Casino Royale (1967)

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Released 8-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Bond Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 125:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Huston
Ken Hughes
Val Guest
Robert Parrish
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Peter Sellers
Ursula Andress
David Niven
Joanna Pettet
Orson Welles
Daliah Lavi
Woody Allen
Deborah Kerr
William Holden
Charles Boyer
John Huston
George Raft
Jean Paul Belmondo
Case DV-4
RPI $36.95 Music Burt Bacharach


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Smoking Yes, well, it is a sixties movie after all
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Casino Royale is the first of only two "unofficial" James Bond films ever made (the other being Never Say Never Again). The term "unofficial" refers to the fact that they were not produced by the Broccoli family and EON Productions and not originally distributed by MGM/United Artists.

    Casino Royale happens to be the only Ian Fleming novel on James Bond where the film rights were never purchased by Albert Broccoli - because it had already been made into a TV movie in 1954. Producer Charles Feldman (What's New Pussycat?) decided to cash in on the Bond-mania sweeping the world in the sixties by grabbing the rights to it. Originally, he wanted to co-produce an "official" Bond film starring Sean Connery together with EON Productions. Unfortunately, the whole Kevin McClory/Ian Fleming/EON Productions debacle that accompanied the production of Thunderball had soured Albert from ever again partnering with outsiders so Charles' offer was turned down.

    Charles ended up convincing Columbia Pictures to finance a theatrical film version of it, featuring a star-studded cast. The original intention was to produce a "serious" Bond film but, somewhere along the line, Charles felt that he couldn't compete with EON without Sean Connery, so he decided to make a "spoof" or "parody" film instead.

    Casino Royale, if it had been done right, could have been a very very funny film. It certainly had the right ingredients: a mixture of mad-cap British Monty Pythonesque style humour, Pink Panther-like capers with Peter Sellers, and the zany humour of Woody Allen. Unfortunately, too many cooks got involved (no less than five directors and three screenwriters were credited, not to mention several others who are uncredited) and the result is an absurd, incoherent, incomprehensible and tedious film.

    The premise is that the "real" James Bond (David Niven), who has been knighted and therefore referred to in the rest of the film as "Sir James Bond", has long retired from British Intelligence to a country villa where he grows black roses, plays Debussy on the piano and breeds lions. Because the name "James Bond" is so feared and respected around spy circles British Intelligence has continued to use the moniker "007" and a succession of secret agents have adopted his name and identity. Apparently the "James Bond" we know and love from the other Bond films - you know, the woman-seducing gadget-happy one - is no more than the latest impostor and the "real" James Bond is celibate and abhors gadgets.

    Unfortunately, SMERSH has been killing off agents one-by-one in a bid for world domination and the heads of the four most powerful spy agencies around the world (UK, USA, USSR and France) have converged on Bond's villa to try and persuade him to return to the service. He declines, but then his villa is bombed, accidentally killing "M" (John Huston) - which we learn stands for his name "McTarry."

    Sir James Bond finally returns to MI6 to take over the place of "M." His enemies initially try to corrupt him by luring him to Scotland where Agent Mimi (Deborah Kerr), masquerading as Lady Fiona McTarry, attempts to seduce Bond and thus compromise his celibacy together with a bevy of beautiful "daughters." Later on there is a car chase where for once Bond is the pursued rather than the pursuer, and the villains are the ones with all the gadgets.

    Sir James decides on a fool-proof "plan" to confuse his enemies - from now on, all agents in the British secret service will be known as "James Bond" - including the female agents - and thus no one would know who the real "James Bond" is.

    The rest of the film is very loosely based on the Ian Fleming novel, as Sir James gets Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress) who is one of his agents to recruit a bumbling card player (and author of a book describing a winning strategy for playing Baccarat) called Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers) as the latest James Bond. The mission is to infiltrate Casino Royale, where Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) - a card sharp and part time magician - is suspected to be linked to SMERSH.

    Sir James also recruits the services of none other than "Mata Bond" (Joanna Pettet) - the illegitimate daughter of his affair with Mata Hari. Woody Allen plays Sir James' nephew "Jimmy Bond." We also get quite a few cameo performances from famous actors and actresses, including Jacqueline Bisset ("Miss Goodthighs"), Ronnie Corbett ("Polo"), and Peter O'Toole ("Piper").

    The only saving grace in this film is the original music score by Burt Bacharach, and the film includes one of his best songs ever: The Look of Love sung by the incomparable Dusty Springfield. The music score includes brief references to Bacharach's other film with Charles Feldman called "What's New Pussycat?" and the theme to Born Free by John Barry (who wrote the official James Bond theme song).

    Fans of Austin Powers may want to watch this film as Mike Myers draws some inspiration from some of the scenes in this film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a non 16x9 enhanced widescreen letterboxed transfer which is fairly close to the original intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

    Sharpness and detail of course suffer due to the lack of 16x9 enhancement, but surprisingly this transfer holds up well in other departments, especially given the age of the film. Colour saturation, for example, although murky is at least consistent with the age of the film source and probably as good as it's ever going to be. Black levels are quite deep, and the film source is relatively clean.

    I did not detect any real instances of film-to-video artefacts apart from occasional aliasing, such as around 79:03.

    The film source is relatively clean, apart from marks here and there such as around 91:02. It has a low-to-medium amount of grain which mars certain scenes but in general does not cause too much annoyance.

    In short, if you are a fan of this film, this is probably as good a transfer as you will ever get apart from the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    There are a fair amount of subtitle tracks on this disc, including both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I had to turn on the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles at the beginning of the film because the dialogue was so indistinct I had problems trying to figure out what everyone was saying. The transcription of the dialogue onto the subtitle track is reasonable as far as I can tell.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs at 62:54. There is a slight pause when this happens, but the pause is only mildly annoying.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five audio tracks on this disc, all in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224 Kb/s): English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English audio track.

    Considering the age of the film, I thought the audio track wasn't too bad. It over-emphasises the midrange resulting in a fair amount of bloom, but there is enough high and low end frequencies on the audio track for the general sound to be acceptable.

    As mentioned earlier, the dialogue quality at the beginning of the film is rather poor but improves as the film progresses. I did not notice any problems with audio synchronisation.

    The rendition of the The Look of Love was very nicely done and in general Burt Bacharach's music score comes through reasonably well. It would have been nicer if it was in stereo, though. Interestingly, the opening titles song is an instrumental performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Herb also performs in the opening title song for the other unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again.

    As to be expected, there is no surround or subwoofer presence or activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras on this disc are limited to two trailers. It would have been nice to be able to get some glimpses into the out-takes and behind the scenes footage of this film, but then again maybe it's better this way.

Menu

    The menu is not 16x9 enhanced but features animation and background audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

    This appears to be presented in pan & scan format as some of the titles are chopped off at the sides.

Teaser Trailer (1:38)

    Surprisingly, this trailer is presented in no less than 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement. Now if, only they had presented the main feature with 16x9 enhancement ...

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc does not appear to be currently available in Region 1.

Summary

    Casino Royale is a fairly silly and disjointed parody of James Bond films. I suggest you don't bother, apart from the superb music score by Burt Bacharach and if you want to see some of the sources of inspiration for the Austin Powers films. It is presented on a disc with acceptable video and audio transfers (considering the age of the film) though lacking in 16x9 enhancement. Extras are limited to trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, September 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Now available in R1 with Dolby 5.1, anamorphic 2.35:1 WS and bonus features - cztery