Movie Review: Casino Royale (1967)

I just watched Casino Royale. Not the Casino Royale you are thinking of, but the 1967 one with Peter Sellars, Woody Allen, Larry Niven and Orson Welles. Basically, the Austin Powers before Mike Meyers made Austin Powers. It's up on Hulu, and it made me very happy.

Whether or not this movie would make *you* happy depends on two factors: 1) What generation you were born in, and 2) what your expectations are. If you are expecting either a serious James Bond movie or something as blatantly funny, lewd, and fast as Austin Powers, you won't like this movie.

The comments on Hulu reflect this-- half of them seem to be from boomers and other people older than me who thought Austin Powers was vulgar and stupid and Peter Sellars is God, and the other half are from whippersnappers who thought it was stupid and a poor excuse for either a Bond movie or a comedy. I half agreed with all of them. There didn't need to be any sequels to Austin Powers, and Peter Sellars gave a brilliant performance in Casino Royale. But I laughed more at the first Austin Powers movie. Casino Royale is very much an old school madcap comedy, and I have mixed feelings about the genre.

Madcap comedy as a style is beautiful to watch, and the gags made me grin. But most of the gags did not quite make me laugh, with the exception of the sock garter slingshot (resulting in Peter Sellars pants being down and him falling over them at the end of the scene). That is hilarious and amazing to me because that particular gag could not be used in a movie these days. But most of the physical comedy in Casino Royale is too much like the dumber Benny Hill skits that have been rerun too many times on Comedy Central.

This is not a funny movie, though some scenes are nearly as funny as the old Pink Panther movies. No, what I found amusing in this film were the characters created by Sellars, and by Woody Allen, who played the villain. Sellars turns James Bond into an elderly and celibate stutterer, while maintaining his elegant appearance to torture all female agents he meets, while Woody Allen takes the evil out of villainy as he plays Bond's neurotic nephew who doesn't want to take over the world so much as to just change the rules so he can get laid. A few of their lines were hilarious, and their entire delivery was brilliant.

There are also a lot of very beautiful women in this movie doing very silly things. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an appreciation for the psychadelic visual style and who can be patient with the over the top madcap presentation of the first half hour. After the introduction of the elderly retired Bond, and the weird Scotland castle bits, it just gets better and better.