I saw Casino Royale (1967) when it first came out, once again at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA. I don't think I have seen it in full since that time, when I was just 17 years old. I recently purchased it because the DVD also includes "Casino Royale" from the TV series "Climax!" and I have never seen that one. (I still haven't, but I will get around to it!)
Ian Fleming wrote the novel in 1953, introducing James Bond to the world. The rights to the novel were bought by CBS for $1,000 and the "Climax!" offering was presented the next year starring Barry Nelson (1917 - 2007) as the very first James Bond.
In 1955 Fleming sold the film rights for $6,000 to producers Michael Garrison and Gregory Ratoff, and they had a few failed attempts to sell the idea. The rights eventually came to Columbia Pictures and it was decided that a satire would be the best way to produce a money maker.
The 1967 release of Casino Royale is somewhat less than true to the novel. Actually, it is a lot less than true. This movie is, in my opinion, one of the best satires made in the 1960s, and belongs on the shelf with movies like Barbarella (1968). They are a statement of the times and the changing mores of the sixties, and I would suggest that they may have inspired Mel Brooks to make Blazing Saddles in 1974. Casino Royale is not a bad film, as some have said in other reviews, it is simply not a typical James Bond film. That's why they call it satire.
The cast is nothing short of amazing. As I try not to focus on the main stars in my blog, they will speak for themselves. Orson Welles is ominous as Le Chiffre, Peter Sellers has a few wonderful (probably ad libbed) moments, Woody Allen is Woody Allen, and David Niven is as suave as I have ever seen him. Need I mention Ursula Andress and Deborah Kerr?
The film is also filled with incredibly beautiful women, dressed (or rather almost dressed) in sixties style. As my wife pointed out, the use of these girls is just a bit on the sexist side, but consider the era. It was obviosly made as a movie for men. We see Joanna Pettet (b. 1942) as Bond's daughter, Barbara Bouchet (b. 1943) as Miss Moneypenny, and a young Jacqueline Bisset (b. 1944) in her fourth film role. All in their twenties, and they all went on to successful acting careers.
The cameo appearances speak for themselves, but I think I may have to watch it again, as I missed Charles Boyer and Richard Burton! It is impossible to miss George Raft who shoots himself with a trick gun, and Peter O'Toole who is "the finest man who ever breathed."
Here are some cast members that you may not know. David Prowse (b. 1935) has a walk-on as the Frankenstein monster. This was his first film. Prowse went on to fame playing the screen part of Darth Vader, the man with James Earl Jones' voice in Star Wars.
This was also Anjelica Huston's (b. 1951) first film, but we only see her hands. Of course, she is John Huston's daughter and the elder Huston appears in the movie as M, and directed some scenes. Finally, Charlie Chaplin's daughter, Geraldine Chaplin (b. 1944) is unrecognizable as one of the Keystone Kops in a very quick clip.
If you thought Casino Royale was a bad movie, please see it again. Keep in mind that it is a treasure of the sixties, not a James Bond film. And don't try to follow the story...that is almost impossible. A closer story to the original novel was made with Daniel Craig, in his first Bond appearance, in 2006. I believe the story has also increased in value since 1955. In 1999 MGM paid $10,000,000 for the rights.