18 April 2005 | gftbiloxi
How Many 007s Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb?
Eon Production's DR. NO was a great hit in the early 1960s, and Eon quickly snapped up the rights to the rest of Ian Flemming's novels about super spy James Bond--except for the CASINO ROYALE, which had already been purchased earlier by CBS for a 1950s television adaptation. When the property wound up at Columbia Pictures, they decided to create the satire to end all satires with a host of writers, five famous directors, and an all-star cast led by Peter Sellers. Unfortunately, Sellers' ego reached critical mass during the production and he was fired mid-way into filming--and suddenly roles that were originally envisioned as cameos had to be expanded to finish the project. The result is one of the most bizarre films imaginable.
The story, such as it is, finds James Bond (David Niven) called out of retirement to deal with the sudden disappearance of secret agents all over the world. In order to confuse the unknown enemy, Sir James orders ALL secret agents to use the name James Bond--and before you can blink there are Bonds aplenty running wild all over the globe. Eventually all the Bonds, including (through the magic of editing) Peter Sellers, wind up at Casino Royale, where they confront the evil agents of SMERSH and a diabolical mad man with a plot to rule the world.
The plot is absolute chaos, but that doesn't prevent the film from being a lot of fun to watch. The entire cast runs wild with some marvelous over-the-top performances, and whenever the writers can jam in a gag or a weird plot turn they do precisely that: Bond (Niven) is attacked by decoy ducks; counter-agent Mimi (Deborah Kerr) swings from a drain pipe; Bond's daughter by Mata Hari (Joanna Pettet) is kidnapped by a UFO; double agent Vesper (Ursula Andress) hides bodies in the deep freeze. And that's just for starters.
At one point Niven blows up the locked door of a psychedelically decorated dudgeon with lysergic acid--better know as LSD--and in a way this is indicative of the entire film, which was made at the height of the 1960s ultra-mod movement: the whole thing has the feel of a blow-out acid trip, right down to flashing multicolored lights and swinging 60s fashions. It is visually arresting, to say the least. And then there is that famous Burt Bacharach score, easily one of the best of the decade, sporting Herp Albert on the main theme and Dusty Springfield's legendary performance of "The Look of Love." On the whole, the film is one of the most entertaining hodgepodges of talent and weirdness I've ever encountered, and it never fails to amuse. I've found that viewers tend to have extremely different reactions to this film--they either love it or hate it, so you may want to rent this one first. But it's one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I recommend it for fans of the unexpectedly odd.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer