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Casino Royale (1967)
Given its agonising production, there's little reason to be surprised that Casino Royale is such an unmitigated disaster. The piecemeal filming schedule shows all too clearly in the bitty, nonsensical narrative - each director's piece is slotted into the ongoing storyline with little care and hardly any attempt to cement over the joins, resulting in a kaleidoscopic and jumbled story peppered with loose ends. Characters are suddenly forgotten about, then restored to centre stage without warning - in the case of poor Evelyn Tremble, he simply vanishes from the plot never to be seen again and we never find out what actually happened to him.
Performances are generally rather good (notable exceptions being Andress and, surprisingly, Sellers) which only adds to the sense of great talent being frittered away on sub-standard product. Try as they might, Niven, Welles, Pettet, Allen and Kerr (who all give much more than the shoddy script deserves) simply can't do anything to make the disjointed script hang together and often come off the worst for trying - poor Pettet suddenly changes her hairstyle mid-movie and no-one even so much as comments on it!
The only real victor in this unholy mess is production designer Michael Stringer whose eye-popping designs are the real stars of Casino Royale. Dr Noah's wild, pop-art subterranean bunker is an eye-searing product of its psychedelic era, but the real winner is the impressionistic interior of the Mata Hari Dancing Academy, patterned after hallucinatory sets from Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari (1919). Another winner is Burt Bacharach, whose jaunty theme tune (played by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass) lingers longer in the memory than anything else seen in the film.
Casino Royale was conceived
in spite, executed in chaos and largely remembered in scorn - it remains a grandiose
folly, a monument to an era of film-making where excess was all and where style
was infinitely more important than substance. Let's just count ourselves lucky
that such a thing could probably never happen again.
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