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No, not the Daniel Craig picture - the one with Peter Sellers, ORson Welles, and the super-mod hot chicks in gold bikinis....
Fox / 131 Minutes / 19667 / Unrated / Street Date: February 7, 2012
Long before Austin Powers spoofed James Bond, James Bond spoofed James Bond in Casino Royale. The only of Ian Fleming's Bond novels to escape the grasp of film producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Salzman, before it hit theatres as Daniel Craig's franchise-rebooting mega-smash, Casino Royale (the first book in the series) was first a mod hipsterflick, one that somehow wound up in the hands of Charles K. Feldman. Realizing that there was little chance of producing a serious spy movie that could compete with the enormously successful Sean Connery pictures, in 1967 Feldman decided instead to turn the title into a madcap parody. The film he came up with has no less than five different directors (including John Huston!), seven James Bonds, dozens of celebrity cameos, go-go girls, flying robot bird-bombs, American Indian paratroopers (who of course yell "Geronimo!" when leaping from their airplane and have parachutes shaped like teepees), more bad puns than whole season of Laugh-In, and barely half a dozen funny jokes in the whole damn thing.
David Niven stars as the "original" James Bond, an old-fashioned gentleman spy now in retirement and lamenting the fact that his reputation has been soiled by "that bandit whom you gave my name and number." It seems that the title of James Bond 007 is a role passed on from spy to spy, and the current flamboyant playboy (I think we all know who he's talking about) is not up to the standards of the original. Well, of course the old Bond gets pulled out of retirement to foil some evil scheme or other by a criminal mastermind, or a global terrorist organization, or something. Along the way he has to recruit several more James Bond 007s to help confuse the enemy. Or something like that. To be honest, the movie's plot does not make a whit of sense and there is no point trying to keep track of it.
Feldman originally conceived of the film as four unrelated sketches, each by a different director: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Val Guest, Robert Parrish, and Joe McGrath. Yes, I realize that there are five names in that list and I have no idea why. Eventually Feldman changed his mind about the movie's structure and asked Val Guest to shoot some additional linking footage between the segments. By that point, unfortunately, it was much too late and the finished product is completely nonsensical. None of this would matter, of course, if the movie were funny. Sadly, as hard as it tries to be funny, it just is not. At all. It's almost remarkable how far from funny the whole thing is, actually.
Niven is certainly game and blithely waltzes through the movie as though he expects it to turn out all right in the end. Peter Sellers also shows up as one of the later Bonds and is given absolutely nothing to work with, even as he tries desperately to charm Ursula Andress with a costume dress-up session. Orson Welles even makes an appearance to cash a paycheck, and frankly it is rather embarrassing to watch an actor of his caliber demean himself in the role. At 2 hours and 17 minutes, the movie is long and dull with only a small handful of amusing gags or set-pieces popping up infrequently. There is a clever sequence set inside a German Expressionist spy school (love those crazy sets!) and Woody Allen does his classic neurotic guy shtick as Niven's nephew, Little Jimmy Bond, which is good for a laugh or two. It isn't until the last half hour that the movie becomes the moderately inventive psychedelic fantasy that it wanted to be all along, but it is too little too late. Part of me wonders if the movie has just not aged well, but the rest of me realizes that it was never very good to begin with.