimmy Bond to thwart Smirch and it's gambler leader, Orson Welles.

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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, Sellers 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 Sellers being rescued by Vesper, followed by a later-filmed shot of her abruptly deciding to shoot Tremble, followed by a freeze-frame over some of the previous footage of her surrounded by bodies (noticeably a zoom-in on the previous shot).

So many sequences from the film ended on the cutting room floor that several well-known actors were cut from the film altogether, including Mona Washbourne, Ian Hendry and Arthur Mullard. 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 1959's Some Like It Hot.

At the Intercon science fiction convention held in Slough in 1978, Dave Prowse commented on his part in this film, apparently his big-screen debut. He claimed that he was originally asked to play "Super Pooh", a giant Winnie The Pooh in a superhero costume who attacks Tremble during the Torture of The Mind sequence. This idea, as with many others in the film's script, was rapidly dropped, and Prowse was re-cast as a Frankenstein-type Monster for the closing scenes, principally directed by former actor and stuntman Richard Talmadge.

Columbia Pictures distributed this version of Casino Royale. In 1997, following the Columbia/MGM/Kevin McClory lawsuit on ownership of the Bond film series, the rights to the film reverted to MGM (whose sister company United Artists co-owns the Bond film franchise) as a condition of the settlement.

Years later, as a result of the Sony/Comcast acquisition of MGM, Columbia would once again become responsible for the co-distribution of this 1967 version as well as the entire Eon Bond series, including the 2006 adaptation of Casino Royale. However, MGM Home Entertainment changed its distributor to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in May 2006. Though Sony initially released the 2006 adaptation on home video, MGM and 20th Century Fox released new versions of both this film and the 2006 adaptation on Blu-ray Disc in 2012. Ironically, the 2012 Blu-ray release of this non-Eon Bond film shows Danjaq LLC, Eon's holding company, as one of its present copyright owners.

The "chaotic" nature of the production was featured heavily in contemporary reviews, while later reviewers have sometimes been kinder towards this. Roger Ebert said "This is possibly the most indulgent film ever made," and Variety said "it lacked discipline and cohesion."

Some later reviewers have been more impressed by the film. Andrea LeVasseur, in the AllMovie review, called it "the original ultimate spy spoof", and opined that the "nearly impossible to follow" plot made it "a satire to the highest degree". Further describing it as a "hideous, zany disaster" LeVasseur concluded that it was "a psychedelic, absurd masterpiece". Writing in 1986, Danny Peary noted, "It's hard to believe that in 1967 we actually waited in anticipation for this so-called James Bond spoof. It was a disappointment then; it's a curio today, but just as hard to get through."

Despite the lukewarm nature of the contemporary reviews, the pull of the James Bond name was sufficient to make it the thirteenth highest grossing film in North America in 1967 with a gross of $22.7 million and a worldwide total of $41.7 million. Orson Welles attributed the success of the film to a marketing strategy that featured a naked tattooed lady on the film's posters and print ads.

The original music is by Burt Bacharach. 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 (a version of the song was also sung by Peter Sellers). 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 twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100.

The 4th chapter of 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 and was a Top 10 radio hit. A year later a version by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil '66 reached #4 of Billboard Hot 100. Springfield's version was heard again in the first Austin Powers film, which was to a degree inspired by Casino Royale. John Barry's song "Born Free" was also used in the film. At the time, Barry was the main composer for the Eon Bond series.

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