Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Casino Royale" Is a Mish-Mash

Cleveland Press April 26, 1967

Don't see "Casino Royale" from the beginning. See it from the end. That's the best part of the movie and the rest doesn't make sense anyway.

In fact, drop in on it in the middle if you like.

Any resemblance between "Casino Royale" and the Ian Fleming novel, James Bond stories generally and any sensible movie is not coincidental, it's impossible.

Five directors handled this movie in separate sequences and it looks it. It is loaded with sight gags, inside jokes, sexy girls, double meaning lines, gimmicks and gadgets -- but little of its hangs together.

AT TIMES it is wildly hilarious but there are other -- and longer -- stretches that limp along.

But getting back to that ending, which I enjoyed and not entirely because the movie was over. This is the big battle in the gambling place known as Casino Royale and it is a circus with American cowboys, Indian paratroopers (yelling Geronimo, natur ally) and Keystone cops.

What little story this movie has finds James Bond (David Niven) knighted and in retirement on a lion infested estate where he raises roses and plays Debussy.

HE HAS BEEN retired since World War I after a sad love affair with Mata Hari and the Bond name has lived on, used by other agents who have an unfortunate weakness for women and who depend on gadgets rather than brains.

But he is lured out of retirement because SMERSH is destroying agents of all nations. SMERSH immediately turns loose its most beautiful female agents to destroy Bond.

The British Secret Service deploys other agents with the Bond name to confuse the enemy and to make use of special talents. There's the expert gambler, Peter Sellers, who becomes Bond so as to defeat a gambling SMERSH official, Orson Welles. There is Terrence Cooper, who is trained to be resistant to feminine allure.

AND THERE is a female Bond -- Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), who is the offspring of Bond and Mata Hari. There are some others too but forget it, it's too confusing.

The trouble with spoofing Bond movies is that the original Bond films are still the best spoofs of all and movies that have taken off on them have been done to death.

What "Casino" has going for it is a screenful of well-known faces, many in cameo roles, and a $12,000,000 budget that made possible wild and gimmicky scenes.

IT'S A CIRCUS, it's far out, but it also is often heavy-handed and coarse. Niven remains suave and unperturbable throughout. Welles is a grand villian. Sellers is good but is in a part that often strains far effect.

Woody Allen is himself and it sounds as if the made up his own role. He plans biological warfare that will render all women beautiful and all men shorter than he is.

Movie buffs will have fun picking out the references to other films in some of the inside jokes. Among them are the other Bond films, Matt Helm and "Born Free" -- just for a start.

Audiences generally will find this an undisciplined, loosely done, hectic free-for-all that is completely confusing. This movie wasn't made, it just happened.