Forced out of retirement, the original James Bond (David Niven) battles Dr. Noah and SMERSH. Living up to the film’s tagline “Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond!”, this movie ha six others pretending to be 007, including baccarat player Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers); millionaire spy Vesper Lynd (first Bond girl Ursula Andress), Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny (giallo queen Barbara Bouchet), Bond’s daughter with Mata Hari, Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet) and British agents Coop (Terence Cooper) and The Detainer (Daliah Lavi).
If this sounds like a mess, so is the film, which has direction by Ken Hughes (Night School, Sextette), John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Joseph McGrath (The Magic Christian), Robert Parrish (The Fire Down Below), Val Guest (Where the Spies Are) and Richard Talmadge.
Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Val Guest, Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder all wrote parts of the movie, with Southern writing Sellers dialogue so he would look better than Allen and Orson Welles.
Orson Welles finally appears in a Bond fim as Le Chiffre, who is SMERSH’s financial agent. He’s been embezzling and hopes to gamble back his way into the money he needs to repay the evil spy organization. William Holden shows up as the CIA agent Ransome, George Raft plays himself (he’s also playing Scarface, which is pretty much himself), Charles Boyer is Legrande, John Huston is M, Jacqueline Bisset is Miss Goodthighs, Pete O’Toole and so many more people show up.
Speaking of Bisset, she was surprised when filming her first scene with Sellers, as he fired a gun directly in her face without warning. Though the gun was only loaded with blanks, her face was coveredin burning gunpowder and her face started to bleed.
“First I thought I had been actually shot and then when I realized it had been a blank, I thought I’d been blinded. My face looked like a shower spout of pinpricks leaking blood,” said Bisset. “I was panicked whenever I had a scene with Peter Sellers. To get shot in your first scene with a big star, that is a nightmare.”
This is Anjelica Huston’s first film role, as she was Deborah Kerr’s hands.It’s also the first movie for Dave Prowse as Frankenstein’s Monster, a role he would play in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. He would go on to play, of course, Darth Vader.
Casino Royale has so many actors who either appeared in a Bond movie or would go on to be in one: Ursula Andress (Dr. No), Vladek Sheybal (From Russia with Love), Burt Kwouk (Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice), Jeanne Roland (You Only Live Twice), Angela Scoular (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me), Milton Reid (Dr. No, The Spy Who Loved Me), John Hollis (For Your Eyes Only), Jack Gwillim (Thunderball), John Wells (For Your Eyes Only) and Hal Galili (Goldfinger). Plus, Nikki Van der Zyl, who dubbed so many of the Bond Girls, does so here. She’s uncredited, just as she was in the official films.
There was plenty of drama on set between Sellers and Welles, as the British comedian really wanted to play Bond straight and hated the comedy angle. He was also upset that Princess Margaret paid more attention to Welles than himself when she visited the set.
As a result, Sellers disappeared for days or weeks at a time, refused to appear in his scenes with Welles and left the movie before all of his scenes had been shot. The end of the movie had to be rewritten without him in it.
To top off all of Sellers other behavior, he also punched out his friend, director Joseph McGrath, who told him to settle down.
Burt Bacharach contributed the song “The Look of Love,” sung by Dusty Springfield, to this movie. If you ever wondered why Austin Powers loved Bacharach so much, there’s your answer.
This is the only movie where Bond dies. Let’s hope no other film follows suit.